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2024 IRA Season Preview
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4/3/2024

4/3/2024

IRA Interstate Racing Association


2024 IRA Season Preview

We’re just a few days away from kicking off an absolutely massive season of sprint car racing in the upper midwest, and once again the Bumper to Bumper IRA Sprints will take center stage throughout 2024, with 33 races scheduled across the region. The Hopf Farms Bullring Showdown is back, along with the Road America Challenge and many other fan favorites. Let’s take a look at some of the schedule highlights and the fantastic teams that will compete for this year’s championship.

A Familiar Opener

34 Raceway in West Burlington, IA will once again play host to the IRA Sprints as the series kicks off the 2024 season in doubleheader fashion. This event saw some fantastic racing last season between the IRA regulars and national superstars alike. Night #1 saw Sikeston, Missouri native Hunter Schuerenberg in the Vermeer Motorsports #55 take the win with a thrilling last corner-last lap pass on Kokomo, Indiana’s Parker Price-Miller, while the Saturday finale showcased an all out duel between Chase Randall of Waco, TX and ten-time IRA champion Bill Balog that ended with Balog upside-down on the front stretch and Randall in victory lane. However, the celebration was short lived as Randall weighed light at the scales and the win was awarded to Altoona, Iowa’s Austin McCarl.

Numerous drivers from around the country will once again descend upon Eastern Iowa on April 5th and 6th, with a large car count expected to consist of “true outlaws” and Knoxville Raceway regulars as well as the stars of the IRA and MOWA series.

Border Battle

After a week’s reprieve, the series returns on Friday, April 19th with a returning track to the schedule; Fountain City, Wisconsin’s Mississippi Thunder Speedway. Nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the high-banked, super-fast 3/8ths mile track is sure to provide stellar speed and excitement. The only previous event held at “MTS” was on July 13th, 2012 when Bill Balog took the win ahead of Brooke Tatnell and Travis Whitney. On Saturday, the tour will stop at one of its regular haunts in Beaver Dam, WI at the Beaver Dam Raceway. With the Dirt Kings Late Models and Badger Midgets joining the card, a fantastic night of racing is surely on tap.

The following Friday, May 3rd, the “border battle” continues, this time on the other side of the border at Minnesota’s Ogilvie Raceway. A first time addition to the schedule, Ogilvie is another high banked, ? mile track which has played host the World of Outlaws in recent seasons, and is sure to excite fans. May 4th the IRA Sprints head back into Wisconsin and to Cedar Lake Speedway for the first of two stops at the spectacular northwoods track for the series in 2024. Last season, the Spring race fell to weather, and Scotty Thiel picked up a thrilling Jerry Richert Memorial win at Cedar Lake in the Fall, leading flag to flag but fending off challenges from Ian Madsen, Kelby Watt, Danny Schlafer and Bill Balog to take the win.

Familiar Favorites

After the opening month of the season showcases tracks somewhat outside the IRA’s “regular stomping grounds”, the series returns to familiar favorites in May and early June, with stops at Sycamore Speedway in northern Illinois on May 11th, followed with a doubleheader at the Plymouth Dirt Track in Plymouth, WI and the historic Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie on May 18th and 19th. Memorial Day weekend is another tried and true favorite, with a Saturday stop at the “birthplace of the IRA”, Wilmot Raceway in southern Wisconsin followed by Sunday at the always exciting 141 Speedway in Francis Creek, WI. Plymouth, Angell Park and Wilmot fill out the rest of early June on the 8th, 9th and 15th respectively. Winners at these tracks with the IRA in 2023 included Jordan Goldesberry, Bill Balog, Blake Nimee, Travis Arenz, Greg Wilson, Brenham Crouch and Jake Neuman.

Back Home Again…

For the first time since Kim Mock took the win at Benton County, Indiana on June 23rd, 2001, the Bumper to Bumper IRA Sprints will return to the Hoosier State in a big way. A four race swing in co-sanctioned action with the newly formed Maverick Winged Outlaw Sprints series will take place at four tracks as different as they are exciting. Kicking off on June 20th at the tight bullring that is Lincoln Park Speedway, “Maverick Mayhem Week” will award $6,000 to the winner of each race, as well as a weeklong point series which will award additional prizes to the overall champion and participants. The week will also consist of stops at Bloomington Speedway, Tri-State Speedway and the Terre Haute Action Track.

King of the Wings III

Now becoming an annual stop on the IRA Sprints tour trail, the Buffalo Wild Wings King of the Wings event expanded to a 3-day event in 2023, and this will continue in 2024. The co-sanctioned events with the Northern Outlaw Sprint Association are favorites of both drivers and fans alike, and with the addition of Norman County Speedway in Minnesota on July 18th to pair with the Friday-Saturday features at the River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, ND, the weekend will once again provide fans with non-stop excitement and further expand on the friendly IRA vs. NOSA “rivalry.” Last year, NOSA swept the weekend, with Mark Dobmeier winning Thursday and Friday and Austin Pierce taking the Saturday finale. The IRA regulars will be looking to even the score once again in 2024.

Action Packed September

After the months of July and August which feature a return to the Dodge County Fairgrounds for the Harry Neitzel Tribute on July 26th, the traditional Sheboygan County Fair race in Plymouth, WI, on August 31st as well as many other exciting events, September kicks off with another new stop for the series at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin’s The Hill Raceway. The high speed, flat 1/3rd mile oval plays host to the IRA as the tour enters its final month of competition in 2024.

The following week, the series returns to Gondik Law Speedway in Superior, WI on September 6th and the traditional Jerry Richert Memorial at Cedar Lake Speedway on September 7th. After a Saturday stop at 141 Speedway on the 14th, the season comes to a close on its traditional last weekend of September date on the 28th with the Wisconsin Sprint Car Championships at the Plymouth Dirt Track. 5 Champions will once again be crowned at Plymouth, with the IRA Sprints, Wisconsin WingLESS Sprints, IRA Lightning Sprints and the MSA/PDTR 360 Sprints all on the card.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the tracks the IRA will visit in 2024, let’s take a dive into the roster of drivers that we’ll see do battle at those tracks this season.

Perennial Contenders

With 2023 series Champion and Rookie of the Year Brenham Crouch moving to the Kubota High Limit Series for 2024, the title fight appears to be wide open this year. Here’s some names to look for near the top of the points standings come September.

Jordan Goldesberry - The 2022 Series Champion finished runner up to Crouch in 2023, and will be looking to do one spot better in 2024. With 3 wins last season at Beaver Dam, Plymouth and 141 respectively, Goldesberry has shown prowess at the IRA’s “core” tracks in the state of Wisconsin, while still performing extremely well at events further afield. Look for the Rockstar Energy Drink #65 to try and maintain the early season success of 2023 all throughout the 2024 season.

Jake Blackhurst - “The Hanna City Outlaw” and the NineSix Motorsports team briefly led the points standings in 2023 before dropping their “full time” status around the midway point of last season. However, they’ve announced their intentions to run the full IRA tour in 2024, and will surely be a fixture at the sharp end of the points table if their 2023 performance is any indication. Don’t forget, Blackhurst knows how to win titles, with the 2018 and 2021 IRA championships already under his belt.

Scotty Thiel - One of the biggest announcements of this off-season was Thiel’s intentions to run the entire 2024 IRA schedule, with the series championship as his overall goal. The Gibbsville Cheese #73 has a bold new look for this year, and with the IRA title in their sights, that is truly a daunting prospect for the rest of the field. A two-time winner in 2023, Thiel will surely be a force in 2024, and consistency will be the key to whether or not “The Big Wheel” can finally claim that elusive IRA title.

Danny Schlafer - After a slight “downswing” to start 2023, “The Lone Wolf” picked up the pace towards the end of the season in a big way. An impressive podium at the Jerry Richert Memorial reminded everyone that the #25 machine is still a contender, and consistent Dash appearances bode well for the team’s confidence heading into 2024. Look for the Sussex, WI native to try and replicate his 2022 success, which saw the team compete for the title and win 4 races along the way.

Scotty Neitzel - Of course “The Ironman” gets a mention here. Since 1998, Neitzel has only finished outside the Top 5 in the Championship Points table once. The two-time series champion still knows how to win, most recently finding victory lane in 2022 at Rice Lake Speedway after the series returned to the track after a long absence. There are some similar events on the schedule this season, so look for Neitzel to threaten for multiple race wins in 2024.

Returning Stars

Jake Neuman - Another driver that tasted victory lane in 2023, Neuman said it best when he was parked there at Plymouth last season. “Wish we would win these at the start of the year, it’d make things a little easier.” A 2023 season that started with injury and bad luck, saw Neuman turn things around quickly with the IRA and will surely give the New Berlin, IL team confidence heading into 2024.

Travis Arenz - The former MSA Sprints Champion picked up the Apple Cup Rookie Award in 2023, as well as his first career IRA win at the Scott Semmelmann Memorial in Plymouth. Arenz looked to be getting even faster towards the end of the 2023 season, until engine issues derailed his chances to truly threaten the top two points places. Arenz will surely be a contender for multiple wins in 2024, and threatening for the overall points title would not be a surprise.

Kyle Schuett - “The Philo Phenom” secured his first career 410 Sprint Car win at Plymouth in 2022, but since then has seemed to struggle for consistency. That was until around midway through last season when the former Rookie of the Year seemed to make Dash Appearances a nightly occurrence. Always a threat at Plymouth and especially at Sun Prairie’s Angell Park Speedway (avg. starting position of 4.33 in 2023), look for Schuett to get back to winning ways in 2024.

Austin Hartmann - Another driver that experienced some adversity in 2023, Hartmann continues to improve steadily behind the wheel of a 410 Sprint Car following his rookie season in 2022. Consistently showing blistering qualifying pace, Hartmann looked to take a step forward in race pace in 2023, with 4 Top 10 finishes at very different tracks. Can the Plymouth, WI native break onto the podium? Surely it’s not an “if”, but a “when” he does so.

Year of the Rookies… Again?

For the third straight season, the IRA will enjoy a fantastic and large rookie field. Angola, Indiana’s Tylar Rankin has been a force in the Michigan sprint car scene in recent years, and showed Top 10 speed last season in limited IRA starts. He’ll be the lone Rookie of the Year contender with at least one full season of 410 sprint car racing under his belt, however the rest of the rookie crop is loaded with talent and quality teams.

Former 360 Sprint Car standouts and teammates Will Gerrits and Tyler Brabant bring winning experience to the Sage Fruit-Hepfner Racing Products Rookie of the Year fight in 2024, as well as limited 410 starts last season where the pair scored multiple Hard Charger awards as well as a B Main win for Gerrits at Angell Park.

Logan Julien may be one of the most anticipated IRA Rookie of the Year contenders in recent memory. Julien was a star with the MSA Sprints series in 2023, as well as in Micro Sprint competition for many years. The young gun has shown impressive adaptability in his move to full size sprint cars, and will look to make the transition to 410’s quickly in order to challenge the rest of the rookie field.

Stake Your Claim

The rest of the “full-time” IRA field remains stacked with talent, including longtime competitors Kris Spitz and Dave Uttech who consistently show they’re still threats at tracks like Wilmot and 141 Speedway. Recent Rookie of the Year contenders Scott Conger and William Huck will look to continue climbing the ranks after marked improvement over the course of the 2023 season. Aside from full time competitors though, there are many drivers that have staked their claim to compete with the series on a “part-time” basis.

Drivers who have committed to significant portions of the IRA schedule include; 6x Quick Time award winner in 2023 Mike Reinke and the Bob Hood Motorsports team, 2022 Apple Cup Award Winner Tyler Tischendorf, former RaceSaver/305 Sprint standout Luke Nellis, 2x Series Winner in 2023 Blake Nimee, 2023 Rookie Contenders Preston Ruh, Chris Flick and Jack Vanderboom, multi-time podium finisher in 2023 Joel Myers Jr. of California, Indiana’s Jett Mann, the uncle-nephew Team Volkswagen-Audi duo of Van Gurley Jr. and Corbin Gurley, former MSA Sprints contenders Anthony Knierim, Dylan Winkel and TJ Haddy, and many, many more.

2024 is sure to be a season to remember with the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints, and you can see it kick off in person at the 34 Raceway in West Burlington, IA this weekend. Tickets can be purchased at the link below, and if you can’t make it to the track make sure you don’t miss a moment of the 2024 season by catching every race LIVE on FloRacing.

34 Raceway Tickets: https://www.myracepass.com/tracks/2697/tickets/1373892?rKey=1170

Watch IRA LIVE on FloRacing: https://www.floracing.com/collections/tag/ira-outlaw-sprint-car-series?view=live-and-upcoming&utm_medium=partner&utm_source=multiple&utm_content=collection&utm_campaign=irasprintcarseries&contract_id=0063m00000ojafcaa2


Article Credit: Box3 Media

Submitted By: Madeline Schultz

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