By BILL FOLEY
Fans poured into the Dirt Track at Charlotte on Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately, so did the rain.
Many woke up just a couple of hours after Midnight to get ready for that dark drive to the airport to get to the World Finals. Others were on the highways headed from the north for the annual pilgrimage to the track in the shadow of a major NASCAR Speedway. Still others were hunkered down in their campers in the adjacent parking lot.
As the morning progressed, drivers, team members, media and sponsors stood in a drizzle getting their credentials and all of the area restaurants were filled with race fans trying to kill time eating and drinking in hopes that they would eventually see a show in what would have been a damp, frigid night.
It would also be a nightmare for photographers as the infield would potentially be a quagmire.
Forecasts indicated sporadic rain ending first at 10 a.m., then 1 p.m. and then 2 p.m.
Officials adjusted the schedule for Thursday and that generated the ire of many Modified fans as the Beasts of the Northeast were scheduled to run their heats back-to-back at the conclusion of the World of Outlaw Sprint and Late Model time trials. That schedule didn’t allow any driver having misfortune to get their car repaired in time and the haul from the North would be for naught. They’d have little chance other than start in the rear of the last chance races if bad luck hit.
However, that never reached reality as day one went down to the weather setting up full three division shows for the next two nights.
Due to forecasted cold weather the World Finals start time was shifted to 3 p.m. on Wednesday. After the rainout on Thursday, it was announced that on Friday a 5 p.m. opening ceremonies time was slated with hot laps getting rolling at 3 p.m.
It will be non-stop racing on Friday and capped off with the big-blocks, Sprints and Late Models in that order.
A prospective entry list was posted by DIRTcar officials earlier in the week for Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks.
Of course the tour drivers are in the house and that list includes now an eight-time series champ Matt Sheppard, Peter Britten, Brandon Walters, Erick Rudolph, Marcus Dinkins, Jordan McCreadie, Max McLaughlin, Dave Rauscher, Jack Lehner, Tim Sears Jr., Chris Hile, Olden Dwyer, Mat Williamson, Billy Decker, Jimmy Phelps, Larry Wight, Demetrios Drellos and Adam Pierson.
However, the thing about the World Finals is to always see “who else” is in the pits.
This year there is a significant number of regulars as well as new faces.
It is no surprise Justin Haers, Rich Scagliotta, Tim Fuller, Danny Johnson and Mike Mahaney are on board.
Brett Hearn and Tim McCreadie are tremendous additions to the field.
The Jersey-Pennsylvania faction is well represented with Mike Gular, Duane Howard, Billy Pauch Jr., Jeremiah Shingledecker, Alex Yankowski and Jim Britt.
Also heading down are Jeff Taylor (who had to totally rebuild after heavily crashing at Oswego), C.G. Morey, Bob McGannon, Mike Trautschold, Ronnie Davis III, Kevin Root, Chris Curtis, L.J. Lombardo, Pat Ward, Alex Payne, and Rocky Warner.
For Northeast fans this weekend appears to be the final one for the legendary Gypsum Racing team consisting of Billy Decker, Pat Ward and Larry Wight.
Owner John Wight has reduced his racing stable in shutting down the Decker and Ward teams and significantly reducing the schedule for his son Larry as it appears that the Big Red Team will no longer be traveling as regulars on the Super DIRTcar series when 2022 begins.
For many Mod teams this is the finale.
However, many including Matt Sheppard, Stewart Friesen, Mike Mahaney, Ryan Godown, Jack Lehner, Rocky Warner, Eric Williams and Willy Decker will join their Louisiana and Texas counterparts for the STSS Cajun Swing starting on Tuesday night thru Saturday.
The beauty of the World Finals is that fans get to see three of the top divisions in one place at one time.
An impressive Sprint field is paced by this year’s WoO champion Brad Sweet and also anticipated to be on hand are Lynton Jeffrey, Jacob Allen, Logan Schuchart, David Gravel, Wayne Johnson, Brock Zearfoss, Spencer Bayston, Adam Kekich, All Star champ Tyler Courtney, Matt Farnham, Jason SIdes, James McFadden, Zeb Wise, Paulie Colagiovanni, Parker Price Miller, Carl Bowser, Kraig Kinser, Brent shearer, Kerry Madsen, Donny Schatz, Sam Haftertepe Jr., Sheldon Haudenschild, Gio Scelzi and Brent Marks.
Also on hand are anticipated to be Paige Polyak, Brian Brown, Marcus Dumesny, Tim Shaffer, Brian Paulis, Danny Dietrich, Zach Hampton, Buddy Kofoid, George Hobaugh, Carson Macedo, Sye Lynch, Shawn Dancer, Cole Macedo, McKenna Haase, Nick Tucker, Shane Stewart, Gray Leadbetter, Justin Peck, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Reinhardt and Greg Wilson.
When Saturday night ends it will mark the final appearance of the legendary Jac Haudenschild as he will complete 48 years behind the wheel and hopefully he will be sent out in memorable style.
The Late Models usually bring out the largest number of cars, but a prospective 43 teams are anticipated.
The possible entries include Rick Eckert, Brent Larson, Scott Bloomquist, Nick Hoffman, Chris Ferguson, Brandon Sheppard, Dan Stone, Mike Lupfer, Parker Martin Jr., Brian Ledbetter, Ricky Weiss, Ross Robinson, Kyle Strickler, R.E. Cubbage, Josh Richards, Tyler Bruening, Ben Watkins, Shannon Babb, Ryan Gustin, Jimmy Owens, Byrson Harper and Derek Rogers.
Also expected are Shane Clanton, Dennis Erb Jr., Tim McCreadie, Cla Knight, Chris Madden, Dylan Lewis, Colton Flinner, Jonathan Davenport, Mark Whitener, Hudson O’Neal, Brandon Overton, Ross Bailes, Ashton Winger, Pancho Lawler, CadeDillard, Jesse Glenz, Boom Biggs, Max Blair, Randy Weaver, Bryan Bernheisel and Mike Marlar.
This won’t end of the season for the Late Models as these guys are running nearly year round now. Many will be headed to Vegas for an upcoming chance to win up to $100,000.
Well, the sunset filled the sky with a pinkish hue and Upstate New Yorkers know that means a nice day tomorrow.
Expectations are for cold conditions with plenty of racing to keep the fans warm on Friday and Saturday at the NGK NTK World of Outlaws World Finals.