The Dirt Track at Charlotte holds fond memories for World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models Series Director Steve Francis.
In 2007, it was where he officially claimed his World of Outlaws championship. And this year, it’ll be where he returns to racing for the first time since 2017 during the World Short Track Championship, Oct. 26-28.
The “Kentucky Colonel” will pilot the CASE Construction Equipment #6c 602 Late Model owned by World Racing Group CEO Brian Carter.
“I asked [Carter] if he was going to test at Charlotte, he said I’m out of town that weekend, so why don’t you just try and drive it,” Francis said.
After a few laps of “trying and driving” around the 4/10-mile track, it didn’t take long for the 28-time World of Outlaws winner to feel comfortable again – even in a 602 Late Model, which he’d never driven before.
“I had never really driven a 602 [Late Model] before, so I didn’t know much about it,” Francis said. “It kind of felt like riding a bike. It takes you some time to get your timing right. And I’m not nearly as consistent as I used to be or anything like that. I could tell that just by driving it.
“It was kind of like putting on an old pair of shoes or something. It was comfortable.”
That test was all Francis needed to decide his next move. When he called Carter on Tuesday morning, Francis told him he’d race the car at the World Short Track Championship if he could have fun.
However, it’s not only Francis having fun. World of Outlaws CASE Late Model Tech Inspector Ken Kenneda will be his crew chief, and Series Official Ricci Carringola will also help work on the car.
Working with Kenneda takes Francis back to his former racing days, as the two have crossed paths many times before working together with the Series.
“It’s neat for me and Kenny,” Francis said. “Kenny and I did some of this stuff 20-30 years ago. Kenny’s helped me on my racecars at different times and been around, so it’s kind of cool to be able to do something like this that we did 20-30 years ago. We even raced against each other back in the day.
“To kind of have him as Crew Chief is a fun experience for all of us we can do together that’s racing-oriented, but way different than our normal jobs.”
Kenneda echoed those words, hoping that it’s just like old times.
“I worked for Steve back in the day, and we always had a lot of fun back then,” Kenneda said. “I grew up together, so we kind of know what each other does and I guess we have a lot of faith in each other to do what we do. So, it’s going to be a good time.
“I made a remark the other night that we were going to be like the old Days of Thunder crew back in the day except when he comes in for a tire change, we’re going to be drinking a cold Busch Light instead of an ice cream.”
As Francis prepares to get back in a racecar for the World Short Track Championship, regaining the competitive edge isn’t his primary goal when he gets on the track. He has one objective as he creates another memory at Charlotte—have fun.
“I’m going out there to have fun and enjoy myself,” Francis said. “That is 100 percent it. No high expectations, no anything else. Just go out there and enjoy myself for a couple of days.”
Francis is one of more than 200 drivers from around the country that will gather at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, Oct. 26-28, to compete in one of 10 divisions throughout the World Short Track Championship weekend.
For tickets to the World Short Track Championship, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every lap of the World Short Track Championship live on DIRTVision with a monthly or annual subscription.