Story By: NICK GRAZIANO / DIRTCAR – CONCORD, NC – The DIRTVision Hornets brought everything to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Friday night. Joy. Heartbreak. Surprise. Healing.
With over 60 cars entered for the eighth annual World Short Track Championship, the division took center stage with three 15-lap Features at the end of the night.
The first saw joy with Dan Benson claiming his second straight World Short Track victory. The second saw surprise with Zachary Slone driving from 15th to the win. And the third saw healing with Wayne Taylor scoring an emotional win in memory of his stepson with a last lap pass.
Here’s how each Feature played out:
FEATURE #1: After winning the final World Short Track DIRTVision Hornet Feature in 2022 – his first – Benson picked up where he left off for the 2023 edition.
The Lancaster, SC driver was the fastest car in Hot Laps Thursday night and then dominated the first Feature of the night, leading all 15 laps.
By the luck of the draw, he started on the pole for the first race. So, when the green flag flew, he took off running. While the drivers behind him argued over positions second through fifth, Benson gapped them by about half a second every lap.
Lap cars gave him a few scares, nearly running him into the wall, but Benson kept his foot in the throttle and powered by each unscathed.
“We studied,” Benson said about his prep for World Short Track. “I’ve got a great crew. Great sponsors… This is by far my favorite track. We don’t get to do a whole lot of racing. We get the pill draw and our mains. Really, that’s good enough for me coming here. Just the scale of it all. From your weekly racetracks to Charlotte, they just put on a phenomenal show here. I love coming every year.”
Mitchell Coggins finished second after starting fourth and Carl Cole made the charge from 11th to third.
Jonathan Sarratt was the hard charger of the race, going from 15th to fifth. Just behind him with nine spots gained were Kylee Lewis, who went from 16th seventh, and Kenneth Colf, who went from 19th to 10th.
RESULTS (15 laps):
Feature #1 (15 Laps): 1. 21C-Dan Benson; 2. 212-Mitchell Coggins; 3. 12X-Carl Cole; 4. 1H-Justin Harris; 5. 11S-Jonathan Sarratt; 6. 21W-Marc White; 7. 2-Kylee Laws; 8. 66-Mike Crickmore; 9. 2D-Daniel Tate; 10. 15-Kenneth Colf; 11. 27-Chris Jaret; 12. 19-Willie Fowler; 13. 513-Charles Jones; 14. D2-Danny Tate; 15. T3JR-Riley Hill; 16. 11V-Tyler Vaughan; 17. 38-Rodney Grant; 18. 22-Trent Blackwell; 19. 1X-Hunter Wallace; 20. 21A-Adam Warr
FEATURE #2: Zachary Slone already knew how to fight his way through a field to win at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, having raced from ninth to score his first World Short Track Championship victory in 2022. But this year, he had to fighter from even deeper.
Slone started 15th in the second Feature of the night and made the most of every second he had to charge forward.
In a wild first lap, Ricky Weaver went from fifth to the lead in the first corner and Slone went from 15th to sixth by the end of the first lap.
Weaver held the lead for the first half of the race, while Steven Herring and Andrew Rich dueled for second close behind.
After a restart with seven laps to go, Herring challenged Weaver for the lead and Dale Bennett decided to sneak in on the fun with a huge run to make a three-wide battle for the lead. Herring prevailed, leaving Weaver and Bennett to fight for second.
However, their argument ended with Weaver fading back and Bennett having an issue that forced him to retire from the race.
With six laps to go, a caution brought the field back together, putting Andrew Rich on Herring’s bumper. However, when the race resumed, both quickly found themselves having to fend off Slone, who had charged from fifth to third in a lap.
Ripping around the high side of the 4/10-mile track, Slone powered his way by both drivers and led the final four laps of the Feature.
“I dropped to the bottom on the restart and about passed them all, but the clutch was slipping,” Slone said. “I knew I had to start bumping a little bit because I wasn’t going to be able to pass anyone on the bottom. Tried to keep it clean. Wasn’t trying to take anyone out or anything. It worked out for us.”
Herring threw one more Hail Mary on the final lap, getting to Slone’s bumper in the final corner but didn’t have enough to catch him before the finish line.
“Zach got by with a couple to go and I could get him on entry, but I didn’t have as much horsepower as he had,” Herring said. “It was fun. I had a run on him coming to the checkers and leaned on him a little bit to slow him down, but it didn’t work. I’m happy with a second.”
RESULTS (15 laps):
1. 91Z-Zachary Slone; 2. 78-Steven Herring; 3. 0-Shawn Peche; 4. 4-Daniel Wright; 5. 21-Ricky Weaver; 6. 5-Reggie Twing; 7. 359-Michael Lambert; 8. 328-Christopher Gardner; 9. 47-Michael Gelhausen; 10. 11J-Jaycob Johnson; 11. B1-Dale Bennett; 12. A53-Austin Haskin; 13. M81-Mason Stancil; 14. 17-Yem Sanlaeid; 15. 58-Ronnie Hall; 16. 5B-Chris Baker; 17. 13X-Ben Messer; 18. 8-Charles Johnson; 19. (DQ) A00-Andrew Rich
FEATURE #3: Wayne Taylor’s stepson told him he had to race at the World Short Track Championship.
He’d raced there himself and told Taylor how special of an experience it would be. But after Taylor’s stepson passed away, it became special in a different way.
Taylor started on the pole for the third DIRTVision Hornet Feature of the night and jumped out to the early lead on the start. He held command out front before an early caution brought the field back together.
On the restart, Jonathan Sarratt, driving his second car, got a strong start and launched ahead of Taylor for the lead. Shortly after, Travis Lankford also got by him and moved into second.
Taylor wasn’t ready to give up though. Running high, he pulled back to Lankford’s rear bumper as the two caught Sarratt by the halfway point.
With seven laps to go, Taylor squeezed between Lankford and the wall to move back into second. Next, Sarratt.
Taylor closed to about half a second back from the leader with five laps to go. But then, he faded a couple tenths the next lap. And a couple more the next.
He still wasn’t ready to give up. He wanted that win.
Continuing to run the top lane, he closed back to a half a second with two laps to go. Then, he could about reach out and touch Sarratt’s bumper on the final lap.
Entering Turn 3, with the flagger watching and waiting to wave the checkered flag, Taylor threw his #14 car into the turn around the outside of Sarratt. Holding the throttle with confidence, he powered past Sarratt down the front stretch and earned his first World Short Track Championship victory.
“It was rough at the beginning,” Taylor said. “I was making a driver boo-boo, letting the crew down. But, got my mind back right. Found the perfect time to make my move. I knew where I was better than he was. I was hoping I had room to slide in front of him. It all worked out.
“My stepson, he run up here years ago, and he’s no longer with us, and it is very emotional for us. He always told me, if I ever started racing, you got to go to Charlotte, it’ll be an experience. I finished third and then second. Finally broke the ice.”
Sarratt was disqualified after the race, moving up the rest of the field behind him. David McManus finished second and Brad McManus ended up rounding out the podium.
RESULTS (15 laps):
1. 14-Wayne Taylor; 2. 25X-David McManus; 3. 3B-Brad McManus; 4. F1-Travis Lankford; 5. 91-Shawn Payne; 6. 5R-Rusty E Catoe; 7. 00W-Michael Wallace; 8. 25J-Josh Whitfield; 9. 18-Josh Paschal; 10. 17P-Rocco Procaccini; 11. 27M-Keitha Martin; 12. 18E-William Estep; 13. 1B-Kayli Wallace; 14. 4T-Tyler Smith; 15. 78F-Ethan Fowler; 16. 243-Seth Smith; 17. 888-Tyler Hopkins; 18. A2-Carson Venable; 19. 41G-Parker Griffin; 20. (DQ) 00-Jonathan Sarratt
The DIRTVision Hornets return for three more Features during the final night of the eighth annual World Short Track Championship at The Dirt Track at Charlotte on Saturday, Oct. 28.