Column By: MIKE WARREN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – BARBERVILLE, FL – A blast of sunshine and one of the best driver rosters in Series history await the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models as they kick off their 2023 season at Volusia Speedway Park.
Fifteen drivers will begin their quest for the World of Outlaws championship when the season opens at Sunshine Nationals on Jan. 18-21.
After a night of practice on Wednesday, Jan. 18, the season officially commences with a pair of 25-lap, $8,000-to-win Features on Thursday, Jan. 19, and Friday, Jan. 20.
The weekend finishes in style on Saturday, Jan. 21, as drivers battle for $20,000 in a 50-lap finale.
A total of $160,000 in Feature purse money will be distributed throughout the weekend.
Championship contending drivers will get to drop their worst finish among the three races and not have it count toward their points – as long as all three races are completed.
Joining the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models at “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” are the DIRTcar Pro Late Models and 602 Late Models—making the event a true Late Model Palooza.
Here are the key storylines to watch at Sunshine Nationals:
Dennis Erb Jr. enters the 2023 season with a new title—defending World of Outlaws CASE Late Models champion.
The Carpentersville, IL driver, flanked by two-time Series Crew Chief of the Year Heather Lyne (2021,2022), returns to the track where last year’s title run began.
Erb started 2022 with a podium finish in the season opener and backed it up with a win at Volusia at DIRTcar Nationals.
He’s searching for his first Sunshine Nationals victory and has a top-five, and two top-10s in four starts at the event.
Back for More:
Erb isn’t the only driver back in 2023 with their eyes on the title, as six other drivers return from the 2022 campaign.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Tanner English leads the charge of drivers searching for their first championship with a change of scenery this season.
The three-time World of Outlaws winner now pilots the #96V Viper Motorsports entry owned by Shawn and Lisa Martin – a ride recently vacated by Max Blair, who also has a new ride this season.
Blair has teamed up with Boom Briggs to drive a second Briggs Transport car in 2023 as the two Pennsylvania drivers aim for their first title – and Briggs continues to battle for his first World of Outlaws win.
Gordy Gundaker, Ryan Gustin, and Brent Larson are also back with the Series this season and hope to get an excellent start to the season at Sunshine Nationals.
Gustin is the only driver out of this group with a win at Volusia, when he scored a DIRTcar Late Model victory during the 2022 DIRTcar Nationals.
The Drive For 5:
Brandon Sheppard has announced his return to the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models in 2022 and has the chance to add another piece of history to his resume.
The four-time champion already has the most wins in Series history (81) and begins his journey for most titles all-time at Sunshine Nationals—hoping to break the tie with Josh Richards (4).
However, this attempt at a championship will look different as it’s the first time Sheppard won’t be driving for Rocket1 Racing. The New Berlin, IL driver has teamed up with Scott Riggs in 2023 to start Sheppard-Riggs Racing and will pilot a Longhorn Chassis after several years in a Rocket.
So, this year he’ll be searching for his fifth Series title in his own #B5 Late Model.
Despite scoring eight wins at Volusia, he’s yet to finish in the top five at Sunshine Nationals. His best finish is seventh place on two occasions.
Sheppard’s closest championship rival from 2021, Chris Madden, has also thrown his name into the hat for the 2023 title.
The Gray Court, SC driver found success at Volusia last season, scoring two top-five finishes during Sunshine Nationals and backing it up with a win and three top-fives during DIRTcar Nationals.
“Smokey” enters the weekend with 33 career Series triumphs. However, like Sheppard, he’s searching for his first Sunshine Nationals win.
After finishing his season with a win at Cherokee Speedway last November, he’s also looking for back-to-back victories.
A vital part of the exciting 2023 roster are the drivers racing for Rookie of the Year honors.
Nick Hoffman, Johnny Scott, Logan Martin, Payton Freeman, Todd Cooney, and Dustin Walker will battle to be the top rookie this season—all of them searching for their first career Series victory.
Hoffman, from Mooresville, NC, is the only driver who’s scored a win at Volusia in his career, winning 22 times in a DIRTcar Modified.
Scott is the only driver out of the six who’s won a national touring event—both coming in 2022.
Will the Streak Continue:
This year’s Sunshine Nationals is the third annual event at Volusia Speedway Park. However, in the four Features contested, there have been no repeat winners.
Florida’s own Kyle Bronson opened the season with a win in 2021 before Kyle Strickler held off Scott Bloomquist for his first career Series triumph.
In 2022, a pair of Georgia drivers, Dale McDowell and Ashton Winger, found Victory Lane for their first Sunshine Nationals wins.
All four drivers are expected to be at the event and try to stake their claim as the first multi-time winner.