Nick Graziano

THE BIG GATOR: Jimmy Phelps conquers DIRTcar Nationals for first title, win

In 26 years with the Super DIRTcar Series, Jimmy Phelps has seen and experienced it all. But an occurrence Saturday night left him shocked and speechless.

He earned his first DIRTcar Nationals win – worth $6,000 – and claimed the 2022 Big Gator Championship after leading green to checkered in the 50-lap finale at Volusia Speedway Park.

“I got to be honest it’s kind of shocking,” Phelps said while throwing his arm in the air as if still unsure how he accomplished the massive feat. “We typically come down here to just run respectfully. We never really felt like we had a handle on this place. We unloaded really good and kept tweaking and getting better and better and better from there. It was fun.”

Phelps, of Baldwinsville, NY, was the most consistent driver throughout the five-day speed week at Volusia, finishing fourth, second, sixth, second and then the win.

Entering the night, he trailed his teammate Max McLaughlin – who won Friday night’s Feature – by five points in the Big Gator championship battle. But with the benefit of collecting points for his second Billy Whittaker Cars Fast Time Award of the week and Heat Race win, Phelps held a one-point lead over “Mad Max” before the Feature.

Another benefit, Phelps drew the pole in the Albany-Saratoga Speedway Redraw. He claimed it was what won him the race, but his precision and supersonic launches every restart didn’t hurt.

He gapped second-place Adam Pierson by more than two car lengths at the start of the 50-lap Feature, leaving the 2022 Rookie of the Year contender to fight off challenges from eight-time Series champion Matt Sheppard. He held off the veteran for several laps, but the low lane eventually prevailed for Sheppard.

By the time the reigning champion got to second, Phelps already had a straightaway lead on the field. Both ran low as rubber started to lay down. Sheppard cut a tenth into Phelps’s lead each lap but stalled out when he got about two car lengths behind the Heinke-Baldwin Racing #98H. Behind them, Mat Williamson and Larry Wight also got by Pierson to take over third and fourth, respectively.

Like drafting partners, the top-five stayed in line, sometimes closing, and sometimes losing ground on the driver in front of them. Phelps’s biggest optical through the halfway point was lap traffic. Maneuvering through the slower cars allowed Sheppard to close, at times enough where thoughts of attempting a pass could creep in mind.

A couple of cautions throughout the Feature allowed Phelps to avoid the slower cars for several laps after each restart, but the caution on Lap 10 changed the complexity of the race. Tire wear became a concern with Kyle Coffey being the first in a group of cars to blow a right rear. While some teams knew it was a possibility and gambled with softer compounds anyway, Phelps said concern set in due to the situation occurring sooner than he expected.

“I wasn’t 100 percent sure I was comfortable going out on a hard tire because if it was wrong and I backed up I’d really pay the price,” Phelps said. “We figured we could get out front and if it did (rubber up) we’d be in the right spot to control the pace. I was really nervous when I started seeing tires blowing.

“We were able to back the field up, slow the pace down, try to take it easy on the tires. Try to avoid the lap cars. Just got really lucky with the redraw (starting upfront).”

By the end of the 50 laps, his right rear was bare of tread, looking more like an asphalt tire.

While Phelps was able to manage the wear, his closest competitors weren’t privy to the same fortune in their attempts to run him down. Both Sheppard and Williamson suffered blown right rears in the closing laps, allowing Wight and Stewart Friesen to sneak their way into podium spots before the checkered flag.

“I was sitting in a pretty good spot,” Wight said. “I could see all three of their tires. I saw Sheppard showing a patch of canvas there with about eight or nine to go, so I knew I didn’t have to worry about him. Then Williamson’s tire wasn’t much better… I just sat back and watched them and took advantage of the situation.”

All of Phelps’s Big Gator competitors suffered an issue in the final stages of the race with Williamson finishing seventh, Peter Britten 10th and McLaughlin 17th. However, all four, along with Friesen made history this week as the Super DIRTcar Series saw five straight different winners during DIRTcar Nationals for the first time in the 51 years of the event.

With a pair of new trophies and wealth of confidence going into the 2022 championship season – starting at Atomic Speedway, March 25-26 – this is a DIRTcar Nationals Phelps will cherish.

“It means a ton,” he said. “It’s something you come down here every year praying to get. This year we finally had the race team, the race car, a bunch of guys that work really hard and they gave us a car where it got me the confidence to stay upfront and do it all week. It’s tough. A lot of luck. You have to draw good and qualify well. We’ve been doing this a long time. I don’t know how many years we got left coming down here, so I’m glad we finally did it.”

UP NEXT
The Super DIRTcar Series starts its championship season during its debut at Atomic Speedway on March 25-26.

If you can’t make it to the track, the race will be live on DIRTVision – watch either online on with the DIRTVision App.

RESULTS
DIRTcar Nationals Feature #5 (50 Laps): 1. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[1]; 2. 99L-Larry Wight[16]; 3. 44-Stewart Friesen[17]; 4. 35M-Mike Mahaney[5]; 5. 8S-Rich Scagliotta[14]; 6. 54-Steve Bernard[28]; 7. 88-Mat Williamson[4]; 8. 25P-Michael Parent[24]; 9. 16X-Dan Creeden[21]; 10. 21A-Peter Britten[7]; 11. 3J-Marc Johnson[9]; 12. 19-Tim Fuller[19]; 13. 35LJ-LJ Lombardo[23]; 14. 111-Demetrios Drellos[8]; 15. 1K-Rick Laubach[10]; 16. 3H-Justin Haers[11]; 17. 8H-Max McLaughlin[6]; 18. 118-Jim Britt[25]; 19. 14-CG Morey[26]; 20. (DNF) 88D-Olden Dwyer[20]; 21. (DNF) 215P-Adam Pierson[2]; 22. (DNF) 2L-Jack Lehner[18]; 23. (DNF) 30W-Joseph Watson[15]; 24. (DNF) 23C-Kyle Coffey[12]; 25. (DNF) 9S-Matt Sheppard[3]; 26. (DNF) 12S-Darren Smith[22]; 27. (DNF) JS98-Rocky Warner[13]; 28. (DNF) 83-Brian Swartzlander[27]

MAD FOR GATORS: Max McLaughlin scores second DIRTcar Nationals win, Big Gator points lead

The first three times Max McLaughlin asked Volusia Speedway Park for its iconic gator trophy this week it said “no.”

With every “no,” frustration grew. A third; an eight; and then a second. The latter, causing dejection to take over his posture.

Friday night, during the fourth round of DIRTcar Nationals Super DIRTcar Series action, “Mad Max” no longer asked politely. Feeling like he should’ve already had a 2022 gator resting in his trailer, the Mooresville, NC driver extracted every ounce of grit he had for 30 laps to wrestle his way to victory.

Jimmy Phelps, Mat Williamson and Demetrios Drellos tried to deny McLaughlin another win, but his patience triumphed, and he was handed his second DIRTcar Nationals little gator trophy – along with the Big Gator Championship points lead.

“At the start of the drop of the green I thought we were going to go backward in a hurry,” McLaughlin said. “I was really tight. I was like, there’s no way we’re going to be able to get off the bottom. The track had a lot of grip and the car kept getting better and better. Man, it was fun to drive.

“My guys worked their asses off this week. We changed a motor and brought out a backup car. I got the best team in the world and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

McLaughlin showed his speed early, claiming the Billy Whittaker Cars Fast Time Award. That earned him the pole for his Heat Race but had to settle second at its conclusion after Peter Britten bested him for the win.

Luck helped him in the Albany-Saratoga Speedway Redraw, placing him on the front row, alongside polesitter Demetrios Drellos, for the Feature.

The two young stars raced side by side for the first lap before Drellos edged ahead and left McLaughlin to fend off Williamson. McLaughlin’s fear of fading soon set in as Williamson easily slid by him for second.

Then, a caution arose that not only changed the complexity of the race but the Big Gator Championship. Then point-leader Peter Britten slowed on the backstretch due to a broken shock.

On the restart, McLaughlin tossed his F.X. Caprara #8H machine to the bottom of the track, blowing by Williamson and pulling even with Drellos by the center of the first corner. He was able to maintain his pass on Williamson, but Drellos again got the better run off the turn.

The caution flew again on Lap 14 due to Matt Sheppard suffering a flat tire. When the race resumed, McLaughlin again powered his way into the first turn, getting an advantage on Drellos and pulling ahead of him down the backstretch. By sliding high and blocking Drellos’s run, the orange and white #8H got breathing room to drive away.

Behind him, Williamson and Phelps were on the move, both passing Drellos to fill out the podium. With six laps to go, they were given a final shot at the 21-year-old when Britten blew a tire and brought the caution out again. According to officials, Williamson jumped the gun on his attack during the restart and was moved back a position before the next attempt. That placed Phelps alongside his teammate for a six-lap duel.

The veteran was unable to match McLaughlin in those final laps but earned his second runner-up finish of the week and helped Heinke-Baldwin Racing bring home its first 1-2 finish since 2015.

“It says a lot. It says we came down here prepared,” said Phelps, of Baldwinsville, NY. “We typically, me personally typically, haven’t run strong down here and they gave me a great race car.”

Williamson was unpleased with the rule of being put back a position for jumping the start and stated his car had an issue with restarts all race.

“We ran a harder tire and just couldn’t fire on the restarts,” the St. Catharines, Ontario driver said. “Hats off to Max and Jimmy, they ran a great race.”

With Britten’s issues causing him to finish 22nd and Stewart Friesen missing the race due to his NASCAR commitments, McLaughlin catapulted to the Big Gator Championship points lead with one race to go – currently leading Williamson and Phelps by five points and Britten by 18.

In his first week back with Heinke-Baldwin Racing – after a two-year absence – winning in just their fourth race together, the defending Big Gator champion now has his sights set on asking Volusia for a gator one more time.

“We’ve been so damn fast. It’s been so much fun,” McLaughlin said. “Tonight, was a great race. Last night was a great race. We just need to keep the momentum rolling.”

UP NEXT
The Super DIRTcar Series returns to Volusia Speedway Park for the 51st DIRTcar Nationals finale, Saturday, Feb. 19 – the Big Gator Championship night. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the race, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online or with the DIRTVision App.

RESULTS
DIRTcar Nationals Feature #4 (30 Laps): 1. 8H-Max McLaughlin[2]; 2. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[6]; 3. 88-Mat Williamson[3]; 4. 99L-Larry Wight[15]; 5. 3J-Marc Johnson[11]; 6. 111-Demetrios Drellos[1]; 7. 2L-Jack Lehner[7]; 8. 23C-Kyle Coffey[5]; 9. 35M-Mike Mahaney[10]; 10. 3H-Justin Haers[26]; 11. 215P-Adam Pierson[14]; 12. JS98-Rocky Warner[13]; 13. 16X-Dan Creeden[12]; 14. 30W-Joseph Watson[20]; 15. 8S-Rich Scagliotta[9]; 16. 54-Steve Bernard[24]; 17. 12S-Darren Smith[25]; 18. 14-CG Morey[19]; 19. 1K-Rick Laubach[22]; 20. 1-Andrew Smith[16]; 21. 35LJ-LJ Lombardo[23]; 22. 21A-Peter Britten[4]; 23. 1G-Darwin Greene[21]; 24. 83-Brian Swartzlander[17]; 25. (DNF) 9S-Matt Sheppard[8]; 26. (DNF) 19-Tim Fuller[18]

UNDER PRESSURE: Williamson uses Super DIRT Week pressure to claim third DIRTcar Nationals victory

Mat Williamson felt the pressure of NAPA Super DIRT Week Thursday evening.

But that pressure had nothing to do with the October event. He and his Buzz Chew Racing team were 1,200 miles south of where it’s even held.

It was the third of five straight days of Super DIRTcar Series racing at Volusia Speedway Park during the 51st DIRTcar Nationals. And after back-to-back sixth-place finishes in the first two races, something needed to change. He knew it. His team knew. So, they treated Thursday’s event like it was the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Super DIRT Week.

“Today, you would’ve sworn it was Oswego, Sunday morning, trying to decide what we were going to do for a 200-lap race,” Williamson said. “We took this one pretty seriously and hopefully it leads to some momentum going forward.

“Just because we haven’t lived up to the expectations of how we ran last year. I think we got through the middle of September to Charlotte, we didn’t run out of the top-five. Then, we had two six-place finishes. People expect things. We worked really hard over the winter to build this car, me and Spot. We tried some things we learned over the years and came here wanting to win. That’s kind of what we expected. If you don’t turn things around by Wednesday, you’re going to have a rough week.”

And a rough week he will no longer have.

Williamson drove like he was after his third NAPA Super DIRT Week title, wrestling with Stewart Friesen and Max McLaughlin for 30 laps, emerging the victor by the time the checkered flag was revealed.

His path to collecting a third golden gator trophy looks smooth on paper – qualifying fastest in his group, winning his Heat Race and drawing the #2 pill in the Albany-Saratoga Speedway Redraw – but when it came time for the Feature, Friesen and McLaughlin showed him no mercy.

The St. Catharines, Ontario driver raced side by side with fellow Canadian Stewart Friesen for the first two laps, neither showing an upper hand. On the third lap, Friesen threw an early Hail Mary into Turn 1, crossing in front of Williamson and stealing the lead by the exit of Turn 2. But the speed difference from their choice of line benefited Williamson. He crossed underneath Friesen down the backstretch and catapulted his Buzz Chew #88 back to the lead in Turn 3.

An early caution lined them back side by side for the restart, setting up a battle that would last the rest of the Feature. Williamson ran high, Friesen low, and the two raced side by side for more than 10 laps. The SRI Performance/Halmar International #44 would nose ahead of Williamson every time Friesen dove it into the corner, but Williamson was always stronger on the exit. Friesen tried another slide job with 17 laps to go, moving himself to the high lane and Williamson low, but Williamson still prevailed.

While they sparred, Max McLaughlin – from seventh – surprised them both, creating a three-car battle for the lead. He snuck underneath Friesen for second and then surprised Williamson with a run through the middle that helped him edge ahead of the #88 for a corner.

“Any time you’re racing with Stewie (Friesen) you know you have to be up on the wheel,” Williamson said. “He never gives up and he gives it his all. I thought that was him on the outside of me down the back straightaway there. I didn’t know that was Max. Max is still pretty young, and God damn, he’s putting together some good finishes down here. He’s going to be tough to beat this year.

“Them two, the race out front was pretty hectic. It kept me on my toes.”

With eight laps to go, Williamson put the final nail in the coffin, getting a run through Turns 1 and 2 that propelled him ahead of McLaughlin and allowed him to drive away.

“We were just really good on the bottom and through the black there in the middle. I don’t know, I might be a little too soft on the right rear. I don’t know,” a visually dejected McLaughlin said after the race. “Just got to get with these guys and see what we got. Late in the run when it started to rubber up there, I had such a good car at the start, but it started to latch down in (Turns) three and four and I couldn’t turn in a 40-acre field.”

Friesen ended up losing third with two laps to go when current 2022 DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator Championship points leader Peter Britten made sure to continue his streak of not finishing outside the podium. So far this week, Britten has finished second, first and third.

“We didn’t fire as well as I had hoped but we had all good cars in front of us,” Britten said. “Just held steady with them at the beginning and later on in the race I felt like they were getting worse, or I was getting better. Either way, I felt good. At the end, I saw those guys coming back to me. I just wish I had another 10 laps.”

Matt Sheppard also got Friesen in the final two laps, moving past him for fourth – his first top-five and top-10 of the week – and forcing Friesen to settle for fifth.

Britten currently holds a 24-point lead over Friesen in the Big Gator Championship points standings. However, Friesen will have to miss Friday’s race due to running the NASCAR Truck Series race at Daytona. The next driver in line is Williamson – 25 points behind Britten.

“The rest of the week is big,” Williamson said. “We’ve got two more big races here and we can leave with our heads held high because we’re going home with a gator. It’s pretty sweet. The rest of the week, the pressure is off.”

UP NEXT
The Super DIRTcar Series returns to Volusia Speedway Park for its fourth night of racing during the 51st DIRTcar Nationals on Friday, Feb. 18. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

RESULTS
DIRTcar Nationals Feature #3 (30 Laps): 1. 88-Mat Williamson[2]; 2. 8H-Max McLaughlin[7]; 3. 21A-Peter Britten[8]; 4. 9S-Matt Sheppard[6]; 5. 44-Stewart Friesen[1]; 6. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[10]; 7. 1K-Rich Laubach[4]; 8. 30W-Joseph Watson[5]; 9. 99L-Larry Wight[21]; 10. 16X-Dan Creeden[3]; 11. 8S-Rich Scagliotta[9]; 12. 23C-Kyle Coffey[16]; 13. 12S-Darren Smith[12]; 14. 19-Tim Fuller[15]; 15. 3H-Justin Haers[20]; 16. 111-Demetrios Drellos[13]; 17. 2L-Jack Lehner[14]; 18. 35M-Mike Mahaney[11]; 19. 14-CG Morey[25]; 20. 118-Jim Britt[19]; 21. 215P-Adam Pierson[18]; 22. 83-Brian Swartzlander[23]; 23. 25P-Michael Parent[22]; 24. 3J-Marc Johnson[26]; 25. JS98-Rocky Warner[24]; 26. (DNF) 37MD-Jeremiah Shingledecker[17]

‘WE GOT A GATAH!’: Britten edges Phelps by 0.025 seconds for first DIRTcar Nationals win

The hunger in Peter Britten was visible. Wild and untamed. He threw his Big Block Modified into every corner with an anger, scaring any rut more than it intimidated him.

Tuesday night, it cost him a win. Wednesday night, a different story. However, just as hellaciously entertaining.

When the white flag was revealed during the second Super DIRTcar Series Feature of DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Britten was about two car lengths behind leader Jimmy Phelps. On entry to Turn 1, Britten sent it. Manhandling his machine through the bumps, Britten pulled ahead of the #98H on corner exit.

The lead was his, but only for a second. Britten had about a two-car length gap on Phelps going into Turn 3 but lost it when he slid high and Phelps dove low. The lead then transferred back to Phelps as he exited Turn 4. But Britten’s hunger persisted. Staying in the throttle, he torpedoed down the front stretch, pulling even with Phelps, bringing everyone to their feet. At the line, Britten edged Phelps by 0.025 seconds for this first DIRTcar Nationals win.

“Kind of made an all or nothing move in Turn 1, Baja jumped but it came off, you know,” Britten said, before letting his emotions loose, yelling “We got a gatah! Yeah!”

The victory – this third career Super DIRTcar Series win – was redemption after losing an epic duel with Stewart Friesen the night before.

RELATED: Stewart Friesen wins barn burner over Peter Britten at DIRTcar Nationals

He wasn’t the only driver on a redemptive drive throughout the night, too. Coming off a career year with the Super DIRTcar Series, Jack Lehner entered the week with a head full of confidence and a car full of speed. Tuesday night, he got collected in an accident while running second in his Heat Race. Wednesday night, he set the Billy Whittaker Cars Fast Time Award and won his Heat Race.

When it came time for the Albany-Saratoga Speedway redraw to determine the top eight starting positions, Britten drew third, Lehner drew fourth, Tuesday night’s winner Stewart Friesen drew second and Jimmy Phelps, also looking for his first DIRTcar Nationals win, drew the pole.

When the 30-lap Feature commenced, Phelps pulled ahead of Friesen and Britten hit a rut, allowing Lehner to pass him for third.

In the opening laps, Phelps ran low, while Friesen ripped the top. The momentum of the high side propelled the former DIRTcar Nationals champion to Phelps’s rear bumper. But while trying to charge around Phelps on Lap 5, the J&B Insulations Inc. #98H slid up the track in Turn 4, blocking Friesen’s run and forcing him to find his brakes. That allowed Lehner to slide by Friesen for second. However, he lost the spot a few laps later just before the caution lights came on.

When the race resumed, like Batman jumping out of a dark alleyway to surprise his foes, Britten surprised Friesen and Lehner, splitting them three-wide through the middle in the first corner to go from fourth to second. Friesen slid over the cushion the next corner, causing him to fade to fifth and was never a factor for the rest of the Feature.

Lehner, however, continued to show his muscle, driving back by Britten for second shortly after.

“I didn’t feel like I had that good of a car at the start,” Britten said. “I felt like I was bouncing too much, a little out of control.”

The race went quiet for the next dozen laps. Phelps held a comfortable lead over Lehner. And Britten wasn’t within striking distance of the #2L machine. Then, with 10 laps to go, Phelps caught the back of the field.

Lehner began to close. With eight laps to go, he was a car length away from Phelps. With six laps to go, he was at his bumper. With five to go, Britten caught them both, making it a three-way battle for the lead in the closing laps.

With three laps to go, Britten moved high, unafraid of the bumps that could kill his momentum. Instead, it boosted his momentum, launching him alongside Lehner for second-place in Turn 3, while the youngest of the three was banging on Phelps’s rear bumper. With two laps to go, Britten pulled even with Phelps down the backstretch, edging him for the lead in the next corner, but slid high and allowed Phelps to pull ahead with the white flag in the air.

Then, the hunger took over. Wild and untamed. Unwilling to let another chance at victory slip by. Britten finally got to park his Ryder Racing #21A Big Block in Victory Lane at Volusia and earn the iconic golden gator (or crocodile as the Australian renamed it) trophy.

“From the moment we’ve unloaded we’ve been good,” Britten said. “I keep saying, you have to put yourself in the hunt and eventually something is going to come.”

For Phelps, another runner-up finish at Volusia. Another chance to get his first gator stolen. But still a good sign of speed for the rest of the week.

“[Britten] just drove his ass off,” Phelps said. “And honestly, he earned it. It’s a tough way to lose. I’ll tell you it sucks. Car was really good. Obviously, we have to work on getting it a little more versatile up top and in the middle and racing in traffic we have to be able to move around a little better. But around the bottom, I thought we had a really, really good car. Things are good. We have speed. I just hate it for my guys.”

Lehner, of Saratoga Springs, NY, rounded out the podium and like Phelps, while he would’ve loved his first gator trophy, there was still joy with his performance.

“I’m definitely happy about it,” Lehner said. “We had a good car. It wasn’t like a third place where we were just hanging on. We were able to contend there a little bit.”

Along with the victory, Britten also maintained the overall DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator Championship points lead. He’s currently 14 points ahead of Friesen and Phelps.

UP NEXT
The Super DIRTcar Series continues Thursday, Feb. 17, at Volusia Speedway Park for the Series’ third day of DIRTcar Nationals action. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online or with the DIRTVision App.

RESULTS
DIRTcar Nationals Night #2 Feature (30 Laps): 1. 21A-Peter Britten[3]; 2. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[1]; 3. 2L-Jack Lehner[4]; 4. 23C-Kyle Coffey[9]; 5. 99L-Larry Wight[8]; 6. 88-Mat Williamson[6]; 7. 44-Stewart Friesen[2]; 8. 8H-Max McLaughlin[20]; 9. 118-Jim Britt[12]; 10. 19-Tim Fuller[5]; 11. 12S-Darren Smith[13]; 12. 3H-Justin Haers[7]; 13. 14-CG Morey[15]; 14. 9S-Matt Sheppard[22]; 15. 35LJ-LJ Lombardo[11]; 16. 35M-Mike Mahaney[10]; 17. 16X-Dan Creeden[21]; 18. 83-Brian Swartzlander[23]; 19. 6S-Matthew Stangle[26]; 20. 8S-Rich Scagliotta[16]; 21. JS98-Rocky Warner[24]; 22. 25P-Michael Parent[27]; 23. 215P-Adam Pierson[17]; 24. 3J-Marc Johnson[18]; 25. 11T-Jeff Taylor[19]; 26. 111-Demetrios Drellos[14]; 27. 54-Steve Bernard[25]

VICTOR FREEZE: Stewart Friesen wins barn burner over Peter Britten at DIRTcar Nationals

Ripped from the pages of the greatest fiction stories, like those featuring epic duels between Mr. Freeze and Batman, Stewart Friesen and Peter Britten created a live-action duel of epic proportions at Volusia Speedway Park.

However, there were no fancy gadgets or corny catchphrases, just two hellacious 800hp Big Block Modifieds wheeled by men throwing every ounce of talent they brought with them at each other.

In the final pages, Friesen is the victor after taking advantage of a jaw-dropping wheelie Britten pulled in Turn 1 after hitting a rut with two laps to go.

“That was awesome,” said a winded Friesen about his battle with Britten. “What a race. What a racetrack. It was great. I love this place. You can race anywhere… Great race. It was awesome racing with Peter.”

The setting was the first of five straight nights of racing for the Super DIRTcar Series during the 51st DIRTcar Nationals. Britten emerged as the early hero, claiming the Billy Whittaker Cars Fast Time Award and then winning the first Heat Race. That path led to the pole for the 30-lap Feature – originally scheduled for Tuesday night, but due to evening rain shows got pushed to running early Wednesday morning. Friesen also won his Heat, which put him on the outside of Britten for the main event.

They made for an international front row with Britten hailing from Brisbane, QLD, Australia and Friesen from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The diversity extended into their DIRTcar Nationals experience, too. Friesen is a two-time Big Gator champion and had nine DIRTcar Nationals wins. Britten was looking for his first.

When the green flag flew, the Aussie launched ahead of the SRI Performance/Halmar International #44 to claim the early lead, but Friesen kept a tight grip on him. Working the top of the half-mile track, Friesen powered by Britten to steal the lead on Lap 2.

The NASCAR Truck Series star then held command out front for the next 13 laps. Not comfortably, though. Britten stayed in Friesen’s tire tracks and got close enough to show him a nose about 10 laps in. And while, they toyed with the idea of a battle, Max McLaughlin – in his first appearance behind the wheel of the #8H for Heinke-Baldwin Racing – lurked in third, waiting for a chance to attack.

A caution on Lap 14 for Erick Rudolph getting into the wall created a plot twist and laid the foundation for an epic conclusion.

Lining up double file, Friesen picked the bottom for the restart with Britten to his outside. The choice ended up favoring Britten. Earning the title of a “gasser” Britten, already known as “The Batman” kept his foot in the throttle and manhandled his way past Friesen for the lead.

“I was able to get rolling on the top there early,” Friesen said. “Peter was on the gas. I felt like we were pretty good before that caution, and I picked the bottom, and it didn’t really fire off. He got me in the middle, and we went back and forth a bunch of times. Just had a great race. Great race car.”

Then, it was on. There wasn’t a lap the two didn’t attempt a pass on each other, whether with a dive bomb into the corner or with a massive slide job through Turns 1 and 2. The scorecard will say there were seven official lead changes, but unofficially the two went back and forth with the lead about every lap.

Under 10 laps to go, lap traffic started to play a significant role. While sparring for the lead, Britten and Friesen were given the extra challenge of calculating every maneuver with accurate precision. As the end neared, Britten positioned himself as the likely victor, holding a steady lead over Friesen.

However, with three laps to go, Britten hit a rut in Turn 1 that bounced his front end about two feet off the ground, causing his Ryder Racing #21A to wheelie through the corner. That allowed Friesen to sneak underneath him and drive away with his 10th DIRTcar Nationals Feature win.

“We seem to have a flat left rear now, so I don’t know if that is what was going on,” Britten said about what may have led to his demise. “I got just a little bit tight and couldn’t quite roll the corner the way I needed to, and I started shoving and Friesen went around me. We were going back at it. It was a lot of fun. I would’ve loved to have been on top.

“We’ll dust it off and try again tomorrow.”

McLaughlin, the defending Big Gator Champion, was unable to get close enough to contend with Friesen and Britten but came home third with his new team.

“First night out with a new team and have a chance to contend for a win with Peter and Stew is a pretty good accomplishment,” McLaughlin said. “We were really free there. Not good in the black and that’s where we needed to be to pass them.”

Further behind them, eight-time and defending Super DIRTcar Series champion Matt Sheppard made the biggest improvement of the night. After having to race his way into the Feature through a Last Chance Showdown, Sheppard charged his way from 26th to 11th.

With the win, Friesen is now the early points leader for the Big Gator Championship – crowned on Saturday, Feb. 19. However, he’ll miss Friday night’s race due to his NASCAR commitments, meaning this story is only the beginning of an epic week-long saga.

UP NEXT

The Super DIRTcar Series returns to Volusia Speedway Park for its second night of racing during DIRTcar Nationals, accompanied by the World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online or with the DIRTVision App.

RESULTS
DIRTcar Nationals Feature (30 Laps): 1. 44-Stewart Friesen[2]; 2. 21A-Peter Britten[1]; 3. 8H-Max McLaughlin[3]; 4. 98H-Jimmy Phelps[7]; 5. 8S-Rich Scagliotta[5]; 6. 88-Mat Williamson[11]; 7. 111-Demetrios Drellos[4]; 8. 99L-Larry Wight[14]; 9. 6S-Matthew Stangle[10]; 10. 25P-Michael Parent[9]; 11. 9S-Matt Sheppard[26]; 12. 215P-Adam Pierson[12]; 13. 1K-Rich Laubach[19]; 14. 35M-Mike Mahaney[8]; 15. 12S-Darren Smith[23]; 16. 2L-Jack Lehner[28]; 17. 30W-Joseph Watson[13]; 18. 83-Brian Swartzlander[17]; 19. 3H-Justin Haers[22]; 20. 3J-Marc Johnson[18]; 21. JS98-Rocky Warner[24]; 22. 16X-Dan Creeden[25]; 23. 14-CG Morey[27]; 24. 11T-Jeff Taylor[20]; 25. 19-Tim Fuller[15]; 26. 118-Jim Britt[21]; 27. 71-Jimmy Zacharias[16]; 28. (DNF) 25R-Erick Rudolph[6]

WHO TO EXPECT: Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Cars Debut on Monday and Tuesday at Volusia

DIRTcar Nationals Gator Trophy and $10,000 Payday Awaits Star-Studded Field

History will be made this week at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, FL as traditional sprint cars join the lineup at the 51st DIRTcar Nationals.

The Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Car Series presented by Low-E Insulation will officially make their grand entrance on Monday & Tuesday with both nights streaming LIVE on DIRTVision.

A group of 15 drivers has already committed to the entire 14-race schedule with hopes of claiming the inaugural Series championship in 2022. Joining those full-timers in action this week is a laundry list of well-known superstars in the non-wing world who have their sights set on winning one of the sought-after gator trophies at DIRTcar Nationals.

It all begins on Monday, February 14 with a $5,000-to-win program on Valentine’s Day, followed by a big $10,000-to-win special on Tuesday, February 15. Fans can BUY TICKETS HERE to secure a seat for this historic happening at The World’s Fastest 1/2-Mile.

Here’s who you can expect to see over the next two nights in Volusia.

FULL-TIME DRIVERS:

  • Anthony Nicholson of Bartlett, TN will drive his own DHR Suspension #16. The 35-year-old is a multi-time winner with the POWRi WAR Sprints and ASCS Elite Non-Wing Series.
  • Chad Boespflug of Hanford, CA has teamed up with legendary crew chief Scott Benic in 2022. The nine-time USAC Sprint Car winner will wheel the famed #2B in Xtreme Outlaw action.
  • Chase Stockon of Fort Branch, IN owns the USAC Iron Man record for most consecutive starts and now finds a new challenge in chasing the Xtreme Outlaw title aboard the KO Motorsports #5S.
  • Cole Bodine of Rossville, IN has graduated from the micro sprint and midget ranks to a full-time sprint car schedule between Xtreme Outlaw and USAC. The 23-year-old runs the DCT Racing #57B.
  • Dallas Hewitt of Troy, OH has planned a special throwback #21 in honor of his iconic uncle Jack Hewitt. He’s a multi-time BOSS Sprint Car winner with his set on the Xtreme Outlaw Series in 2022.
  • Dennis Gile of Glendale, AZ spearheads a two-car operation this year with the Xtreme Outlaw Series. He’s a four-time ASCS Desert Series victor.
  • Jason McDougal of Broken Arrow, OK runs alongside Stockon aboard the KO Motorsports #5M. J-Mac is already a multi-time USAC Sprint Car and Midget winner at 24 years old.
  • Kory Schudy of Springfield, MO is fresh off a championship season with USAC MWRA and now turns his focus to an Xtreme Outlaw title aboard the Jon Sawyer owned #28.
  • Kyle Shipley of Peoria, AZ will embark on a full season with Xtreme Outlaw driving the Michael Dutcher #17 across the 14-race campaign.
  • Landon Simon of Tipp City, OH will run the True North Cannabis #24 throughout the year with Xtreme Outlaw. He’s a winner with both the USAC Sprint Cars and POWRi WAR Sprint Cars.
  • Mario Clouser of Auburn, IL bagged the POWRi WAR Sprint Car championship in 2021, and now prepares for an Xtreme Outlaw title run in 2022 aboard the Eberhardt/Zirzow #6.
  • Mitchel Moles of Raisin City, CA will run a second Gile #13M entry as the micro sprint standout begins expanding his career into midgets and sprints in 2022.
  • Shane Cockrum of Benton, IL brings the Amati Racing #66 back to the national stage this year with veteran Davey Jones on the wrenches.
  • Wesley Smith of Nixa, MO recorded a breakout year with 10 total wins between WAR and MWRA, now he’s taking the Carquest Auto Parts #44 on the road with the Xtreme Outlaw Series.
  • Zach Daum of Pocahontas, IL is a three-time POWRi National Midget champion, but his 2022 journey focuses on the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Car title with the McGarry Motorsports #31

GATOR CHASERS: 

  • Alex Bright of Collegeville, PA is a 13-time USAC East Coast Sprint Car winner and heading to Florida with the Hummer Motorsports #20.
  • Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, OK is a four-time USAC National Sprint Car Champion and he’s pumped to get his first chance at a gator this week aboard the Wedgewood Motorsports #98.
  • Briggs Danner of Allentown, PA has turned plenty of heads at 20 years old and will get his next chance to leave a large impression this week in the Heffner Racing #5G.
  • Carson Short of Marion, IL has his #21 dialed in for two nights at Volusia this week with the chance at becoming the first driver to win with both the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and Xtreme Outlaw Series.
  • C.J. Leary of Greenfield, IN heads south with the Michael Motorsports #77M and aims to kick off his 2022 campaign with a golden gator.
  • Jake Swanson of Anaheim, CA made the move from the west coast to Indiana, but still represents Team AZ and looks to leave with the loot in the #21AZ.
  • Justin Grant of Ione, CA will wheel the NOS Energy Drink, TOPP Motorsports #4 in pursuit of a potential $15,000 sweep only days after sweeping the USAC Midget opening weekend.
  • Logan Seavey of Sutter, CA loves a big, slick 1/2-mile and gets just that this week as he brings the Baldwin-Fox #5 to Volusia for a shot at the Xtreme Outlaw gators.
  • Matt Westfall of Pleasant Hill, OH runs the Marshall #33 as he’ll become the first driver to compete with both the World of Outlaws Late Models and Xtreme Outlaw Series.
  • Robert Ballou of Rocklin, CA will try to bolster his already impressive resume with 31 USAC Sprint Car wins as he heads to Volusia with his sights set on the DIRTcar Nationals victory.
  • Shane Cottle of Kokomo, IN gets to throttle the Hogue #39 at Volusia on Monday and Tuesday night.
  • Thomas Meseraull of San Jose, CA will guide Chris Dyson’s #20 with Sean Michael on the wrenches.

You can watch every lap of the Xtreme Outlaw Series debut LIVE on DIRTVision and follow along with lineups, results, live timing, points, and more on the MyRacePass app.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Big Blocks head south to chase DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator title

The Beasts of the Northeast have awakened from their hibernation with an appetite for gators.

Before the championship season kicks off in March, the Super DIRTcar Series will have some fun in the sun for a week’s worth of racing at Volusia Speedway Park for the 51st DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 14-19.

Monday will be a day of practice for the nearly 40-car field of prospective entries before they battle wheel to wheel for the next five straight days. Each night will award the iconic golden gator trophy to the winner and points toward the overall Big Gator Championship. Tuesday through Friday will pay $4,000-to-win and Saturday will pay $5,000-to-win, meaning if fortunate enough, one driver could leave the week with more than $20,000 in their pocket.

The last driver to come closest to that feat was Larry Wight in 2020 when he won three straight nights – becoming only the second driver in the history of the Series to do so (first since 1978).

Wight will be joined by a plethora of talent from across the country including eight-time and defending Series champion Matt Sheppard, 2021 Big Gator champion Max McLaughlin, 2019 Series champion Mat Williamson, 2005 Series champion Tim Fuller, NASCAR star Stewart Friesen, rising stars Jack Lehner, Adam Pierson, Erick Rudolph, Mike Mahaney and more.

DIRTcar Nationals Tickets, CLICK HERE

The Super DIRTcar Series will be accompanied by the DIRTcar Late Models and Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Cars on Monday and Tuesday. Then, the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models will join the Series for the remainder of the week.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online or with the DIRTVision App.

Jacy Norgaard Photo

Here are the top stories to follow for the week:

BIG CHAMP AFTER BIG GATOR: Matt Sheppard said he feels like he’s due for another win at Volusia Speedway Park. The eight-time and defending Super DIRTcar Series champion, of Waterloo, NY, has three DIRTcar Nationals titles and eight wins, but his last title was in 2016 and his last win was in 2019. He acknowledged his trips to the Florida track can be hit or miss, demonstrated last year by his finishes of 6th, 9th, 5th and 2nd, respectively.

However, this year, he enters the season with the momentum of having set a history-making title in 2021. He surpassed dirt Modified legend Brett Hearn for the most Super DIRTcar Series championships of all time. With that confidence propelling him into the new season, “Super Matt” may find himself making history again at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.

MAX ON REPEAT: Max McLaughlin accomplished a feat last year at 20 years old that some veterans are still struggling to achieve. He first won a golden gator – his second career Super DIRTcar Series win – and then ended the week as the 2021 Big Gator Champion. Now, at 21 years old, with a new team and head full of confidence, the young Mooresville, NC driver has sights on a repeat.

McLaughlin rejoined Heinke-Baldwin Racing – the team that gave him his first shot in the Super DIRTcar Series – this season with the goal of earning the Series title. Feeling back at home, he spent most of his off-season in Weedsport, NY at the team’s shop preparing for the new season. Preparing to collect more trophies.

STARTING OFF RIGHT: While the five nights of racing during DIRTcar Nationals may not be points events for the Super DIRTcar Series, they’re crucial to many teams who use it as a chance to knock off the rust of the off-season and get back into a racing mentality. For drivers like Mat Williamson, Peter Britten and Jimmy Phelps, who got off to a slow start last year, it’s a chance to change that and start 2022 off on the right foot.

Of the three, Williamson is the only one with a couple of wins at Volusia – both coming in 2020. However, last year, he had an average finish of seventh at DIRTcar Nationals and didn’t get into a rhythm for the season until about the end of summer, picking up his second consecutive NAPA Super DIRT Week title and ending the year second in points.

Jacy Norgaard Photo

Britten and Phelps have come close to snagging a gator trophy but have had to settle for second at best. The Aussie had the better 2021 season of the two, having captured his second career Super DIRTcar Series win, while Phelps went winless for the first time in three years. Starting off the season strong in Florida could give them the momentum needed to challenge for their first championship when the points season starts at Atomic Speedway Park, March 25-26.

FLORIDA FRIESEN: Florida speed weeks is always a busy time for Stewart Friesen, jumping between his Halmar International #44 Big Block Modified and #52 NASCAR Truck throughout the week, but he wouldn’t miss the chance to chase more golden gator trophies.

The Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario driver is a two-time Big Gator champion (2011, 2014) and a nine-time DIRTcar Nationals Feature winner – most recently picking up two more wins last year. His NASCAR duties Friday night will take him out of contention for the Big Gator title this year, but Friesen plans on being at Volusia every other day throughout the week.

He also enters the week with a slight advantage over the other drivers. New clay was put down on Volusia and Friesen got to make a few laps on it with a Late Model during the World of Outlaws Late Model Series’ season-opener in January.

WIGHT RETURNS: After missing DIRTcar Nationals last year, Larry Wight returns to re-stake his claim as the top gator hunter. Prior to his absence in 2021, he claimed the 2019 and 2020 Big Gator titles – adding to his 2015 title. He also won three straight races in 2020 – becoming only the second driver in Series history to accomplish that feat and the first since 1978.

The Phoenix, NY driver will have sole focus from the LJL Racing team this year as it sized down to a one-car team. With the new focus, Wight will look to put his #99L Big Block back in Victory Lane with the Series for the first time in more than a year.

Jacy Norgaard Photo

POTENTIAL SURPRISES: Five straight days of racing at the same track provides the potential for new and surprise winners. Last year, Max McLaughlin prevailed on the third night, claiming his second career Series win. Then, on the final night, Michael Maresca brought fans to their feet by outrunning Matt Sheppard and Billy Decker to earn his first career Super DIRTcar Series win.

A long list of drivers entered for the 2022 edition of DIRTcar Nationals has the potential to be the next new or surprise winner. Jack Lehner had a career year with the Super DIRTcar Series in 2021 and picked up his first DIRTcar Big Block win. Adam Pierson, a former Sportsman star, is in the same boat as Lehner, having earned his first Big Block win last year, too. The Vermont driver is planning a trip south as he also eyes a potential full tour with the Series. The possibilities are endless. See the full list of entries below.

PROSPECTIVE DIRTcar NATIONALS ENTRY LIST
Francois Bellemere
Steve Bernard
Jimmy Britt
Peter Britten
Danny Creeden
Marcus Dinkins
Olden Dwyer
Stewart Friesen
Tim Fuller
Justin Haers
Ryan Krachun
Jeffrey Lapalme
Rich Laubauch
Jack Lehner
Mike Mahaney
Max McLaughlin
Corbin Millar
Russell Moresman
CG Morey
Michael Parent
Jimmy Phelps
Adam Pierson
Rich Regalski
Erick Rudolph
Rich Scagliotta
Matt Sheppard
Jeremiah Shingledecker
Andrew Smith
Darren Smith
Matt Stangle
Brian Swartzlander
Jeff Taylor
Rocky Warner
Joseph “Jo Jo” Watson
Mat Williamson
Larry Wight
Jimmy Zacharias

PAST DIRTcar NATIONALS CHAMPIONS
2021 – Max McLaughlin
2020 – Larry Wight
2019 – Larry Wight
2018 – Tim McCreadie
2017 – Brett Hearn
2016 – Matt Sheppard
2015 – Larry Wight
2014 – Stewart Friesen
2013 – Danny Johnson
2012 – Matt Sheppard
2011 – Stewart Friesen
2010 – Matt Sheppard
2009 – Pat Ward
2008 – Brett Hearn/Billy Pauch
2007 – Danny Johnson
2006 – Brett Hearn
2005 – Brett Hearn/Andy Bachetti
2004 – Pat Ward
2003 – Tim Fuller
2002 – Brett Hearn
2001 – Brett Hearn
2000 – Brett Hearn
1999 – Jimmy Horton
1998 – Brett Hearn
1997 – Jimmy Horton
1996 – Brett Hearn
1995 – Doug Hoffman
1990-1994 – No champion
1989 – Alan Johnson
1988 – Danny Johnson
1987 – Danny Johnson
1986 – Jimmy Horton
1985 – Billy Pauch
1984 – Kenny Brightbill/Jack Johnson
1983 – Alan Johnson
1982 – Jeff Kappesser/Billy Pauch
1981 – Jack Johnson
1980 – Kenny Brightbill
1979 – No champion
1978 – Walt Breeding

TRACK FACTS
Volusia Speedway Park
Configuration: Semi-banked, Half-mile
Big Block Track Record: 16.754 sec. set by Jamie Mills in 2015
# of Big Block Features: 135
First Big Block Feature: Feb. 10, 1978
Website: VolusiaSpeedwayPark.com

AROUND THE TURN:  The Super DIRTcar Series will kick off its championship season at Atomic Speedway, March 25-26, for the Super DIRTcar Series Showdown doubleheader. Friday night will pay $10,000-to-win and Saturday night will pay $12,000-to-win. Both nights will also award a 50th NAPA Super DIRT Week guaranteed starting spot.

DIRTcar Nationals set to bring big names for Super DIRTcar Series Big Block action

The winter blues will melt away in less than a month when the Beast of the Northeast fire their engines for the first time in 2022 during the DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 14-19.

Volusia Speedway Park will again host the season-opening week of racing for the Super DIRTcar Series, featuring the best Big Block Modified drivers battling for the iconic golden gator trophy each night with the goal of also claiming the Big Gator Championship at the end of the week.

Forty-two Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar Nationals champions have been crowned since 1978; the most recent being 21-year-old Max McLaughlin in 2021.

“Not only have I wanted to win at this race track for a long time, but to get a DIRTcar Nationals championship is really special,” McLaughlin said last year. “I almost got one in 2017 when I tied with Brett Hearn. He ended up winning the final night which gave the championship to him. It’s been bothering me for a few years that we didn’t win it. Now, this makes up for it.”

His Big Gator championship was the second in two years for the Coffey-McCreadie Enterprises team (2021 with McLaughlin and 2018 with Tim McCreadie). However, in 2022, McLaughlin is rejoining Heinke-Baldwin Racing to chase the Super DIRTcar Series championship. The team gave him his first start in the Series, and he nearly won the Big Gator title with them in 2017.

He’ll have to compete against the likes of eight-time Super DIRTcar Series champion and three-time Big Gator champion Matt Sheppard, two-time NAPA Super DIRT Week champion Mat Williamson, NASCAR star Stewart Friesen, three-time Big Gator champion Larry Wight and three-time Super DIRTcar Series champion Billy Decker.

Sheppard claimed the throne as the winningest Super DIRTcar Series champion last year. And he’ll try to use that momentum to find success again at Volusia. While he’s a three-time Big Gator champion, his last title came in 2016 and his last win at the half-mile track came in 2019.

“You know, [Volusia] is just a strange place,” Sheppard said. “It’s hard to get your car to steer there. If you can get your car to steer and have traction, you’re going to have a good weekend. I think we see it a lot; a guy will roll in there and for whatever reason, he just gets rolling all week.

“I think we saw Stewie (Friesen) have a good week there last year. You roll in there with a game plan and some guys hit on something and it seems they’re good all week. Other guys, if you’re off a little bit, it seems like you’re chasing all week. It’s certainly a unique place.”

However, for this year, he stated his team has put together a good program he’s confident in. And with no Series points on the line, they can go in and throw everything they have at it.

“So, you can go down there and run five nights in a row and see where your program is,” he added. “Make some adjustments and try to get better. We keep hoping one of these years we’ll roll in there with the magic set up and we’ll have a killer week. I feel like we’re due. But, man, I never rule anything out at that place.”

In the last few years, Wight has been one of the most dominant drivers at Volusia, picking up three Big Gator championships (2015, 2019, 2020) and four victories – including three consecutive wins in 2020. He missed DIRTcar Nationals last year, but a return in 2022 would see a full-focused effort on his Gypsum #99L machine. Wight is now the sole driver for LJL Racing, as it reduced to a one-car team for 2022. Decker, who drove the team’s other car, will drive for Jeremy Smith Racing this year.

Friesen started DIRTcar Nationals as the dominant driver last year, winning the two opening nights before having to leave for his NASCAR duties. While those duties will take him out of contention for another Big Gator title, he’ll still return to add another golden gator trophy to his mantel – currently at nine.

When he left, that opened the door for McLaughlin to claim his first DIRTcar Nationals victory and second career Super DIRTcar Series victory. Then, on the final night of racing, a special moment. A first-time winner. Michael Maresca held off Sheppard and Decker to pick up his first Super DIRTcar Series win. Several drivers have the potential to be another surprise first-time winner this year like 2021 Rookie of the Year Chris Hile and Jack Lehner, who had a career season last year.

Veteran Brett Hearn made it loud and clear at the 2021 Super DIRTcar Series finale to never count him out. The 63-year-old won his 450th DIRTcar sanctioned event and his 920th Feature overall at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. His DIRTcar Nationals stats supersede all with nine Big Gator championships and 20 Feature wins.

A plethora of storylines will again be present throughout the week. Monday (Feb. 14) will be a practice night for the Super DIRTcar Series, then from Tuesday to Saturday (Feb. 15-19) the Big Blocks will have a Feature every night. They’ll be joined by the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Cars and DIRTcar Late Models on Monday and Tuesday. Then, the World of Outlaws Late Models will accompany the Super DIRTcar Series Wednesday to Saturday.

For DIRTcar Nationals tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online or with the DIRTVision App.

Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar Nationals Championships
2021 – Max McLaughlin
2020 – Larry Wight
2019 – Larry Wight
2018 – Tim McCreadie
2017 – Brett Hearn
2016 – Matt Sheppard
2015 – Larry Wight
2014 – Stewart Friesen
2013 – Danny Johnson
2012 – Matt Sheppard
2011 – Stewart Friesen
2010 – Matt Sheppard
2009 – Pat Ward
2008 – Brett Hearn/Billy Pauch
2007 – Danny Johnson
2006 – Brett Hearn
2005 – Brett Hearn/Andy Bachetti
2004 – Pat Ward
2003 – Tim Fuller
2002 – Brett Hearn
2001 – Brett Hearn
2000 – Brett Hearn
1999 – Jimmy Horton
1998 – Brett Hearn
1997 – Jimmy Horton
1996 – Brett Hearn
1995 – Doug Hoffman
1990-1994 – No champion
1989 – Alan Johnson
1988 – Danny Johnson
1987 – Danny Johnson
1986 – Jimmy Horton
1985 – Billy Pauch
1984 – Kenny Brightbill/Jack Johnson
1983 – Alan Johnson
1982 – Jeff Kappesser/Billy Pauch
1981 – Jack Johnson
1980 – Kenny Brightbill
1979 – No champion
1978 – Walt Breeding

Winning a Big Gator meant ‘more than you’ll know’ to Justin Allgaier

The NASCAR star shared his passion for racing at DIRTcar Nationals and why he cherishes his gator trophies most

Justin Allgaier occasionally peered into the Volusia Speedway Park pond hoping to see its resident gators during DIRTcar Nationals last year.

Each time, he found himself – the “Little Gator.”

However, there was another gator the NASCAR star was truly searching for. The golden gator; given only to those capable of winning during the historic DIRTcar Nationals event.

Allgaier had already claimed the unique trophy in 2016 with the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds – a prize he said he cherishes over every other trophy he’s collected.

“I’ve got the little gator that we won years ago sitting front and center in my trophy case,” he said. “It’s out in front of all the NASCAR wins. It’s out in front of everything I got because it means a lot to me.”

What he didn’t have yet was the Big Gator trophy. That prestigious life-size idol is reserved only to those who master the points battle for the week or win the biggest UMP Modified race of the event – the Gator Championship Feature.

Modified champion Nick Hoffman was on a path to conquer both last year but a rare slip by the multi-time gator winner allowed Allaiger the opportunity to slide into the lead. Hoffman tried desperately to run down Allaiger – driving a chassis built by Hoffman – but the “Little Gator” used all his might to finally earn a Big Gator trophy.

Its significance?

“More than you’ll know,” Allgaier said. “Obviously, the NASCAR side (driving for recent NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Dale Earnhardt Jr.), I love what I do, and I have great sponsors over there. I love the NASCAR side of things but there is nothing like coming out in front of you (dirt) fans. Everybody is watching at home on DIRTVision. Just putting it all out there with 30 of the best drivers in the world. I truly mean that.”

Justin Allgaier races his DIRTcar UMP Modified at Volusia Speedway Park

He’ll be back this year for the 51st edition of DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 7-12, to hunt for both gators again. Participating in the event is a privilege he cherishes, having visited Volusia as a fan long before he started his racing career. Even before the track had dirt on it.

When he turned from fan to driver at the half-mile track, he started in a Late Model before moving to a DIRTcar UMP Modified. He credited his years in dirt racing as a key to his success, which includes 16 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and the 2008 ARCA championship.

“This is an integral part of who I am as a racer,” Allgaier said. “It’s a huge part of who I am. It drives me to be a racer. I love what I do on Saturdays, and I love the NASCAR scene. It is so totally different than this. They’re both great in their own right. They’re so totally different. Dirt racing fans are incredible. They’re passionate. They love their sport. And rightly so, right? Whether it’s Late Model, Sprint Cars, Modifieds, just in general they love this sport so much. And it drives us. You put in hours. You put in time.”

And don’t think he finds dirt racing any less stressful than his NASCAR duties.

“I get more heartburn and sleepless nights coming here (to DIRTcar Nationals) than I’d like to admit,” Allgaier said. “You know, it’s so difficult to come down here. And so many things have to go right. But you look at guys like Nick (Hoffman) who come here year in and year out, they find their way to the box. They make no mistakes. They’re on their game. The amount of focus and discipline it takes to come here, when you have this many cars, it really is incredible to see the talent level here right now. It’s really amazing.

“I think a lot of NASCAR guys come back here because we truly believe it’s a huge test of our abilities. A test of the people around you. There’s just something different about it. This week is mentally draining. When you walk out of this place, you’re either pumped up and ready to come back next year or you’re so demoralized that you’re ready to come back next year so you can redeem yourself. It’s pretty awesome. It’s something that… yeah, there’s really no words that can describe it.”

If you venture to the gator pond this February, you may find the “Little Gator” again peering into its depths, searching. Always searching for a gator – green and gold.

For tickets to DIRTcar Nationals, click HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch the two weeks of the event live on DIRTVision – either online or with the DIRTVision App.

SUNSHINE MAGIC: Florida’s Mark Whitener powers to DIRTcar Pro Late Model victory

“The Magic Man” won the opening race for the DIRTcar Pro Late Models at Sunshine Nationals

Less than 24 hours after sitting upside down in his Super Late Model, Mark Whitener climbed out of his DIRTcar Pro Late Model with a straw hat on his head and a smile on his face.

The Middleburg, FL driver found strength in his consistency and pure will to claim the first DIRTcar Pro Late Model Sunshine Nationals victory of the week Friday evening at Volusia Speedway Park – after the race was postponed from Thursday night.

Whitener “The Magic Man” said he was sore and battled brake issues in the final half of the 25-lap Feature, but knew he had a strong new Savage chassis underneath him.

“I knew I had a pretty good hot rod,” Whitener said. “This is a new car for us. Thanks to Jason Welshan at Savage (Chassis). That was scary in the Super last night. My hands are sore. I’m sore all over… but to be in Victory Lane for this Sunshine deal, it’s pretty much at home for us. Just appreciate everyone that puts this show on. Everybody is doing the best job they can.”

Shan Smith led the field to the initial green flag with Whitener in tow. The two paced ahead of the field in the early stage of the race, while Nevin Gainey made his way from fifth to third in the first two laps.

Smith held a strong command of the lead around the half-mile track until lap traffic became a hindrance. During an attempt to pass a group of slower cars around the outside, Smith was pushed out of the groove into a dirty lane, losing grip and allowing Whitener to sneak underneath him. The two raced side by side for a straightaway before Whitener launched ahead with the lead and never looked back.

“When I was leading and got to lap traffic, I should’ve just rode in behind those guys but I was afraid that Mark (Whitener) was going to dive out there to the outside and just drive around me and I’d get caught with my pants down. I just dive-bombed those guys around the outside and they kind of hung me out to dry when I was lapping them. That was the race.

“Basically, if you got off the bottom you were done. So, I want to thank all my guys for helping me and supporting me. We’ve been busting our butts like everyone else here.”

Whitener lost his rear brakes with 10 laps to go and had to readjust his approach to each corner but stayed committed to the bottom. Smith began to pull in Whitener, getting close enough to grab his bumper with eight laps to go. However, he hit a rut in Turn 2 and faded back into the clutches of Cory Hedgecock in third.

Three laps later disaster almost struck Whitener as a car slowed to a near stop in front of him to turn into the pit area, forcing him to lock his brakes and wrangle his car straight to avoid a collision. That allowed Smith and Hedgecock one last attempt at Whitener.

The “Magic Man” was in another dimension, however, needing only a corner to distance himself from his hunters again.

He drove away to claim a needed victory in a doubleheader day of racing around The World’s Fastest Half-Mile in which he’ll be pulling double duty with the DIRTcar Pro Late Models and World of Outlaws Late Models.

“I’d just like to thank everybody that is out here,” Whitener said. “All these fans and everybody that helps me on this car. Especially Jason Welshan at Savage Chassis. First night out and this thing was badass.”

UP NEXT
The DIRTcar Pro Late Models return tonight for the second night of the Sunshine Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.

Tickets for the Sunshine Nationals are available at the track or by clicking HERE.

RESULTS
1. 5-Mark Whitener[2]; 2. 32-Shan Smith[1]; 3. 23-Cory Hedgecock[6]; 4. 17-Nevin Gainey[5]; 5. 05-David Whitener[9]; 6. 6-Clay Harris[8]; 7. 66K-Dylan Knowles[7]; 8. 4-Rye Faulk[10]; 9. 66-Jody Knowles[3]; 10. 22-Jeremy Steele[13]; 11. 10-CChad Olsen[15]; 12. 2-Trynt Lloyd[16]; 13. 01G-Jason Garver[18]; 14. 71-Bo Allen[20]; 15. 28M-Sam Mars[12]; 16. 66-JJake Knowles[26]; 17. 2W-Justin Williams[21]; 18. 17SSJR-Brenden Smith[24]; 19. 127-Austin Yarbrough[23]; 20. 45T-Tom Fiebelkorn[19]; 21. 51-Mikey Kopka[22]; 22. 01-Jason Welshan[25]; 23. 38-Garrett Mosley[11]; 24. 25-Donnie Chappell[17]; 25. 00S-Richie Stephens[14]; 26. 14-Wil Herrington[4]