|SPRINGFIELD, IL – The chase for national and regional championship gold is complete. It’s time to crown the kings of the 39th DIRTcar Racing season.
Each champion and special award winner will be honored at the annual DIRTcar awards banquet on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Springfield Crowne Plaza.
Late Model and UMP Modified drivers finishing inside the top-50 of national points plus any driver in the top-20 of all other divisions are eligible to receive their points fund check and trophies at the banquet. The top-10 of each division’s region are also eligible for recognition during the ceremony.
Congratulations to each of the 2022 DIRTcar national points champions.
Late Model – Bobby Pierce (Oakwood, IL)
For the fifth time in his young career, Bobby Pierce is DIRTcar Late Model national champion.
Through 39 years of DIRTcar’s weekly racing history, no driver had ever captured this prestigious crown more than four times, until 2022. One year removed from his fourth national championship-winning season in 2021, Pierce notched 15 Feature wins in 55 recorded races in DIRTcar competition this year, once again defeating three-time national champion Rusty Schlenk by 195 points in the final standings.
Pierce also clinched his fifth career DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model championship with seven Feature wins in 19 starts, besting Hell Tour rookie Payton Freeman by 179 points at the end of the two-month stretch. He now sits only one Summer Nationals title away from tying National Dirt Late Model Hall-of-Famer Billy Moyer for most tour championships all-time.
“I’ve won a lot of races this year, we were really good, but there’s always room for improvement,” Pierce said. “I feel like I could get better just with learning stuff on the car. I would be lying if I said I knew everything I’m doing.
“Heck, I’ll probably still be learning stuff even when I’m 50.”
Though Pierce won at several tracks across the nation this year, nowhere else was he more dominant than at Fairbury Speedway. The 26-year-old parked the Allgayer Inc. #32 in Victory Lane at the 1/4-mile bullring four times in seven appearances, including the MARS Spring Nationals ($30,000), FALS Super Nationals ($10,000), the marquee special One for the Road ($22,022), and the season-ending FALS Frenzy ($15,000).
For each of his big wins, Bobby accredits father and 1990 DIRTcar national champion Bob Pierce for the efforts he’s made to help his son’s career progression.
“It feels really nice to have done all the things I’ve done at such a young age,” Bobby said. “But, if it wasn’t for my dad helping me out at a really young age, I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”
UMP Modified – Mike Harrison (Highland, IL)
After three seasons barred from the top of the UMP Modified world, Mike Harrison has reclaimed his seat on the king’s throne in 2022, now the one and only eight-time DIRTcar national champion.
It was a season-long battle that came down to the final month of competition, where multiple drivers inside the top-six had an opportunity to make a push for the points lead – the best of which was three-time and defending national champion, Nick Hoffman.
Hoffman, who by the end of August was rapidly cutting into Harrison’s lead atop the standings, was trucking Northwest from his home in North Carolina to compete in a crucial Labor Day weekend swing through Illinois when he and his crew were involved in a serious traffic accident on the interstate. The crash resulted in season-ending injuries for Hoffman that took him out of the running for his fourth consecutive national title, leaving the door open for several other contenders to Harrison’s top spot.
“Everybody knows there’s a rivalry there between me and Nick,” Harrison said. “There’s gotta be rivalries in racing, but you never wanna see that happen. At the end of the day, we’re all family in this deal.”
Though he recorded three DNFs in September after going the first five months of the regular season with only one, Harrison still took the CASE IH #24H to Victory Lane four times in nine outings, securing the title in the first week of October by 35 points over runner-up Tyler Nicely.
Harrison competed in only the fifth-most race nights, yet still topped over 1,700 drivers in the wins column with 25 Feature victories in 50 recorded races – each of which he dedicates to his crew, who spend many hours in the shop and made the biggest difference in getting that win total this season.
“We’ve had the same crew, basically, since about 2010,” Harrison said. “We’ve all been together a long time and know each other inside and out. I would say that’s probably the biggest factor – we’re just all so close.”
Seven consecutive years of racing under his own operation halted after the 2020 season, when car owner Josh Carroll teamed with Harrison for 2021. The two are now going on their third year of partnership in 2023, sporting the same Hughes Racing Chassis that gave them success this year.
“This year, we started to with two brand-new ones,” Harrison said. “The cars were good. About mid-season or so, we really hit on something that fit me and was just really good, and it just kinda took off from there.”
Pro Late Model – Jose Parga (New Berlin, IL)
Jose Parga has now claimed back-to-back DIRTcar Pro Late Model national titles after another dominant season atop the 604 Chevrolet Crate engine-powered division.
The 25-year-old standout backed up his 20-win season last year with another strong slate in 2022, winning 15 Features and holding a 99-point gap in the final standings. He also claimed another track championship at Lincoln Speedway with three Feature wins, and six Feature wins at Macon Speedway.
Other highlights included three victories at Farmer City Raceway and a top-10 finish in points for each of the three tracks he competed at this year.
Pro Modified – Deece Schwartz (Ashmore, IL)
The third generation in Schwartz family racing in Illinois has now made his own mark on DIRTcar history. Twenty-year-old Deece Schwartz is officially DIRTcar national champion of the Pro Modified division, claiming the title for the first time in his career.
Schwartz now follows in the footsteps of grandfather and two-time UMP Modified national champion Denny Schwartz, and father and veteran racer Danny Schwartz, carrying on the family legacy with a national points title of his own.
“It means a lot, seeing everything my dad and grandpa have accomplished, it’s a lot to take on,” Schwartz said. “It’s a challenge for me to be able to go out and put my name out there a lot more like they did.”
The 2022 crown comes with the memory of a lost bid for the 2020 Pro Modified title still in his mind. Schwartz was beaten for the national title that year by 13 points, sending him back to the drawing board for 2021, where he did not play as big a factor at season’s end.
However, Schwartz regrouped with a new car in 2022 and brought the firepower, winning a career-high 17 Features and claiming the Kankakee County Speedway track championship in the process.
“We struggled the first part of the season, and I was just going out and trying to get laps in the new car still, and have fun,” Schwartz said. “In 2020, I definitely lost the fun in the racing. It ate me up too much, and the one thing that dad and grandpa always told me was don’t let it eat you up. Make sure you’re out there having fun, because if not, it’s gonna be the reason you lose points – because you’re not having fun anymore.”
UMP Sportsman – Zach Sasser (Bedford, IN)
The DIRTcar UMP Sportsman national title stays in Indiana for 2022 with Brownstown Speedway track champion Zach Sasser taking home the gold.
Sasser won a fourth-best seven Features in DIRTcar competition – three at Brownstown, three at Bloomington Speedway and one at Rock Crest Raceway. His home track gave him the most fits with the tough competition in the area, but Sasser stayed resilient, clinching his first national championship by 29 points.
“We were doing it the hardest way possible,” Sasser said. “Around our area, Brownstown Speedway has the toughest competition in our class. We were racing there every Saturday night, along with trying to race for DIRTcar points. We felt sometimes, it was harder to win the Brownstown points than national points.”
Stock Car – Zane Reitz (Veedersburg, IN)
Zane Reitz joined Stock Car team owner Mike Alsop for the 2022 season and brought the team their first championship in the division with a dominating performance from April to October.
Reitz, the 19-year-old first-time national champion, won at five different tracks this year, collecting 17 total Feature wins – the most of any driver in the last five-plus seasons. Among the highlights was a season-ending victory in the DIRTcar Street Stock Fall Nationals at Charleston Speedway in October.
For his successes this year, Reitz credits Alsop for his backing and leadership throughout the season and plans on a return to the seat for 2023.
“I can’t thank him enough; it’s an awesome opportunity,” Reitz said. “To be able to work with the group of people we’re working with is amazing. All our drivers are within 20 miles of each other, we’ve all been friends before we were put on the same team, and I think we have some of the best drivers in the nation locally here.”
Factory Stock – Trevor Isaak (Highland, IL)
For the third-straight season, Trevor Isaak sits alone atop the DIRTcar Factory Stock mountain.
It’s his fourth career national championship, one which was clinched by way of 18 Feature wins in the regular season – more than any other driver in the division.
“Hard work and dedication in the garage is the biggest part of it,” Isaak said. “When I show up, my car is 100 percent ready to go every time it hits the track. It’s fine-tooth combed and stuff, make sure there’s no failures to the best of my ability.”
En route to the title, Isaak also clinched a sixth-straight track championship at his home track of Highland Speedway.
Sport Compact – Jacob Owens (North Vernon, IN)
The DIRTcar Sport Compact championship heads eastward for the first time into the state of Indiana and into the hands of 2022 Rock Crest Raceway track champion, Jacob Owens.
Owens won each of the five Sport Compact Features held at Rock Crest this year as part of a 14-win season. Though he tied third-place Trey Duncan in the win column, Owens was more consistent, posting more top-five finishes that made up the difference in points.
“We actually didn’t expect to run for a national championship this year; we just happened to start rolling off some wins around mid-season,” Owens said. “We had bad luck at the beginning of the season, but we turned that around real quick. We started kicking off some wins, and just decided to go for it.”
Mod Lite – Jimmy Smith (Toboso, OH)
DIRTcar’s newest division of weekly racing crowns its second national champion in 2022, and the honors go to United CC Modified Series champion Jimmy Smith.
Though the Mod Lites were sanctioned under the DIRTcar banner in 2021, Smith becomes the first-ever national champion with weekly sanctioned tracks in play. It’s an honor that Smith has worked hard all season for.
“We started in Florida, and it didn’t go as well as we planned,” Smith said. “We changed the motor after having trouble the first couple weeks. We came home and just put our heads together, and we just made sure the car was there every week.”
Smith was the class of the field in 2022, winning a record 15 Features. No other driver in the division won more than nine times.
“Everybody thinks since these cars are little, they’re easy to drive,” Smith said. “I’ve raced Modifieds, and I’ve raced Late Models, but these are probably one of the toughest cars to drive. And the competition from week-to-week – everybody is right there together. I’ve just been fortunate enough the last few years to put myself where we need to be every week.”