OSBORN, Mo. — After Texas two-steppin’ at Devil’s Bowl Speedway, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are set to begin an extended stay in America’s Heartland.
On April 7, “The Greatest Show on Dirt” heads to US 36 Raceway. It’ll be the sixth visit to the three-eighths-mile and the first since August of 2020. Then, it’s a four-hour drive southwest takes the tour to Wichita, Kan., where 81 Speedway hosts the fifth Jason Johnson Classic, awarding $20,000 to the winner.
The World of Outlaws have visited the Kansas oval 13 times, but Saturday’s trip will be the first in six years and the first time it has hosted the Jason Johnson Classic. The double header will be the first of five consecutive weekends in the Midwest with a return to Missouri along with races in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio all awaiting the country’s best drivers.
Let’s look at some of this weekend’s top storylines:
Gravel, Sweet & Macedo — The Title Trio
It’s still very early in the World of Outlaws season, but three drivers have established themselves as early championship favorites with roughly an eighth of the campaign in the books.
Ever since winning the season opener, David Gravel has refused to relinquish his spot atop the standings. The pilot of the Big Game Motorsports No. 2 hasn’t won since topping three of the five Volusia Speedway Park races to begin the year, but he’s maintained consistency with a streak of four straight top fives entering this weekend.
The Watertown, Conn., native has been strong at both tracks awaiting the tour this weekend. At 36, Gravel owns top fives in both of his series starts. His one appearance at 81 (’17) yielded a podium.
Brad Sweet has been chipping away at Gravel’s lead and has it down to 26 markers courtesy of five top-two finishes in the last seven races. Like Gravel, Sweet owns a pair of World of Outlaws appearances in Osborn that resulted in top fives. The four-time champion finished fifth in Wichita in 2017.
Only six points behind Sweet in the standings is where Carson Macedo can be found. He’s fresh off posting his first podium since Volusia aboard the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41. Saturday’s race is circled for the Lemoore, Calif., native as he’d love nothing more than parking the JJR machine in victory lane on the night honoring the late legend.
It’ll be Macedo’s debut at 81 Speedway.
BAYSTON BUILDING MOMENTUM
After some early struggles in Florida, Spencer Bayston continues to head in the right direction with CJB Motorsports.
The Lebanon, Ind., native earned a pair of top 10s at Devil’s Bowl. After posting an 11.6 average finish in the first five races of the season, he’s improved to an 8.8 in the most recent five. The 24-year-old is now tied with Donny Schatz for seventh in points.
Bayston looks to keep rolling at a pair of tracks he’s yet to visit with the World of Outlaws.
Sheldon Haudenschild is known as one of the most exciting drivers on the World of Outlaws tour, and during the series’ most recent visit to US 36, he gave a strong piece of evidence.
The Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing gasser came out of nowhere on the last lap and ripped around the outside of Sweet to steal the win in the final corner with the checkered flag in sight. After a tough weekend in Texas with finishes of 16th and 13th, the Wooster, Ohio, native hopes for a similar outcome at this year’s Osborn invasion to kickstart his campaign with his first win of the year.
ONE WICHITA WINNER
Only a single driver who will be in attendance this weekend has visited victory lane at 81 Speedway in World of Outlaws competition — none other than Donny Schatz.
The 10-time series champion has topped the two most recent visits (’06 & ’17) to the Kansas oval. In four total starts there, his average finish is 3.75 with podiums in three of the four. It’s been an up and down season so far for Schatz aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing No. 15.
He owns five finishes of seventh or better, but the other half of the schedule has seen him land outside the top 10.
HONORING THE RAGIN’ CAJUN
Saturday in Kansas is much more than a race.
It’s a chance to remember and honor a man who was unanimously revered in the pit area, Jason Johnson. For fellow drivers, the best way to do so is cementing their name as a Jason Johnson Classic winner.
The first edition in 2019 provided a moment that couldn’t have been scripted better when Gravel wheeled the JJR No. 41 to victory. Next up, it was the series’ most recent winner and current Roth Motorsports driver, James McFadden, coming out on top by leading all 41 circuits.
Two years ago, Sweet wheeled the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 to glory in the third edition. Last season, Jacob Allen outdueled Brady Bacon to jumpstart his breakout 2022 campaign that saw him go on to win four races.
All four of these full-time World of Outlaws will be looking to become the first multi-time winner of the event while a bevy of others aim to add their name to the list.
A variety of drivers local to the region are expected to join “The Greatest Show on Dirt” this weekend.
Grain Valley, Mo.’s Brian Brown aims to follow the tour for a second consecutive weekend. Brown owns a few ASCS Regional top fives at US 36 and topped an NCRA show at 81 Speedway back in ’08.
After making his season debut at Devil’s Bowl, Ayrton Gennetten plans to compete with the World of Outlaws again. The Versailles, Mo., native finished third in a 2020 ASCS race in Osborn and claimed the runner-up spot in a 2019 NCRA event in Wichita.
Blake Hahn is fresh off earning a top-10 finish in his World of Outlaws Feature debut. The wheelman from the nearby Sooner State has been close to victory at US 36 and has won with both NCRA (’18) and the ASCS Sooner Region (’22) at 81.