WHAT TO WATCH FOR: 37th Hell Tour Kicks off in Illinois, Iowa

Photo Credit: Josh James
Champions return, Australia/NZ shows presence, healthy roster expected for first full week

It’s time to feel the heat on the trail of the Hell Tour. The 37th DIRTcar Summer Nationals and DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals is here.

Illinois-Iowa Week kicks off the 32-race schedule Tuesday night at Kankakee County Speedway – the 34th visit in tour history. A potential $39,000 Late Model champion’s check is on the line should all 32 races be completed by season’s end, while the Modifieds chase the traditional $5,000 check.

Illinois-Iowa Week schedule
Tuesday, June 14 – Kankakee County Speedway (Kankakee, IL)
Wednesday, June 15 – Peoria Speedway (Peoria, IL)
Thursday, June 16 – Davenport Speedway (Davenport, IA)
Friday, June 17 – Tri-City Speedway (Pontoon Beach, IL)
Saturday, June 18 – Fairbury Speedway (Fairbury, IL)
Sunday, June 19 – Sycamore Speedway (Maple Park, IL)

Tri-City and Fairbury will stand as the first $10,000-to-win Late Model shows on the schedule, bringing the competition and racing action to a fever pitch as the tour gets underway.

Tickets will be available at the gate on each race day. If you can’t be at the track, the entire 2022 Summer Nationals will be broadcasted live on DIRTVision. Get your FAST PASS subscription today or download the mobile app to watch from anywhere.

Here are the drivers to watch for and the storylines to follow this week…

RETURN TO FORM – After two seasons following a never-before-seen schedule that stretched into the later weeks of August, the Summer Nationals returns to a format more like its traditional slate in 2022 with 32 race dates in 40 calendar days, predominantly racing an average of six days per week. The first, third and fourth weeks have six scheduled races, Week #2 and Week #5 have five scheduled races and the final week in Michigan is set for four races.

This will crank up the heat on the competitors, once again offering the challenge the Hell Tour has come to be known for as teams fight to stay in the action night after night and keep their equipment, tempers and patience in check.

Though the schedule reverts to a more traditional timeframe, the points fund will follow the format unveiled in 2021, with an upgraded purse for perfect-attendance drivers. For each race completed past 25, the champion’s check will increase by $2,000. Positions 2-10 in points will receive prize money increases in different increments as well. Weekly bonuses and the all-new tow money program will also increase incentives for full-timers.

THE CHAMPS ARE HERE – Defending Hell Tour champions Bobby Pierce, the reigning Late Model champ from Oakwood, IL, and Nick Hoffman, last year’s Modified champion from Mooresville, NC, have made clear their intentions to be in-action during Illinois-Iowa Week and beyond.

Pierce currently has every race through July 3 (end of Multi-State Week) on his schedule, giving several of the traditional Summer Nationals tracks and their fans the chance to see the four-time champion compete against the best from the region. Should he decide to divert from the schedule past that point, a new champion could potentially rise to the top by season’s end.

As he has done in each of the past three seasons, Hoffman plans to tackle the majority of the Modified schedule, aiming for his fourth-straight and fifth career championship. New for this summer, he’s taking NOS Energy Drink along for the ride with a brand-new sponsorship inked with the beverage brand for his already orange-and-blue colored #2.

WELCOME TO HELL, ROOK – Multiple Late Model racers have already made their intentions of following all or most of the entire schedule known, creating an interesting roster of talent tackling the tour for their first time.

  • Payton Freeman, of Commerce, GA, won two Features last year in his first full-time season aboard the Southern All Star Racing Series, clinching Rookie of the Year honors and the Series championship by over 500 points. This summer, he faces the biggest challenge of his career against some of the nation’s best Dirt Late Model talent on their home turf behind the wheel of his Madison County Auto Parts / Freeman Plumbing #F1.
  • Preston Luckman, of Coos Bay, OR, is new to the Midwest Dirt Late Model racing scene in 2022, but has plenty of experience racing Late Models around his home tracks in Oregon. He’s been a dominant force at Coos Bay Speedway and Cottage Grove Speedway in recent seasons, capturing the 2018 Cottage Grove Super Late Model track championship with seven wins in 16 starts, as well as the 2019 Coos Bay championship with an equal number of wins in 15 starts.
  • Brent McKinnon, of Carlyle, IL, announced via social media last week his plans to take on most of the 2022 schedule behind the wheel of his Midwest Farm & Land Company #26. McKinnon received a notable mention in DirtonDirt.com’s “Most Improved Drivers” year-end superlatives category last winter after winning his first career Super Late Model race at Tri-City Speedway in June.

THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER – Two Late Model veterans have made the trip across the pond and into the states from Australia and New Zealand to attempt the full schedule this year, marking the first running of the Hell Tour with drivers from outside the US since 2019.

Paul Stubber, the 63-year-old Aussie champion from Bunbury, Western Australia, is no stranger to the Summer Nationals, contesting several races on the schedule from 2017-2019. Unable to compete in the states due to travel restrictions from the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Stubber takes his recognizable yellow/orange Palice Property Group #31AUS back on the Hell Tour trail this year for a return to his favorite summer racing adventure.

Mick Quin, veteran racer from Hawke’s Bay, NZ, has been racing and winning around the Kiwi circuits of Baypark Speedway and Waikarara Park Speedway in the Super Saloon division – a Late Model-like class in similar power and construction, commonly raced in New Zealand. He’s been highly successful over the past few years racing a US-built Barry Wright ICON chassis against his local competition, and has now loaded up for Kankakee with a brand-new Barry Wright car and Clements engine strapped into his Quin Buildings Direct #23NZ.

ROLL CALL – In addition to each of the drivers mentioned previously, several other Late Model names are projected to join in at various intervals during Illinois-Iowa action, including (but not limited to): Mitch McGrath, Jeff Roth, Joe Godsey, Bob Gardner, Dennis Erb Jr., Ryan Unzicker, Mark Voigt, Brian Shirley, Jason Feger, Brenden Smith, Frank Heckenast Jr., Daryn Klein, Tanner English, Deshawn Gingerich, Justin Duty, Rich Dawson, Hunt Gossum and Billy Moyer Jr.