Bronson preps for title defense, double duty with Whitener and Matthews
A grand total of 86 Late Models filled the Volusia Speedway Park pit area last year for the Saturday night finale of the inaugural DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals.
This year promises to be even bigger with the addition of a fourth class into the mix, setting some DIRTcar Pro Late Model drivers up for a double duty weekend alongside the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models as they kick off their season at the event, running Jan. 14-16.
Others will be making their maiden voyage to the event, in hopes to capture the $10,000 top prize in Saturday night’s 30-lap finale. A night of practice on Wednesday will precede Thursday and Friday’s preliminary action; all three nights of racing will be broadcast live on DIRTVision. Get yourself a Fast Pass subscription today and be on the lookout for these drivers in the field to make some waves.
Here are the top storylines to follow at the Sunshine Nationals:
BRONSON EYES REPEAT – The inaugural Sunshine Nationals winner returns in 2021 to defend his DIRTcar Pro Late Model crown behind the wheel of his Racecar Engineering #40B. Last year, the Brandon, FL-native put together a complete weekend sweep, setting fast time in practice Wednesday night before winning all three Pro Late Model Features Thursday-Saturday and collecting $13,500 in first-place money for his efforts. After watching him take down headline Late Model names such as Michael Page, Randy Weaver and Max Blair in last year’s finale, Killer is the clear favorite heading into the 2nd annual event.
This year, with the addition of the World of Outlaws to the racing program, Bronson is expected to pull the double, racing in both classes while chasing after his second career Outlaws victory.
MAGIC MAN RETURNS – Another Floridian with a chance to make it happen in this year’s event is Mark Whitener. He’ll also be pulling double duty in his Pro Late Model and Super Late Model with the Outlaws, looking for his first career victory in the event. Magic Man had a decent showing in last year’s event with the Pro Late Models with a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s finale. He struggled Friday night, dropping out early after starting on the outside pole, but is ready for redemption this time around.
Whitener has had success in the past at Volusia, landing himself a spot in the World of Outlaws redraw in three of his six DIRTcar Nationals starts last year, following a fifth-place effort in the opening night of Late Model week with the DIRTcar Late Models.
NEW YEAR, NEW CAR – It was an up-and-down kind of event for Jake Knowles in 2020. While he missed the Feature on Thursday night and placed 20th after starting sixth on Saturday, Knowles did have a solid fourth-place run on Friday night that showed he knows how to get around Volusia.
The 35-year-old from Rome, GA, will be starting the year off behind the wheel of a Jason Welshan-owned Savage Chassis house car instead of his usual red/white #66 while his own Savage Chassis is being built. Knowles already has one weekend of competition on the car, finishing 17th in Sunday’s Ice Bowl event at Talladega Short Track.
MACK ATTACK – The younger of the McCarter brothers, whose father Mitch owns 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, TN, Mack McCarter comes into this weekend riding a big momentum swing from three consecutive Crate Late Model Feature wins in his last four starts. Mack swept the Crate competition at 411’s Leftover event in November, then went to Volunteer Speedway the next weekend and won the Crate portion of the Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series Grinch 40. Look out for this young talent as he makes his debut in the Sunshine Nationals this weekend.
TURNAROUND TIME – Another double-duty pilot from the state of Florida, Hollywood Jeff Mathews is one of the more experienced drivers in the Late Model field. As a former UMP Modified regular, Mathews knows his way around Volusia just as well as anyone else and has shown that on several occasions; most recently picking up a Modified Showdown Feature win in November at Volusia’s Reutimann Memorial.
He did not have the Sunshine Nationals results he was looking for in 2020, with finishes of 16th, 17th and 23rd, but 2021 could be different as Mathews is coming off a year that included four Features wins in his Late Model ventures.