Column By: DYLAN TERRY / RPW – BEAVER FALLS, NY – A new racing season is right around the corner, and the stakes are at an all-time high in the world of sprint car racing.
New this season is the addition of a second full-time national winged sprint car series, High Limit Racing. The new series is the first of it’s kind since the year of 2006, when the National Sprint Tour ran one season and folded at years end.
Still relatively new to the sprint car world, High Limit has already made a significant splash and sent many wavelengths throughout the entire motorsports industry.
With only a few more weeks until the first green flag drops at East Bay Raceway Park, I figured I would do a deep dive and try to predict the final standing positions of one of the most competitive rosters that a 410 series has ever had to offer. Out of the 17 teams committed full-time, only the Top 5 teams will be able to secure a coveted charter position in 2024.
The new charter system that High Limit is offering presents teams with added benefits and revenue for each team that owns a charter. This added incentive will be sure to motivate each organization, and should increase the amount of competition between drivers and teams. It will become a battle, and an entertaining one at that.
With that being said, here is my best attempt to predict the inaugural High Limit Series standings for the 2024 season:
1st) Brad Sweet
Sweet seems like the odds-on favorite to take home the inaugural High Limit Racing series championship. Brad not only co-owns the series, but also is in the most dominate stage of his career. The man known as “The Big Cat” has won five consecutive World of Outlaws championships, and is presumably the most consistent driver in sprint car racing at the current moment. Last season Sweet had 13 wins, 48 Top 5’s and a ridiculous 69 Top 10’s (87.3% of finishes) in 79 races. The only question mark on the Kasey Kahne Racing team heading into this season is if they will be able to replace tire guy Andrew Bowman, who departed the team this off season to pursue a career in NASCAR. The team was able still perform last year after losing car chief Joe Mooney, so I expect them to be just fine even with the loss of another crew member that has been there for all five championships. Brad comes into the year with something to prove, and he’s certainly excelled when having to do that in the past.
2nd) Rico Abreu
Rico is coming off of a career year. The pilot from St. Helena, California racked up a whopping 13 victories in 2023, the most he has ever had in one season. Abreu and crew chief Ricky Warner seemed to gel well together right from the drop of the green flag last season. Out of 71 total races last season, Rico tallied an astounding 41 Top 5’s (57.7% of his finishes), along with 58 Top 10’s. While those numbers are good, it’s hard to believe that Rico could have had even a few more wins/good finishes as well if it weren’t for some untimely flat tires/accidents. If Rico can improve on his amount of Top 10’s on nights where he is struggling and have some better luck, look for Abreu to be the favorite to dethrone Sweet.
3rd) Brent Marks
The last time that Marks ran a national tour was with the World of Outlaws back in 2019. That season didn’t turn out that well for Brent, as he only had 1 win, 7 Top 5’s, and 26 Top 10’s in 76 appearances. Since that season, the “Myerstown Missile” has vaulted himself to the top of the sprint car world. He is the winningest 410 Sprint Car driver in the nation the last two seasons. He has posted 41 victories in 157 starts, which is good enough for a whopping win percentage of 26.1%. Another advantage aside from having been on a national tour before is that Marks normally has ran north of 70 races throughout the majority of his career. This may play right into his hand since the High Limit schedule only is comprised of 60 races, not counting rain-outs. With the rejuvenated program and scaled back schedule, Marks will look to do damage during his return to life on the road.
4th) Tyler Courtney
Courtney is a two-time All-Star Circuit of Champions series champion. If he hadn’t dealt with injuries sustained in a wreck at Eldora Speedway last year, he very well could have become a three-time champion last season. “Sunshine” was able obtain 11 victories in 72 starts last season, which is almost on par with Sweet and Abreu. The biggest advantage that Tyler may have this season is having ran the ASCOC the past three seasons. Because of this, he has raced on many tracks on the 2024 HL schedule that Sweet, Abreu and Marks have not ran at and/or have not ran at much in the past. If you combine that with the fact that the entire Clauson Marshall team is returning, the chemistry and familiarity may very well catapult Sunshine towards the top of the standings.
5th) Justin Peck
Peck had a very up and down season in 2024. He showed very good speed at times, but also experienced some bad luck in the form of scary accidents (Bridgeport and Knoxville), as well as numerous mechanical woes. He only had 2 victories in 2023, down from his total of 9 the year prior. One of his two wins last season was a High Limit Series victory, coming at his home track of Kokomo Speedway. In that win, he was able to fend off Kyle Larson, the aforementioned Abreu, and young gun Corey Day. That in itself is no small task. Peck and the Buch Motorsports team will be running it back with the same team that they’ve had the past few seasons. Sean Strausbaugh returns as crew chief, and Kurt Williamson will be the tire guy and shock specialist for the iconic #13 machine once again. That same team has ran a TON of races the past few seasons, totaling 92 in 2021, 99 in 2022, but ONLY ran 79 last season. This team evidently has chemistry, and has had a ton of speed every night they’ve ran. I certainly see Peck being in the hunt night in and night out for the entire season, and if they can regain their 2022 form, they might even end up being in the title hunt by years end.
6th) James McFadden
McFadden was lightning quick during the 2023 World of Outlaws campaign. If he hadn’t been issued a penalty based upon a tire infraction early in the season, he more than likely would have finished the year well within in the Top 5 of the World of Outlaws standings. McFadden elevated his game to another level, collecting 7 victories during 2023, compared to only 1 that he earned in 2022. The team showed an elevation in consistency also, as they compiled 51 Top 10 finishes in 2023 compared to only 41 Top 10’s in 2022. One area that could use improvement for the team is the durability of the Toyota powerplants that Roth uses. Both McFadden and Roth teammate Buddy Kofoid had numerous problems with motor issues down the stretch last season. If they can resolve this issue, then the 83 will definitely be in the conversation throughout the entire season. As they make the move to the High Limit for 2024, look for the Roth Motorsports team to be competing for one of the coveted charter spots by the time Texas rolls around in October.
7th) Zeb Wise
The kid from Angolia, Indiana came out of nowhere last season to capture the 2023 Tezos All- Star Circuit of Champions championship. The combination of Wise and crew chief Tyler Tessemaker was put together at the beginning of the season and showed speed right from the get-go. They tallied a local victory at Williams Grove against the Pennsylvania Posse, 9 wins with the ASCOC, and finally captured that memorable first win against the World of Outlaws at Port Royal last October. Aside from a career high 11 victories, the Rudeen team was able to almost double their Top 5 finishes by scoring 31 of them in 2023, compared to only 15 in 2022. They also nearly doubled their Top 10 finishes, as they earned 50 in 23’ compared to only 33 in 22’. The improved consistency enabled him to be essentially the only challenger to Tyler Courtney in the ASCOC championship race last season. If Rudeen and Wise can continue to perform at this level in 2024, they will be another car to watch every night they hit the track this season.
8th) Corey Day
The young gasser from the west coast proved that he is a force to be reckoned with last year. Coming off his first career NARC championship, the 17-year-old prodigy is one of the most exciting drivers to watch in the world. Corey gathered 10 wins in 2023, most notably being the prestigious Gold Cup Race of Champions, which just so happened to also be his first ever World of Outlaws victory. Spending most of his young career at tracks on the west coast could pay dividends for Day, as 11 of the 60 scheduled races are at tracks that Corey has raced at in the past. He put in a solid substitute performance last year during his only High Limit appearance at Kokomo, where he filled in for Clauson Marshall Racing and the injured Tyler Courtney. During that evening, he won his heat, the dash, and ended up 4th in the feature. Knowing he will still be mentored by former World of Outlaws champion Jason Meyers this season, plus running some more races with Clauson Marshall, Corey has all the tools to be competitive this coming summer. If he can adapt quickly and get the hang of many of the tracks he hasn’t ran at yet, the entire series should be on the lookout.
9th) Cory Eliason
Eliason ran a boatload of races last year, making 73 starts. He did bounce around between teams as well, making starts for the Indy Race Parts #71, Roth Motorsports, and Crouch Motorsports before closing out the year at Charlotte with the team he will be with this upcoming season, Ridge and Sons Racing. Eliason and RSR did demonstrate that they could hold their own against the competition at Charlotte, as they qualified for the feature every night that weekend against one of the most competitive fields of the entire season. That alone was pretty impressive considering the duo was kind of a last-minute announcement prior to World Finals. Eliason did earn 2 victories last season, with one coming at Weedsport and the other at Dodge County. Hopefully the journeyman Eliason can find a permanent home with RSR and they can be competitive during their first full season together.
10th) Spencer Bayston
Bayston’s sophomore campaign with the World of Outlaws left much to be desired. He only scored one victory last year at I-55, which was down from the two victories he obtained during his rookie season with the Outlaws. He also had 4 fewer Top 5’s last season than he did in 2022, even though he had more races started in 2023. Despite earning a few more Top 10 finishes, it was still very evident that the CJB Motorsports entry took a step back in 2023. Most people noticed that the #5 machine was not nearly as competitive. The statistics prove that as well, as Bayston was in 12 LCQ’s in 2023 compared to only 9 in 2022, while his average qualifying position took a step back to 11.05 in 2023, differing from the impressive 7.3 he posted in 2022. Switching to the High Limit in 2024 might be the breath of fresh air that this team needs to get back to form. I expect them to contend for some wins, while also finishing near the front of the field on more occasions than not.
11th) Chris Windom
Windom heads into the 2024 season with his biggest opportunity he’s had in a winged 410 sprint car. Chris joins forces this year with the Vermeer Motorsports team, which has scored a number of wins the past few seasons with drivers Hunter Schuerenberg and Kerry Madsen. While Windom has yet to score that elusive first career winged sprint car victory, there have been plenty of occasions where he has come very close to doing so. He had 6 podium finishes last season, which was only his second year behind the wheel of a winged 410. Knowing Vermeer’s past success with returning crew chief Clinton Boyles, don’t be surprised if Windom can score a win or two this upcoming season. The team may need some time to gel initially, but once they develop chemistry, they could be a dark horse candidate to compete in the Top 5 every night.
12th) Parker Price Miller
Parker returns to the family-owned 9P this season after driving a wide array of rides last season. Because of so many different cars, he seemed to lack his usual consistency as he only scored one 410-winged victory which came at Atomic Speedway with the Ohio Valley Sprint Car Association. He did start to put things back together late in the season, once he found his way back to the family owned 9P. He had two podiums near the end of the season last year with the All-Stars to go with three other Top 5’s in the month of September. One huge advantage Parker has heading into this season will be the man spinning the wrenches on his car. Price-Miller reunites with Bernie Stubgen, who surprisingly committed to the entire season after having a limited schedule in years prior. The duo of PPM and Bernie had a ton of success back when Parker raced the Indy Race Parts #71 when he was younger. I expect the Kokomo, IN native to compete for some checkered flags, but I just don’t know if he will be able to maintain the consistency needed to compete for a championship over the course of a full season.
13th) Jacob Allen
Allen returns to full-time racing in 2024 after a disappointing year in 2023. He took a break from racing for a good chunk of the summer last year, before returning to the Shark Racing #1A machine during World Finals at Charlotte. After having a breakout season with five victories in 2022, it’s evident that 2023 left much to be desired for the Hannover, PA driver. He had zero wins last season, and took a significant step backwards in terms of performance. The team also struggled down the stretch with Tanner Holmes at the helm. They were able to show a few glimpses of speed, but more often than not performed very averagely. Can the team bounce back to their 2022 form? Can Jacob build his confidence level back to the level it was at prior to last season? Unless both sides can accomplish those tasks, I find it difficult to see the #1A running competitive enough against a stout field of competition on a nightly basis.
14th) Tanner Thorson
2024 will be Thorson’s first year behind the wheel of a winged sprint car for an entire season. The 2022 Chili Bowl Champion did have some success last season in limited appearances in the AL Driveline #58 car during Pennsylvania Speedweek and numerous other starts. Making the jump to a full-time tour could be strenuous and frustrating for a driver still relatively new to winged racing, especially with a brand new start-up team this season. One good thing for Thorson is the fact that he generally does a lot of wrenching on his own cars. He will be able to set up the car just exactly as he wants it, which is a skill that some drivers do not possess. Tanner is a wheel man, and if he gets the car set up to his liking, he might be able to turn a few heads this upcoming season.
15th) Kasey Kahne
Kahne joins his teammate Sweet on the High Limit tour this season. This change may prove to be a blessing for Kasey, after an injury filled last few seasons out on the road. With a slight decrease in the amount of races, Kahne might be refreshed and rejuvenated for 2024. He proved last season that he still can find victory lane, as he was able to park it in victory lane amongst a competitive field of local drivers at the Huset’s Speedway. Kahne also welcomes a new crew chief to the mix this season, as Wayne Priddy joins the KKR team. Priddy has had success in the past working with Zeb Wise back in the #10 car and Justin Sanders on the west coast in the Mitry owned #2x car. A significant chunk of the schedule this summer is on the west coast, as well as tracks that Priddy has crewed at in the past with Wise. This could play right into the #9 team’s hands if the duo is able to gel from the get-go. This season seems to be a type of “prove-it” season for Kasey, which is a challenge I am sure he will embrace.
16th) Brenham Crouch
This year will be Crouch’s first season with more than 50 winged sprint appearances. The 2023 IRA Series champion hits the national stage looking to continue developing further as a driver. Brenham heads into the season as one of the youngest drivers on the tour, as he is still only 18 years old. Crouch and the #1 team did make some appearances with both the World of Outlaws and All-Stars last summer, but struggled in those races. He failed to record a single Top-10 finish against the Outlaws and ASCOC. I expect Crouch to change that statistic this summer, however I do expect the young gasser to take some time getting acclimated to life on the road. Brenham is poised to make strides this year, but I think he needs to develop a bit further against a roster that is extremely competitive.
17th) Conner Morrell
Last year with the All-Stars was Morrell’s first year on the road. The team struggled quite a bit, only posting 4 Top 10’s in 61 appearances. Conner did have a few decent qualifying efforts, as well as some decent heat race finishes. Come feature time however, the Marc-Dailey Motorsports machine seemed to lack the speed of the competition, causing the 28m to move in the wrong direction on most occasions. Conner does have the experience of running a tour now which will be helpful as he welcomes former driver Landon Lalonde to the team as his new crew chief. Lalonde has had no prior crew chief experience, let alone any experience running a national series tour. I hope the pair performs well and improves as the season goes on. With that being said, I just feel that due to the lack of experience, I just don’t see the 28M team being that competitive this upcoming season.