Column By: MIKE WARREN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CONCORD, NC – The 2024 World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models Series season is three weeks away. But before starting at Sunshine Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Jan. 17-20, let’s look back at the top moments of 2023.
The 38-race campaign saw the Series reach a significant milestone, two first-time winners, and an impressive run by Bobby Pierce to win his first Series championship.
Here’s a look at the key moments of the 2023 season:
Hitting The Century Mark
Entering the 2023 season, the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models had 99 different winners. That changed on the final night of Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals when Hudson O’Neal completed an epic climb to the front.
The Martinsville, IN driver started 23rd in the 50-lap finale and needed almost every lap to get to the lead.
“Big Gator” trophy winner Tim McCreadie led the first 41 laps before Devin Moran wrestled it away, looking for his third win at Volusia in 2023. As those two battled, O’Neal continued to climb, taking the lead away from Moran with six laps to go.
O’Neal held on to win his first World of Outlaws CASE Late Models Feature, becoming the 100th winner in Series history. He also added another Series milestone for Mark Richards and Rocket1 Racing—the most accomplished team in the history of World of Outlaws Late Models.
Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals returns, Feb. 5-17, at Volusia Speedway Park for its 53rd running.
Adding another first-time winner took three months, as Nick Hoffman put his name into the Series history books.
When the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models stopped at Stateline Speedway in May, Hoffman lined up next to his best friend Gordy Gundaker in the 40-lap Feature. Gundaker held off Hoffman for one lap before the Mooresville, NC driver powered ahead on the outside.
From there, Hoffman held off a late charge from Max Blair to earn his first World of Outlaws victory. He used that momentum to earn a fifth-place finish in the points standings and the $10,000 Germfree Rookie of the Year award.
He’ll return for his sophomore campaign in 2024, again piloting the NOS Energy Drink #9 Late Model for Tye Twarog Racing.
Madden Takes Sharon
A three-race Memorial Day weekend stop at Sharon Speedway proved to be Chris Madden’s best weekend of the season.
Madden earned the opening night win of the three-night Battle at the Border before backing it up with a fifth-place finish on night two.
However, the Gray Court, SC driver saved his best weekend performance for last. After starting fourth in the 60-lap finale, “Smokey” made his move on Lap 31. As Tanner English and Gregg Satterlee battled for the lead, Madden found a lane in the middle to split the two drivers down the backstretch, thundering ahead of both in Turns 3 and 4 to take the top spot.
Madden dominated the final 29 laps to earn the $25,000 prize—his richest World of Outlaws win of 2023.
Sharon Speedway returns to the World of Outlaws schedule in 2024 for a doubleheader show, July 12-13. Tickets are on sale now (click here).
Best Friends Go Back To Back
After Bobby Pierce scored a win at Farmer City Raceway to kick off a Midwest tripleheader weekend, Kyle Bronson and Brian Shirley took over the stage for the next two nights.
Tri-City Speedway was the sight of the first battle, and an epic finish.
Bronson led from the start of the race and held control for the first 30 laps unopposed. But then he had to fend off two challengers. After staving off a challenge from Hoffman, Shirley gave Bronson his best shot, trading the lead with the #40B in the final four laps.
Shirley made one last move to try and wrestle the lead from Bronson at the start/finish line but fell short by 0.0057 seconds as Bronson celebrated his third career World of Outlaws victory.
However, Shirley wouldn’t have to wait long for his moment. One night later, in the USA World 50 at Paducah International Raceway, Shirley led with 14 laps to go, with Bronson trying to chase him down.
The Chatham, IL driver outdueled Bronson in traffic to earn his fourth USA World 50 victory and seventh World of Outlaws triumph.
Hudson O’Neal wasn’t the only driver who overcame a steep climb toward a World of Outlaws victory in 2023.
Marlar, the 2018 Series champion, transferred through the Last Chance Showdown to get into the Johnny Mulligan Classic at Ponderosa Speedway. And after 50 laps, the #157 stood tall.
Pierce looked like he would score his fourth win in seven races after passing Madden on Lap 8, but that all changed when Marlar, who started 22nd, climbed to the runner-up spot with six laps to go.
The “Winfield Warrior” only needed one more lap to take the lead from Pierce, scoring a monumental win on a night that honored Johnny Mulligan, one of his former sponsors.
Don’t miss when the World of Outlaws return to Ponderosa Speedway, June 21, 2024.
Crown Jewel Thrillers
The two most prestigious races on the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models schedule happen on back-to-back weekends. And both delivered an epic finish.
Kicking off the first of two Crown Jewels was the highly anticipated Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury Speedway.
The 2023 Prairie Dirt Classic saw the top two drivers in dirt Late Model racing battle for the victory. Pierce, looking for his first PDC win, led most of the event before Ricky Thornton Jr. took the lead. But after a broken crank trigger almost ended his night on Lap 81, dropping him back to sixth when the caution came out, he stormed from sixth to first in eight laps. Thornton got by Pierce again with 13 laps to go, holding on to score the Prairie Dirt Classis win.
One week after battling at Fairbury, the Series returned to Cedar Lake Speedway for the three-night USA Nationals and another $50,000-to-win prize.
After falling short at Fairbury, Pierce was in position to win his first USA Nationals. But Hudson O’Neal did everything to keep that from happening. On the final lap, O’Neal slid past the “Smooth Operator” in Turn 4, but Pierce gained momentum on the crossover, holding off the #1 by inches to score the victory. It was Pierce’s second win of the weekend after he won on the events opening night.
The Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury Speedway returns July 26-27, 2024, and USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway returns Aug. 1-3, 2024.
A B5 Breakthrough
In 2023, everything was new for four-time Series champion Brandon Sheppard, including his chassis, motor program, crew and shock program.
That led to an uphill climb for the New Berlin, IL driver, learning on the fly with a Longhorn chassis throughout the season. However, that persistence paid off at the end of August when he scored his first Series win of 2023 during the Quad Cities 150 finale at Davenport Speedway.
Sheppard passed Erb on a Lap 59 restart and cruised to the $30,000 victory. He’d back that up one week later at Mississippi Thunder Speedway by winning the Milton Hershey Back to Class Showdown, earning his 83rd Series victory, more than any other driver.
Next season, along with having a year under his belt with all the new equipment, Sheppard and his Sheppard Riggs Racing team join Longhorn Chassis as the Factory Team.
Pierce’s Magical Run
While several vital moments existed throughout the 2023 World of Outlaws CASE Late Models season, Pierce’s magical run was the most significant.
After his two worst season finishes (25th and 17th) at Sunshine Nationals, he bounced back by winning the first World of Outlaws Feature at DIRTcar Nationals in February. From there, he won 13 more Features, including a stretch where he won 10 out of 15 races between July 1 and Oct. 7.
Those 14 wins, 21 podium finishes, 25 top fives, and 32 top 10s were enough to earn his first World of Outlaws CASE Late Models championship by 112 points over Madden.
He’ll be back in 2024 to try and join Billy Moyer (1988-89), Josh Richards (2009-10) and Brandon Sheppard (2019-21) as the only drivers to have won back-to-back Series titles.
After an epic 2023, the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models are full-steam ahead in 2024 with a 54-race schedule at 33 different tracks, kicking off at Volusia in January.
As of now, 12 drivers are slated to run full-time with the Series in 2024 with more expected before the season begins.
Bobby Pierce, Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley, Todd Cooney, Ryan Gustin, Nick Hoffman, Dustin Walker, Max McLaughlin, Dustin Sorensen, Parker Martin, Cody Overton, and Tristan Chamberlain will all join the Series next season, hoping to raise the championship trophy at the end of the 2024 season.
The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models begin 2024 at Volusia Speedway Park during Sunshine Nationals, Jan. 17-20, a Late Model Palooza which will also feature Crate Racin’ USA Late Models and DIRTcar 602 Late Models.