Column By: NICK GRAZIANO / DIRTCAR – CONCORD, NC – The Dirt Track at Charlotte is “Where Local Heroes Become World Champions” during the eighth annual World Short Track Championship, Oct. 26-28.
More than 300 drivers, divided among 10 divisions, will gather in Concord, NC for the fall marquee event – arguably the biggest event of the year for most of them as it’s the one they all want to win.
From weekly racers to national stars, this year’s edition is set to showcase the most impressive field yet, including National Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Steve Francis, multi-time World Short Track champion Nick Hoffman and NASCAR Cup Series star Justin Haley.
Same as last year, Thursday night’s action will be highlighted by All Star Invitational Features – featuring 2023 track champions – for the DIRTcar Pro (604) Late Models, UMP Modifieds, DIRTcar Sportsman and DIRTcar Pro Stocks. Friday will be comprised of Heat Races, Last Chance Showdown and the first round of Hornet Features. Then, Saturday will host the remaining Last Chance Showdowns and Feature for all 10 divisions. For the full schedule and tickets, click here.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all three days of racing live on DIRTVision.
Here are the top storylines to follow for each division:
VP RACING DIRTCAR SPORTSMAN – An all-star field of the northeast’s best DIRTcar Sportsman drivers will make the trek south for their final marquee event this year.
Leading that charge is Andrew Buff, of Latham, NY – the 2023 Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly champion and 2023 DIRTcar Sportsman Series champion. He’ll be after his first World Short Track victory after finishing second in the event twice, most recently during last year’s All Star Invitational.
He’ll go up against the last two World Short Track victors, Kevin Ridley, of Waterloo, NY, and David Rogers, of LaFargeville, NY. Rogers won the main event in 2021 and then the All Star race last year. Ridley scored his first World Short Track victory during last year’s Saturday night show.
Another champion in the field looking for their first World Short Track win is Niagara Falls, ON’s Nelson Mason. However, his title isn’t on dirt. Mason is the 2013 European F3 Open Winter Series champion. He made his Super DIRT Week debut this year and finished ninth.
MSD DIRTCAR PRO STOCKS – The DIRTcar Pro Stock division has been one of the most competitive groups since its introduction to the World Short Track Championship in 2018 with seven different winners in seven races – including the All Star Invitationals.
That group of champions include, Nick Stone (2018), Rick Duzlak (2018 All Star), Luke Horning (2019), Scott Towslee (2019 All Star), Sheldon Martin (2021), Sean Corr (2021 All Star) Pete Stefanski (2022 All Star) and Josh Coonradt (2022).
With Coonradt moving up to the Modified ranks and not entered in the event, this year could produce a sixth different winner. However, Horning enters with a wealth of momentum to try and be the first repeat winner. Horning’s 2023 season already includes his first DIRTcar Pro Stock Series title, his first DIRTcar Pro Stock Super DIRT Week title and four DIRTcar Pro Stock Series wins.
Sean Corr and Pete Stefanski are also entered to try and repeat but will be looking for their first main event Feature win.
FOX FACTORY DIRTCAR PRO (604) LATE MODELS – Standing as one of the most competitive Crate-engine Late Model races in the southeast, several of the region’s top competitors will be gunning for the $4,000 grand prize, some with series points championship implications on the line.
Dillon Brown, of Gaffney, SC, triumphed over the Pro Late Model field in 2021 for his first World Short Track title – adding to his All-Star Invitational win in the 2016 edition. Last October, he nearly went back-to-back, leading the first 18 laps of the main event before eventual winner Trent Ivey passed him for the win in the closing laps. Though Brown went on to finish second, he’s headed back to The Dirt Track this weekend to avenge his defeat from one year ago.
Co-sanctioned by the Mid-East 604 Crate Late Model Series and the Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series, a notable points battle in the Mid-East standings will also be settled this weekend. Dalton Jacobs, of Reidsville, NC, leads Travis Steele, of Clover, SC, by a single point in the series standings with the season finale on tap Saturday at Charlotte. Jacobs faded back from 10th on the starting grid to finish 18th last year, while Steele makes his first World Short Track appearance in a 604.
CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE MID-EAST 602 LATE MODELS – World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series Director Steve Francis will make his return to the seat of a Late Model for the first time since his formal retirement in 2017 this weekend, making the first competitive start of his career in a 602 Crate-engine Late Model – one owned by DIRTcar Racing CEO, Brian Carter.
Francis, a 2014 National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame inductee, tested the CASE Construction Equipment, Rocket XR1 #6c in a practice session last week and is set for a weekend of fun back in the seat before returning to his leadership duties at The Dirt Track, Nov. 1-4, for the World of Outlaws World Finals – an event he clinched his World of Outlaws points championship at in 2007.
Racing alongside the Kentucky veteran are several other notable pre-entrants including Daniel Parker (Raeford, NC) – two-time Mid-East 602 Series winner in 2023 and runner up in last year’s 602 World Short Track main event, Preston Blalock (Clemmons, NC) – who charged from 18th to seventh at Charlotte last year and has won three times with Mid-East in 2023, and John Ruggiero Jr. (Lincolnton, NC) – the 2021 World Short Track winner.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT DIRTCAR UMP MODIFIEDS – Three-time World Short Track Championship winner Nick Hoffman returns to the seat of a DIRTcar UMP Modified this weekend for the first time in 13 months to chase a fourth World Short Track crown.
Hoffman, now a full-time competitor with the World of Outlaws Late Models, made the announcement via social media last week of his intent to build a Modified from scratch for this weekend in what will be a tune-up before he goes back on Late Model duty for the World Finals the following weekend. Standing in his way of a fourth event crown will be a long list of accomplished veterans and eastern series regulars looking to put a stop to his Charlotte dominance.
Other notable pre-entries include Chris Arnold (Matoaca, VA) – runner-up in 2020 and 2023 Modified Mafia Tour champion, defending UMP Modified World Short Track champion Taylor Cook (Stanley, NC), NASCAR Cup Series regular Justin Haley (Winamac, IN), 2020 All-Star Invitational winner David Stremme (Mifflintown, PA), 2016 All-Star Invitational winner Evan Taylor (Saltsburg, PA) and Super Late Model standout Mason Zeigler (Chalk Hill, PA).
HOOSIER RACING TIRE MID-EAST PRO MODIFIEDS – Several past World Short Track Champions of the Pro Modified division are set to return to the field this weekend including Austin Holcombe (2021), Jeff Parsons (2017, 2019, 2020), and Buck Stevens (2016).
Holcombe, of Elm City, NC, started 17th on the grid last year and drove his #8A up to fourth by the checkered. Parsons, the only three-time division winner from Union Grove, NC, competed exclusively with the UMP Modifieds last year but has the Crate engine back in his #44P, ready to try for an all-time record of four World Short Track titles. Stevens, of Statesville, NC, finished 14th in last year’s main event and returns to The Dirt Track this year with eyes on his first win there since the inaugural running in 2016.
SRI PERFORMANCE MONSTER THUNDER BOMBERS – Added to the event lineup only one year ago, the southeast-favorite Thunder Bomber division has quickly become the most populated World Short Track Championship division with 60 pre-entries already signed up to compete.
Leading the charge into Charlotte is the defending winner of the inaugural Thunder Bomber main event – Rod Tucker. The 28-year-old from Greensville, SC, became the only driver in event history to win a Feature in two different divisions with the win last year after topping the MMSA Mini Stock main event in 2018. An 18-time Feature winner in 2023 between Thunder Bombers, Street Stocks, 602 Late Models and Renegade Sportsman, Tucker is among the frontrunners for another win this weekend.
Standing in his way are a host of other notable entrants including three of the other top-five finishers from last year’s main event – Benji Knight (Heath Springs, SC); Greg Carroll (Greer, SC) – two-time Travelers Rest Speedway winner this year; and Hunter Funderburke (Rock Hill, SC) – three-time 2023 Thunder Bomber winner at Cherokee Speedway.
DIRTVISION HORNETS – Three wide. Four wide. FIVE wide. The Hornet division consistently puts on one of the most exciting shows during the World Short Track Championship, using every inch of the 4/10-mile Charlotte dirt track.
In the six Feature events last year, Zach Slone and Dan Benson became first time winners while John Windham and Newman Presnell added two more titles to their collection – making them the winningest drivers of the event as Windham has five wins and Presnell has four.
Nearly 50 drivers are already entered for the marquee Hornet race. Of them are 16 North Carolina natives looking for a home state win, including Kenneth Colf, of Denver, NC. The World Short Track regular scored his first top-five finish in the event last year.
RACEQUIP MID-EAST STREET STOCKS – The best drivers from the mid-east region will gather at The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the biggest race of their season.
Devon Morgan, of Easley, SC, left as the champion last year and will be back to try and defend his title this year.
Of the more than 40 drivers entered in the division, Terry Caples Jr., of Sumter, SC, will enter with the best momentum, having recently won with the division at Fayetteville Motor Speedway at the beginning of the month.
COMP CAMS (MMSA) MINI STOCKS – In seven Feature events at the World Short Track Championship, there have been six different winners.
Matt Gilbert, of Marietta, SC, earned his first World Short Track title last year, adding to his impressive resume with the Monster Mini Stock Association. He’s the three-time and defending champion with the Series and has already earned multiple wins this year.
He’ll try to be the first repeat Monster Mini World Short Track winner since Brayden Pruitt accomplished the feat with his back-to-back wins in 2019 and 2020.
Other top points contenders with the Association who will be looking to add their name to the list of World Short Track winners are Kevin Cooper, Tyler Riddle and Marcus Hughes.