Royal Jones – the co-owner of the 5/16th-mile oval and a veteran UMP DIRTcar Modified driver – has a feeling the magic century mark will be reached when the 10th annual event rolls off on Nov. 6-8.
“It’s looking pretty good that we’ll finally get to 100 cars for the Fall DIRTcar Nationals,” said Jones, a trucking company magnate who purchased SNMS in 1993 with partner Jimmy Ray. “There’s never been more interest in this event. I think that’s because more and more people know we run a pretty fair show, pay back pretty well and put on a real fun weekend.”
More than 85 drivers from 14 different states have pre-entered the Fall DIRTcar Nationals, which ranks as one of the richest open-wheel Modified programs in the country. The winner of the 50-lap A-Main on Sun., Nov. 8, will earn a cool $10,000 from a whopping purse that exceeds $68,000.
With additional verbal commitments to appear coming from more than a dozen drivers and other racers from far-and-wide still calling the track office for event information, it’s clear why this year’s Fall DIRTcar Nationals has “record-setting field” written all over it. The 2008 edition attracted a robust 75 entries after seeing just over 55 drivers pre-register.
“DIRTcar Racing is honored to be involved with an event of this magnitude,” said DIRTcar Racing Western Region director Chris Morgan. “The Fall DIRTcar Nationals grows bigger and bigger every year and shows the short-track world what a great UMP DIRTcar Modified program that Royal Jones and his staff are building at Southern New Mexico Speedway.”
The entry list boasts many well-known, established drivers from across the country. Leading the charge to SNMS will be multi-time MARS DIRTcar Late Model Series champion Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., whose 2009 open-wheel Modified racing schedule is highlighted by a victory earlier this year in the Chub Daniel Memorial at Southern New Mexico. Phillips’s teammate and protégé, Arizona native Jeremy Payne, will also be in action.
Other noted racers expected to make long-distance hauls to SNMS include former UMP DIRTcar Modified national champion Denny Schwartz of Ashmore, Ill., veteran dirt Late Model standout Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., Jason Hughes of Watts, Ore., Jeff Taylor of Jonesbro, Ark., Kellen Chadwick of Oakley, Calif., and R.C. Whitwell of Tucson, Ariz. States also represented by pre-registered drivers include New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
A healthy contingent of local competitors stands ready to take on the invaders, including the 55-year-old Jones. The 2002 Fall DIRTcar Nationals winner, Jones will balance his weekend track-operation concerns with racing his Modified in hopes of continuing his recent hot streak – he’s won the last four races he’s entered in Modified and 305 Sprint Car competition.
The hometrack crowd will also include Royal’s son Bumper Jones, who has spent most of the 2009 season racing on the road in special UMP DIRTcar and USMTS events, 2009 Southern New Mexico Speedway UMP DIRTcar Modified champion Fito Gallardo of Las Cruces, N.M., and 2009 UMP DIRTcar Wild West Region titlist Jimmy Ray of Las Cruces, N.M.
The weekend will be jam-packed with racing. Preliminary programs – consisting of heats (lined up by pill draws), last-chance races and a feature – will be contested on Fri., Nov. 6, and Sat., Nov. 7, with each day’s 25-lap A-Main locking five drivers directly into the 50-lap championship headliner on Sun., Nov. 8, and additional finishers into Sunday’s B- and C-Mains. The Sunday finale will feature several last-chance events and the series of ‘alphabet’ races topped by the Fall DIRTcar Nationals.
Sunday’s 50-lapper offers a hefty $1,250 just to take the green flag, while drivers making it to the B-Main are guaranteed $700 and those reaching the C-Main are assured $400.
Support-division action for Street Stocks, Legends Cars and Super Trucks will also be part of the weekend, which boasts a total payout in the neighborhood of $100,000.
Gates are scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, with racing getting underway at 7:45 p.m. The Saturday and Sunday programs will begin earlier – gates opening at 12 noon and racing at 2 p.m.
Jones said racers and fans are invited to attend a huge post-race ‘bash’ following Saturday’s action.
“We’ll have a big bonfire, a band, and (sponsor) Sherman Barnett will cook up his famous ribs,” said Jones. “There’s going to be a lot of people camping at the track, so we’re going to have a real hoe-down. It’s gonna be a great time for everyone.”
Three-day passes are available for the weekend at a cost of $27 (grandstands) and $100 (pits). Individual day prices are $10 (Nov. 6-7) and $12 (Nov. 8) for the grandstands and $35 (Nov. 6-7) and $40 (Nov. 8) for the pits.
To view the full Fall DIRTcar Nationals Modified entry list, log onto
For more information on the Fall DIRTcar Nationals, visit www.snmspeedway.com or call 575-524-7913.
Additional info on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing is available at www.DIRTcar.com.