Column By: MIKE WARREN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CONCORD, NC – The World of Outlaws World Finals marks the crowning of a champion for the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models. However, there’s another battle to watch at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Nov. 1-4.
Entering the four-night finale to the 2023 season, six drivers have a chance to finish as high as fourth in the standings. Kyle Bronson, Ryan Gustin, Nick Hoffman, Brian Shirley, Tanner English, and Dennis Erb Jr. are separated by 42 points.
As those drivers battle for positions four through nine, there’s a $32,000 difference between the six spots in point fund money. The driver who finishes fourth wins $75,000, while the driver who finishes ninth gets $43,000 in point money. That’s added to the Winner’s Circle Bonus money drivers get for supporting the Series all season.
Championship Point Fund Money:
Here’s a look at the six drivers competing for the fourth position:
Kyle Bronson (4th place, 5022 points):
In his first full-time season with the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models, Kyle Bronson has found success throughout the season, climbing back to fourth in the standings after a sixth at Brownstown Speedway and a fifth at Fairbury Speedway. However, there’s very little breathing room for the Brandon, FL driver, who is only eight points ahead of Gustin and 10 points in front of Hoffman and Shirley.
Entering World Finals, Bronson has one win, 11 top fives, and 22 top 10s.
He’s made one World Finals start in his career, finishing 14th in 2016.
Ryan Gustin (5th place, 5014 points):
Ryan Gustin is amid his best World of Outlaws CASE Late Model season, despite dropping back to fifth after Brownstown and Fairbury. Gustin earned three wins, coming at Marion Center Raceway, Sharon Speedway, and River Cities Speedway, along with adding 12 top fives and 22 top 10s.
In eight starts at Charlotte, the Marshalltown, IA driver’s best finish is 14th twice. One of them was last season’s first Feature.
Gustin said he realizes how tough it is to race against the best Dirt Late Model racing has to offer in this event.
“It’s obviously going to be tough,” Gustin said. “We haven’t run well at Charlotte here the last few years that we’ve been there. So, hopefully, we can qualify good and get some good runs, and put ourselves in a position to get back to fourth. We’ve had a string of bad luck here lately that’s enabled those guys to close on us. We’ll see what we get.”
Nick Hoffman (6th place, 5012 points):
Germfree Rookie of the Year Nick Hoffman hit the ground running in his first year with the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models, hovering around the top five in the standings all year.
The Mooresville, NC driver earned his first career victory with the Series in May at Stateline Speedway and added 13 top fives and 23 top 10s entering Charlotte.
While he’s made four World Finals starts in his career, his best finish at the event is 13th in 2023. However, he’s been successful at the facility before, winning three times at the World Short Track Championship in his DIRTcar Modified.
Hoffman said he believes Qualifying will have a significant impact on who grabs the $75,000 prize for finishing fourth in the standings.
“If you put yourself behind at the beginning of the night, it’s so much harder to dig out of that hole for a guy on this weekend than it is anywhere else,” Hoffman said. “You just have to look at it and try and finish ahead of those guys. It’s going to really come down to those Qualifying laps more than anything. Charlotte is a place I really enjoy, and I was able to make some laps earlier this week and felt really good. So, I look for a decent run there.”
Brian Shirley (7th place, 5012 points):
Brian Shirley has hovered around the top five in the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models points standings for most of the season. Entering World Finals, he’s still on the cusp of getting back there—currently tied in points with Nick Hoffman and only two points behind Ryan Gustin for fifth.
Shirley’s best weekend of the season came in June when he won at Paducah International Raceway, after a second-place run at Tri-City Speedway. In total, Shirley has eight top fives and 23 top 10s.
However, something that’s unique in Shirley’s quest to climb to fourth in the standings is he’s chasing his best friend, Kyle Bronson. The two are inseparable off the track, and now they’ll get to battle for position at the end of the year.
In eight starts at Charlotte, Shirley’s best finish is an eighth in 2007.
Tanner English (8th place, 4984 points):
Tanner English knows the winning formula at Charlotte, earning one of the biggest wins of his career at last year’s World Finals. Another victory may be the jolt he needs to climb into the top five on the season’s final weekend.
The Benton, KY driver has sat on the podium nine times this year, trailing only Bobby Pierce and Brandon Sheppard, but is still searching for his first win this year. English earned 10 top fives and 23 top 10s in his first season with Viper Motorsports, with many of those top fives coming in races 50 laps or more—like the season finale on Saturday night.
He said he understands what’s ahead of him this weekend and how much money is on the line.
“We have to be consistent these last three races and finish up front,” English said. “I think we can gain some ground. It’s a long shot, maybe to get to fourth, but we can definitely get a few spots. I feel like we’d already be there if we didn’t have a few bad luck spells. But it is what it is. We had some good luck last year, and maybe this year will be our year. We’ll just see how it plays out.”
In three starts at Charlotte, English has two top 10 finishes and a win.
Dennis Erb Jr. (9th place, 4980):
Defending Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. has a hill to climb to get back into the top-five in points before the end of the season but is riding a wave on consistency into Charlotte.
In his last 21 World of Outlaws starts, the Carpentersville, IL driver has only finished outside the top 10 on three occasions, including seven top five finishes.
It’s consistency, Erb said, that’s the key to a strong finish in 2023.
“We just have to run good each night,” Erb said. “The car’s been working good, and everything’s been going really good. But we get caught up in a few things that set us back a little bit. We have to hope things just stay clean, and we just keep doing what we’re doing and get a few more wins before the year is out.”
Erb has also been consistent at Charlotte in recent years. In his last 13 starts, he has a win, five top fives, and eight top 10s. He joins English as the only other driver out of this group with a World Finals victory.
The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models cap off their 2023 season at the World of Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte on Nov. 1-4, along with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars and Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds.