by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
The Northwest Ohio Sprint Car season ended Saturday Night at the Fremont Speedway. Travis Philo and Cap Henry were the two title combatants, separated by a mere point going into the night’s action. As the night shaked out, they would be tied going into the Feature event, and they both would occupy the front row of the Feature to duke it out for 30 laps and the Fremont Track Championship. On lap four, Henry and Philo were battling hard for the lead, and as the dust settled in turns three and four, we would find Philo on his side, Championship hopes severely in doubt. Henry would survive an onslaught of restarts and win the race, and the championship. Byron Reed, in his final race, and TJ Michael would round out the podium.
Here are some closing thoughts from Fremont’s Championship night:
There’s Cap, Then Everyone Else: No one in Ohio has had a year quite like Cap. With his win on Saturday, Cap now has 11 on the season spread between Fremont, Attica and Wayne County. He also leads Ohio with 24 Top Five finishes and 29 Top Ten finishes. He also accomplished the rare Northwest Ohio Triple Crown by winning the Attica Championship, the Fremont Championship, and the AFCS Championship in the same season. The Triple Crown hasn’t been done since 2015 when Byron Reed did so. Looking back on recent seasons, this will go down as one of the most dominant in Ohio history. Not bad for a team that’s spending its first season together. Cap also said that he will be back in the Jeff Ward Motorsports 33W in 2024.
Close, but so far for Philo: Travis Philo came into the night with a one point lead over Henry, looking to claim his first 410 track championship of his career. Philo nailed the first two starts of the race and got away from Henry, but they were battling by laps three and four, a battle that ended with Philo going into the softwall on the exit of turn four. Philo, after thrashing with his and multiple other crews, managed to get back out on track, but to no avail. Philo was able to pick off a few spots, but subsequent wing damage halted his charge. He would have to wait for a mistake by Henry to have a shot at the Championship, and it was a mistake that Henry wouldn’t make. This one may sting for a little bit.
Byron Reed, Fast Until the End: Saturday night was also the final race of the legendary career of Byron Reed. The seven-time Fremont Champion went out on top in Attica a few weeks before in his final start there, and he was hoping to do the same Saturday night. Reed would start eleventh in the Feature, and after it was all said and done, he would be running second. With another caution, you never know what could’ve been. Byron was happy with second, though. He showed that he was still capable of running up front and competing for wins right up through his final race. That was one of the main retiring-points for Reed; he didn’t want to hang on too long. With a win at Attica, and a P2 run in his final race at Fremont, it’s safe to say Reed retired right when he wanted to. It’s going to be weird walking the pits in Attica and Fremont and not seeing the 410 version of the all-black No. 5 car in 2024, but Byron is happy with his decision and that’s all that matters. His retirement cake was phenomenal as well.
Ones to Watch: Both TJ Michael and Larry Kingseed Jr. have been impressive lately. Michael finished P3 Saturday night at Fremont after running second to Cap Henry most of the race. Michael was able to keep Henry on his toes on the countless restarts, and was able to keep Henry in his sight, which has been a tough thing to do for a lot of competitors this season. The Texan Michael has shown great speed in various parts of the night all season, and if he is able to string together that speed for an entire night, the wins should start coming. Kingseed was also mixing it up front at Fremont Saturday night before coming home sixth. Two weeks before, Kingseed had his best career 410 finish when he finished second, also at Fremont. That’s good momentum for the youngster. We’ll see where the 2024 season takes him.
Cowboys, and not in Dallas: Saturday night featured maybe the most aggressive track we’ve seen all season at Fremont; rough, heavy, and fast. Very different from the slick and slow we saw most of the season at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds. Drivers had to be on their game and not miss their line, or else they’d be going for a ride. This caught a few drivers out during heat race action, and the 410 feature was marred by nearly ten caution or red flag periods. Cars were flying around the track that had plenty of character, but there was very little forgiveness in the clay on Saturday night. Some advocate for the slick and slow, some advocate for the fast and heavy. Maybe a happy medium is on the horizon for 2024.