Support class has become vital training ground for new racers
The future of dirt track racing is bright at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Benson, Vermont. As a leader in Vermont’s current short track racing renaissance, car counts are at their highest point in 15 years or more, and fan support has been exceptional. A key ingredient to the recipe has been the rise of the Limited Sportsman division at Devil’s Bowl.
As the lead support class at weekly Saturday-night events, the Limited division was created in 2018 to coincide with the opening of the new half-mile dirt surface. The racing machines are the same open-wheel cars, engines, and tires as the headline Sportsman Modifieds, but with restrictions on drivers based on experience. Weekly races pay $250 to win, $125 for a fifth-place finish, and $75 to finish last; the Limited winner’s purse is equivalent to a seventh-place finish in the Sportsman class.
The Limited Sportsman division is designed for racers who are trying to get a feel for the top-tier cars before taking on the top-tier drivers; it’s where the next generation of talent is cultivated.
The division averaged 24 cars each week in the second half of the 2020 season, and early estimates put it closer to 30 in 2021. The range of drivers spans age 14 to 60-plus, and from raw rookies to drivers who will soon wrap up their careers.
Brent Warren, Joey Roberts, and David Boisclair have each graduated from the division to win races at the Sportsman Modified level, and other strong alumni have included James Hanson, Adam Piper, and Sprint Cars of New England (SCoNE) feature winner, Travis Billington.
“The Limited Sportsman division is about learning how to race Modifieds without feeling a ton of pressure running with the veterans,” promoter Mike Bruno said. “It’s not a participation trophy class; we’ll have enough cars that not everyone will qualify for the feature. But it’s a place to get some quality experience in a more relaxed setting, rather than throwing a new racer out to try to run with Demetrios Drellos or Adam Pierson in the top class.”
The 2021 season will see the top three drivers from the Limited Sportsman point standings make the jump up to the Sportsman Modified wars, as champion Johnny Bruno, runner-up Anthony Warren, and third-place Matt Bilodeau take on the veterans. The three have combined for 16 wins at Devil’s Bowl and are expected to put on an entertaining battle for 2021 Rookie of the Year honors.
In the meantime, the chase for the Limited Sportsman championship is wide-open. While many second- and third-year racers return, a major influx of talent from other divisions and tracks is also expected to shake things up. Returning drivers who will be likely title contenders include Anthony Ryan, Evan Roberts, Scott FitzGerald, and Larry Gallipo, while other solid runners include Randy Ryan, Jeff White, and Devil’s Bowl newcomer Craig Wholey.
First-time Limited competitors include Mini Stock winner Katrina Bean, 500cc Mini Sprint champion Cody O’Brien, Super Stock veteran Russ Farr, former Devil’s Bowl asphalt racers Bob Kilburn and Justin Lilly, road racer Jason Quenneville, and second-generation racer A.J. Munger. Drivers who have tested the Limited Sportsman waters and are ready for a full season include Dakota Green, Bryon Linendoll, John Gosselin, and Ralph Reynolds Jr. As many as a dozen more drivers are expected to register before the season begins on Saturday, May 1.
The Limited Sportsman division will have several special events in 2021. Feature races will pay a healthy $500 to win on May 22 and on both nights of a doubleheader weekend on August 7-8. The Limiteds also take center stage on opening night of the Vermont 200 Weekend with a Win & You’re In! qualifying race on Saturday, September 4, in which the winner is guaranteed a starting spot in Sunday’s 200-lap, $10,000-to-win main event.
Competitor registration forms and membership licenses are available, and information for season passes for both general admission grandstand seating and the pit area will be released soon.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway is located on Route 22A in West Haven, 4 miles north of U.S. Route 4, Exit 2, and just 20 minutes from Rutland. For more information, visit DevilsBowlSpeedwayVT.com or call 802-265-3112.