The Chandler, AZ driver, led all 30 laps en route to his first Volusia Speedway Park Victory
A year ago, Ricky Thornton Jr. seemed destined for his first DIRTcar Nationals win—until heartbreak struck. He lost the lead on a late-race restart, spoiling his chances for victory.
History didn’t have a chance to repeat itself Monday night. The Chandler, AZ driver took advantage of a caution-free Feature, leading all 30-laps to score his first DIRTcar Nationals win at Volusia Speedway Park.
Thornton jumped to the roof of his car in Victory Lane, raising two fists into the Florida sky and letting out a joyful scream—knowing he got his redemption and the $7,000 paycheck.
“I felt like we almost had one last year, and we gave it away there late in the race,” Thornton said. “This is pretty awesome.”
While Thornton dominated the event, he knew he had to be sharp at the start of the race. “RTJ” lined up next to Brandon Overton, who won the last DIRTcar Nationals Feature in 2021.
Thornton powered ahead of Overton on the outside lane, grabbing a lead he’d never relinquish off Turn 2. The outside was where Thornton wanted to go, allowing him to set his own pace in the early stages of the Feature.
“I actually preferred starting on the outside; that way, I could run into [Turn 1] as hard as I wanted,” Thornton said. “It worked out for us; I got a really good start and got out in front of [Overton].
“I was trying to distance myself as much as I could; that way, once we did get to traffic and I had to slow down, they wouldn’t get by me. The top never really slowed down all the way, so it’s pretty awesome.”
As Thornton drove away from the field, Chris Madden charged from his eighth starting position to finish second. The Gray Court, SC campaigner, took the opposite approach from Thornton, using the bottom en route to a runner-up finish.
Madden felt he could’ve had a shot at the win if he had a better starting position.
“We needed to start closer to the front,” Madden said. “We qualified good tonight, inverted back, and then started, I think eighth there.
“We had a really good racecar tonight. I’m really proud of my guys; I’m proud of our finish; I’m proud of our car and what we learned tonight. It was a great racetrack, and we had a fun race.”
Defending DIRTcar Nationals champion Devin Moran crossed the line third—his 13th straight top-10 finish in 2022.
The Dresden, OH driver felt he wasn’t good enough on the outside to contend with both Thornton and Madden.
“Ricky was checked out pretty good, and I think Chris [Madden] was a little better than us,” Moran said. “We were probably a third-place car, we were too tight to run the top, and we just need to work on it a little bit and get it ready for tomorrow.”
Pole-sitter Brandon Overton finished fourth, and Dale McDowell rounded out the top five.
Ricky Thornton Jr. didn’t back down from a second chance at winning his first Gator—giving him DIRTcar Nationals redemption. It’s a momentum that keeps his eyes on a larger prize—a “Big Gator” trophy on his mantle.
The quest for a “Big Gator” continues Tuesday night at Volusia Speedway Park as the Late Models return for their second night of action at DIRTcar Nationals. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
The Super DIRTcar Series and the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Cars presented by Low-E Insulation will also join the racing card.
An entire family of reptilian gold is headed back to Mooresville, NC, after yet another dominating DIRTcar UMP Modified performance at Volusia Speedway Park from the now seven-time DIRTcar Nationals champion, Nick Hoffman.
Hoffman scored the win in Saturday’s Gator Championship Feature, the fourth of his career, giving him his seventh-straight Big Gator trophy as points champion of the division. No other driver has won more than two.
Starting sixth, Hoffman had some work to do to get to the lead. Outside polesitter Kyle Strickler maintained the top spot through the first 11 laps before Hoffman caught him in traffic and blasted by on the bottom out of Turn 2.
“I got aero-tight a couple of times behind him, and then in lapped traffic too, when we were racing through,” Hoffman said of his chase with Strickler. “I just had to bide my time and slow down. I didn’t want to wear my tires out. We were killing tires earlier, so I didn’t know, being later in the night, how bad tires wear was going to be of an issue.”
From that point forward, it was all Hoffman’s race to lose. He was never seriously challenged for the lead again.
Meanwhile, the battle for second was heating up behind him. Strickler held second for a restart on Lap 13, but Will Krup made the most of the bottom lane that Strickler have him have at the drop of the green, swiping the spot away with a horsepower move down low.
Krup’s time in second wouldn’t last, however, as Strickler got another chance on a restart at the halfway point. He ripped around the top groove and was able to carry enough momentum to get back around Krup on Lap 16.
Looking back, Krup said he should’ve done more to miss a small patch in Turn 1 that upset the car, costing him some speed.
“I clipped it a couple times off that restart once I got around him, and [Strickler] was able to roll back around me,” Krup said. “After that, I just kinda fell in line and tried to bring home a strong third-place finish.”
Strickler gave it all he had to catch Hoffman in the final 10 laps but was unable to make up the gap. Hoffman’s lead was as large as four seconds at one point, further showcasing his dominance on the half-mile tracks.
“Any of the places like this here or Eldora – those big places that you can just momentum and make speed through the corner – I feel like that’s where my car is the best and it’s where I’m the best,” Hoffman said.
After redrawing the sixth spot on the starting grid, Hoffman knew he was not going to be denied of his fourth Gator Championship Feature win.
“Even with Kyle starting on the front row, I felt like my racecar was that good,” he said. “I had no doubt in my mind that my racecar was plenty good enough to do this deal from sixth.”
Strickler crossed the line in second with a car he said he could handle, but just needed more speed.
“We went a completely different direction for the Feature, and I got the feel I needed on the front-end, but we just weren’t stuck enough in the rear of the car,” Strickler said.
Despite his relentless efforts to catch Strickler, Krup came up just a bit short. However, the podium finish goes down in the record books as one of his best-ever finishes in the Gator Championship at Volusia.
“At the end of the race, I felt like I had a decent chance at [Strickler],” Krup said. “We kinda got in lapped traffic, but I couldn’t get around him. All-in-all, still a good run.”
THURSDAY MAKEUP FEATURES Saturday’s program began with ten, 15-lap makeup Features from Thursday night’s postponed program.
Feature 1 – Rob Pitcher
Feature 2 – Jonathan Taylor
Feature 3 – Michael Altobelli
Feature 4 – David Stremme
Feature 5 – Justin Allgaier
Feature 6 – Nick Hoffman
Feature 7 – Jason Garver
Feature 8 – Billy Green
Feature 9 – Tony Anderson
Feature 10 – Rich Michael Jr.
UP NEXT The UMP Modified portion of the 51st DIRTcar Nationals is complete, but DIRTcar Racing isn’t done at Volusia just yet. The event breaks on Sunday but will return to action on Monday with the DIRTcar Late Models alongside the debut of the Xtreme Outlaw Series Non-Wing Sprint Cars.
Buy a ticket to watch it in person or stream every lap live on DIRTVision.
The top-10 finishers from the two Gator Qualifier Features have locked themselves into the grand finale, which will pay $5,000-to-win and award the iconic Big Gator trophy. The top-5 from each Qualifier have been locked into the redraw on Saturday, which will randomize the top-10 starting positions before the start of the 30-lap main event.
The five makeup Features added to Friday’s program, scheduled to race after the Gator Qualifiers, were canceled and will not be made up. The purse money for those five races has been added into the 10 makeup Features from Thursday night, which will kick off the Saturday program, beginning at noon Eastern.
GATOR QUALIFIER #1 Will Krup has been a DIRTcar Nationals regular for the past several years, but hadn’t been to Victory Lane in the event since 2017. That all changed Friday night, as he steered his Longhorn by Loenbro Modified #K9 to victory, thanks to a brilliant move on the bottom lane.
Krup trailed race leader Tyler Nicely in the opening laps but kept pace with him, waiting for the right moment to pounce and make the move. Krup had a great run going down low and powered around Nicely down the backstretch to take the lead on Lap 4.
Several caution flags were thrown from that point forward, including one for Nicely himself. He spun out in Turns 3-4 and was forced to go to the tail, but wouldn’t stay long as he retired early to the pit area. A few more caution flags in the proceeding laps forced the race past its time limit, making the race official with 11 laps completed.
“The racetrack is definitely a lot better than it was yesterday,” Krup said. “I’ve got to thank everyone who is a part of this deal. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do this. The car was good. Sucks they cut it short, but we’ll take a win. It’s been a while since I won one of these gators, so it feels good to take one home.”
TOP 10 LOCKED-IN: Will Krup, Justin Allgaier, Mike Harrison, Garret Stewart, Zeke McKenzie, Hunt Gossum, Steve Stevenson, Austin Holcombe, Danny Schwartz and Matt Crafton.
GATOR QUALIFIER #2 When two of the winningest drivers in DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified history square-off in a main event, it becomes a must-see show. Nick Hoffman and Kyle Strickler didn’t disappoint in the nightcap to Friday’s program.
Hoffman went from fourth to the lead on the opening lap and began to set the pace right away. The only driver that could keep up with him was his DIRTcar Nationals nemesis – Kyle Strickler.
Strickler caught Hoffman at the right time as they reached lapped traffic, cashing-in on a big run through Turns 3-4 and sliding up in front of him to take the lead at the flag stand. A caution came out just after they crossed the stripe, meaning Hoffman had to restart second.
But the six-time and defending Big Gator points champion hit the gas at the drop of the green and did what he does best, sailing past Strickler with a power move to the inside down the backstretch to regain the lead.
Another caution was thrown one circuit later, forcing the race past its time limit, making the running order official and Hoffman a Gator trophy winner for the 21st time in his career.
“I just had to get my elbows up,” Hoffman said. “Kyle drove by me and was pretty good out there. I just had to get back on the horse and ride on that restart to get back by him in Turns 1-2.
“He’s super-aggressive. We’ve raced against each other for almost 15 years now, and I love racing with him.”
TOP 10 LOCKED-IN: Nick Hoffman, Kyle Strickler, Kenny Wallace, Matt Long, Clay Harris, Nick Allen, David Stremme, Rick Eckert, Brian Shaw and Michael McGee.
The DIRTcar UMP Modified action wraps-up on Saturday, starting with the 10 makeup Features from Thursday at noon, followed by the regularly scheduled Gator Championship program. Buy a ticket to see it in person or stream every lap live on DIRTVision.
A new format loaded with chances for DIRTcar UMP Modified drivers to win during the 51st DIRTcar Nationals has been prepared – for 2022 only – to determine an overall points champion and Gator Championship victor.
The “All-Features Night” returns Thursday, but with a twist due to the first three nights of racing being rained out. There will be two rounds of Feature action – five Features in each round – this year lined up by Qualifying results (fastest to slowest). The first lap will line up the first round of Features and the second lap will line up the second round.
Points earned from Thursday’s Features will determine the qualifying order for Friday’s “Gator Qualifier.” The field will be split into Group A (odd points) and Group B (even points). The top-10 from the A and B Features will be locked into Saturday’s Gator Championship race. Following those Features, a round of five more Features will follow – lined up non-staggered from Qualifying. The second round is another chance to earn points toward the Big Gator title.
Saturday’s Gator Championship Feature will follow its normal format to set the field for the 30-lap main event, complete with Last Chance Showdowns and redraw for the top-10 Feature starters.
The overall Big Gator Champion will also still be based on Feature points only.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.
Thursday, February 10, 2022 – ALL CARS WILL RUN TWO FEATURES
The number of features will be based on total car count
All cars will hot lap based on their pill draw
All cars will qualify based on their pill draw – 2 laps (Green, White, Checkered)
It will be overall qualifying (all cars will be qualifying against each other)
Lap 1 of your qualifying time will line you up for the first set of features
Lap 2 of your qualifying time will line you up for the second set of features
Features will be lined up non-staggered based on qualifying fastest to slowest. We will run the features from slowest feature to fastest feature (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)
All drivers will earn points for their qualifying effort
1st place will get 200 points, each position after that will drop by 1 point down to 1 point. (1st – 100, 2nd – 98, 3rd – 96, etc.)
All drivers will earn feature event points (80, 75, 70, 65, 60, 55, 53, 51, 49, 47, 45, then down by 1.)
All points from your efforts on Thursday will lineup your events for Friday.
Friday, February 11, 2022
All cars will hot lap/qualify
Qualifying groups will be sorted based on overall points from Thursday, with odd-placed positions being in Group A and even-placed positions being in Group B.
All cars will qualify – 2 laps (Green, White, Checkered)
You will qualify overall within your Group A or Group B
Each Group will have 4 Heat Races, 2 Last Chance Showdowns and a Feature
Heat Races will be lined up based on your fastest qualifying time.
Heat Transfers will be announced at the driver’s meeting
LCS Transfers will be announced at the driver’s meeting
Top 10 from each feature will be locked into the Gator Championship
The 2nd round of features will be lined up non-staggered based on qualifying, fastest to slowest. We will run the features from slowest feature to fastest feature (5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Lap 2 of your qualifying time will line you up for the second set of features.
Saturday, February 12, 2022
Cars that are not locked in will run Last Chance Showdowns
We will line up the LCS based on the 1st round of Feature finishes from Friday
LCS Transfers will be announced at the driver’s meeting
We will have provisionals
Gator Championship will be 30 Laps
Overall Gator Championship Points will be based on Feature points only
Despite sunshine and clear skies on Wednesday afternoon, the continued rainfall Tuesday night into the early-morning hours on Wednesday has further saturated the Volusia Speedway Park grounds, forcing track and DIRTcar officials to cancel Wednesday’s DIRTcar Nationals program with driver safety and track preservation in mind.
DIRTcar Nationals will now kick off with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars and DIRTcar UMP Modifieds one hour earlier on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Grandstand gates will open at 4pm. Wednesday’s program will not be made up.
Those who purchased a ticket in advance to Wednesday’s event will receive a face-value credit to their MyDirtTickets.com account to be used towards any World of Outlaws event available at WorldofOutlaws.com/tix. If a credit to your account does not work for you, then you have until March 9 to request a refund. A refund request can be made by CLICKING HERE.
For the day’s full schedule of events and to get tickets, CLICK HERE.
1991 NASCAR win on Volusia asphalt commemorated with special black-green wrap
From competing at the highest ranks of NASCAR to racing at dirt tracks across the country all season long, Kenny Wallace amassed a fanbase larger than he could’ve imagined. And this year, while he’s not saying goodbye, he’s giving them a final full-time tour with a hint of nostalgia.
Wallace will be scaling back his racing a bit in 2023, after a 38-year professional career in the sport. To celebrate his career accomplishments, he plans on running special designs on his DIRTcar UMP Modified throughout 2022, starting with the track he holds a special merit at – Volusia Speedway Park.
Wallace, of Arnold, MO, holds what is one of the most unique accolades in Volusia’s 50-plus-year history as the only driver to win on the track in both its dirt and asphalt configurations. Volusia spent eight years (1989-1996) as a paved half-mile oval before being converted back to dirt in 1997.
In its time as an asphalt track, Volusia hosted several NASCAR-sanctioned events – including the Busch Grand National Series (present-day Xfinity Series). That’s when Wallace found his way into NASCAR Victory Lane for the first time in his career on March 24, 1991.
“As a competitor, that win at Volusia was everything to me,” he said.
A simple black and green scheme with white accents and yellow trim wrapped his Pontiac Grand Prix that day. Those colors will come to life again during DIRTcar Nationals (Feb. 7-12) when Wallace returns to the Florida track with the rest of the UMP Modified field for the first of six straights nights of racing to decide who takes home the iconic Big Gator trophy.
Wallace will have his Elite Chassis #36 wrapped in those 1991 colors for the entire week, commemorating a day that first sparked his next-level success on the big stage.
“I’m a kid who comes out of St. Louis, living in a single-wide mobile home, making like $20,000 a year, and we go to Volusia,” Wallace said. “We went there and put it all together. I remember qualifying 13th, and we won the race. We were good, and it was a major accomplishment in my life.”
The next time he came back to Volusia, the track was entering its ninth year back on dirt in 2005. Wallace had only started dipping his feet into dirt racing, but it didn’t take long before Volusia felt his impact, winning the second UMP Modified Feature of the 2007 DIRTcar Nationals.
“It’s crazy, we come back in 2005 and we’re like ‘Holy moly, they put dirt on it. What’s going on here?’” Wallace said. “So, I started learning how to race dirt; I just wanted to try it. We come back in 2007, and there’s like 80 cars there, and I won.”
Last year, fellow NASCAR driver and DIRTcar Nationals regular Justin Allgaier captured his first career Big Gator trophy as winner of the Gator Championship race. He previously won a little gator in 2016, and said to this day, the trophy still means more than any other win. Wallace echoed that same sentiment.
“There’s not that many gator trophies out there – they’re very rare,” he said. “There’s 365 days in a year. The gator – there’s only six possible tries.”
Since 2007, Wallace has added another three gators to his collection. Despite the unique trophy, however, that’s not what keeps him coming back every February.
“Volusia is a place for us all to gather,” Wallace said. “It’s snowing and the weather’s bad [at home]. It’s about going down there, the comradery, it’s live on DIRTVision, everybody around the United States is watching the races.”
After his run at the 51st DIRTcar Nationals, Wallace will return home to his native Missouri and prepare for one last hammer-down, go-all-out season as a full-time race car driver. The million-dollar question asks – why now? His answer is quite simple.
“It is true that I’m a hardcore racer, but I don’t think that I need to race the entirety of my life ‘til death – that’s not important to me,” Wallace said. “I’ll be 59 in August. It just seemed like it was the right time to slow down.”
Though he’s never been known as a “Sprint Car guy,” Wallace has looked-up to many of the greats with The Greatest Show on Dirt. He took many of their teachings into his own career, including his decision to scale-back.
“I studied the king, Steve Kinser,” Wallace said. “His last year with the World of Outlaws was at 60 years old.”
Like so many other motorsports greats have done before, Wallace is also getting the urge to dive into his post-racing career plans.
“Even Tony Stewart races when he wants to; he doesn’t run a full open-wheel series,” he said. “I felt like I needed to do that. I felt like I needed to give myself an opportunity to… get a motorhome, take my grandbabies around, and do what I wanna do.”
But until he decides to hang up the helmet for good, his legions of fans can still catch him at several dirt tracks around the nation. Wallace said he expects to race around 50 nights in 2022, including a few on the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals trail. After that, he’s taking his daily driver pickup truck, his 28-foot trailer, and going racing when and where he feels like it.
As always, his signature, nonstop social media presence will remain as active as it ever has been – with or without racing. He’s never been shy about sharing advice on racing or life with his followers and took a moment to offer-up something he’d tell that teenage version of himself, now an accomplished superstar, heading south to Volusia before that victorious day in 1991.
“People will tell you that you have time, and you don’t. Start going after what you want right now,” Wallace said. “I’m not saying go running around with your tail on fire, I’m saying do it now and go after it.”
Don’t miss Kenny Wallace and the rest of the DIRTcar UMP Modified field take on six-straight nights in the 51st DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 7-12. Buy a ticket, stream live on DIRTVision, and keep up with all the latest DIRTcar Racing news and content by following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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.
“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.”
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.
Persistent heavy rain showers creating saturated grounds at Volusia Speedway Park have forced World of Outlaws Late Model Series, DIRTcar and track officials to postpone Friday’s portion of Sunshine Nationals to Saturday.
Friday’s World of Outlaws Late Model, DIRTcar Pro Late Model and 602 Late Model Features will run Saturday afternoon, starting at 1:30pm.
Following the three afternoon Features, the grandstands will be cleared to prepare for the original Saturday portion of the program and tickets for that event will be on sale at the track. Saturday’s program is tentatively scheduled to resume at 3pm after the short break, starting with World of Outlaws Hot Laps.
Follow DIRTcar Racing on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates and content from the DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals.
Chris Madden tops World of Outlaws Hot Laps, Daulton Wilson fastest with DIRTcar Pro Late Models
With an evening of practice in the books, a three-day Late Model-Palooza is now afoot at Volusia Speedway Park, Jan. 20-22.
The World of Outlaws Late Models, DIRTcar Pro Late Models and Volusia Late Models took to the World’s Fastest Half-Mile Wednesday evening to kick off the third annual DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals, setting up several storylines for an exciting weekend.
You can watch it all unfold Thursday-Saturday – tickets are available at the gate on race day. Hot Laps are scheduled for 5:30pm (ET) on Thursday and 5pm on Friday and Saturday. Or, if you can’t be at the track, watch all the action live with a DIRTVision FAST PASS subscription.
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Chris Madden didn’t wait long to show he’d be a force during the World of Outlaws season-opener at Sunshine Nationals.
After two practice sessions for the Series, he unofficially broke the track record laying down a 15.644 second lap — 0.001 seconds quicker than Tim McCreadie’s track record set on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
However, it doesn’t officially go into the record books as a new track record. Official times are only taken during Qualifying.
The Gray Court, SC driver stated he was happy with his first laps at Volusia, hoping to keep the momentum rolling for the first race of the season Thursday night.
“It’s really great,” Madden said. “We’ve been working the last part of the season, and we really got going well. We worked on a lot of stuff this winter, and we’re just happy to be here, and our Rocket Chassis is really fast.
“We tested at Brunswick, and we were really good there, and then we came here and tested. We couldn’t be any happier with our testing the way it is. We just hopefully can take that over to our racing.”
“Smokey” is searching for his second win at Volusia Speedway Park and first victory at the Florida venue since his triumph in the 2006 season finale.
Madden was more than a tenth-of-a-second faster than Ricky Thornton Jr., who was second. A total of 37 cars took advantage of the practice session.
The World of Outlaws Late Models will race three Features at Volusia Speedway Park this weekend, each paying $10,000-to-win.
World of Outlaws Late Models Practice Top-5
Chris Madden – 15.644
Ricky Thornton Jr. – 15.779
Devin Moran – 15.804
Boom Briggs – 15.936
Jimmy Mars – 15.997
DIRTcar Pro Late Models A strong group of 37 DIRTcar Pro Late Models also took to the track for several Hot Lap sessions of their own. Daulton Wilson, of Fayetteville, NC, topped the chart with a lap of 17.394 around the half-mile.
In the first two editions of the Sunshine Nationals, Pro Late Models have brought the highest car count of any division. With 57 total drivers already registered, that trend looks to continue this year. While Wilson acknowledged his tough opponents, he’s confident in he and his team’s abilities.
“It’s a big confidence booster for the whole weekend,” Wilson said. “We unloaded straight out of the gate with a new Eagle Crate motor, so to just go right out there and go quick, that was a good start to the week.”
Wilson’s one of a few drivers pulling double-duty this weekend, behind the wheel of a Pro Late Model with DIRTcar and a Super Late Model with the World of Outlaws. He said he’s still working out a few bugs with his Super, but has peace of mind knowing his Crate-engine car is fast already.
“I think we’ve got just as good of a chance as anybody in either one of them,” Wilson said. “I think it’s going to be really good to be getting twice as much time on the racetrack, even though it’s with a Crate and a Super, it’s still time on the track and getting laps around here.”
Other notable Pro Late Model talents in the field included Tennesseans Cory Hedgecock (8th-quick, 17.712) and defending Sunshine Nationals champion Mack McCarter (11th-quick, 17.829), in addition to Floridians Trynt Lloyd (2nd-quick, 17.481) and Donnie Chappell (7th-quick, 17.695).
The Pro Late Models race two preliminary shows on Thursday and Friday before the $10,000-to-win finale on Saturday night.
DIRTcar Pro Late Models Practice Top-5
Daulton Wilson (17.394)
Trynt Lloyd (17.481)
Winky McGee (17.566)
Ben Scott (17.652)
Sam Mars (17.660)
Volusia 602 Late Models A division familiar to the weekly Volusia racing crowd, the 602 Late Models saw 11 drivers take the opportunity for practice before the racing begins Thursday. Local drivers Tim Swartz (18.427) and Travis Staats (18.617) topped the charts.
A healthy field of 26 drivers have already checked-in to compete this weekend, all gunning for the $3,000 grand prize on Saturday night.
Whitener, Hedgecock, McCarter and more set to battle for $10,000 grand prize on Saturday
The first two editions of the DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals saw the Pro Late Models with the highest car count of any division on the card. That trend looks to continue this weekend as the best Crate-engine drivers in the nation gather at Volusia Speedway Park in search of one $10,000 grand prize.
A night of practice starts the on-track activity on Wednesday, Jan. 19, followed by two nights of preliminary racing action before the finale on Saturday night. The Pro (604) Late Models race for $1,500 on Thursday, $2,000 on Friday and the $10,000 check on Saturday, making this one of the most lucrative Crate Late Model races on the winter racing calendar.
All three nights of racing will be broadcast live on DIRTVision. Sign up for a FAST PASS subscription today and be on the lookout for the following drivers to make some noise this weekend.
Here are the drivers to watch and storylines to follow this weekend…
MAGIC SHOW – Mark Whitener, of Middleburg, FL, comes into the Sunshine Nationals as one of the most accomplished 604 Crate Late Model racers in the field. Last season, he won two Crate Racin’ USA Challenge Series events en route to the Series title, plus a $10,000 marquee victory in the RUSH-sanctioned Bill Emig Memorial event last summer.
Magic Man was a threat to win on both nights of Sunshine Nationals Pro Late Model competition last year, coming in third behind Michael Page and Mack McCarter in the Thursday night prelim before a sixth-place run in Saturday’s finale to cap off the weekend.
ON A MISSION – If there’s any driver coming to Volusia this weekend with a strong sense of vengeance, it’s Super Late Model veteran Michael Page.
Page, of Douglasville, GA, is one of only two Pro Late Model Feature winners in event history, breaking inaugural champion Kyle Bronson’s event win streak with a victory in the opening night last year. After a wash-out on Friday, Page took to the track for the Saturday finale and dominated to win the 30-lap event, or so it seemed at first. Upon a failed post-race engine inspection, Page was disqualified, handing the win over to runner-up Bronson.
This weekend, Page is projected to be in the Pro Late Model field once again, aiming to win the big show and avenge his lost championship from 2021.
MACK IS BACK – Mack McCarter, the 2021 Sunshine Nationals Pro Late Model champion from Gatlinburg, TN, returns to Volusia this weekend to defend his title just one year after denying Bronson of a repeat.
McCarter had an impressive showing against a 64-car field last year, finishing runner-up on both nights of competition. Over 55 total Feature laps, McCarter advanced 35 spots of position, going 19th-second on Thursday and 20th-second on Saturday. For his efforts, a shiny trophy for his cabinet after edging out Bronson for the title by five points.
CRATE MASTER – Two-time Crate Racin’ USA champion Cory Hedgecock joins the Pro Late Model field this weekend, looking for his first trip to Sunshine Nationals Victory Lane after winning big two weekends ago in Alabama.
Hedgecock, of Loudon, TN, has the early season momentum rolling with a win in the Crate Late Model portion of the annual Ice Bowl event at Talladega Short Track, defeating several Crate touring regulars he’ll encounter again this weekend.
Hedgecock’s Sunshine Nationals track record has been strong as well, coming home 8th in the 2020 finale, followed by a third-place to McCarter and Bronson last year.
TRIPLE THREAT – The cousin-trio of Jody, Jake and Dylan Knowles are all projected to be in attendance this weekend, chasing their first Sunshine Nationals victories.
Dylan was crowned champion of Crate Racin’ USA’s Winter Shootout Series in 2021. Jake finished third in Crate Racin’ points last year and ran second to Hedgecock at Talladega two weeks ago, while Jody ran two spots behind in fourth.
Jake and Jody have both made the Sunshine Nationals big show on Saturday night in both years they’ve competed. All three drivers made the finale last year as well; Jake topped the clan with a ninth-place finish.