WHAT TO WATCH FOR: 39th Summer Nationals Kicks Off With National Stars, New Faces in Illinois

Tyler Erb, past champions Erb Jr. and Feger plus Hunt the Front regulars all scheduled to race
Josh James Artwork

DIRTcar Summer Nationals is back for its 39th season with Week 1 running Wednesday through Sunday.

Featuring the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Models and the Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals, Week 1 of the Hell Tour makes five stops at five tracks, highlighted by some of DIRTcar’s most historic venues.

Peoria Speedway hosts the first race on Wednesday, June 12. The 1/4-mile bullring in Peoria, IL, has hosted the season opener twice before – once in 2018 and again last year. From there, the Late Models and DIRTcar Summit Modifieds will travel to Kankakee County Speedway on Thursday, Tri-City Speedway on Friday and Fairbury Speedway on Saturday. The Late Models will then head to Sycamore Speedway on Sunday, while the Modifieds will have the day off.

The Late Model championship points fund will, again, be distributed on a weekly basis, awarding $10,000 to the champion of each week, plus bonus checks to the rest of the top-10 in each week’s final points. Four-time Summer Nationals champion Brian Shirley won the Week 1 points title last year, garnering three wins in the five races contested.

Separate points standings will be kept for each week in addition to the overall standings, which will award an additional $10,000 check to the champion of the 39th DIRTcar Summer Nationals following the final race at Wayne County Speedway in Ohio on Sunday, July 14. Ashton Winger, of Hampton, GA, clinched the overall championship in 2023, becoming the first driver from the state of Georgia to do so.

Tickets for each event in Week 1 will be on sale at the track on race day. Tickets for the event at Fairbury Speedway are also on sale in advance by clicking here.

If you can’t attend the race nearest you, watch every lap of every race live all summer with a subscription to DIRTVision.

Here are the drivers to watch and storylines to follow in Week 1:

HIT THE TERBO – Tyler Erb has been sure to make at least one appearance with the Summer Nationals in three of the last four years. But in 2024, he’ll kick off his summer racing schedule on the Hell Tour, scheduled to compete in all five events in Week 1.

Erb, 27, of New Waverly, TX, is a four-time Summer Nationals Feature winner who last won with the tour in 2021 when he scored the win in the Summer Nationals’ return to Red Hill Raceway for the first time since 2000. Last year, Erb made one appearance, notching a fifth-place run at Sycamore Speedway – where he’ll race again this Sunday.

A national touring regular since 2017, Erb and the Ohio-based Best Performance Motorsports team recently announced their decision to leave the national circuit in favor of a pick-and-choose schedule for the rest of 2024, opening them up to more diverse races including the Summer Nationals. Erb already has three wins this year, including one at the Summer Nationals staple Adams County (IL) Raceway in Quincy.

TEAM GREEN – Defending DIRTcar Late Model national points champion Jason Feger is projected to contest each race in Week 1, visiting two tracks he’s won at on the Hell Tour before.

Feger, the 2010 Summer Nationals champion from Bloomington, IL, is a past winner on tour at Peoria, winning the 2009 stop at the 1/4-mile oval, and has two wins at Tri-City – once in 2009 and again in 2010.

Last year, the 46-year-old Feger and his team’s signature black-and-green colors went to Victory Lane three times with the Summer Nationals and collected two weekly points championships. He also clinched the MARS Late Model championship and won a total of 16 Features throughout the year, earning him his second national DIRTcar points championship.

WEEKEND WARRIORS – This week, Summit Modified Nationals ventures to three weekly venues for DIRTcar UMP Modified racing, each with their own host of talent projected to join the field this week.

Charles Hess, of Peoria, IL, tops the standings at Peoria with two wins in three starts this year. Veteran racer Dave Wietholder, of Liberty, IL, won the first race of the year on May 11.

At Kankakee, Mike McKinney rules the weekly competition with two wins in three starts. The former DIRTcar Stock Car national champion from Plainfield, IL, is an 18-time Summit Modified winner.

Fairbury is home to Michael Ledford, the three-time and defending UMP Modified track champion. Ledford, 19, of Pontiac, IL, has one win and four top-fives in five starts there this year.

ILLINOIS’ FINEST – 2022 World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model champion Dennis Erb Jr. makes multiple appearances with the Summer Nationals each season, and this week is scheduled to take on all five races.

Erb, from Carpentersville, IL, is a three-time Summer Nationals champion and 25-time Feature winner with the tour, and last won in back-to-back fashion with a sweep of the World of Outlaws Late Models/Summer Nationals co-sanctioned events at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in 2022. In his 25 tour victories, three of them came at tracks he’ll visit in Week 1 – Kankakee (2007); Peoria (2007); Tri-City (2017).

Erb has been competing regularly with the World of Outlaws in 2024 but has yet to reach Victory Lane. His one Feature win this season came in DIRTcar competition at Tennessee’s Clarksville Speedway in March during the track’s annual Tuckassee Toilet Bowl Classic.

FARMERS, INC. – Coltman Farms Racing teammates Tanner English and David McCoy have made public their plans to contest each race in Week 1.

English, 31, of Benton, KY, is a four-time Summer Nationals Feature winner – three of which have come in the last three seasons. He’s competed with the Summer Nationals on occasion since moving to the national Late Model ranks at the turn of the decade, most recently scoring wins at Tri-City in 2021, Highland Speedway in 2022 and Spoon River Speedway in 2022.

McCoy, 46, of Franklin, NC, will make his Summer Nationals debut at Peoria. The former Crate-engine racer has won over 450 races across the Southeast in his career and will attempt to add a win with another series new to him this week.

WAY DOWN SOUTH – The Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series is the Southeast’s newest Super Late Model racing tour, which operated their first full-length season under DIRTcar sanctioning in 2023. This weekend, multiple Series regulars are projected to be in attendance on the Hell Tour.

Founded by brothers Joshua Joiner, Jonathan Joiner and Joseph Joiner in 2022, the Series is operated alongside the family’s race team, which has been competing in various Southeast Late Model events since the early 2010s. Joseph pilots the team’s flagship Longhorn Chassis No. 10 and is currently scheduled to compete in all races during Week 1, marking his first Hell Tour starts since his debut at Lincoln Speedway in 2013.

Fellow Hunt the Front championship chasers Trey Mills and Jackson Hise are also projected to be in action during Week 1. The 16 and 17-year-old Florida racers have never competed with the Summer Nationals but were both in action with DIRTcar last weekend during the 30th running of the Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway in Ohio.