Photo and story by Rhonda Beck
Last weekend the gathering was great (and cold) as usual with a sold-out crowd at The World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. It was good to be back at the races, doing a little reporting, seeing old friends and meeting some new ones. Although I can no longer run up and down the stairs from the media tower to be at each victory lane and stage celebration, it was great to walk in the pits a couple of times during the day and be present for the World of Outlaws and Super DIRTcar series when they crowned their champions at night. It was also fun to hear Rick Eshelman, National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductee and voice of the World of Outlaws Late Models, call the action, and watch Blairsville, GA’s Jonathan Davenport sweep the weekend’s main late model events.
Results: The top three finishers each night included: Friday, November 5, 2021: Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds: 1. Alex Yankowski 2. Larry Wight 3. Matt Williamson; NOS Energy World of Outlaws Sprint Cars: 1. David Gravel 2. Kerry Madsen 3. Brian Brown; World of Outlaws Late Models: 1. Jonathan Davenport 2. Brandon Sheppard 3. Dennis Erb; Saturday, November 6, 2021: Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds: 1. Brett Hearn (also his 450th career DIRTcar Series victory) 2. Matt Sheppard 3. Peter Britten; NOS Energy World of Outlaws Sprint Cars: 1. Brent Marks 2. Brock Zearfuss 3. Donny Schatz; World of Outlaws Late Models: 1. Jonathan Davenport 2. Garrett Smith 3. Brandon Sheppard; 2021 Series Champions: Super DIRTcar: Matt Sheppard; NOS Energy World of Outlaws Sprint Cars: Brad Sweet; World of Outlaws Late Models: Brandon Sheppard.
A few notes on local late model drivers at the World Finals:
Mooresville’s Kyle Strickler finished eighth in Friday’s main event, won his heat race on Saturday and finished 22nd in the feature. His crew chief was Scott Fegter, working with Strickler in that capacity for the first time. Strickler said he plans to compete in more of the big races and crown jewels in 2022.
Chris Ferguson, of Mount Holly, NC, was driving a car with a tribute scheme honoring his friend Phil Nye, Jr. The blue and white 01 was different from his usual number 22, which fans have come to know. He finished in sixth place in Friday’s feature race but unfortunately suffered a crash in Saturday’s main event to end his night. His crew worked this week to get another car ready for him to compete in this weekend’s in Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas, NV.
Gray Court, SC’s Chris Madden had a successful season, touring with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and finishing second overall in the points standings. He placed 10th in Friday’s feature and 5th in Saturday’s main event. Madden also entertained fans by winning a game of cornhole in front of the grandstands. Madden is headed to the Peach Classic in Senoia, GA this weekend.
Mooresville’s Nick Hoffman made the World of Outlaws Late Model main events on both nights. The four-time DIRTcar Modifieds National champion finished 20th on Friday and 25th on Saturday.
A chat with Randy Clary at The World Finals
Randy Clary, of Randy Clary’s Racing Engines, was in Concord, NC to take in the World Finals action. Although Clary says he is basically retired, he still invests some time going to the races and providing engines for various drivers, like he has in past years. He spoke a little about that.
Rhonda Beck: Hi Randy. It’s good to see you here at the World Finals. Have you been enjoying it, despite the cold weather?
Randy Clary: It’s absolutely been great, but it is cold. They are supposed to add a day next year, which I don’t know what the format’s gonna be, but it should be good. I just hope they up the purse a little bit for these people, because this is a major race and you would think that it would be a major payout.
RB: Like the North/South 100 and all those races?
RB: That’s good to get your thoughts and honest opinion on that. Any highlights from this year, what you’ve been working on, or who you’ve been working with?
RC: I’ve got a few guys, but you know, it’s still a hobby, so it’s not a serious deal. I did go to Senoia (GA) in August with Brandon Overton. He had a car. He sold it to his brother. The SB2.2 is the engine that Cody Overton bought from me, and he let Brandon run the car at Senoia for the Mike Head Memorial race. We put it in and went down and it rained. Finally they got the track dry enough to get the practice in and it was about 6, 7/10th’s off in hot laps. But Brandon, he worked his butt off. It seemed that every time that Brandon was runnin’ Ashton down in the race, caution come out. But Brandon got second. So that was a part of a highlight of the year. Since then, Cody Overton sold that car and my engine to John Henderson. We went to Modoc about a month ago and John finished third. He qualified second, almost identical to Brandon, so I feel really good. One of the things that Brandon told me, was he said, ‘This is the best that these SB2s have ever run.’ So I was really happy with that. I’ve been workin’ on stuff, you know, like when I was workin’ in Cup. That was in ‘98 when the SB2s come out, so I’ve been working on that ever since then. Here it is 20 years later; 10-20 years later– whatever it is–and I’m like, ‘Damn, I’m finally gettin’ there.’ (he laughs.)
RB: Will you be going to Senoia for the Peach Classic?
RC: No, but Cody (Overton) did say at Charlotte that he may run his previous car and my engine in some upcoming races. Cody said he was going to run the Jeff Mathews car at Senoia.
RB: You’re just slowin’ it down a bit.
RC: Yeah, that’s right.
RB: But people love to see you and they know how great your stuff is.
RC: Yeah, it’s fun.
RB: Well, any other comments on our local guys? Jonathan Davenport won and Chris Ferguson placed 6th on Friday.
RC: I really like Chris’s car. It’s a throwback deal?
RB: Yeah, it’s a tribute car.
RC: Is it Billy Scott?
RB: No, it’s for Phil Nye, Jr.
RC: Oh yeah, that’s right. His car really looked good. I’d keep it that way, I think.
RB: Yeah, I like it. And anything upcoming yet this year?
RC: Well, I did talk to Brandon’s brother Cody, and I think John Henderson is gonna let Cody run that car some with my engine. I’ve got a young kid, Will Harris, down in Maysville GA, right there at Commerce GA. His dad’s name is Kenny Harris. He is involved with Benji Cole on the train chassis. He’s probably got a good future ahead of him. He’ll probably be racing when I’m dead and gone.
RB: Yeah, like I was talking to Carson Ferguson’s dad Tony, and they plan on moving up to the supers eventually. But it’s nice to see the drivers and the different generations. Anyway, nice to see you. Thank you for talking to me.
RC: No problem. Anytime.
Doug Sanders Inducted into the Carolina Speedway Hall of Fame
Super late model driver Doug Sanders was helping out in the late model pits at the World Finals over the weekend. A regular driver over the years in series such as the Carolina Clash and Ultimate Super Late Models, Sanders also was recently inducted into the Carolina Speedway Hall of Fame in Gastonia, N.C. Sanders, a two-time Shrine 100 winner at the track, commented on the award and his fellow inductees Buddy Smith, Duane Goins, and John Pursley.
RB: Anything to say about receiving this honor and your fun career in racing?
Doug Sanders: Yeah. Carolina’s my hometown track and I loved it and wish we still run here weekly in the show. I run in the Carolina Clash Series and the Ultimate Series and don’t get to come here a lot. But I enjoy coming down here when we come and I’m glad to come down on account of Buddy (Smith). If you really knew Buddy, he had a kind heart and he was a good fellow.
R: Awesome. And you had some kind words to say for your fellow inductees like Duane Goins?
D: Oh, I don’t have too much to say about Duane. Everybody knows how Duane is. Duane’s one of the best announcers in the South. I really enjoy Duane and congratulations to John (Pursley) for him getting his and everything. Me and John put on a heck of some races down here over the years.
R: And I remember all the things with your family and the Skyler Trull Memorial tributes. And all your racing, if it was with the Carolina Clash or a local race.
D: Yeah, I wish this year it was a Clash race—some super late models going to be here, and I could carry the flag. But I think some other boys are going to carry it tonight because we’re not running here. The series isn’t here.
R: Anything else to say?
D: That should do it. But I want to thank the track for giving this away and I’ve been doing this 47 years, been inducted into three hall of fames and it’s getting time to quit. (laughs)