Cannonball hosts all-star circuit as part of ‘Sprint Speedweek’

I never knew “sprinters” were so fast and made so much noise.

I certainly found out why Sunday night at the Cannonball Speedway when the University of Northwestern Ohio All Star Circuit of Champions 30th annual Sprint Speedweek debuted at the Belmont County track for the first time in UNOH history.

And it didn’t disappoint the huge throng that lined the hillsides and filled the bleachers under bright sunshine conditions.

“This is great,” said track spokesman Cody Barack. “The crowd was great. The weather cooperated, and the racing was excellent.

“I can live with this. I’d like to have these cars back.”

This was the third event of the season held at the 4/10-mile dirt track, which is nestled in the hills between Morristown and St. Clairsville off U.S. 40.

However, it was the least dusty. In week two, the dust was the worst that it could have ever been.

One driver from Morgantown couldn’t remember a dustier track.

“It was tough to see the front end of your car,” he told me.

However, Barack said Friday’s rainstorm “really saved us.”

He also noted that an additional 100,000 gallons of water was applied to the track all day Saturday and Sunday until hours before time to drop the green flag.

“We really watered it this time,” he said.

Back to racing, 20-year-old Kyle Larson picked up his first victory on the Circuit of Champions, and did so in thrilling fashion.

The Elk Grove, Ca., resident, who started third, held off three-time and defending series champion Tim Shaffer for the win. Larson and Shaffer, the pole-sitter, battled side-by-side for much of the 30-lap feature, but both were fortunistic when David Gravel, who had taken the lead on Lap 17, hit the fence in turn two and went upside down, causing a caution.

It was all Larson and Shaffer from there on as the youngster from the West Coast pulled away from the seasoned veteran for the cherished triumph.

“It’s only my second race in the All Star Series, so it feels pretty good right now,” Larson said with a huge smile. “(Crew Chief) Davey Jones had me hooked up tonight. We were good from the get-go. The setup was the main thing tonight and he (Jones) hit it.”

For the win, Larson collected a check for $5,000.

“It’s a really fun track,” Larson said of Cannonball. “(David) Gravel showed that you could run the top if you got your momentum built up, but that’s a fine line to run up there.

“I was pretty comfortable on the bottom, so I didn’t want to get up there,” he continued. “I could see Shaffer. He could get a run on me going into (turn) three, but I’d beat him off of four. So, I knew I couldn’t change my lineup much.”

Former West Virginia University basketball player Dale Blaney finished fifth after sustaining an early oil leak. He had to leave the track during a red flag, which forced him to the tailend of the 24-car field on the re-start.

“We weren’t going to make it much longer if I didn’t pit,” Blaney explained of his early troubles. He battled back through the pack to finish a respectable fifth.

“The car was really good. If we don’t have to pit, we have a chance to win that race. But it is what it is.”

Blaney liked what he saw of the track.

“It’s alright. Nice place. You can pass on it. I enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind coming back.”

North can be reached at