Concord, NC — With the announcement of the 2009 schedule, the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour is set to usher in an exciting new era for the region’s full-fender racers and fans.
Twelve events at five tracks in Oregon and Washington currently comprise the championship battle for the highly-anticipated series, which expands DIRTcar Racing’s presence to the Northwestern corner of the country. DIRTcar Racing – the brand name for the sanctioning body run by the World Racing Group of Concord, N.C. – brought its name recognition and organizational muscle to the Pacific Coast’s dirt Late Model scene for the first time in 2008 by assuming control of the California-based DIRTcar Western Allstars Late Model Series.
“We’re thrilled to bring the benefits of the DIRTcar Racing program to the Northwest’s dirt Late Model teams,” said Chris Morgan, who serves as director of DIRTcar Racing’s operations in the western states. “Our goal is to work with the great racers and tracks in Oregon and Washington to build the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour into a premier regional series that showcases the talented drivers and excellent racing facilities in the Northwest.”
The 2009 DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour schedule lists a series-high five events at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore., a historic one-third-mile oval that boasts arguably the strongest weekly Super Late Model program in the region. Three races have been inked at the longtime UMP DIRTcar Modified-sanctioned Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, Ore., two at Cottage Grove (Ore.) Speedway and one each at Sunset Speedway Park in Banks, Ore., and Skagit Speedway in Burlington, Wash.
Making the series appealing to teams from a traveling standpoint, one-third of the schedule will be contested over three holiday weekends, beginning with a season-opening Memorial Day weekend tripleheader at Cottage Grove (May 22) and Willamette (May 23-24). Additional holiday tripleheaders will be staged around Independence Day (Southern Oregon on July 3, Willamette on July 4 and Cottage Grove on July 5) and Labor Day (Skagit on Sept. 3 and Willamette on Sept. 5-6).
With a two-day program concluding the season on Sept. 25-26 at Southern Oregon Speedway, the only stand-alone date is Aug. 14 at Sunset Speedway Park. Sunset is a one-third-mile oval located just minutes from Portland.
The tour’s visit to Skagit Speedway on Thurs., Sept. 3, will bring a rare full-bore dirt Late Model event to the famed Washington State oval promoted by Steve Beitler. The date will also lead into a two-night (Sept. 4-5) program for the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, another tour operated by the World Racing Group.
“I’m excited to bring the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour to Skagit Speedway,” said Beitler, a veteran Sprint Car driver who is entering his eighth season at the helm of the track. “The best Late Model drivers on the West Coast will be coming to Skagit, so the show is going to be fantastic.
“This race is going to give the fans the best of both worlds – dirt Late Models and the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars. We already have a lot of people who camp out on Thursday night for the World of Outlaws races, so adding a Late Model show is going to give them something extra and spectacular to watch.”
The DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour will continue the tradition of the former I-5 Challenge Series, which Willamette Speedway promoter Bill Arnold operated for the last nine years. Arnold is a key supporter of DIRTcar Racing’s arrival on the Pacific Northwest’s dirt Late Model landscape.
“I think DIRTcar running the Northwest I-5 Tour is going to help Late Model racing immensely in this area,” said Arnold, whose track hosted strong Super Late Model fields ranging from 28 to 47 cars during the 2008 season. “It’s what we’ve needed around here to get the tracks together so a series can grow into something big.
“Having DIRTcar directing the series opens the door for Late Model drivers from this area to fine-tune their talent by running more races on different surfaces and different size tracks, and the individual (track) promoters will have a better chance to draw more fans with the name ‘DIRTcar’ behind them.”
Richard Barney, who in 2009 will operate Southern Oregon Speedway with Ric Donnelly under the banner of B&D Racing, LLC, is another promoter who is bullish on the prospects of the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour.
“I think this series will bring Late Models more to the forefront in the region,” said Barney, whose track is a cornerstone for UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned open-wheel Modified racing on the West Coast. “The more people get exposed to these fast, wild-looking, exciting, high-traction cars, the more it’s going to build awareness and demand for the division.”
Barney is looking forward to Southern Oregon Speedway hosting the season finale for the tour – the two-day ‘Battle at the Border’ that will close out the 2009 points race. The special event at the track located 30 miles from the California border is expected to attract a contingent of drivers from the DIRTcar Western Allstars Late Model Series.
The DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour will operate using the same rules and race format (time trials, heats, dash, etc.) as the DIRTcar Western Allstars Late Model Series, which has grown to become the West Coast’s preeminent dirt Late Model trail. The Northwest Tour and Western Allstars will also not have conflicting dates, allowing Western Allstars director Scott Woodhouse to add the same position with the Northwest Tour to his DIRTcar duties.
The tour’s 30-lap features will carry a base first-place purse of $1,500.
In addition, the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour will provide the West Coast’s dirt Late Model drivers increased exposure by being part of the WRG’s UMP DIRTcar Racing program, which posted $206,625 in points-fund cash just for the dirt Late Model division in 2008. Drivers competing in DIRTcar Northwest and DIRTcar Western Allstars Late Model Series events will battle for a new UMP DIRTcar West Region points title and earn points toward the sanctioning body’s national standings.
“We’re excited to create more opportunities for our DIRTcar Western Region Late Model competitors to gain national recognition and earn post-season points-fund money,” said Morgan. “Having a chance to compete for the prestigious UMP DIRTcar national and regional championships offers another incentive to the DIRTcar Western Region teams.”
Drivers from the Pacific Northwest are already making plans to be part of the region’s biggest dirt Late Model series ever.
“I hope it evolves into something that encompasses the entire West Coast and leads to bigger races both in the Northwest and on the West Coast,” said Portland, Ore.’s John Duty, one of the region’s top drivers. “With this series and the Western Allstars being run by the same people and under the DIRTcar banner, I hope that can lead to bigger things and bigger events for dirt Late Model racing out West. Now we have a regional series with some notoriety like everywhere else in the country, so that will benefit us when talking to new and potential sponsors.
“Hopefully this series will step up the competition level here in the Northwest and help to make us better when we go to bigger events back east.”
Additional info on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing is available at www.DIRTcar.com.
2009 DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour Tentative Schedule
May 22, Cottage Grove Speedway, Cottage Grove, Ore.
May 23, Willamette Speedway, Lebanon, Ore.
May 24, Willamette Speedway, Lebanon, Ore.
July 3, Southern Oregon Speedway, Medford, Ore.
July 4, Willamette Speedway, Lebanon, Ore.
July 5, Cottage Grove Speedway, Cottage Grove, Ore.
Aug. 14, Sunset Speedway Park, Banks, Ore.
Sept. 3, Skagit Speedway, Burlington, Wash.
Sept. 5, Willamette Speedway, Lebanon, Ore.
Sept. 6, Willamette Speedway, Lebanon, Ore.
Sept. 25, Southern Oregon Speedway, Medford, Ore.
Sept. 26, Southern Oregon Speedway, Medford, Ore.
* Schedule is subject to change