Brad Sweet

TOP 50 DRIVERS: 50 years of elite DIRTcar Nationals drivers

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. In that time, hundreds of talented drivers have entered Volusia County, attempting to leave a winner. Many have. More are still trying.

From Sprint Cars to Late Models to Modifieds to Big Blocks, Volusia and the DIRTcar Nationals has served as one of the best time capsules for all of dirt racing. For the 50th year of the event, we went through the long list of drivers that have competed for the coveted DIRTcar Nationals championship title and picked 50 of the best to ever grace the clay surface.

These are the top-50 drivers of the DIRTcar Nationals in alphabetical order:

Steve Arpin



Dave Blaney

Scott Bloomquist



Kenny Brightbill



Clint Bowyer



Shane Clanton



Austin Dillon


Ty Dillon



Craig Dollansky



Rick Eckert

Steve Francis


Stewart Friesen



Tim Fuller



David Gravel


Brett Hearn


Doug Hoffman



Nick Hoffman



Jimmy Horton



Kenny Jacobs


Alan Johnson


Danny Johnson



Jack Johnson



Jared Landers


Steve Kinser



Darrell Lanigan



Danny Lasoski



Chris Madden


Tim McCreadie


Billy Moyer, Sr.


Don O’Neal



Jimmy Owens


Billy Pauch



Earl Pearson, Jr.


Daryn Pittman


Josh Richards


Brian Ruhlman


Joey Saldana


Donny Schatz


Kenny Schrader


Jeff Shepard


Brandon Sheppard



Matt Sheppard


David Stremme


Kyle Strickler


Brad Sweet


Sammy Swindell


Kenny Wallace


Pat Ward



Larry Wight



Doug Wolfgang

GATOR COLLECTOR: Kasey Kahne relishes Volusia success as owner, driver

Florida has been kind to Kasey Kahne.

You might recall his two wins at Daytona International Speedway โ€“ during a NASCAR Duel race in 2010 or his Xfinity Series win in 2014. But 20 miles East of the famed track is where the three-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion car owner has collected the most trophies in the sunshine state.

That track is Volusia Speedway Park, in Barberville, FL โ€“ which will host the 50th DIRTcar Nationals Feb. 2-13.

Kahne, the driver, has one win at the half-mile track in 2002 with the All Star Circuit of Champions. Kahne, the car owner, has six DIRTcar Nationals championships and 13 wins overall at Volusia โ€“ between drivers Brad Sweet, Daryn Pittman and Joey Saldana.

Kasey Kahne strapped in his car at Knoxville Raceway / Trent Gower photo

โ€œIโ€™ve always liked Volusia,โ€ Kahne said. โ€œIโ€™ve always liked watching the racing there and driving when Iโ€™ve been able to race there. [Kasey Kahne Racing] has won a lot of races over the years down there. Itโ€™s fun to have a lot of gators (trophies) and be in Victory Lane down there. Itโ€™s a neat place to start the season for sure.โ€

The day after his win in 2002, Kahne made the overnight drive to North Carolina to test a then NASCAR Bush Series car at Rockingham Speedway in preparation to start his NASCAR career. Three years later, Kasey Kahne Racing was formed.

When he first started the team, while there were always aspirations for wins and championships, Kahne just wanted to provide his team with the best equipment he could and be there for them as an owner. Thatโ€™s led to three World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championships and 185 Series victories.

โ€œI always just wanted to watch the guys go and watch them win,โ€ Kahne said. โ€œGive them the best opportunity I could from an ownerโ€™s standpoint and see what they do with it. Over the last few years, theyโ€™ve done a lot. Itโ€™s been a lot of fun, whether I was watching on DIRTVision, which I did, I donโ€™t know how many hundreds of races. Now, to be at more of them and watch their success, it feels good to be a part of that. Winning never seems to get old. We want to do a lot more of it from both teams.โ€

Both KKR cars โ€“ the #49 of Brad Sweet and the #9 of James McFadden โ€“ finish first and second in the 2020 DIRTcar Nationals points, respectively. For Sweet, Volusia Speedway Park has proved to be one of his best tracks in his tenure with the team. He has two DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championships and seven wins overall at Volusia โ€“ five with the World of Outlaws.

โ€œFor whatever reason, itโ€™s definitely one of my best tracks,โ€ said Sweet, the two-time defending Series champion. โ€œWeโ€™ve definitely struggled there in the past here and there. I think it says a lot about our guys and our race team that they bring a really fast car there every year. Itโ€™s the first week of the season and you can see the teams that havenโ€™t meshed yet or arenโ€™t as well prepared and the teams that have been together are going to come out of the box a little stronger. Thatโ€™s going to give us an advantage. And for whatever reason, itโ€™s been a good racetrack for me.โ€

The key to KKRโ€™s success at the track stems from their offseason preparations. When the 2020 season ended, Kahne said the crew has been working in the shop all season long to get ready for 2021.

โ€œI feel like our cars have always been good right out of the box at those types of tracks,โ€ Kahne said. โ€œEarly in the years, our KKR cars have always been fast in the beginning of the season. For whatever reason. And I think our drivers have been good and Iโ€™ve always enjoyed racing at Volusia with Daryn and Brad and Joey.โ€

Heโ€™ll join Sweet on track this year at Volusia, he said, as he plans to drive the teamโ€™s #9 car when McFadden canโ€™t.

Kasey Kahne gets to work on his #9 car / Trent Gower photo

Kahne initially had no plans to drive a Sprint Car last year, but no plans turned into one race. Then, one race turned into 11.

โ€œIโ€™ve enjoyed it,โ€ Kahne said about stepping back behind the wheel. โ€œItโ€™s been good. Last year, I didnโ€™t plan on doing it a whole lot but with COVID and how things worked out, I ended up doing a lot more races and liked it. I always liked being in a Sprint Car and being a part of that. I always enjoy working on the car and being with the teams and things like that. Thatโ€™s been a lot of fun the last couple years, as well. Weโ€™ve been fortunate to have a lot of success here recently. Itโ€™s fun to be part of it and traveling with the guys.โ€

After claiming another DIRTcar Nationals title and another World of Outlaws championship in 2020, Kahne is excited about the prospects of 2021 for his KKR team and kicking off the season strong at Volusia.

โ€œI feel really good about where KKR is and where our engine program is,โ€ he said. โ€œI think we made some nice gains there late in the season, which will show at Volusia. I was talking with Brad and heโ€™s ready to go. Heโ€™s always putting the work in and wants to win a lot this year. I like hearing that. The cars are coming together. The guys have been here nonstop since the season ended. Definitely, no one has backed down. Itโ€™s going to be a fun season.โ€

For tickets to the 50th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, CLICK HERE.

If you canโ€™t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.