by Stephanie Odom on February 28, 2011
The Western All Stars created a new revolution of Late Model racing on the West Coast years ago. With the series changing promoters multiple times it eventually came to an end and was absent for the 2010 season. However, for 2011 DIRTcar will be making it’s return to the West Coast along with the Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series. The series will make it’s first appearance for 2011 on April 16th at Antioch Speedway. They are scheduled to run fifteen races throughout California and Nevada with a two day finale at Chowchilla Speedway.
Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series set to make a Big Bang
Everything’s bigger in the West, and that will be apparent from the very beginning of the Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series.
Actually, legendary will be the operative word during the first two weekends of the season with renowned racer turned promoter John Soares’ Antioch (CA) Raceway hosting the season opener on April 16th, 2011 and legendary drag racer Ron Capps adding star power to the second show of the year the following weekend at Giant Chevrolet Speedway in Hanford, CA.
“Ron Capps and I have created a friendship over the last couple of years and he’s always offering to come out and run a super late model at our track,” said Scott Woodhouse, promoter of Giant Speedway. “He enjoys himself and the interaction with the fans; he just does it for the pure enjoyment of the sport.”
“This is basically one of the only times he gets into a car before the NASCAR Prelude to the Dream, so this is his practice time.” Woodhouse continued.
And if star-power is not enough of an incentive to draw a huge crowd of fans and a stellar car count, the purses will be. The Western All Stars series will feature 15 races, each with a minimum purse of $2,000 to win and $400 to start, which will draw the biggest names in Western late model action to the track every week.
“We had the Western All Stars here a couple of years ago and I’m certainly excited to have them back,” said Kenny Shepherd, whose Chowchilla Speedway will host three events in 2011, including the season finale two-day show in mid-October. “My first year promoting a dirt track was in 2009 and we had the Western All Stars there. They were fantastic shows.”
The Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series will draw huge fields from up and down the West Coast and there is one more reason for that. Drivers in this series will be running for not just one, but multiple points’ funds. The Western All Stars will crown their own champion, but will also run for top honors in the DIRTcar Pacific Coast region that will pay out on a separate points’ fund and these races also count for national points.
That has last year’s defending DIRTcar Western late model champion Mark Carrell studying the schedule to run as many Western All Star tour races as possible. “I’m very excited about the Western All Stars and I’ll try to hit every one of those races and see if we can compete for the championship,” he said.
“This news is absolutely awesome,” said Merced businessman and racer Chris Shannon. “I’m building a brand new car for the DIRTcar UMP West Modifieds, and I’m happy about the Western All Stars. This is a good thing. I like to race with quality drivers, and we’ll have the best.”
“Being a local Merced guy,” he continued, “I see this as great for the community, and great for local business. I couldn’t be happier.” Merced Raceway hosts two race mid-summer on July 24th and August 7th, with several other races in California’s central valley anchoring the Western Allstars schedule.
He will have to face some stiff competition from the defending Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series champion Bobby Hogge IV, who won the honors in 2009. “We’re going to be an avid supporter of the series this year,” Hogge said. “The purse looks good since we’re going to be looking at $2,000 to win and $400 to start, so we should draw a decent number of cars and put on a good show.”
“If we’ve got a race to run that is close to home, it’s more lucrative for us,” Hogge continued. “We race on what we make, so we’re going to go to the races that look like they will support our program the best. I hope everyone is looking at it that way as well. Most importantly, we need to support late model racing in California.”
Matt Michelli is another racer excited about the expanded opportunity to race. “I’m going to the full schedule in California and Nevada, and then head up to Oregon for at least two or four of those races,” Michelli said. “I’d like to get to Lebanon on Memorial Day, because everything in dark here and then up to Southern Oregon for the Battle of the Borders at the end of the year. Cottage Grove too-it’s nice there, and Sunset-but I just have to see how it’s going.”
“We got back into racing in 2008 and followed DIRTcar that season,” Michelli continued. “Last year, we only ran three super late shows because there just were no races for us up here, so we’re excited to run the Western All Stars. Having a 15-race schedule means that we have a lot more opportunity to race.”
Another Oregon racer, John Duty is looking to make the long tow to California as often as possible to help swell the car count: “I’m real excited about the options that are available here in the Northwest with what we have to run and the races down in California that we can get to. A couple of years ago we ran some races down in California and this year our intention is to hit all the Oregon races and the California races where the dates don’t conflict.”
“The upcoming two-day shows really makes the trip worthwhile, to be able to come down and run two races at one time. It’s 14-15 hours for us to get down to some of these tracks, so to have the ability to run two races is definitely a bonus,” Duty said.
“We’re hoping for big things. The driver who participate in the Western All Stars are the best in the Western United States and its exciting to get them back to our track and get the tour a big crowd,” said Woodhouse. “This was a series that I basically operated on the road, to see some of my old friends in a series that I put a lot of time and effort into and really had a passion for. It’s exciting to see them coming back and put on a show for my fans at my track.”
“It will be great to have the Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series back in the Bay Area and northern California,” said John Soares. “The late models were always a fan favorite, and I’m sure with the number of tracks participating, there will be excellent car counts. Thanks to Chris Morgan getting the tracks here to cooperate, excitement for this series is building. We’ll have both Antioch and Merced in the finest condition, as always, to ensure the best racing fans can see.”
In addition to some of the best dirt late model racing in the region, drivers will get a chance to run a special paved race at Madera Speedway. “I’ve had Madera Speedway since 2006 and we do a lot of special events there. I’m very excited to bring the series to the Western All Stars late models to pavement racing and expose the fans. We want to show the dedicated pavement fans what kind of horsepower monsters these cars are,” said Shepherd, who promotes both Chowchilla and Madera.
“Interestingly enough, a couple of years ago the I-5 series here in Oregon was a combination of dirt and pavement races-this goes back into the 80s-so the Madera race intrigues me a lot,” said last year’s Western DIRTcar Points’ leader Carrell. “These cars are wicked fast on pavement.”
“Big purses, special events, multiple points’ funds, and star-power is going to make this one of the most biggest seasons for West Coast late model racing,” said Chris Morgan, Director of Western Operations for DIRTcar. “Running on a wide variety of tracks-from dirt to paved-at nearly a dozen different venues means that this year’s Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series champion can truly say they are the best in the region.”
“Some of the best late model racers in the country live and compete on the West Coast, but without the same volume of races that can be found in the Midwest and Eastern states, they haven’t previously shared the same spotlight,” said Morgan. “The return of the Western All Star DIRTcar series in 2011 will go a long way to fixing that problem.”
California’s Michelli did the best of summing up the consensus about the schedule, driver lineup and types of courses: “I’m pretty excited actually; it’s pretty diversified. I’m excited that they’re back.”
2011 Western All Star DIRTcar Late Model Series Schedule
16 – Antioch Raceway – Antioch, CA
23 – Giant Chevrolet Speedway – Hanford, CA
14 – Chowchilla Speedway – Chowchilla, CA
11 – Calistoga Speedway – Calistoga, CA
25 – Antioch Raceway – Antioch, CA
16 – Madera Speedway (pavement special event)
22 – Silver Dollar Speedway – Chico, CA
24 – Merced Raceway – Merced, CA
6 – Antioch Speedway – Antioch, CA
7 – Merced Raceway – Merced, CA
13 – Reno/Fernley Raceway – Fernley, NV
14 – Reno/Fernley Raceway – Fernley, NV
10 – TBA
14 – Chowchilla Speedway (DIRTcar West Finals LM’s and Mods) – Chowchilla, CA
15 – Chowchilla Speedway (DIRTcar West Finals LM’s and Mods) – Chowchilla, CA
Schedule is subject to change, so always check with the racetrack as you are making your plans