USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series point leader Brody Roa ventured east last week for his first 2023 races in the USAC National Sprint Car Series at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas, and the Texarkana 67 Speedway in Texarkana, Arkansas. On Thursday at Devil’s Bowl, he came from 14th to finish sixth in the 30-lap main event. Forty-eight hours later on Saturday at Texarkana, he came home 14th. Sandwiched in between on Friday night, rain was the big winner at the Arkansas track
The stop at Devil’s Bowl exposed Roa to one of the most famous dirt tracks in the world. The track, which hosted the first-ever World of Outlaws race on March 18, 1978, is on the bucket list of most drivers. But it kind of caught Roa by surprise on his first visit.
“That place is really sketchy,” Roa laughed when asked his impressions of Devil’s Bowl. “To start the night it was really hairy because they had so much moisture in it. It was really sticky. Getting into three in qualifying, I got the left rear up off the ground. It is really fast. It is comparable to Calistoga's speed I would say, but with a little bit bigger corners. You really carry a lot of speed there. It was a lot of fun. I think the feature was a ton of fun once it slicked off. It was really wide and it was right up to the lip. If you got over it, you were over the banking.”
Sketchy or not, the Garden Grove, California veteran driver performed well all night long at Devil’s Bowl. He qualified 11th fastest in the field of 31 cars with a time of 16.468. His first race on the well-known half mile was the second heat of the night. He finished that eight-lapper in second. That earned him a ticket straight into the A main without contesting the semi.
For the main, Roa was starting outside row seven in 14th, From there, he put on a show for not only the fans at the track but also for thousands worldwide watching the live stream on Flo Racing. While most of the field rolled the bottom, Roa daringly tamed the top riding the very edge of the track. One by one, he picked off the competition. He was about to challenge for second when the yellow flag waved slowing the action. Unfortunately, some of the others saw how Roa got to third using the outside and changed their strategies accordingly. Thus, Roa slipped back to sixth at the finish.
“I think we were just a little free,” Roa explained on going from second to sixth. “After we rolled past everybody on the top, everybody was trying to roll the bottom, and we just smoked around the outside of them. I think once we got there everybody just moved up. They may have been a little snugger than we were so we were kind of hanging off the corner the last eight laps or so. We just did not have the drive to keep the forward momentum that we did have at the start of the race.”
“We were really happy with it,” the California veteran racer continued about his Devil’s Bowl debut. “We were up to Ballou (Robert Ballou) for second at one point. There for a couple of laps, I thought we had a shot to win it.”
After Devil’s Bowl, the Inland Rigging team aimed the hauler east for the 181-mile drive to Texarkana 67 Speedway. Unfortunately, Roa and the other competitors finished second to Mother Nature when persistent rain forced the cancelation of the Friday night race.
Mercifully, the rain subsided and the facility dried out enough so Saturday’s race could move forward. Like Thursday in the “Lone Star” state, 31 cars showed up. Roa went five spots better in qualifying when he sped to the sixth-fastest lap with a time of 14.744. A third-place finish in his heat race put “The Pride of Garden Grove” straight into the main event for the second consecutive night.
When the main event pushed off, Roa found himself on the outside of the front row. He ran the top of the ¼ mile oval in the first two laps and slipped to fourth. On the third circuit, he found some room and steered the #17R to the bottom. He was fourth at that time and stayed there for a handful of laps. That was as high as he would run all race long. In the end, the affable driver crossed the line in 14th position.
“That one kind of threw me for a loop,” Roa chuckled when asked about Texarkana 67. “Looking at the track when we got there, it had a lot of moisture in it and the dirt seemed like it was going to have a lot of tack to it. It really didn’t. Once you got out there it kind of blew off and dusted up. Really was not what I thought it was. We were kind of free all night. After coming home and watching the video, I needed to change my line. I was not driving the track right. We had some good speed throughout the night but in the feature, I just made some bad calls (set-up-wise). After the heat race, I thought we were a little too tight to drive through the holes. It was a little rough getting in on both ends. I kind of thought we were going to blast around the top and through those holes. I really did not plan on it going to the bottom like it did and putting around. I really do not like doing that and was not set up to do that.”
While they wished things had turned out differently at Texarkana, Roa and car owner Dunkel were pleased with their trip to compete in the best traditional sprint car series in the world.
“We were really happy with the weekend,” Roa said. “The final result before we loaded it into the trailer the last time was not exactly what we wanted, but I think people knew we were there on this one. It was really nice to have good speed right out of the box with those guys.”
While Roa is off this weekend, Dunkel returns to action when the USAC West Coast Sprint Cars visit Jim Naylor’s Ventura Raceway. Two weeks ago, the Murrieta, California resident placed second in the VRA main event. That was his second runner-up finish in a row at the track that is located at the beach in Ventura. He also won a VRA main at the track on April 8th. Despite the fact that Saturday will only be Dunkel’s third appearance in the USAC West Coast Series this year, he is 21st in series points and is only 18 markers out of 18th.
If you want to see Dunkel in person on Saturday, make a trip of it and enjoy a day at the beach before walking a couple hundred feet to the track. Gates will open at 3:00 p.m. with racing at 5:30. Adult tickets are $22.00. Seniors 60 and over, military with ID, and students with ID get in for $18.00. Kids 12 and under are admitted free when they are accompanied by an adult. The track is located on the Ventura County Fairgrounds at 10 W. Harbor Boulevard (93001). The website is http://venturaraceway.com/ and the office phone number is (805) 648-RACE.
After the Ventura race, both Dunkel and Roa will be in action in the Glenn Howard Classic USAC/CRA race at Perris Auto Speedway on September 23rd.
Fans can pick up a 2023 Inland Rigging Racing Team shirt from the crew after the races or online brodyroa.com.
The team wants to thank the following sponsors for making the 2023 season possible. Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, United Asset Sales, Osborne Speed & Machine, “Biker” Bruce Fischer, ALR Virtual Services, Burris Racing, Caltrol, Jambo Barbeque Pits, Competition Suspension, K-1 Race Gear, Molecule, Rod End Supply, Driven Racing Oil, Baldwin Filters, and NGK Spark Plugs.