Column By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CONCORD, NC – The turn of the calendar to 2024 is near, and the new World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car season will arrive in a mere six weeks. But before then, let’s look at the top moments of 2023 that helped get us there.
This year’s campaign delivered monumental milestones and unforgettable action that won’t soon be forgotten. From a legendary car owner reaching rare territory in Florida to a historic fifth straight championship in Charlotte, 2023 gave us moment after moment from beginning to end.
Roth Gets 100, Toyota Gets First
Few car owners have been as dedicated to Sprint Car racing as Dennis and Teresa Roth. That dedication led to Roth Motorsports earning a milestone of excellence and longevity at Volusia Speedway Park early in 2023.
The rain-postponed finale of the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals was completed on March 5 at the Florida facility. James McFadden led every lap of the Feature on his way to victory, piloting the Roth #83. The win was Dennis and Teresa’s 100th with The Greatest Show on Dirt, making them the fifth car owners to reach triple digits. Only Karl Kinser, Tony Stewart, Steve Kinser, and Kasey Kahne are ahead. Fittingly Danny Lasoski – the first to put Roth Motorsports in World of Outlaws Victory Lane in 1998 – was in attendance for the historic happening.
The win was also a sign of new beginnings as it marked the first World of Outlaws victory for the Toyota Racing Development 410 engine. That tally grew to seven before the year ended, courtesy of five more from McFadden and one from Buddy Kofoid.
The Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals will kickoff the 2024 campaign at Volusia on Feb. 6-10.
Thousands have entered World of Outlaws races since the first in 1978, but Victory Lane has been reserved for the sport’s elite. A milestone was hit early in 2023 when the list of total winners grew to 150. And then, beyond.
After coming close so many times, Brady Bacon finally broke through at Tri-State Speedway on April 29 to become the 150th different winner. “The Macho Man” wheeled the Kelly and Lora Hinck-owned TKH Motorsports #21H to a thrilling triumph at the Haubstadt, IN bullring.
The number of winners rose to 152 by the time 2023 concluded. Corey Day topped the Gold Cup finale at Silver Dollar Speedway in September aboard the Jason Meyers Racing machine. A month later, Zeb Wise grabbed his first Series victory by besting the PA Posse at Port Royal Speedway with Rudeen Racing.
Huset’s Opens The Bank
The stage was set for the largest payday in World of Outlaws history in late June. The second running of the Huset’s High Bank Nationals brought the country’s top teams to Brandon, SD with hopes of cashing a $250,000 check.
Three prelim nights each dished out $20,000 to the winner and positioned teams for the finale. Buddy Kofoid led the main event before mechanical woes with 11 laps to go left him heartbroken. His misfortune was David Gravel’s gain as he inherited the lead and held on for the quarter of a million dollars win.
It was a storybook night for Gravel due to multiple reasons. He had finally broken through after finishing second on two of the three prelims. The win came aboard the Tod Quiring-owned Big Game Motorsports #2 at the Tod Quiring-owned Huset’s Speedway with both Gravel and Quiring’s families at the track.
The 2024 Huset’s High Bank Nationals will again offer $250,000 to the winner, and the event has also added the $100,000-to-win Huset’s High Bank Hustle during the four-night week (June 19-22).
Schatz’s Sixth Crown
Donny Schatz is always one to watch when the lights are at their brightest. And he proved why yet again in July at Rossburg, OH’s Eldora Speedway.
The 10-time Series champion dominated the 40th running of the Kings Royal, leading flag to flag on his way to a $175,000 payday at “The Big E.” The victory was his sixth at the crown jewel.
Upping his total to six crowns moved Schatz within one of tying Steve Kinser for the most. Schatz already owns the most National Open wins with six. And now he trails “The King” by only one for both the Kings Royal and Knoxville Nationals and will have the chance to equal Kinser in 2024.
History at Knoxville
The 62nd chapter of the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals was written in August and history was made. Kyle Larson led from green to checkered to claim his second triumph in “The Granddaddy of ‘Em All.” The Elk Grove, CA driver became only the eighth driver with multiple Knoxville Nationals victories. “Yung Money” also joined Donny Schatz as the only competitors to lead every lap of the finale since it was elevated to 50 laps in 2010.
The win for Larson was worth $185,000, and Knoxville has raised the stakes again in 2024. The 63rd running, set for Aug. 7-10, 2024, will award $190,000 to the winner.
Continuing to build the prestige of the event, the Knoxville Nationals was also voted to third on USA Today’s 2023 10Best Reader’s Choice list for Best Motorsports Race – behind only the Indianapolis 500 and Formula 1’s Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.
Haud Line at Skagit
Sheldon Haudenschild is beloved among the fans for his abilities to bring them to their feet with his driving style. The Wooster, OH native is known for venturing to areas of the track no other driver is bold enough to try. This trait has perhaps never been on better display than on his birthday at Skagit Speedway this year.
While the entire field opted for the bottom and middle grooves in the Feature, Haudenschild braved the tricky topside. It paid off in remarkable fashion. He drove all the way from 16th to the win, sealing the deal with a last lap pass for the lead on the back straightaway.
The always exciting Haudenschild will take on his eighth World of Outlaws campaign in 2024.
Saying Goodbye to Devil’s Bowl
The World of Outlaws were born in 1978 at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. And 45 years later the track being sold forced the Series to say goodbye to the historic half mile. The Greatest Show on Dirt invaded the Mesquite, TX oval in October to give Devil’s Bowl a proper sendoff.
Carson Macedo claimed the first of two nights. And then Devil’s Bowl went out in style in the finale when David Gravel made a last lap pass on James McFadden coming to the checkered flag to win in a photo finish.
In another storybook element to the finish, Riley Goodno, who was donning a tribute livery to the car that Jimmy Boyd won the first World of Outlaws race in, was right alongside the lead duo as they came to the finish line.
Even without Devil’s Bowl, Texas will still host the World of Outlaws for five nights of racing at three different tracks in 2024 – Kennedale Speedway Park (March 8-9), Cotton Bowl Speedway (March 15-16), and Big O Speedway (March 22).
Five in a Row
Brad Sweet and Kasey Kahne Racing continued to cement their legacy of excellence in 2023 with a fifth straight championship. “The Big Cat” held off David Gravel at the World of Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte to wrap up the title.
It was a historic campaign for both Sweet and Kahne. Sweet matched the second longest streak of World of Outlaws championships in Series history. And Kahne’s sixth World of Outlaws championship as an owner equaled him with Steve Kinser for the third most in the record books.
The World of Outlaws World Finals in Charlotte will again determine the 2024 title battle with four nights of action (Nov. 6-9).
With 2023 in the books, the stage is set for an even better 2024. A new championship battle is upon us headlined by favorites David Gravel and Carson Macedo. But could the 10-time champ – Donny Schatz – return to championship form to grab another?
More heavyweights in the form of Logan Schuchart, Giovanni Scelzi, and Sheldon Haudenschild will be in the mix. Brock Zearfoss, Noah Gass, and Bill Rose have strides on their minds. Rookies Bill Balog and Landon Crawley look to make an immediate impact. And more are expected to join the cast of full-timers.
More moments will be made and chapters of history written when the 2024 season unfolds for The Greatest Show on Dirt.