Column By: MIKE WARREN / SUPER DIRTCAR SERIES – BARBERVILLE, FL – A trip to the Sunshine State awaits the Super DIRTcar Series as it prepares for its annual gator hunt.
The Beasts of the Northeast kick off its 2024 season at the 53rd annual Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 14-17.
Drivers will battle for four nights at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” starting with three 30-lap Features paying $5,000-to-win on Wednesday, Feb. 14, Thursday, Feb. 15, and Friday, Feb. 16. Then, on Saturday, Feb. 17, a $7,500 prize is on the line in a 50-lap finale.
The iconic Big Gator trophy isn’t the only thing up for grabs at DIRTcar Nationals this season, as the top three in Big Gator points will receive a check. The week’s champion gets $2,000, while second gets $1,000 and third gets $500.
Here are some of the storylines to watch:
Mat Wants More: Despite falling short in his quest for a second Super DIRTcar Series title, Mat Williamson had a season to remember in 2023. The St. Catharines, ON driver, won more Series events than any other driver last year (7), including two at Volusia to score his first Big Gator trophy—both won with last-lap passes.
The defending Billy Whittaker Cars 200 champion has five career triumphs at DIRTcar Nationals and hopes to become the second driver to claim back-to-back Big Gator trophies, joining Larry Wight (2019, 2020).
A Shot at Redemption: While Williamson aims for another trip to Victory Lane, the two drivers he passed for those wins are looking for redemption.
Jack Lehner and Demetrios Drellos finished second in those two races but gained momentum for the rest of the season. Lehner had his best Super DIRTcar Series season, finishing seventh in the final standings, while Drellos earned track championship at two of his local tracks.
While a win for Lehner would be his first at the Florida venue, Drellos has already tasted Volusia Victory Lane, winning a DIRTcar Pro Late Model Feature during Sunshine Nationals in 2023.
Chasing 500: While Matt Sheppard’s quest for a record 11th Super DIRTcar Series title officially kicks off in March, the Waterloo, NY driver is chasing three other milestones.
In his quest for a third Big Gator, Sheppard is one win away from his 500th Feature win after scoring three victories last week at All-Tech Raceway.
The Waterloo, NY driver is also close to becoming the second driver to reach 100 Super DIRTcar Series wins—a feat only accomplished by Brett Hearn. His next Series triumph will be his 95th.
While he can’t reach the mark at Volusia, he can tie Wight for the most Big Gators since the trophy’s inception in 2012 (3).
Sheppard has eight wins at the track but is searching for his first Volusia win since 2018.
The Jet Returns: Brett Hearn returns to DIRTcar Nationals for the first time since 2021 as he looks to add his 141 Super DIRTcar Series victories.
The Sussex, NJ driver won the Big Gator trophy in 2017, and that’s also the last time he reached Victory Lane at Volusia. Hearn is tied with Stewart Friesen for the most wins at the track (10) and is looking for his first win since his World of Outlaws World Finals triumph in 2021.
A win by Hearn at DIRTcar Nationals would be his 921st overall victory.