Twenty-eight Late Model race dates. Thirty-three calendar days. Five-straight weeks of nothing but the best dirt track racing in the Midwest. The 38th DIRTcar Summer Nationals is here.
The DIRTcar Late Models and DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals are set to kick off a new season of competition this week with five races at five tracks in the Hell Tour’s home state of Illinois. Peoria Speedway will set the stage with the first race on Wednesday, June 14, with stops at Kankakee County Speedway (June 15), Tri-City Speedway (June 16), Fairbury Speedway (June 17) and Sycamore Speedway to close out Week #1 on Sunday, June 18.
The Late Models will follow a new points fund distribution this summer, paying out the sum of $125,500 over all five race weeks to the top-10 in weekly points at the conclusion each week. Weekly points will start at zero for each week; the top-10 drivers in that week’s standings will receive points fund checks after the final event completed. A $10,000 grand prize awaits the winner of each weekly points chase.
The Summit Modifieds will contest 27 races for a $5,000 champion’s check at season’s end, following the traditional points format. Each driver’s best 12 races will count toward the overall standings, crowing the driver with the most points Summit Modified champion after the final event at Fairbury Speedway on Saturday, July 29.
Tickets for each event on the 2023 Summer Nationals schedule will be on sale at the gate on race day. If you can’t be at your favorite track to watch in person, stream every lap of every race live on DIRTVision all summer long.
Here are the drivers to watch for and the storylines to follow in Week #1:
TITLE RUN – Returning to the Summer Nationals roster for the first time since 2021, Ashton Winger begins his trek toward a Hell Tour championship this week with plans to run the entire 28-race schedule.
Winger, 23, of Hampton, GA, burst onto the Summer Nationals/Midwest racing scene two years ago, taking every bit of his own equipment out on the road in pursuit of his first regional Super Late Model championship. He struggled a bit through the first two weeks but bounced back strong, capturing a total of six Feature wins by the tour’s completion, including the final two races on the schedule at Tri-City Motor Speedway and Merritt Speedway in Michigan. He placed second in the overall points standings – the highest of any Hell Tour rookie in the last decade.
This summer, he’s back with championship aspirations and strong support from car owner Jeff Mathews aboard the RVS, Inc., Durham/Rocket #12. The two paired toward the end of the 2022 season and had success from the start, winning their first national Late Model Feature in January at East Bay Raceway Park. Now, their sights turn to the toughest stretch of racing they’ll endure all year.
“The Summer Nationals has been our goal the whole time,” Winger said. “I’m loaded down with bodies, front suspension parts, rear suspension parts and we’re going to pick up another motor on Monday. I’m really excited about this year because this is the first year I feel like I’m going to do it right. I have the stuff and I’m prepared to do it. In 2021, I just threw a bunch of stuff in the truck and went and did it.”
HUNT THE FRONT – Joseph Joiner and the YouTube stars of the Hunt the Front race team are projected to make their Hell Tour debut Wednesday at Peoria and race throughout Week #1 in pursuit of the weekly points title.
Joiner and his band of brothers from Milton, FL, had a great showing in the Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway Friday night, taking home a fourth-place finish in the Group B Preliminary Feature – his best career Eldora finish – amongst a full field of national-level talent. Though a bit of misfortune struck him in his Heat Race on Saturday after getting into the Turn 1 wall and colliding with Brandon Overton, Joiner and the team will have the car repaired and ready for the full first week of Late Model competition, where they’ll take on a few tracks brand new to them.
The Joiner clan also hosts DIRTcar Late Model competition of their own as proprietors of the newly formed Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series, holding Super Late Model events at several tracks across the Southeast in 2023.
A VISIT FROM THE KING – Five-time and reigning Summer Nationals champion Bobby Pierce is projected to be part of the Late Model roster this Friday and Saturday night, shooting for both $10,000 Feature winner’s checks as he continues his quest for a World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Series crown.
Pierce, 26, of Oakwood, IL, most recently captured his fourth and fifth Summer Nationals championships in 2021 and 2022. For 2023, he made the decision to take on a national tour with his family-owned team for the first time in his career, chasing the World of Outlaws points title. He’s currently tied for second place in points, 40 behind leader Chris Madden with more than half of the season remaining.
Regardless, he’s indicated interest in competing in select races in the first week of the Summer Nationals slate in an effort to keep his skills sharp and earn the extra capital. Of the five tracks on the Week #1 schedule, Fairbury Speedway is the only track at which he has never won a Hell Tour event, putting some extra spotlight on him as he shoots for the $10,000 grand prize at FALS on Saturday night.
HORNS UP – Making his Summer Nationals debut, Modified racing ace Ethan Dotson will take the Chris Bragg Racing #174 on the road for the first full week of competition.
Dotson, a multi-time Dirt Modified champion from Bakersfield, CA, has been behind the wheel of the Longhorn Chassis house UMP Modified since the start of the 2022 season, and won several high-profile events across the country last year. He joined forces with car owner Chris Bragg, of Springtown, TX, at the start of this year and agreed to pilot his Longhorn Chassis Late Model, sending Dotson head-first into an area of dirt racing he’d not often explored.
He didn’t have to wait long for success, however, as he and the CBR team collected their first Feature win last Friday night in the COMP Cams Super Dirt Series event at Arrowhead Speedway in Colcord, OK. Dotson and the team will take that momentum into their first week on the Hell Tour, aiming for the $10,000 points fund check as champion of Week #1.
NEXT LEVEL – He’s a previous four-time winner on the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals trail. This year, 18-year-old Hunt Gossum is set to tackle the Hell Tour from the Summer Nationals Late Models side.
Gossum went Super Late Model racing for the first time last year with his family-owned operation and saw flashes of success at the local level, collecting multiple top-10 finishes and a few podiums. With some additional product sponsorship for 2023, Gossum will try his hand at completing the full 28-race schedule, aiming to become one of the youngest drivers in tour history to do so.
The Mayfield, KY-driver became the youngest winner in Summit Modified history at 14 years old when he captured the checkers in the Modified portion of Oakshade Raceway’s annual Birthday Race event in 2019. He went winless on tour from that point until 2021, when he won three races on the second half of the schedule.
WEEK #1 PROSPECTIVE ENTRIES
Dennis Erb Jr.
Frank Heckenast Jr.
Tommy Sheppard Jr.
Tony Jackson Jr.