There’s a small list of events in the dirt track racing world that have reached an elite level of prestige. Win one, and you’ve cemented your place in motorsports history.
Knoxville Nationals. World 100. Chili Bowl Nationals. Super DIRT Week.
For the weekly racer, it’s the World Short Track Championship.
Every October since 2016, The Dirt Track at Charlotte is “Where Local Heroes Become World Champions.” Next Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 26-28, over 350 entrants are expected to flood The Dirt Track pit area in the eighth running of the marquee fall event for a shot at the season’s biggest trophy.
Ask any driver on that short list of champions and they won’t hold back. This event has become one – the one – every driver wants to win.
“I’m thinking about it in February,” said Dillon Brown, 2021 FOX Factory Pro Late Model Feature winner. “When I start making my schedule – Halloween weekend or the last weekend in October, I don’t really care what else there is out there do to or where you could go, I’m going to Charlotte.
“I’m thinking about it all year because Charlotte just means that much to me.”
“It’s in its own category in terms of races for me,” said Devon Morgan, the 2022 Mid-East Street Stock Feature winner.
“Just hearing people talk when the month of October’s here, the chatter starts, ‘Hey man, are you going to Charlotte this year?’” said Rod Tucker, two-time World Short Track Champion. “Of course I’m gonna be there. It’s a really prestigious event, I feel like it’s become that.”
For the past seven years, World Short Track Championship winners have represented the best in Northeast, Mid-East and Southeast dirt track racing. And there’s no question they recognize that distinction.
Tucker, the 28-year-old racer from Greenville, SC, has the exclusive honor as the only driver to win two World Short Track Championships in two different divisions. He conquered the MMSA Mini Stock field in 2018 before topping a 42-car field in the debut of the Monster Thunder Bombers last year, driving from 11th on the grid to score his second main event trophy.
“To have done it in two different classes with the amount of competition we’re racing against in this day and time, it’s unbelievable that we have done something like that,” Tucker said.
When he pulls into the pits, his competition takes note. Respected as one of the best dirt track racers week-to-week in the Southeast, Tucker has padded that reputation with his success at The Dirt Track, though he said he doesn’t always see it that way.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s a respect thing, I think it’s more of a target thing,” Tucker said. “I feel like I’ve got a bullseye painted on my back.”
Brown, 30, of Gaffney, SC, also captured the checkers in the 2016 Pro Late Model All-Star Invitational Feature to match his 2021 Pro Late Model Championship Feature win. Between those two wins and a weekend sweep of a special event for Crate-engine Late Models in 2018, he said his success at Charlotte has unlocked several opportunities for him in his career.
“From the time I left that race, the amount of people that knew my name and the popularity with product sponsors in the pits, I put it on my grave – that race in 2018 really boosted my career,” Brown said. “I think it has a lot to do with Charlotte. Just that stage and the number of media outlets that see that place.”
For Morgan, the 21-year-old Street Stock and Late Model racer from Easley, SC, his charge from 11th on the starting grid one year ago was a race he’ll never forget. He’d made the trip to Charlotte three times prior – twice in a Street Stock and once with a 602 Late Model – but fell short each time, until his breakthrough last year.
“I watched the replay back just a couple weeks ago,” Morgan said. “I still get goosebumps just watching it back.”
In Victory Lane, he received a coveted steel trophy to commemorate his triumph on one of the biggest stages of the year – one that he said stands out against the others in his collection.
“It’s one of the few that I keep in my room up in front of my TV,” Morgan said. “It’s definitely my favorite Street Stock win. Probably top-three wins out of any win that I’ve had.”
When the air begins to cool and the fall months arrive, all eyes turn to the red clay, 4/10-mile oval in Concord, NC. It’s a track unlike anything else in its region, and the drivers agree.
“When you get to go to Charlotte and it slicks off and widens-out, it puts on a show,” Morgan said. “We all look forward to that and being able to actually race people and not just be stuck where you start at.”
“It’s a very fun place – it’s wide and it’s racey. It’s always more than one lane,” Brown said. “That’s saying a lot in this part of the world. I look forward to any opportunity that I have to race there.”
Now, one week out before showtime, the anticipation is boiling-over. There’s a phenomenon that exists amongst new drivers entering the hallowed grounds of Daytona International Speedway before their first laps on the track – their heads fill with excitement, nerves and wonder. The Dirt Track at Charlotte evokes a similar feeling from its own competitors every October.
“When I roll through the bottom gate down there and we’re headed up there to park, you get butterflies when you’re getting up through there,” Tucker said. “I’ll hop on my pit bike and ride down to Turns 3-4 and I’ll just sit there and look, survey the track and just take in everything.”
See each of these World Short Track Champions take on The Dirt Track at Charlotte in the eighth annual World Short Track Championship – Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 26-28. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, stream all the action live on DIRTVision.