Matt Sheppard

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]

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]

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

World of Outlaws, DIRTcar set to take over Florida Feb. 7-19 for DIRTcar Nationals

Sprint Cars, UMP Modifieds, Late Models and Big Block Modifieds stars return for Big Gator championships

In less than two months, more than a hundred of the best drivers in the world will venture to Volusia Speedway Park in search of eastern Florida’s rare golden gator.

However, the only way to capture it… win the 51st DIRTcar Nationals.

Four divisions of race cars, six series between them, will commune at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” Feb. 7-19, to compete in their own Big Gator championships with big checks and unique gator trophies on the line each race.

DIRTcar UMP Modifieds (Feb. 7-12)
With the 51st DIRTcar Nationals starting a day earlier in 2022, that presented the opportunity for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds to have a full week of non-stop action. They’ll kick off the event on Monday as part of their six straight days of racing action. The division’s traditional “All-Features” night will be on Thursday, Feb. 10, with split fields competing on Friday, Feb. 11. The Gator Championship will be on Saturday, Feb. 12.

Attracting more than 100 cars last year, the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds field includes superstars like multi-time champion Nick Hoffman, multi-time DIRTcar Nationals winner Kyle Strickler, and a plethora of current and former NASCAR stars like Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, David Reutimann, David Stremme, Matt Crafton, Justin Haley and Kenny Schrader.

All Star Circuit of Champions (Feb. 8-9)
The two days of All Star Circuit of Champions racing will kick off the Sprint Car Big Gator Championship for the week, featuring the series’ regulars like 2021 All Star champion Tyler Courtney, Cory Eliason, Kevin Thomas Jr. and more, along with several World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series stars. The All Stars have competed during DIRTcar Nationals for 30 years with the first race in 1983.

For the past two years, the winner of the opening All Star race went on to win the overall Big Gator Championship. In 2020 that was Brad Sweet and in 2021 it was Logan Schuchart.

World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars (Feb. 10-12)
For the 17th consecutive year, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series will commence its epic year-long season at Volusia Speedway Park during the DIRTcar Nationals. Bringing together the best Sprint Car drivers in the country, the three days of racing have produced some of the most exciting shows from late race passes to intense multi-car battles.

Three-time and defending World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet, started his last two championship runs by winning the Outlaws’ opening night at Volusia. To do so again in 2022, he’ll have to compete against one of the most competitive fields of drivers in Series history, including 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz, 2021 championship rival David Gravel, 2021 Rookie of the Year James McFadden, 2021 Big Gator champion Logan Schuchart, rising young-guns Carson Macedo and Sheldon Haudenschild and many more.

Super DIRTcar Series (Feb. 14-19)
The most elite Big Block Modified drivers in the country will escape the cold of the northeast for six days of on-track action at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. It’ll be the 24th consecutive year the Series has ventured to Volusia. Monday, Feb. 14, will be a practice day for the drivers before the 2022 Super DIRTcar Series season starts on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

With the five races not serving as points events, it allows the field of drivers to run as hard as they want and throw caution to the wind. That produced three different winners in a row last year with NASCAR Truck Series star Stewart Friesen, Michael Maresca and 2021 Big Gator champion Max McLaughlin. Those drivers, along with eight-time and defending Series champion Matt Sheppard, 2019 Series champion Mat Williamson and Australia’s Peter Britten, will be vying for the iconic golden gator trophy again.

DIRTcar Late Models (Feb. 14-15)
Like the Sprint Cars, the chase for the Late Model Big Gator Championship will be split between two series – the DIRTcar Late Models and the World of Outlaws Late Models. However, fans will still get to see the same caliber of drivers between both series like four-time and defending World of Outlaws champion Brandon Sheppard, 2006 World of Outlaws champion Tim McCreadie, 2021 Summer Nationals champion Bobby Pierce, Florida’s Kyle Bronson, 2021 Big Gator champion Devin Moran, 2021 crown jewel king Brandon Overton and many more.

In 2021, McCreadie picked up his sixth DIRTcar Late Model victory at Volusia, while Pierce picked up his first. Overall, in the 19 years of the DIRTcar Late Models competing at Volusia, there have been 28 different winners.

World of Outlaws Late Models (Feb. 16-19)
Volusia Speedway Park will be the home for the World of Outlaws Late Models in January and February with the season-opening Sunshine Nationals, Jan. 20-22, and then four days of racing during the DIRTcar Nationals to wrap up the Late Model Big Gator Championship. The seven days of Florida racing will set the stage for the Series’ 2022 championship and showcase the stout 2022 class of drivers, including the exciting rookie contenders Max Blair and Kyle Hammer.

Brandon Sheppard tied Josh Richards for the most championships in 2021 when he picked up his fourth title. In 2022, he’ll be on the hunt to surpass that and beat Richards’s win record. Richards currently holds the most wins with 78 and Sheppard has 77. Volusia could see him break that record with Sheppard having won six World of Outlaws races in a row at the track from 2018 to 2020.

For tickets to the 2022 DIRTcar Nationals, CLICK HERE.

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

FLAT OUT: Maresca Motors to First Career Super DIRTcar Series Win

BARBERVILLE, FL – Michael Maresca stomped his throttle at the drop of the green flag and drove wheel-to-wheel with seven-time Volusia Speedway Park winner and three-time Big Gator champion Matt Sheppard to capture his first career Super DIRTcar Series Feature win.

The Pierrepont, NY driver of the #7MM is the pride of the North Country back in New York after topping a DIRTcar Nationals podium crowded with Series championships and Gator trophy winners. Seven-time Series champion Matt Sheppard, from Waterloo, NY, finished second while three-time champ and Gypsum Racing driver Billy Decker finished third.

That’s the definition of a stout crowd. 

“Everyone’s dream, when they start racing in the Northeast, is to win a Super DIRTcar Series race and I finally won one,” Maresca said. “It’s cool to start the year off with a win and to get a Big Block win is especially awesome. It means a lot. I don’t think it’s set in yet. I try to go with the mindset that each race is the same but I’m sure tonight, when I’m lying in bed, I’ll think about all the struggles in the past and realize how awesome this is.”

Maresca, who raced a DIRTcar Late Model earlier in the week, has found speed in his Big Block around The World’s Fastest Half-Mile. 

“Our car had been consistent the last two nights,” he said. “We’ve made little tweaks here or there. We did some testing and the track really suited my style for those first 10 laps when it was really racy.

“We’ve been close the last couple of nights. Our first night was rough but we completely regrouped and went back after it.”

He’s found success with his setup using a new shock package on the #7MM. 

“I want to thank the guys at Penske Racing Shocks,” Maresca said. “They gave us a package to get around this place that’s working really good. There are only two of us here running them. My whole team just kept working and we got it done. I’m really happy to get this car in Victory Lane for those guys.”

When the green flag flew to start the 30-lap Feature, there was an immediate battle between the #9S of Sheppard and Maresca. Sheppard threw his Big Block to the outside but couldn’t execute the pass. 

“We had a really good race there,” Maresca said. “I figured Sheppard would be on the bottom but he came around the outside and I was able to clear him and move up. I think we had a really stout race car.”

Despite falling short of the win, Sheppard was pleased with his result. 

“It was a good night for us,” Sheppard said. “We gave Michael [Maresca] a run on the high side for a while but I just couldn’t get by him once he cleared down to the bottom. I think he was a little better than me anyway.”

Billy Decker has been wracking up podiums all week but, once again, needed a little more out of his Bicknell to get in a winning position. 

“We like parking on the front stretch but obviously we’d like to park down there,” said Decker, of Unadilla, NY. “The Gypsum Wholesaler car has been good. These guys work really hard. We’ve been consistent. We’ve had a rocket since we unloaded it. We didn’t always Time Trial well some nights but we raced really good every night which is important because we normally run really long races. We’re looking forward to it.” 

Max McLaughlin still leads the 50th DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championship going into Saturday’s finale. Billy Decker rides in second while Maresca climbed into third. Both McLaughlin and Maresca have a chance to win their first Big Gator the same year as their first Little Gators. 

Billy VanInwegen picked up a strong fourth-place finish. He will be eager to come back for the 50-lap Feature while Peter Britten grabbed another top-five.

Next up, on Saturday, Feb. 13, the final night of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals is set to pit the stars of the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds against each other for 50 laps and a $5,000-to-win prize. If you can’t make it to the track, watch live on DIRTVision. Hot Laps begin at 5:30pm (ET). 

Full results here

Feature (30 Laps)

  1. 7MM-Michael Maresca [1][$4,000]; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard [2][$2,000]; 3. 91-Billy Decker [4][$1,000]; 4. 4-Billy VanInwegen [7][$800]; 5. 21A-Peter Britten [5][$700]; 6. 30-Ryan Godown [3][$650]; 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [9][$600]; 8. 88-Mat Williamson [10][$550]; 9. 32C-Max McLaughlin [6][$500]; 10. 7F-Tim Fuller [8][$450]; 11. 19M-Jessey Mueller [13][$400]; 12. 25-Erick Rudolph [12][$375]; 13. 2-Jack Lehner [18][$350]; 14. 6-Matt Stangle [17][$325]; 15. 118-Jim Britt [11][$300]; 16. 8-Rich Scagliotta [16][$300]; 17. 14-CG Morey [14][$300]; 18. 16X-Dan Creeden [23][$300]; 19. 20-Brett Hearn [15][$300]; 20. 26-Derrick McGrew [19][$300]; 21. 48T-Dave Rauscher [27][$300]; 22. 1-Darwin Greene [22][$300]; 23. 46-Jeremy Smith [20][$300]; 24. 17D-Marcus Dinkins [25][$300]; 25. 1D-Tyler Dippel [21][$300]; 26. 23-Kyle Coffey [24][$300]; 27. B52-Brandon Hightower [26][$300] Hard Charger Award: 48T-Dave Rauscher[+6]

HALF-SECOND HERO: McLaughlin Edges Decker for First Career DIRTcar Nationals Win

BARBERVILLE, FL – Max McLaughlin raced home to his second Super DIRTcar Series win and his first trip to Volusia Speedway Park’s confetti-filled Victory Lane on Thursday night during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals.

The 20-year-old pilot of the #32C Sweetener’s Plus Big Block Modified was just barely able to box out future Hall of Famer Billy Decker in a wild finish where the two swapped lines on the track trying to block and slide each other at the same time. Hard charger Michael Maresca in the #7MM car cruised from 19th to third in an amazing run through the field.

After a lengthy rain delay, drama built quickly in the 30-lap Feature as McLaughlin made contact with seven-time Series champion Matt Sheppard on the first lap, sending Sheppard’s #9S up the race track and into Peter Britten’s #21A. Sheppard made his displeasure with McLaughlin known during the caution flag, but was able to recover for a fifth-place finish. 

“I got into the water there on lap one,” said McLaughlin, of Mooresville, NC. “It was a bonehead move, I guess. They checked up and he [Matt Sheppard] started pushing and I figured I’d go right below him. The left front hit the water and pushed up and I got into Matt. I hate that. That’s kind of what I was thinking about the whole race.”

When the race returned to green flag action, McLaughlin had to contend with some heavy hitters. “Mad Max” found a way around defending Series champion Mat Williamson as well as “The Baldwinsville Bandit” Jimmy Phelps, who started on the outside pole. 

However, once McLaughlin took the lead on Lap 15 there was no time to relax. Decker had his Gypsum Wholesalers #91 at full song around the top side of the speedway in pursuit during the closing stages.

“I didn’t really know where he was but I knew he was coming around the top,” McLaughlin said. “I knew I had to change something and I saw the [signal] sticks get smaller and smaller. I had to do something different.”

With an adjustment of his line, McLaughlin was able to hold Decker’s crimson #91 at bay. 

Decker did all he could to try and pass for the lead.

“We had to go where he wasn’t,” said Decker,  of Unadilla, NY. “I think we were as good as he was on the bottom, but he fired a little better on the restarts than we did. After a few laps, I think we got it rolling so it was one of those deals where he had to stick to his lane. I started hazing the outside and closing the gap. He obviously got the signal from the infield to move. If he didn’t, he was going to finish where I did. He had to move and I didn’t get him soon enough.”

Decker will look to improve just one more position tomorrow night for a coveted 50th Anniversary DIRTcar Nationals win.

Michael Maresca, from Pierrepont, NY, advanced 16 positions to capture his second consecutive third-place finish. The #7MM started the night behind the eight-ball.

“We buried ourselves in a hole in qualifying,” Maresca said. “We had a really good car all night. I think with it being a little bit wetter, I think it threw me off on my gear selection. We were able to capitalize on good restarts.”

A fast, widening race track gave him what he needed to work through two-thirds of the field in 30 laps. Unfortunately, for the pilot of the St. Lawrence Radiology Big Block Modified, Decker and McLaughlin were just a click faster. 

“Congrats to Max and Billy,” Maresca said. “I couldn’t keep up with them. I think I was just a little bit under-geared for that. But I know our car is good so we are just going to keep trucking and hopefully contend for a win tomorrow.”

Catch all the action in person or on DIRTVision on Friday, February 12 at Volusia Speedway Park as the Super DIRTcar Series take on The World’s Fastest Half-Mile for the fourth night in a row alongside the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models. 

Keep up with the Super DIRTcar Series at SuperDIRTcarSeries.com and on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Full results available here

Feature (30 Laps) — 1. 32C-Max McLaughlin [5][$4,000]; 2. 91-Billy Decker [11][$2,000]; 3. 7MM-Michael Maresca [19][$1,000]; 4. 88-Mat Williamson [4][$800]; 5. 9S-Matt Sheppard [3][$700]; 6. 25-Erick Rudolph [15][$650]; 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps [2][$600]; 8. 23-Kyle Coffey [21][$550]; 9. 21A-Peter Britten [6][$500]; 10. 1D-Tyler Dippel [10][$450]; 11. 8-Rich Scagliotta [14][$400]; 12. 7F-Tim Fuller [12][$375]; 13. 4-Billy VanInwegen [23][$350]; 14. 16X-Dan Creeden [26][$325]; 15. 118-Jim Britt [9][$300]; 16. 19M-Jessey Mueller [13][$300]; 17. 17D-Marcus Dinkins [25][$300]; 18. 1-Darwin Greene [22][$300]; 19. 20-Brett Hearn [16][$300]; 20. 14-CG Morey [29][$300]; 21. 88T-Tyler Jashembowski [17][$300]; 22. 30-Ryan Godown [8][$300]; 23. 6-Matt Stangle [1][$300]; 24. 2-Jack Lehner [7][$300]; 25. 33T-Cass Bennett [27][$300]; 26. 01W-Justin Wright [24][$300]; 27. 17-Rob Pitcher [20][$300]; 28. B52-Brandon Hightower [28][$300]; 29. 26-Derrick McGrew [18][$300]. Hard Charger Award: 7MM-Michael Maresca[+16].

What to Watch For: The Super DIRTcar Series Starts Five Nights of Volusia Action Tonight

BARBERVILLE, FL – The 2021 Super DIRTcar Series season hits the ground running in 2021 with five straight nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park.

The best Big Block Modified drivers in the world will be on the hunt for the prestigious Big Gator championship trophy.

Big Block Modified Features at the DIRTcar Nationals are a touch different from traditional Series races where race fans are accustomed to seeing 100-lap battles. Instead, the Features at Volusia from Tuesday to Friday are 30 laps and $4,000-to-win. Saturday night’s finale is 50 laps and $5,000-to-win. These races do not count towards the Super DIRTcar Series points championship but they do count as prestigious Series wins in the record books. 

How to watch:

Tickets are available for all five nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park. 

Tonight, Tuesday, February 9, features the DIRTcar Late Models with the Big Blocks. The next four nights, Wednesday to Saturday, the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models take over on the card. Alternatively, race fans can watch the live broadcast on DIRTVision

Who to beat:

Defending Series champion Mat Williamson, from St. Catharines, Ontario, was the other man to beat in 2020 at Volusia. Williamson won the first night and the final night as Wight picked up three straight in between. Look for Williamson in his #88 Buzzchew Racing, Shakelton Auto Parts Big Block Modified to be fast out of the box at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

The defending Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar Nationals champion Larry Wight will not be in attendance but for good reason: His wife had a baby on February 8. Although Wight will not be traveling with the team, race fans will see the familiar Gypsum Racing red gracing Billy Decker’s #91. He’s looking to make a championship run this year and starting out fast at Volusia is often a key indicator for early-season success.

For all of his success, only two of his 70 Series wins have come in DIRTcar Nationals competition. “The Franklin Flyer” is eager to add to his total this week. 

Matt Sheppard, a member of the Top 50 DIRTcar Nationals drivers, says Volusia is unique because once you think you have it down, you don’t. He’s looking to a strong DIRTcar Nationals as the 2020 edition was not his best Florida excursion. 

Sheppard has eight wins to his name at Volusia and three Big Gator championships. 

The Ransomville, NY racer Erick Rudolph is a strong contender at every race. The top guns of the Series know the #25R is coming for them again in 2021. Can Rudolph kick off the 50th anniversary of the DIRTcar Nationals with a win.

Rudolph has won Series races in New York, Quebec, Canada, and Ohio but so far a Florida victory eludes him. 

Big names in attendance:

Never count out Stewart Friesen. The Sprakers, NY Canadian-American wheelman has added another motor racing vehicle to his repertoire; a dirt late model. Now Friesen will be back behind the wheel of his Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified before going to “the big track” to run his NASCAR Camping World Truck. Friesen was held winless at Volusia in 2020.

Seven out of Friesen’s 33 Series victories have come at Volusia. 

Brett “The Jet” Hearn is back behind the wheel. He has the most DIRTcar Nationals checkered flags out of all Super DIRTcar Series drivers. Notably, Hearn’s first win came on a flat three-eights of a mile track on the same grounds when the half-mile was paved over. 

When it comes to success at the DIRTcar Nationals Hearn is in a league of his own. He’s earned nine Big Gator trophies and a whopping 21 Feature wins. No one else is close. 

Max McLaughlin has made a name for himself behind the wheel of a Big Block Modified, an asphalt modified, and stock cars. He had an incredible run during last fall’s OktoberFAST including his first career Super DIRTcar Series win which came at Weedsport Speedway. 

Tim Fuller has 31 career Super DIRTcar Series wins under his belt. His last DIRTcar Nationals win came in 2016. Watch for the #19 to be a steady presence at the front of the field.  

Stories to follow: 

Albany-Saratoga Speedway hot shoe, Jessey Mueller, planned to make 2020 his rookie season in the Super DIRTcar Series. He’s going for it again as we get 2021 started with a bang. 

“The Batman” Peter Britten has a brand new Bicknell Racing Products chassis for the 50th annual DIRTcar Nationals. True to his nickname, he’s gone all black on the #21A. 

A couple of Big Block veterans, Rick Scagliotta and Dave Rauscher are looking to make their presence known at Volusia. Rauscher is coming off an injury plus a huge rollover at Land of Legends Raceway this past summer in his #48too. 

Jack Lehner continues to improve and could soon become a consistent threat for podiums this year. Watch his Time Trials results to see if the #2L is going in the right direction at Volusia. A solid Time Trial can set a driver up for a strong night. 

Keep an eye on these drivers:

Thirty-plus drivers are expected to let their Big Blocks loose at Volusia. Watch for drivers like Kyle Coffey, Billy VanInwegen, Jimmy Britt, Cass Bennett, Brandon Hightower, Danny Creeden, Rob Pitcher, Derrick McGrew, Justin Wright, Tyler Jashembowski, Ryan Godown, Marcus Dinkins, CG Morey, Tyler Dippel, Darwin Greene, and Matt Stangle want to start their 2021 off with a gator to bring back home. 

How to follow the action: 

Race fans can catch every lap of action in person at Volusia Speedway Park or live on DIRTVision.com

For live up-to-the-minute coverage, all week long follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also catch shots and videos up on Instagram. Schedules, features, race reports, and more are all on SuperDIRTcar.com

For more DIRTcar Nationals coverage follow the event account on Twitter and at DIRTcarNationals.com

ANOTHER ANIMAL: Higher Purses, New Track Surface Await Super DIRTcar Series at Volusia Speedway Park

The Super DIRTcar Series returns to action on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Volusia Speedway Park kicking off five straight days of Big Block Modified action. The Series helps ring in 50 years of prestigious DIRTcar Nationals history with expanded purses and a brand new racing surface.

The Big Blocks start with a four-pack of 30-lap Features worth $4,000-to-win to set up a $5,000-to-win 50-lap Feature finale. The purse has also been expanded to increase the amount to start each Feature to $300 Tuesday through Friday and $350 on Saturday. 

Plus, the World’s Fastest Half-Mile now has a brand new surface, which has been raced on already by the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models and has received high praise from the racers. 

Three-time Big Gator champion and seven-time Super DIRTcar Series champion Matt Sheppard, from Waterloo, NY, knows not to haul south with any assumptions about Volusia from one year to the next. He’s ready to add to his eight-win DIRTcar Nationals victory count. 

“Volusia is certainly another animal compared to most of the tracks we’ve been to,” Sheppard said. “I’ve been going to Volusia for a long time now. It’s tough. It’s a tough place to get figured out from year to year. It seems like you go one year and you think you’ve got a handle on it. You go back the next year and everything changes. I don’t know what it is about the place but there are definitely certain guys that run really well down there and certain guys that seem to struggle. I think I’ve had it a little bit of both ways. Last year was one of the years I struggled. Hopefully, we can turn that around this year.”

Sheppard earned a place in the DIRTcar Nationals Top 50 Drivers list, which included drivers from the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series, DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, and Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds.

Despite coming from various racing backgrounds all premier dirt racers want a Big Gator of their own to take home, signifying they won the championship of their division.

“The Big Gators are in my basement with a bunch of my other trophies. I kept a few of the little gators but everyone loves them so I gave a few of them away to fans and crew members,” Sheppard said. “I’ve got a trophy shelf across the top of my shop and there is a Big Gator up there along with one of the stuffed animal gators. Whenever kids come over to my house they are always intrigued by the big bronze gator on the floor.”

That’s one crowded trophy shelf. It never hurts to have a Big Gator to keep the rest in line. 

You can watch Matt Sheppard and the stars of the Super DIRTcar Series at the DIRTcar Nationals Feb. 9-13 at Volusia Speedway Park. Get your tickets at DIRTcarNationals.com

If you can’t make it to the speedway be sure to sign up for DIRTVision and watch all the action live and in HD. Be sure to get the all-new DIRTVision Platinum FAST PASS Annual Subscription which includes all Super DIRTcar Series races plus all NAPA Super DIRT Week events, World of Outlaws, and DIRTcar Racing plus weekly racing from Knoxville, Williams Grove, Jacksonville, and more.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: DIRTcar Nationals Champions Reminisce on Big Gator Trophies

Each February, racers of all disciplines descend upon Volusia Speedway Park to compete for one of the most iconic trophies available: The Big Gator.

Be it World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, World of Outlaws Late Models, Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks, or DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, the goal is the same. Take a stroll through any legend’s trophy room and the DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator remains one of the coolest, most unique awards in all of dirt racing.

As such a special prize, these big guys don’t just go to the basement and collect dust. They’re centerpieces at the core of any room. So, where exactly do some of the Big Gators end up? We talked to six superstars to find out where they are today.

Daryn Pittman’s gator trophy collection.

Nick Hoffman went beyond collecting a few gators or establishing a gator family, he built an entire gator farm. The single-most dominant force in the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds division, Hoffman has earned more than 20+ of the iconic Volusia trophies. His seven Big Gators have been enough motivation to build a new office and new home for all of them, with more to come.

“I’ve got so many that they’re spread out all over the place right now,” Hoffman said with a laugh. “I’ve got some in my office, some in my living room, and others at some different sponsors shops. I’m currently building a new office and I’ve got it all planned with shelves on the wall, one for all of my Big Gators.”

Daryn Pittman owns more Big Gators than any other driver in World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series history. His first DIRTcar Nationals championship in 2013 went back to Kasey Kahne Racing, but his two most recent titles in 2015 and 2019 are on constant guard watch at home. Those two Big Gators sit on the floor sandwiched between his 2003 Historical Big One and 2008 Kings Royal trophies, and protect his 2013 World of Outlaws championship award, which is right above them.

“It’s no midget in my dining room, but it’s the best I got,” Pittman kidded. “I always get a kick out of seeing those two Big Gators on the floor, guarding all my other trophies. Some of my most prized possessions and special moments of my career are all there in that room.”

Brandon Sheppard started collecting gators in 2017, and has since become the fiercest hunter in all of the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series. His most prolific year came in a record-setting four-night run at the 2019 DIRTcar Nationals. B-Shepp won every single World of Outlaws show and easily scored the overall title, snaring up a family of five gators in just about 96 hours.

Shane Clanton celebrates his Big Gator championship.

“We kept the whole family together actually,” Sheppard joked. “They’re all in the trophy room together at Rocket1 Racing headquarters. We’ve got my two Big Gators in there, plus Josh [Richards] won four of them too. A lot of little gators in that room as well, but the Big Gators are by far the coolest.”

The Georgia Bulldog Shane Clanton has found plenty of success in his days at the DIRTcar Nationals. In fact, he has six gators in total, all sitting in a small shrine in his house; a testament to his love for and success at Volusia.

“I made a gator pond out of them,” Clanton commented. “They’re all sitting in my mancave looking at each other.”

When it comes to the Super DIRTcar Series, Matt Sheppard has been king of the Big Blocks at Volusia of late. His eight feature wins and three Big Gator championships are some of his most memorable moments in the Savannah, NY native’s legendary career.

“I kept a few of the little gators, but everyone loves them so I gave a few away to fans and crew members,” Sheppard noted. “I’ve got a big trophy shelf across the top of my shop and there’s a Big Gator up there along with some of the stuffed animal gators. I’ve got one of the big bronze ones on the floor and the kids are always intrigued when they see that. I remember we always strapped it into the front seat for the ride home to be safe.”

For Paul McMahan, his 2014 DIRTcar Nationals title came via the consistency of a 3.75 average finish with two runner-up results in his CJB Motorsports No. 51. He has yet to score a feature victory at Volusia, so the Big Gator sits in his office as his lone connection to the Barberville, FL half-mile.

The famous gator trophy drivers get for winning at Volusia Speedway Park.

“It’s a really cool tradition they’ve built with all of the gators given out,” McMahan said. “I see mine almost every day, it’s right there in my office at home up on a shelf. It’s really neat to look up and see that big, long golden gator. I’ve got it right next to one of the slot machines I won at Las Vegas. I’d put it up there with my Brad Doty Classic cup and the Williams Grove checkered flags as one of the coolest items I’ve got at home.”

When the 50th DIRTcar Nationals begins next week on Tuesday, February 2, a whole fleet of 30 gators will be waiting for their relocation. In all, 25 feature events will be contested with little gators as the top prize. Only five Big Gators will be given out to the respective point champions of Sprint Cars, Late Models, Big Block Modifieds, and UMP Modifieds, which also awards an additional Big Gator in the Gator Championship race.

Fans can buy tickets and packages for the 50th DIRTcar Nationals (Feb. 2-13) by CLICKING HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.