Speedway Digest Staff
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The anticipation is building for one of the season’s biggest year-end events – the Drydene World Short Track Championship.
Nine divisions of weekly racers, including the two DIRTcar Northeast divisions – DIRTcar Sportsman Modifieds and DIRTcar Pro Stocks – will take to the The Dirt Track at Charlotte over three nights, Thur.-Sat., Oct. 28-30, in search of one of the most coveted trophies in fall dirt track racing. Seeing the red and white colors of Drydene Performance Products splashed across the surface of the unique oil barrel design in Victory Lane brings out the best in every driver – hundreds of which are expected to be in attendance next weekend.
Pre-registration has now eclipsed 200 drivers, all of which have automatically received two entries into the Saturday afternoon giveaway drawing for a brand-new Chevy Performance 604 Crate Engine. Drivers of all divisions are eligible to gain entries into the drawing by completing the pre-registration form at the link below by 11:59pm ET Friday. More ways to score additional entries will be available early next week.
New Contingency Packages
Chevy Performance joins a long list of event sponsors presenting contingency awards for several finishing positions of the Saturday Features. With the placement of each sponsor’s decal, drivers are eligible for prizes such as DIRTVision subscriptions, Drydene cash awards, Summit Racing Equipment gift cards, SRI Performance, FOX Factory and COMP Cams product certificates, VP Racing Fuels fuel jugs, Hoosier Racing Tire and Gotta Race apparel packages.
Drydene will also be putting up a $1,000 bonus for the winner of Saturday’s Street Stock Feature to match a brand-new PRO20 helmet by RaceQuip for all Saturday Feature winners. Additionally, the Pro Late Model victor will take home a brand-new set of FOX Factory Shocks, and a $100 fuel certificate from VP Racing Fuels will be leaving with the winner, fifth-place, 10th-place and 20th-place in the Sportsman Modified Feature.
Sportsman of the Year trophies and Hard Luck awards/prize packs will also be handed out for each division, courtesy of Drydene.
While each division has its own stars and major contenders, the Summit Racing Equipment UMP Modifieds will be coming in with an abundance of heavy-hitters and drivers to watch.
World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series full-time driver Chris Madden, of Gray Court, SC, has pre-entered to drive Pennsylvanian Dan Davies’ #71D UMP Modified for the event. While Davies has made appearances in the Saturday finale before, this will be Madden’s World Short Track debut.
It’s a great opportunity for the Team Drydene driver to get extra laps in on the 4/10-mile track before climbing behind the wheel of his own Rocket Chassis #44 Late Model the following weekend in the NGK NTK World of Outlaws World Finals, Nov. 4-6.
The UMP Modified Feature in each of the previous five years have been dominated by two men – three-time DIRTcar national champion Nick Hoffman and three-time World Short Track winner Kyle Strickler. Both are projected to compete and defend their titles this year against a long list of tough customers including (but not limited to) Madden, Chris Arnold, David Stremme, Matt Crafton, Evan and Jonathan Taylor, and Curt Spalding.
The FOX Factory Pro Late Models also boast a strong roster, filled with local talent. Michael Brown, of Lancaster, SC, has the most victories in the division with two coming in 2018-2019, and is projected to compete again this year. A host of other 604 Crate Late Model talent has already registered, including Bryan Mullis, Matt Long, Ben Watkins, Jody Knowles and Jeremy Mayfield.
The DIRTVision Hornet/FWD/Sport Compact division always turns out in big numbers and is expected to have another tremendous car count again this year. Announced Friday, an update has been made to their race format – all Friday and Saturday Features will now be lined up by a pill draw conducted on that day.
READ MORE: ‘BEST TIME OF MY LIFE’: Drydene World Short Track Championship provided Chase Hopper with career moment
It all gets underway with a night of practice for all divisions and the first round of Features on Thursday night. Don’t miss a moment – buy a ticket online in advance, at the gate on race day, or stream every lap right to your personal device with a FAST PASS subscription to DIRTVision.
DIRTcar Series PR
Colin Garrett to Promote Veteran and Active Military Health and Resources at Home Track of Martinsville Speedway
Sam Hunt Racing (SHR) announced today that 21-year-old Colin Garrett will pilot the No. 26 Veterans Grow America Supra in his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) start at his home track of Martinsville Speedway in the Dead On Tools 250. Garrett, who is an Elmo, Virginia native, is a former South Boston Speedway track champion in the Limited Late Model division and current competitor for Sellers-Burton Racing out of Danville, Virginia in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series.
“I’m excited to race at my home track for the first time on this level,” said Colin Garrett. “Martinsville is always a good time when we go there in the late models, so I’m really looking forward to experiencing it in the Xfinity car. It’s awesome to have the opportunity to bring a campaign that I’ve been working hard on to promote at my home track too.”
Garrett will be representing the 11/11 Veteran Project campaign, a movement that is near and dear to his heart. The 11/11 Veteran Project serves as a way to expand access to veteran and active duty military programs to prevent suicide and assist veterans, active duty military and their families across the country. By partnering with nonprofits such as The Rosie Network and Racing for Heroes, Garrett is able to amplify their causes with the 11/11 Veteran Project platform and work alongside them to increase awareness of their programs.
Veterans Grow America (VGA) will be on board of the No. 26 Toyota Supra as a primary partnership alongside Garrett’s 11/11 Veteran Project campaign. VGA provides a forum for veteran and military spouses to showcase and grow their businesses by partnering with local, state and federal veteran organizations to increase brand awareness. VGA conducts local events and marketing programs to increase engagement with the veteran business community. The organization is part of a national movement that helps veteran businesses get the resources and support they need to succeed.
Coming from a family of veterans and active duty military, Garrett has dedicated his life to promoting and finding resources for veterans and active military families. When he is not behind the wheel of a race car, Garrett is a driving instructor for active duty military and first responders alongside his partner Racing for Heroes Tactical Mobility in Danville, Virginia. He also instructs tactical mobility training at Summit Point Raceway in Summit Point, West Virginia.
“Being right here in Southern Virginia is awesome because this is the home to our partners at Racing for Heroes,” said Garrett. “A lot of our guys from there are going to be attending the event because it’s so close to home for all of us. It’s also an honor to have Veterans Grow America on the car to bring awareness to their program.”
“It’s always special when we have Colin behind the wheel of our #26 Toyota Supra, especially now at his home track,” said Sam Hunt, 28-year-old team owner of Sam Hunt Racing. “Being the first driver for SHR, it’s so cool that we still get to work together three years later. We’ve both grown up quite a bit since the first day of working together, but still have the same fun when racing together. Colin and his family are like a second family to me, and I cherish every chance we get to work together. Colin is hungry and will bring a no-fear attitude to Martinsville. It’s going to be a great weekend."
Garrett has 11 NASCAR Xfinity Series career starts including five top-20 finishes. Additionally, he has multiple late model stock car starts at the famed “Paperclip” of Martinsville, Virginia in the Valley Star Credit Union 300.
The Dead On Tools 250 (250 laps|131.5 miles) is set to begin at 6:00PM ET on Saturday, October 30, 2021 with live coverage on NBC Sports Network, the Motor Racing Network (Radio) and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
Fort Worth Screen Printing and driver, Bayley Currey, have teamed up again for this weekends Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.
Since 1997, Fort Worth Screen Printing has provided textile screen printing services to promotional products distributors, marketing firms, advertising agencies and end users throughout the United States.
Jon Garrett from Fort Worth Screen Printing says "Fort Worth Screen Printing is proud of what Bayley accomplished last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and we’re extremely excited to see what he can do at Kansas in the No. 15 Chevrolet.”
"I’m thankful to have Fort Worth Screen Printing back on board this weekend" Currey said. "We had a really solid run with them last weekend, and I’m definitely looking forward to another great run at Kansas.
The 24-year-old driver has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the 1.5-mile track with a best finish of 12th.
The Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway is set for Saturday, October 23 at 3pm ET. The 200-lap event will be broadcast live on NBC.
News and Notes:
– Starting Position; 30-year-old Team Owner/ Driver Jordan Anderson of Forest Acres, S.C., will start the Kansas Lottery 300 from the 27th position at Kansas Speedway on Saturday afternoon. Due to no practice or qualifying the starting lineup was calculated by the competition-based performance metrics system; fastest lap in the previous race 15 percent, driver finish from previous race 25 percent, owner points 25 percent, and driver points 35 percent.
– Kansas Speedway Stats; The Kansas Lottery 300 will mark Anderson’s sixth NASCAR Xfinity Series (NSX) start of the 2021 season, and first NXS start at the Kansas Speedway. Since 2015, Anderson has competed annually in the NASCAR Camping World Series (NCWTS) race at Kansas Speedway. In nine starts at the 1.5-mile Tri-Oval Anderson holds an average finish of 23.22 with a best finish of 13th coming in 2013.
- Bommarito Automotive Group; A primary supporter of Jordan Anderson Racing, Bommarito Automotive Group is celebrating 50 years in the St. Louis marketplace, the Bommarito Automotive Group currently operates 20 automotive franchises throughout every St. Louis neighborhood led by president John Bommarito and the over 900 dedicated team members. Bommarito is recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as Missouri’s No. 1 selling automotive group and is currently ranked 52nd in the nation. What once started as a vision to have one Bommarito vehicle in every driveway, is today a reality thanks to the ‘Where Price Sells Cars” mission.
For more information on the Bommarito Automotive Group, visit them online at Bommarito.com, and follow their social channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
– Chassis; JAR will bring Chassis No. 105 for Anderson to compete with in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway. Chassis No. 105 would last compete for JAR at the Richmond Raceway in the Go Bowling 250 with Josh Berry driving the No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro SS to a 24th place finish. Prior to Richmond, Berry would steer No. 105 to a Top-Ten finish at Pocono Raceway in his second start with JAR. In No. 105’s debut for JAR at Texas Motor Speedway in June team owner Jordan Anderson would experience clutch issues at the start and would come home with 34th place finish.
Damion Gardner Brings Over 100 Main Event Wins Into Saturday’s Usac/Cra Race at Perris Auto Speedway
On the West Coast, the original California Racing Association (CRA) started in 1946. In the 1990s, it morphed into the Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) before the USAC/CRA Series took over the torch in 2004. This year marks the 75th anniversary season of the three separate sanctioning bodies that are in reality, all the same one. In all those seasons, thousands of drivers suited up and raced in the sanctioned events and nearly 400 of them have won main events. However, only three drivers have won over 100 main events in the combined groups. Two of the three, Dean Thompson and Rip Williams, are in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. The other is current superstar Damion Gardner who will be in action in Saturday’s Amsoil USAC/CRA race at Perris Auto Speedway.
For years, Thompson has been credited with 105 wins, but some people insist he had more. Williams has a listed total of 104 wins leaving him one victory shy of Thompson. However, some people claim he won more! Likewise, Gardner’s victory numbers have a question as well. For some – like this writer – the total found is 101. But others claim it is 102. Two things are for sure though. One is that Gardner, who is the current point leader, has won eight of the first 17 USAC/CRA championships. That is more titles than anyone else in the combined three series. And in as little as three weeks’ time, that total could climb to nine. In addition, within a year from now, whether he currently has 101 or 102 wins, he will more than likely have more victories than both Williams and Thompson.
The journey to get to the current victory total for the Concord, California racer did not exactly start under ideal conditions. It was the SCRA season opening afternoon race at Perris Auto Speedway in February of 2002. To put it bluntly, Gardner did not even want to be there. It was a long drive from his home, and it was going to stretch his racing budget, but friend Kevin Urton would not hear of it and insisted they head south. An afternoon race on a dirt track can almost certainly tell you something you may not want to hear. Dry, slick and nothing like nighttime racing. However, it was a day that changed Gardner’s life. It is a day that will someday see his career culminate with his election into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
“I knew from that day that this (non-wing) racing is where I wanted to be,” Gardner, the now former wing racer said via phone on Wednesday night. “Since then I have only raced winged cars a couple times. That was two years at Ohio Sprint Week.”
After his initial foray at Perris, the driver who goes by the moniker of “The Demon,” wowed crowds with his fearless racing style. While some fans and a lot of drivers were not very happy with him and his aggressive approach, a lot of fans made the daring driver their hero. For his supporters, it did not take long for their new-found favorite to adapt to his new discipline. A little more than two months into his first topless season, he out-qualified the field for the first time at Perris on April 27th, and on June 8th, he scored his first non-wing main event win. On that day, nobody gave it a thought that he would end up having a chance of being the all-time leading winner.
“I was thinking about winning a lot,” the now eight-time champion said. “I wanted to (win) and I was trying to figure out how to do that. But I was not thinking about numbers. Later I would formulate and think about how many races in a season it would take to be considered good. Not in a career, but in a year. I had that figured out, but it did not have anything to do with records or 100 wins. None of that.”
As time rolled on and the wins kept on coming, Gardner, who started in his own ride before getting seats in prestigious cars owned by Harlan Willis, Ron Chaffin, and Mark Alexander, started to realize he was getting into rarified victory air. He also got to know some of the greats in the sport and they made a big impression on him. That makes his staggering victory total even a little more special and important.
“It is important that the guys whose records I am breaking or whatever, they (the guys) mean a lot to me,” the slender racer said. “I am not considering myself better or anything like that. To be in the same statistical conversation with those guys kind of blows me away. I was learning about these guys as I was racing (wingless). Guys like Bubby Jones and Ron Shuman. I was learning about them then because I did not grow up doing this. They kind of became my friends and they taught me things. They were guys I could call for advice. At the point where I started to realize how great they were, this started feeling pretty good. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I tied Ron Shuman for the number of championships that these numerical things started to come up more often. It has been a lot of hard work and guys have given me a lot to accomplish this. I have a lot of people to thank along the way. I do not say much (about the records), but it kind of makes me smile and it feels good inside. It is kind of amazing and kind of makes me shake my head. I can’t believe it.”
Not only has Gardner won races and championships on the West Coast, but he spent several years winning and contending for the championship in the USAC National Sprint Car Series in the Midwest. When all is said and done, one day he is going to be elected into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. The thought is kind of humbling to the driver who at times can seem rather brash.
“I have only thought about it (being elected into the Hall of Fame) a little bit lately because people bring it up to me,” he stated. “These things are not something I ever thought about doing or achieving. It is pretty amazing that I have been able to win this many races and this many championships. I was fortunate. I got to do it the way I wanted to do it with sponsors and people helping me.”
After his time racing his own equipment in the Midwest ended, he returned to the West Coast. At that time, Gardner really did not have anything going on. But he ended up teaming with successful car owner Mark Alexander. Simply put by the sheer numbers of wins and championships, they are the number one traditional sprint car driver/owner combo in West Coast history. When you meet Gardner and Alexander, it seems like an “Odd Couple” relationship. Gardner is a very intense competitor and Alexander is as laid back as you can be. He does not say a lot and is usually in the background. While they are polar opposites, their prowess together means that not only will Gardner be in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, but Alexander will be there with him. It would be a big thrill for Gardner to be there together.
“I had won a lot of races with the 50 car (owned by Ron Chaffin and tuned by crew chief Bruce Bromme Jr.) when I left (for the Midwest) and I have been able to win a lot of races since I came back in the 4 car,” he affirmed. “It means a lot to me to team with Mark and Steve (crew chief Steve Alexander) for a lot of wins. I think the 4 car passed the 50 car for all-time wins out here. That is pretty cool that I was able to team with these guys and we could do that together. Mark is funny. He is kind of quiet and he does not say much. He kind of smirks and looks at you in a way that you know he is pretty happy about it.”
Whether it is 101 or 102 wins, the question had to be asked, which victory was the biggest?
“Oh wow,” “The Demon” said while taking a moment to think about it. “For me, there are these small victories where I overcome some thing in the night. You know, as far as adversity. Maybe I did not have a car good enough to win or I thought it was going to be a struggle and I won. But I think my biggest wins have to be my Oval Nationals wins. I mean, that is 410 sprint car racing and the guy’s names on that list (the other Ovals winners) are big. That is the pinnacle. That is the “Grand Daddy” and that is what you want to win. And it (winning the Ovals) meant a lot to the guys that have sponsored me. You know, Pace and Pat Kehoe. Ken at Scott Sales. And for Mark and those guys (the #4 car) because they had not won (the Ovals) until I got with them. Those wins all meant the same to all of us. It is the biggest race to win. To win that one is probably the best.”
In two weeks’ time, Gardner will be trying to make history as the first driver to win the Oval Nationals four times. But, before that, he will be trying to win another race when the USAC/CRA Series returns to Perris Auto Speedway this Saturday night. It may be win #102 or maybe it will be win #103. Who knows? To some, victory numbers may not mean much. To Damion Gardner, every single win means a lot.
Adult tickets are $30.00. For seniors 65 and over it is $25.00. Kids 6-12 get in for just $5.00 and children five and under are free. There will be plenty of tickets available at the ticket window on Saturday. We will not sellout. For fans who wish, advance tickets are available at www.tix.com
The Fairgrounds charges $10.00 for parking.
Camping at the fairgrounds on the grassy area outside of turn four will begin at noon on Friday. The cost is $25.00 per night.
Perris Auto Speedway is conveniently located on the SoCal Fair and Event Center (home of October’s Southern California Fair), approximately one-hour east of Los Angeles and one-hour North of San Diego. To get to the track, take the 215 freeway, on the Ramona Expressway and go three miles east to the fairgrounds. For directions on online, the address to enter is: 18700 Lake Perris Drive and the zip code is 92571.
Advance tickets for all other races on the 2021 schedule are also available at www.tix.com
Fans can stay up to date on track and driver news on The PAS social media efforts at the links below.
Twitter: Perris Auto Speedway on Twitter.
Perris Auto Speedway wants to thank the following corporate partners. Ahern Equipment Rentals, All Coast Construction, Anderson Chevrolet, Battery Systems, Bud’s Tire Pro, Chris’ Hauling, City of Perris, Communication Innovations, Daytona Boat & RV Storage, Ed Moore Bullet Proof Driveshaft, Flowdynamics, HD Industries, Heimark/Anheuser Busch, Hoosier Tires, Inland Rigging, Living Water’s Hospice, LKQ Pick Your Part, Luke’s Transmission, Moose Racing, Pepsi-Cola, Performance Online, Pole Position, PrintItNow.com, Rainbow Bolt & Supply, Rugged Radios, Shaver Specialties, Square H, Sunoco Race Fuels, Trench Shoring, Upland Rock, Varner Construction and Vista Paint.
DVDs of all the PASSCAR/IMCA racing and Nights of Destruction at The PAS are available from Fourvideos. For more information call (714) 225-9500.
After a month out of the seat, Trent Williams will return to 410 sprint car racing this Saturday night, October 23rd, at the world-famous Perris Auto Speedway. Gates to see the Cal State Fullerton graduate in action against the best traditional sprint car drivers on the West Coast will open at 5:00 p.m. Racing will begin at 7:00.
Williams made his third appearance of the season in the USAC/CRA Series on the legendary Perris track on September 25th. Against a stellar field of cars, he turned in a lap of 16.541 in qualifying . That was good enough for the fifth fastest time of the night. After a fifth-place finish in his 10-lap heat race, he started 8th and finished ninth in the 30-lap main event. That was his best finish in the series in 2021. Additionally, he has a win at the Barona Speedway and podium finishes at the Ventura Raceway and the Central Arizona Speedway in none USAC/CRA competition this year.
Saturday’s race will be the final tune up for the Apple Valley, California resident for the toughest three nights in West Coast Sprint Car racing, the 25th Annual Heimark Anheuser Busch Budweiser Oval Nationals Presented By All Coast Construction. That race will feature three straight nights of action on November 4th, 5th, and 6th. For Williams, it will be his third Oval Nationals and he will not only square off with the best drivers in the West, but will also take on the best drivers from the Midwest’s USAC National Sprint Car Series.
As always, spectators can meet the fan friendly driver and his team on the front straightaway at intermission on Saturday during the autograph and candy giveaway session. Williams and his car will also be available in the pits after the final race to talk, sign autographs, pose for photos and allow followers to sit in his racecar.
At this week’s race, the upcoming Oval Nationals, and going forward, Trent Williams will be racing in memory of his grandfather Homer, who passed away in late September. A positive influence and a fixture in the pits at the races, he always urged Trent and his siblings to, “stand on the gas and go for it.” They always have and will continue to do so in his memory.
Perris Auto Speedway will have plenty of tickets for everyone at the ticket window on Saturday. For those who prefer to order advance tickets, they can do so online at the following link https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/pas/7 or by calling 1-800-595-4849. The track is located on the freeway close Lake Perris Fairgrounds at 18700 Lake Perris Drive in Perris (92571). The office phone number is (951) 940-0134 and the track website is www.perrisautospeedway.com.
Trent Williams PR
Fans are encouraged to secure their tickets now for both days by visiting www.kansasspeedway.com.
Kansas Speedway PR
Iowa Donor Network and Midwest Transplant Network are teaming up with NASCAR driver Joey Gase to inspire race fans to donate life when Gase races at the Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 24. Gase’s race car will feature photos of Austin Goodrich, an organ, eye and tissue donor from Des Moines, Iowa, and Alonzo Jamison, a kidney recipient and former University of Kansas basketball star. Goodrich’s family, along with Jamison and his family, will be at the race to meet Gase and get an up-close look at the race car. Members of the media are invited to attend the meeting. Gase’s car will also feature “Handprints for Hope” submitted online by donor families, recipients and donation advocates.
Gase has been a passionate advocate for organ, eye and tissue donation since the age of 18 when his mom, Mary, passed away of a sudden brain aneurysm and became a donor. Mary saved and improved the lives of 66 people through organ, eye and tissue donation.
As of Oct. 1, there are nearly 107,000 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant in the United States. A single organ donor can save up to eight lives, and a single tissue donor can enhance more than 100 lives. Adult individuals can register to save lives at RegisterMe.org.
Joey Gase PR
Tucked away at the foot of a narrow dead-end street, encompassed by a city of trees, in rural North Carolina is the home and the garage of a world champion. A Drydene World Short Track Champion.
Standing in his cozy two-bay garage, adjacent to a black Honda that would be at home in a Mad Max flick, Chase Hopper continued to exude the pride he achieved a year ago. With the Victory Lane hat he earned after his first career Drydene World Short Track Championship triumph in 2020 with the Hornet division worn like a crown, Hopper spoke of the day the same way a quarterback talks of just winning the Super Bowl.
“Everybody out here talks about the best of the best is here (at the Drydene World Short Track Championship),” said Hopper, 26, of Stokesdale, NC. “And it really is. There’s some tough competitors there. For us, we went down there just to have fun last year and see where we were at. If we could’ve got a top-five we would’ve been happy with that. We finished third Friday night and we were thrilled. We won Saturday and, man, we had a ball. The best time of my life.
“Everyone came up to me and congratulated me. No one around here has won a big race like that. All the congrats I got, phone calls, texts, emails, I just couldn’t… if it wasn’t for all them people motivating me, you know, it wouldn’t even be worth it.”
To the right of Hopper’s wood-framed garage, is the brick house he initially grew up in and now owns with his girlfriend Chelsea, having purchased it from his grandparents. To the left of the garage, raised by a small hill, is the house he spent most of his life in, still owned by his parents. Between the two is the story of his hopes and dreams.
Like the original tale of most racers, Hopper’s father, Paul – a lifelong dirt racing fan – opened the door to a world his son had never known. Upon his first time seeing it, all he wanted to do was be a part of it.
Giving Chase the chance of realizing a dream, Paul put him in a dirt go-kart. The opportunity wasn’t wasted. In Chase’s second race, he won. Then, he won a lot more. In 15 years of running go-karts, sometimes three or four classes a night up and down the east coast, Chase collected more than 250 wins.
“He’s just got that knack for it,” Paul Hopper said. “Ever since he was young, he just knew how to drive.”
At the end of his career in go-karts, life took over. He took a break from racing for about three years before he got stung by the buzz of Hornet racing.
For those that don’t know what a “Hornet” is – or simply known as a 4-Cylinder in other regions – it’s a stock appearing, four-cylinder-powered, race car with the windshield and windows removed, a roll cage installed and some other bits changed to the drivers’ liking. While they’re one of the most affordable divisions in racing, with the cars potentially costing as low as $500, but with a $4,500 motor, producing more than 200hp, they still put on one of the most memorable shows of the week during the Drydene World Short Track Championship. It’s the Talladega of Hornet events, with cars racing three and four-wide into the turns around the 4/10-mile Dirt Track at Charlotte.
“It’s always some good racing, man,” Hopper said. “People talk junk about this class but there’s always two or three that put on a good show. Racing back and forth, beating, and banging and stuff like that. You get out there with a bunch of people who have raced these cars, it’s like a Late Model class. You’ve got to give respect to earn respect. Once you do, they don’t push you around and they don’t beat and bang on you.”
Hopper cut his teeth with the Hornet class behind the wheel of his #21 2003 Honda Civic at tracks all within an hour distance from him like 311 Speedway and Friendship Speedway, picking up several wins along the way. All while working a full-time job as a heavy equipment operator, as a boyfriend and as a father to his four-year-old son Layne.
Hornets have the same characteristics as every other race car, being high maintenance and needy. Most of Hopper’s weeknights are spent working on his Honda alone. Although, his brother-in-law and dad will lend a hand when they can. His dad has been helpful with the suspension setup and providing other tips along the way. Hopper said he’s purposely been trying to work on it alone so he can learn and pass along the knowledge to his son if he ever decides to race.
Those long nights and hours of grind paved the path for Hopper’s “best time of his life.”
He entered the Drydene World Short Track Championship at the Dirt Track at Charlotte for the first time in 2020 with the intention of just running for fun. The track and the event were like nothing he’d ever experienced before. The competition was bigger. The track was bigger. And the entire three days put him on the biggest stage of his racing career.
The racing produced by the 4/10-mile track was a new world, as well.
“Charlotte, man, it’s got a lot of speed in that place,” Hopper said. “A lot of people don’t realize, up there, you’re tucked up next to the outside wall. It’s a whole different experience. Everywhere we run, they run middle of the track or bottom at the short tracks. But there, man, a car could blow around you on the outside and you’re like, ‘Wow, is that the other cars?’
“These motors, we can go off into the corner, burp the throttle and hammer back down. A lot of these tracks you have to roll in and kind of ease back into the throttle. There, it is more of a wide-open pace. If you’re not wide open, you’re not going to be up front, that’s for sure.”
In his first laps around the Charlotte Dirt Track, Hopper qualified sixth and put himself in contention for a win during the Friday night race before having to settle for third. Then, on Saturday, the seas parted, providing a path to exceptional glory.
Alan Carter was the early leader of the race with Eddie McGraw in second and Hopper in third. In the late stages of the race, Carter broke and had to retire from the race, leaving the battle for the win to McGraw and Hopper. With a lap to go, Hopper was prepared to finish second. Content and happy with the result. Then, the chance at glory was placed in his hands. McGraw broke and Hopper inherited the lead.
“I don’t think I took my eyes off the gauges the entire last lap,” Hopper said. “It always seems like something happens in those situations. I was just hoping nothing broke.”
The hours in his garage of attending to the car’s every need, making sure no bolt was left unturned, helped guide him to his first Drydene World Short Track Championship win.
“Oh man, I was jumpin’,” Hopper said with a prideful grin. “I wish I could see my in-car. I was going wild inside the car. I couldn’t believe it at first, but when I pulled into Victory Lane, I was like, ‘Wow, this really happened.’”
Hopper aspires to drive a Late Model one day, and see his name presented on another big stage. But for the three days at the Drydene World Short Track Championship, there’s nothing bigger. While others see him pulling up to the track with a Hornet on an open trailer, the prestige of the event given to every division makes him feel no different than a World of Outlaws team pulling up with a full-size rig at the NGK NTK World Finals.
“When you go and run [World Short Track], they treat us like the super Late Model guys,” Hopper said. “There’s no difference in how they treat us. Some places, it’s, ‘Oh, that’s just the front-wheel-drive class.’ We’re what we’re called as “money fillers.” Just there to cover the purse. There, they don’t treat you like that. If you’ve got a question or got a concern, you can go ask an official and they are more than glad to help you. Just a whole different aspect. Different than anything I’m used to local racing.”
Tucked away at the foot of a narrow dead-end street, encompassed by a city of trees, in rural North Carolina is the home and the garage of a local hero, eager to stand on the stage as a world champion, again. A Drydene World Short Track champion.
For tickets to the Drydene World Short Track Championship, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online or through the DIRTVision App.
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