Story By: JORDAN DELUCIA / DIRTCAR – CONCORD, NC – The green flag will soon fall on the Drydene World Short Track Championship, which brings the best in weekly racing to The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the biggest race on the fall calendar.
The sixth annual edition of this prestigious event will see more than 300 teams make the pilgrimage to one of Speedway Motorsports Incorporated’s most immaculate facilities – a 4/10-mile, red-clay oval, across the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway – to compete Thu-Sat, Oct. 28-30, open to spectators in the grandstands or streaming live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
Nine different classes make up the program, from full-size, open-engine UMP Modifieds to Chevy Performance Crate Engine Late Models, all the way to front-wheel drive Hornets.
The event commences Thursday night with a round of practice for all divisions and four All-Star Championship Features for the FOX Factory Pro Late Models, Summit Racing Equipment UMP Modifieds, VP Racing Fuels Sportsman Modifieds and SRI Performance Pro Stocks. A new format comes to these races this year, where Qualifying sessions will be held for all four divisions after all Hot Laps are complete.
The top-10 quickest drivers will be locked into the first five rows of these 20-lap Features. The final 10 starters will be made up of track champions, series champions, past event winners and the like, as selected by DIRTcar officials.
Friday and Saturday will consist of Heat Races, Last Chance Showdowns and Championship Feature events, awarding a boatload of prize money, trophies, contingencies and superlatives, all while making memories drivers will have for a lifetime.
A brand-new Chevy Performance 604 Crate engine will also be given away to one lucky competitor via random drawing at the drivers meeting on Saturday afternoon, in addition to the Sportsman of the Year Award presentations by Drydene Performance Products President Dave Klinger.
Here are the drivers to watch and the storylines to follow this weekend…
Both DIRTcar Northeast divisions return to the roster this weekend after a year off due to pandemic/travel restrictions.
Andrew Buff claimed the 2021 DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Points championship and will lead a stout field of drivers into Charlotte for the fifth time in event history. Kevin Ridley, who won the All-Star Invitational Feature in 2019, is scheduled to compete, as well as Robert Bublak, who ran second to winner Jackson Gill in 2019.
Luke Horning was the most recent Pro Stock Feature winner in 2019 and will lead the division southward, looking for some redemption after a sour end to his NAPA Super DIRT Week campaign two weekends ago, getting into an incident and retiring after starting on the pole. Pete Stefanski has also pre-entered and will be in the field this weekend, trying to best his third-place debut from two years ago.
Since World Short Track’s inception in 2016, two men have dominated the UMP Modified division. Kyle Strickler has won the Saturday finale three times (2016, 2017, 2020), while defending DIRTcar National champion Nick Hoffman has won twice (2018-2019). Each also has an All-Star Feature win to their credit.
But this year might just be the field’s best chance to knock them off. Last year, Strickler was the man to beat all weekend, but Chris Arnold, from Matoaca, VA, hung tough inside the podium all race long to finish second in his very first start in the event, while Hoffman came from 23rd to finish third.
Arnold, along with several other big names in the division such as David Stremme, Curt Spalding and three-time NASCAR Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will aim for Victory Lane and the $4,000 prize as first-time World Short Track winners.
Every year, the Pro Late Model division sees a big-time surprise entrant join its stacked field. Jonathan Davenport, of Blairsville, GA, took the checkered flag in 2017 in a car owned by St. Augustine, FL-based team Revolution Racing. Michael Brown, of Lancaster, SC, is the division’s leading and only two-time winner, which he established in 2018 and 2019.
Fellow Super Late Model stars Kyle Bronson, Mark Whitener, Ross Bailes, Brandon Overton, Zach Dohm and Chris Ferguson have all made appearances in the main event, and with the national/regional Super Late Model tours wrapping up around this time, several more could certainly join the roster.
John Ruggiero was victorious in the Saturday finale last year, leading all 30 laps and holding off Bronson for the win to collect the $4,000 grand prize. Ruggiero is pre-entered to compete again this weekend, where he’ll play defense against another hungry field of full-fendered talent.
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
The first four editions of the Drydene World Short Track Championship were ruled by Street Stock standout Mitchell Duvall. The Gaffney, SC-racer, and son of Dirt Late Model Hall-of-Famer Mike Duvall missed the event last year and was replaced atop the division throne by the man he beat to his fourth title in 2019 – Calob McLaughlin.
McLaughlin, of Belmont, NC, took the checkered flag in a time-limited Feature last year to become only the second Street Stock Feature winner in event history. This weekend, he’ll be back to try and defend his crown against fellow Street Stock contenders Ricky Greene, Damon Crump and Chris Rice.
DOUBLE DUTY DUDES
A host of multi-division talent will take to the track this weekend, several of which have run well at The Dirt Track before.
• John Ruggiero (Pro  and 602 Late Model) – The Lincolnton, NC-native is the defending winner of the Pro Late Model division. This will be his second year doubling up after a sixth-place run in the 602 division last year.
• Steven Axtell Jr. (UMP Modified and Pro Modified) – Making his World Short Track debut last year, Axtell will attempt his first UMP Modified start after a seventh-place Pro Modified finish in 2020.
• Mike Davidson (602 Late Model, Pro Modified) – Davidson, of Alto, GA, had a career-best run of third after starting on the pole of the 602 Late Model Feature in 2019. He attempts his first Pro Modified Feature start in the event this weekend.
• Terry Caples (602 Late Model and Mini Stock) – The Sumter, SC-driver debuted in the Mini Stock division in 2019, leading the field to the green from the pole. He’ll attempt his first 602 Late Model Feature start this weekend.
• Ricky Greene (Pro  Late Model and Street Stock) – Greene, of Newton, NC, has finished third three times in Drydene Street Stock competition. This weekend, he attempts his first Pro Late Model Feature start.
• Bryan Mullis (Pro , 602 Late Models) – Mullis, of Rock Hill, SC, will pull double duty for the second-straight year after scoring his first victory last year. He was declared the winner of the 602 Late Model Feature last year after Colton Trouille was disqualified for failing post-race technical inspection.
• Austin Holcombe (UMP Modified and Pro Modified) – Holcombe has competed in every World Short Track UMP Modified Feature thus far, his best finish of eighth coming just last year. This year, he’ll do the double behind the wheel of both Midwestern Modified types for the first time, chasing a possible $5,500 if he can win both.