Jimmy Mars Announces Retirement; USMTS Champ Dustin Sorensen Fills Seat For Mars Racing
Story By: RYAN DELPH / MARS RACING – MENOMONIE, WI – After 37 years in the seat of a race car, Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Jimmy Mars is announcing his retirement from racing today effective immediately.
Jimmy, who started racing locally in 1985 in a Street Stock at the age of only thirteen, exploded onto the Dirt Late Model scene with his ‘USA Nationals’ victory in 1996 at the renowned Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wisconsin and in 1997 with his thrilling $100,000 triumph in the ‘Dirt Late Model Dream’ at the famed Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. The latter was a race Jimmy almost didn’t even attend because of his duties on the family farm, but a win that made him a household name across the industry.
From there, Jimmy went on to star on the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series (UDTRA) where he racked up twelve career series victories and finished as high as second in the point standings in 2004 when the tour was rebranded as the Stacker2 Xtreme DirtCar Series. The Menomonie, Wisconsin star also finished second in the DIRTcar Summer Nationals point standings in 2005 and amassed a total of seven career “Hell Tour” wins. His last stint full-time with a series came back in 2013 when he was third in the final point tally for the short-lived National Dirt Racing League (NDRL). He also has multiple national wins with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, and the Short Track Auto Racing Stars (STARS) series on his illustrious resume. Jimmy also dabbled in asphalt racing early in his storied career and was the 1999 NASCAR RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year.
While Jimmy enjoyed a strong season in his final year of racing by claiming eleven feature wins in 2022, his 2009 campaign will go into the record book as his best season and one of the standout years in modern Dirt Late Model racing. Before there were $40,000 and $50,000 to win races every weekend, which is becoming the norm now, Jimmy bagged a trio of $50,000 paychecks in 2009 by winning the ‘USA Nationals’ at Cedar Lake (WI) Speedway, the ‘North/South 100’ at Florence (KY) Speedway, and the ‘Dirt Track World Championship’ in the historic event’s lone visit to Lawrenceburg (IN) Speedway. The popular driver known as “The Iceman” also won the ‘Firecracker 100’ at Lernerville (PA) Speedway and the ‘Prairie Dirt Classic’ at Fairbury (IL) Speedway in 2009, while finishing on the podium in second in the ‘Show-Me 100’ at West Plains (MO) Motor Speedway and in third in the ‘Topless 100’ at Batesville (AR) Motor Speedway.
Not just in that incredible 2009 season, but throughout his career, Jimmy and his Mars Racing team were able to show out in some of the sport’s biggest races – both nationally and closer to home. Jimmy is an 8x winner of the ‘Punky Manor Challenge of Champions’ at his hometown Red Cedar (WI) Speedway, a 5x winner of the ‘Masters’ at Cedar Lake (WI) Speedway, a 5x winner of the ‘Mahder 55’ at Red Cedar, a 5x winner of the ‘Red Clay Classic’ at ABC (WI) Raceway, a 3x winner of the ‘Silver 1000’ in Proctor, Minnesota, a 3x winner of the ‘WISSOTA 100,’ a 2x winner of the ‘Topless 100’ at Batesville (AR) Motor Speedway, a 2x winner of the ‘USA Nationals’ at Cedar Lake (WI) Speedway, a 2x winner of the ‘Firecracker 100’ at Lernerville (PA) Speedway, and a 2x winner of the ‘Prairie Dirt Classic’ at Fairbury (IL) Speedway. He also recorded single special event victories in the 1997 ‘Dirt Late Model Dream,’ the 2008 ‘National 100,’ the 2009 ‘North/South 100, the 2009 ‘Dirt Track World Championship,’ and the 2012 ‘Illini 100.’
“The time has come for me to get out of the driver’s seat and have another role within Mars Racing,” quoted Jimmy Mars today. “I’m excited to work closer with our drivers, the guys here in the shop, as well as my sons Sam and Taylor as they progress in their racing careers. Even though I’ll be in a different role, you’ll still see me at the racetrack working alongside my brother Chris (Mars) with our House Car program and making sure our MB Customs drivers stay on the cutting edge of technology and information.”
“For some of my fans, this announcement may cause a little sadness, but I truly do appreciate all of the people I’ve met over the years at tracks all across the country,” Mars continued to say. “Those who didn’t like me are probably happy today and there are probably fans out there that could care less about me retiring – and that’s ok too. Along with the fans, I have to really thank my parents, my brother Chris, and the entire family – especially my wife Krista. Her and the boys made a lot of sacrifices over the years while I have been gone racing and over the past decade, I have really come to realize that time does fly. I don’t imagine that time will slow down in the next decade either, so it will be nice to be around my family more that I’m retired from driving.”
“I also have to thank all of my crew guys through the years especially my brother Chris and Jeff (Harrison) and of course all of the loyal sponsors that made my career possible including, but not limited to Veit & Company, Vonco, Deppe Enterprises, T.L. Sinz Plumbing, Keyes Chevytown, Baileigh Industrial, Mid-States Equipment & Hydraulics and even going back in the day to Parker Store and Stacker2. I really enjoyed racing against the stars of the past, the stars of the present, and probably some kids that are going to be the stars of the future in this sport. It’s been a heck of a ride and I’ve got a lifetime of great racing memories to fondly look back on, but for Mars Racing and MB Customs – we are far from being done!”
With Jimmy’s retirement announcement, a new era is also being ushered in for the Mars Racing team. Starting at the ‘Wild West Shootout’ at Vado Speedway Park in Vado, New Mexico in early January 2023, Dustin Sorensen will be behind the wheel of the familiar yellow Veit & Company / Vonco / Deppe Enterprises #28 MB Customs / Pro Power machine. The young 22-year-old driver from Rochester, Minnesota has been hired by Jimmy to take over the seat of the MB Customs House Car for Mars Racing. There will also be additional guest drivers throughout the season in select special events.
Dustin is fresh off picking up a $100,000 payday for capturing the 2022 United States Modified Touring Series (USMTS) title and he also won the 2021 USRA Modified point championship. Coming off a five-win season on the USMTS circuit, Dustin is ready to make the leap to full-time Late Model racing and will try to fill the shoes of a Hall of Famer.
“I don’t think I could be more excited and enthused to be hired on as the driver for Mars Racing in 2023,” exclaimed Sorensen in a recent telephone conversation. “Jimmy won a lot of big races during his career – he is someone I really look up to and it will be hard to follow in his footsteps, but I know the guys will provide me with everything possible to win races. Having worked at Mars Race Cars for four years now while attending college in Menomonie, I know everything is in place with Mars Racing to be very, very successful. I am extremely grateful and humbled that all of their sponsors and marketing partners are returning for 2023 and I can’t wait for our season to get started in New Mexico in early January!”
The feeling of excitement for 2023 and beyond is very mutual according to Mars. “There are a ton of reasons why I selected Dustin (Sorensen) to be our House Car driver, but a few of them include his strong work ethic, his humility, his talent behind the wheel, his marketability to our partners, and he just flat out knows how to win races. He has accomplished quite a lot for such a short career and I can’t wait to work closely with him and watch him grow as a driver. All of our sponsors and supporters are back on board with us next year and while it will be weird to watch the yellow #28 go around the racetrack without me in it, I have all the faith in the world that Dustin will achieve great things behind the wheel for Mars Racing!”