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By Clayton Johns

The 2017 DIRTcar UMP Modified season gets underway for drivers from across the United States and Canada this month in the Sunshine State. The annual Florida Tour takes drivers to three different Florida tracks this month, culminating in eight straight nights of competition at the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

Following four nights at North Florida Raceway and another four at East Bay Raceway Park, UMP Modified drivers have converged on Volusia for a shot at the Big Gator trophy as DIRTcar Nationals champion, and there’s no shortage of heavy-hitters seeking one of racing’s most unique prizes.

Over the past five editions of the DIRTcar Nationals, two drivers have dominated the highly competitive division at Volusia. Since 2012, Nick Hoffman and Ty Dillon have each found victory lane seven times. Both drivers have claimed the Big Gator trophy twice during the same time period, with Hoffman earning the title in each of the past two seasons.

Austin Dillon is third on the wins list at Volusia over the past five seasons with five, while former NASCAR regular Kenny Wallace has made the DIRTcar UMP Modified division his home over the last decade. He is the only other driver with multiple wins at Volusia since 2012, with three. A total 19 other drivers have a single victory.

Big Gator Hopefuls

Crofton, KY native Trent Young is among the top contenders to steal the Big Gator from Hoffman’s grasp. Young finished third in the UMP Modified national standings and won the Deep South and South Regions in 2016. Young claimed a victory while finishing sixth in the overall points chase at last year’s DIRTcar Nationals.

Ray Bollinger of Kewanee, Ill. also earned his first Gator trophy with a win at last year’s DIRTcar Nationals. Bollinger was one of the busiest UMP Modified drivers in the country last season with over 80 starts to his name and will begin a new campaign in Florida once again. Bollinger finished the 2016 season sixth in national points and third in the Summit Modified Nationals last summer.

Clarklake, MI driver Brian Ruhlman hopes to find Victory Lane for the second-straight season at Volusia. Ruhlman scored his first career Volusia win last February when he held off perennial contender Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, WV and Austin Dillon.

Hawkins, should he make his third straight trip to Volusia, will also be a tough customer. He’ll benefit from some leftover momentum from his DIRTcar Fall Nationals win last October at Eldora Speedway against over 100 of the division’s best.

NASCAR Talent Returns to Roots

A number of current and former NASCAR national series drivers return to their short track roots in the DIRTcar UMP Modified division during February when the racing world has its focus on Florida. In addition to Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader is a tough challenger in a Modified who earned a Big Gator trophy most recently in 2013 and claimed four DIRTcar UMP Modified victories last year.

David Stremme is also on the list of confirmed entrants for the DIRTcar Nationals. Stremme scored a Volusia win in 2015 and has jumped into the Modified world with both feet as the builder of Lethal Chassis. NASCAR XFINITY Series wheelman Justin Allgaier will compete as well and looks to pick up a checkered flag for the second season in a row. Allgaier earned a win in one of three Triple 20s on the final night of action at last year’s event.

With an all-star roster set to tackle the DIRTcar Nationals again this year, fans can expect the same level of competition that has brought them 23 different winners over the last five seasons.

Visit www.DIRTcar.com for the latest news and information surrounding the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.

CONCORD, N.C. - February 6, 2017 -The Super DIRTcar Series season will kick off with the DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 22-25 at Volusia Speedway Park, with more than 35 Big-Block beasts soaring on the famed half-mile, battling side-by-side for four straight nights, all competing for the famed "Big Gator" trophy.

The best wheelmen in the business will meet to compete for bragging rights and take home the DIRTcar Nationals title. Two potent drivers in particular look ahead as they will face off once again for one of the Big-Block Modifieds' most coveted trophies.

Series veteran Billy Pauch, hailing from Frenchtown, N.J., was the fastest car at Volusia Speedway Park in time trials every night in 2016. But it was Quakertown, Pa.'s own Rick Laubach who held off the Series regulars, capturing the gator during last year's DIRTcar Nationals.

Some may see the DIRTcar Nationals as an 'invaders vs. regulars'race, where outsiders come to take the Super DIRTcar Series regulars' money. Laubach and Pauch, who are not Series regulars, feel otherwise.

"Down there I feel like I am kind of a regular," Laubach said. "We don't go there all the time. It's not like going to Brewerton or Canandaigua; it's Volusia. I go there just as much as they do. I remember talking to Tim Fuller, and he said it took him ten years to win down there. I put my time into Volusia with them, so it's sort of like a home track in a way. I feel like it's more equal."

Pauch is on the same page with Laubach, as he strongly feels that Volusia is neutral ground for everyone because it is not a weekly track.

"We go down there once a year," Pauch said. "It's a matter of how many years you've been there to have the most experience. If you put that down in years [Brett] Hearn has the most. So he probably has the most advantage of anyone because he's run there the most."

To win at Volusia is a triumph to all. Pauch has five Big-Block victories at Volusia Speedway, over 720 career wins overall and still believes taking home a gator would be special to him.

"It's tough," Pauch said. "You usually have a pretty good field down there. A lot of good guys go down. Normal racers don't take a vacation, so that's what they consider a vacation - going to Florida to race. It would be real special to get a gator."

Laubach, who has three Volusia victories under his belt, feels that the competition is what makes winning Volusia so notable. "It's the best," said Laubach. "It's [Matt] Sheppard, Hearn and the DIRT guys, so it is the best feeling to win down there."

To Laubach and Pauch, Florida in February is much more than just your typical night of racing.

"It's SPEEDWEEKS, and it is special in Daytona during that time of the year," Pauch stated. "You get to see a lot of people from the big track that you wouldn't normally get to see come over at night, so it's usually a good time."

Like Pauch and several other drivers, Laubach treats his trip like a vacation.

"We don't really go anywhere else on vacation," Laubach said. "We get up early, get the car done, and go to the beach until about four o'clock, get in the truck and go to the track like a regular night."

DIRTcar Nationals is well known for the number of drivers who take the trek south during the winter to cure their winter blues and get a little dirt under their belt. To name a few of the dauntless invaders who competed against the notorious Super DIRTcar Series regulars in 2016: Laubach, Pauch, Erick Rudolph, Tyler Dippel, Billy Dunn, Alan Johnson, Jamie Mills, H.J. Bunting, Vic Coffey, Billy VanInwegen, and Jessey Mueller.

This 12-night event brings some of the biggest names in motorsports to the famously fast, half-mile. Some believe it's a place for drivers to settle a rivalry; but most agree it's neutral territory where those who make the trip south can get away from the winter weather and compete for the coveted Big Gator trophy.

The biggest event in DIRTcar Racing kicks off the 2017 season on Feb. 14-25th as the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series, World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series, All Star Circuit of Champions, Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds, DIRTcar Late Models and DIRTcar UMP Modifieds take on the world's fastest half-mile at Volusia Speedway Park. Start 2017 with Florida in February! For tickets, click or call 844-DIRT-TIX! Or by visiting www.DIRTcarNationals.com.

ABOUT THE TRACK Volusia Speedway Park is a half-mile, high-banked, clay oval located in Barberville, Florida. The track opened as a ¼-mile oval in 1968, which then expanded to a 3/8-mile in 1969 and then once again expanded to a half-mile in 1972. The clay oval was paved in 1989 and was then converted back to dirt in 1997 and has been dirt ever since.

Super event to draw dirt racing’s biggest names – and more!

CONCORD, N.C. – January 11, 2017 – In just a little more than 30 days, the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series will embark on a new season and renew the stakes at one of dirt racing’s biggest shows. The 46th annual DIRTcar Nationals, from February 14-25, offers 12 action-packed days of racing featuring multiple series.

The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, accompanied by the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions, will compete for the coveted Big Gator trophy through five days of sprint car racing. The World of Outlaws, succeeding the All Stars with three days of racing from February 17-19, will make its 34th appearance in 14 years at Volusia Speedway Park. The Outlaw sprint cars debuted there in 1981.

In the 34 races at the semi-banked half-mile course, eight-time series champion Donny Schatz has claimed eight victories. Notably, Schatz has earned one of the three nights consecutively since 2014; fellow series top-runner Brad Sweet shares his feat, capturing four of the last nine races since then.

Last season Sweet doubled his successes at the track, being the first to win multiple nights since all-time wins holder Steve Kinser in 2011. Though the Outlaws share the spotlight in the 410 division, another series driver has solidified his prowess in the series’ annual grand introduction. Paul McMahan established the track record of 12.569 seconds the year Kinser doubled-down.

The historic DIRTcar Nationals is the most accessible motorsports event during the Florida in February jaunt. Every ticket is a hot pass, so fans can get up close and personal to all the action. Fans will be able to meet their favorite drivers from each of the competing series below.

Tickets for DIRTcar Nationals start at just $20 and are on sale now by calling 844-DIRT-TIX (347-8849), or by visiting http://www.DIRTcarNationals.com.

Visit http://www.DIRTcarNationals.com for the latest news and information from the event. Follow DIRTcar Nationals on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/DIRTcarNats.

DIRTcar Nationals will lay foundation for 2017 season

CONCORD, N.C. – January 26, 2017 – This time next month a new season will be underway for the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series. For the third year in a row the series will kick off at Screven Motorsports Complex on February 17-18 before the real madness begins at the 46th annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

Coming off of a three-month break from the series, the first two weeks of racing is one of the toughest tests of the year. The start of the season will be a vital test of mental and physical strength and stability as the drivers will face nearly 250 laps of feature races between the first drop of the green flag at Screven Motorsports Complex and the last wave of the checkered flag at DIRTcar Nationals. Some drivers may break under the pressure resulting in backing out of running full-time; while some drivers may succeed and decide to join the series for the rest of the season. There are a lot of unknowns heading into the first two weeks of the season, but that’s what makes the trip to Florida in February that much more exciting.

For the last two seasons the driver that took home the Big Gator trophy at DIRTcar Nationals also claimed the championship title when World Finals rolled around at the end of the year. In 2015, that person was Shane Clanton, a full-time series driver since 2005.

“If you come out of Florida on top then it’s easy to stay on top, if you come up behind then it’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole. It’s important to have a good run because it will boost the whole season and [at this point] who knows who will be running good. Hopefully I am still as good as I was last year and the year before. That way everyone will be chasing after me instead of me chasing them,” said Clanton.

The 2016 season was dominated by Josh Richards in the Rocket Chassis House Car. He claimed the Big Gator and the championship title last year along with 18 series wins over the course of 40 races. For 2017, the Rocket1 will be sporting a new driver, Brandon Sheppard. The series has also added some other crucial late model drivers to the mix, including Chris Madden, Devin Moran and Donald Bradsher.

“I’ve run SpeedWeeks for three or four years now and I’ve entered every race every year I’ve been here. As a driver I’m pretty focused and ready to go and as a team we are more prepared than I have ever been. It’s the first point you get to start off the season right. You can come back from a deficit if you have to but it’s a lot easier if you start off running really well and start gaining a lot of points at the start off the year,” said Sheppard.

The full-time series drivers can be nearly split down the middle. On one hand you have the hotshots, the drivers who have years-and-years of experience; including Clanton, Chub Frank and Rick Eckert. On the other hand you have the young guns, the guys that are chasing their dreams and in the midst making a name for themselves in the sport; these drivers include Billy Moyer Jr., Tyler Erb, and Eric Wells. Unlike many other sports, however, at the end of any given night, both ends of this spectrum have a chance at taking the checkers.

“I definitely want to win close to five races and stay in the top-five or the top-three every night [of SpeedWeeks]. My dad always told me, you can be two types of people, you can be the type of guy that doesn’t set high expectations for yourself and just settle for whatever happens or you can set high expectations and work your ass off to get there,” said Sheppard.

The historic DIRTcar Nationals is the most accessible motorsports event during the Florida in February jaunt featuring 12 action-packed days of racing among multiple series. Every ticket is a pit pass, so fans can get up close and personal to all the action and meet their favorite drivers from each of the competing series below.

Tickets for DIRTcar Nationals start at $20 and are on sale now. Save your spot at Volusia Speedway Park by calling 844-DIRT-TIX (347-8849), or by visiting http://www.DIRTcarNationals.com.

Visit http://www.DIRTcarNationals.com for the latest news and information from the event. Follow DIRTcar Nationals on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/DIRTcarNats.

Volusia Speedway Park Suspends Weekly Racing 
 
CONCORD, N.C. - Oct. 3, 2016 - While Volusia Speedway Park announced today that they have suspended weekly racing, DIRTcar Nationals will continue as planned at the 1/2-mile Florida dirt oval February 14-25, 2017. 

"We hate to see this happen to Dirt Life Racing and all the Volusia regulars," said DIRTcar CEO Brian Carter, "but we assure you DIRTcar Nationals will go on as always, and we're excited about another great year at the fast 1/2-mile." 

"With circumstances beyond our control. VSP would like to announce with a heavy heart that we have closed the doors," reads a note from Wendi Underwood on the speedway website. "I want to say how thankful I am for the past 4 wonderful years."

Underwood has been leasing the track each year immediately following DIRTcar Nationals in order to run weekly, Saturday night racing from March through December. 

DIRTcar Nationals will remain at Volusia Speedway Park, in Volusia County, Florida, for two weeks from February 14 to 25, 2017, featuring DIRTcar Modifieds, DIRTcar Late Models, and DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds.

 

Relive all the highlights from the 2016 DIRTcar Nationals held at the Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, February 9 through 20th!

Brett Hearn has improbable come from behind win in the Super DIRTcar Series as Sheppard and Richards take home the 'Big Gators'

BARBERVILLE, Fla. - Feb. 20, 2016 - It was a close call but Shane Clanton scored his second World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series victory of the 2016 season on Saturday night during the DIRTcar Nationals finale at Volusia Speedway Park.

It was the winner of the previous two nights, Josh Richards, who was the class of the field early, leading 45 laps of the 50 lap feature. Clanton charged through the field as Jonathan Davenport tried to get around Richards. As the feature reached its mid-point Davenport began to fade as Clanton and Scott Bloomquist hit their stride. Clanton took over second on lap 34 and ten laps later battled past Richards in lapped traffic for the lead.

As the feature drew to a close, Bloomquist found a way around Richards and in the final turn of the final lap, Bloomquist drag-raced Clanton to the finish. It was Clanton by a fender.

"It's a testament to our work," Clanton said. "We just put our heads down and worked as hard as we could to get where we're at."

"On the outside with the lapped cars I didn't know if I could clear them and get to the bottom or run where I've been running. I didn't know Scott was that close to me - I almost celebrated too early. But man, it feels good to outrun Scott and Josh. They've been the cars to beat this week and to beat the both of them feels pretty special."

After a stellar DIRTcar Nationals that saw him pick up three wins, Richards won the Late Model Week title and the coveted 'Big Gator' trophy.

"It's cool - this is our second one," Richards said of the 'Big Gator.' "It's pretty cool to have another one in our collection. We've had a great Speed Weeks. We've been in contention - it's been a lot of fun."

In the Super DIRTcar Series finale at DIRTcar Nationals, Stewart Friesen led early and worked to hold off a Matt Sheppard through Saturday night's 50-lap feature but it was Brett Hearn who scored the come from behind win.

Hearn had trouble early in the night and after advancing through the Last Chance Showdown started the feature in 21st. The New Jersey-native made quick work of the field, dispatching a car per lap as he entered the top-five by the midway point in the feature.

On lap 34 Hearn muscled the lead away from Friesen and cruised to his first series victory of the season.

"We got a huge favor tonight that we didn't really expect in that we had to run the consi," Hear said. "We got some laps out there after the track dried out. After we ran the consi we made some really great decisions. Hats off to my crew. We really struggled this week. We changed everything we could think of including stuff today, unbelievable stuff. These guys were up early working their butts off and so this is meaningful for all the guys that came down with me this year. We persevered."

Sheppard, the reigning series champion who finished the night in third, scored the Big-Block Week championship and took home the coveted 'Big Gator' trophy.

"We had an awesome race car all week," Sheppard said. "We had another good car tonight. Brett snookered us on tires a little bit. We were really coming on Stewie there at the end. I couldn't be prouder of all those guys standing over there that stepped up to help out. To come down here out of the box to have a first, second, third and a fifth is pretty good, pretty consistent. Hopefully we can keep it going all season."

The 2017 DIRTcar Nationals will return to Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 7 to 18, 2017. Ticket renewals are available now through March 31. Ticket sales open to the general public on April 1. For more information, visit http://www.WorldofOutlaws.com/Tickets or call 844-DIRT-TIX (347-8849).

For more information and updates on the DIRTcar Nationals, click DIRTcarNationals.com or follow on Twitter at @DIRTcarNats.

DIRTcar Nationals Statistical Report; Feb. 20, 2016; Volusia Speedway Park; Barberville, Fla.

World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series A-Feature (50 Laps) - 1. 25-Shane Clanton, 2. 0-Scott Bloomquist, 3. 1-Josh Richards, 4. 76-Brandon Overton, 5. 6-Jonathan Davenport, 6. 3s-Brian Shirley, 7. 25z-Mason Zeigler, 8. 15-Steve Francis, 9. 28E-Dennis Erb Jr, 10. 16-Justin Rattliff, 11. 5-Don O'Neal, 12. 22s-Gregg Satterlee, 13. 99j-Frank Heckenast Jr, 14. 20-Jimmy Owens, 15. 99B-Boom Briggs, 16. 17M-Dale McDowell, 17. 15s-Donny Schatz, 18. C9-Steve Casebolt, 19. 1*-Chub Frank, 20. 14M-Morgan Bagley, 21. 39-Tim McCreadie, 22. 7-Rick Eckert, 23. 18-Eric Wells, 24. 18c-Chase Junghans, 25. 21J-Billy Moyer Jr, 26. 2F-Dennis Franklin, 27. 38s-Kenny Pettyjohn, 28. 2c-Joey Coulter, 29. 77-Jordan Yaggy, 30. 1W-Dillon Wood

Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds A-Feature (50 Laps) - 1. 20-Brett Hearn [$5,000], 2. 44-Stewart Freisen, 3. 9s-Matt Sheppard, 4. 19-Tim Fuller, 5. 27J-Danny Johnson, 6. 49-Billy Dunn, 7. 21a-Pete Britten, 8. 99L-Larry Wight, 9. 54-Steve Bernard, 10. 7-Rick Laubach, 11. 14J-Alan Johnson, 12. 1T-Tyler Dippel, 13. 25R-Erick Rudolph, 14. 1-Billy Pauch, 15. 1G-Darwin Green, 16. 30-Jamie Mills, 17. 32c-Vic Coffey, 18. 5-Billy VanInwegen, 19. 48T-Dave Rauscher, 20. 83-Brian Swartzlander, 21. 74-J.R Heffner, 22. 85-H.J. Bunting, 23. 5*-Tyler Siri, 24. 28p-Eldon Payne, 25. 323-Neal Williams, 26. 19m-Jessey Mueller, 27. 7-Tim Kerr, 28. 8-Rich Scagliotta

The 2016 DIRTcar Nationals is supported by Budweiser, Daytona Harley-Davidson, Hampton Inn-Palm Coast, Integrity Painting with Valspar, Ring Power CAT, and Safety-Kleen. The World of Outlaws are brought to fans by official partners: Bad Boy Buggies (Official Side-by-Side Vehicle), The Kenny Wallace Dirt Racing Experience (Official Racing Experience), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), Morton Buildings (Official Building), and VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel). Additional support is provided by Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company of WoO Late Model), DirtonDirt.com (WoO Late Model Hard Charger Award), and Chevrolet Performance. Contingency sponsors include: ASI, Beyea Headers, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Fox Shocks, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, KSE Racing Products, Mobil 1, MSD Performance, Penske Racing Shocks, Ohlins Shocks, QA1, QuarterMaster, Sweet Manufacturing, Superflow Dynos and Wrisco Aluminum Manufacturer sponsors include: Capital Race Cars, Impact Racing Products, Intercomp, Motorsports Safety Systems, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis, S&S Volvo, and TNT Rescue.