Column By: MIKE WARREN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – SENOIA, GA – A stout field of regional competitors is expected anytime the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models travel to the Southeast. But when the Series returns to Senoia Raceway on Saturday, Oct. 2, they’ll battle an unforgettable opponent.
One who’s already conquered them in 2021…Ashton Winger.
The Hampton, GA driver won a thriller over Chase Junghans by 0.107 sec. during the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway last month and now has the chance to win in front of his home crowd.
Winger already found success at the Senoia, GA facility this season, scoring two victories. However, he knows his competitors, and the track, will be a challenge.
“It’s so technical to get around,” Winger said. “It gets as slick as [Magnolia Motor Speedway] or [East Bay Raceway Park] gets, but the shape of the racetrack makes it where the racetrack changes so much.
“From Lap 1 to Lap 40 or 50, I promise, I don’t care if you’re leading or running 20th; you’re going to have to move to every line at some point.”
October 2 is the Series’ third journey to Senoia, after stops in 2017 and 2018. Chris Madden and Brandon Sheppard each found Victory Lane, and Winger expects them to be contenders again.
“Madden always runs well here; he’s always a tough customer when they come,” Winger said. “[Sheppard’s] won here before. This is a Ricky Weiss-type racetrack. I expect Ryan Gustin to be really good, and Tyler Bruening’s kind of getting on a heater.
“I’ve raced with Madden ten times at this place, and every time I’ve raced him, it’s been for the lead.”
A win at Senoia would be Winger’s third career World of Outlaws win and ninth of 2021. Six of those victories came with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals.
Winger calls his World of Outlaws triumph at Cedar Lake in August a breath of fresh air after a tough start to the season in February.
“I was really glad to get my second [World of Outlaws] win to prove the first one wasn’t really a fluke,” Winger said. “I don’t want to say it’s a sigh of relief or anything like that, because in a way, that would be me saying we’re surprised that we’re running good and I’m not. We’re fast, we’ve been fast, for I feel like, three years now.”
The 21-year-old won his first World of Outlaws race last year and was on track for another full-time run with the Series in 2021 before the deal with his team fell through. Back behind the wheel of his family car this year, Winger has spent the season rebuilding. Not only his team but his confidence.
It’s shown with six wins on the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model tour and finishing second in points.
Winger hopes to keep his momentum from the summer going as he relishes another chance to conquer a Morton Buildings Feature worth $10,000.
Winger and The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet will travel to Senoia Raceway on Saturday, Oct. 2, after making a stop at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC, on Friday, Oct. 1.
Larson takes leap in 2021: Lake Elmo, MN Driver Riding A Career High With WoO In ’21
Change. That’s one word to describe Brent Larson’s 2021 season with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series.
This year, the Lake Elmo, MN driver, made two adjustments leading to his best season with the Series. And with four races remaining – including the Oct. 1 event at Cherokee Speedway, Oct. 2 event at Senoia Raceway and then the NGK NTK World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte (Nov. 4-6) – he still has goals to do better.
One of those critical changes was switching to a Rocket Chassis after driving a Longhorn and Barry Wright Race Car last season. Driving a Rocket has allowed him to ask fellow Rocket teams on tour for advice while on the road.
“I think our chassis switch has helped, having had some guys to work with that have the same brand of chassis I do,” Larson said. “I really didn’t have that the last years I ran the tour; I was like the only Longhorn for a while, then we had a Barry (Wright) car at the end of last year, and even then, my results got better.
“The big thing is having some other racers and teams I can bounce things off of on the road with the Rocket Chassis.”
Another change that’s helped Larson this season is who’s working on that Rocket Chassis. Earlier this year, he hired Donnie Birdwell as his crew chief. It’s a change Larson stated has been beneficial.
“[Birdwell’s] been a consistent, stable, non-dramatic guy I can count on and help utilize to put fires out instead of him causing fires too,” Larson said.
Those two adjustments have made it easier to adapt on the road. In Larson’s fourth season with the World of Outlaws, he’s seen tracks multiple times allowing him to hit the ground running.
“We’ve seen some of these tracks now three or four times, which still isn’t that many compared to any of those tracks up in PA or South Carolina, and you’re racing against guys who race there every week,” Larson said. “Getting the experience on more of the tracks and tires and developing a notebook has been helpful.”
Changes aren’t only impacting Larson on the road but also at home. Earlier this season, his son Matthew started his racing career near the family’s Minnesota dwelling. It’s given Larson a new perspective on the racing world.
“It has been rewarding, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing this,” Larson said. “I’ve had a lot of fun coaching him and having him listen to my input and seeing him improve at a really quick rate has been fun and rewarding.
“It’s a different aspect, and maybe it gives me a little glimpse or look at what things may look like someday when I get out from behind the wheel.”
As the season starts to wind down for the Lake Elmo, MN driver, he knows time is running out to pick up his first World of Outlaws win. He’s hoping to finish the year on a good note, even if it means missing out on a trip to Victory Lane. Currently, he sits eighth in points – his previous best was 9th in 2019 – with eight top-10s and two top-fives – the most he’s collected in a year.
“Honestly, I missed a chunk of my goals I had set for myself this year,” Larson said. “I’m glad we’re going to Senoia [Raceway]; I really like that track. Cherokee is kind of hit or miss for me, and the same with Charlotte.
“I’m not setting super huge goals for the rest of the year; I’d like to get myself another top-five at Senoia at least and maybe have a good run at the rest of the two.”
Even if he doesn’t grab that top five finish at Senoia, he’s still building toward 2022.
His changes this year propelled him to the best season of his career—a path that could take Larson to new heights if he continues in the same direction.
Larson and the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models are back in action on Friday, Oct. 1, for the Mike Duvall Memorial at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC.