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WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: National, Regional Points Champions to be Recognized at 2023 DIRTcar Banquet

Tyler Carr Photo

The milestone 40th year of DIRTcar Racing saw one of the most competitive and lucrative seasons in weekly dirt track racing history. And with the final checkered flag having fallen, we recognize those who shined the brightest in each division.

Nine kings of their respective divisions, plus special award winners, are set to be honored for their yearlong efforts at the 2023 DIRTcar Racing Awards Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 6 at the Springfield Crowne Plaza in Springfield, IL.

Late Model and UMP Modified drivers finishing inside the top-70 of national points, plus any driver in the top-25 of all other divisions, including the top-five in Mod Lites, are eligible to receive their points fund check and trophies at the banquet. The top-10 of each division’s region are also eligible for recognition during the ceremony.

Tickets for award winners and drivers receiving points fund checks will be available for purchase in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to DIRTcar Racing social media for updates and more information on how and when to purchase.

Congratulations to each of DIRTcar’s 2023 national points champions:

Late Model – Jason Feger (Bloomington, IL)

For the first time since 2009, Jason Feger is king of the DIRTcar Late Models.

Sixteen Feature victories in DIRTcar competition topped the win column in addition to a nation-high 66 starts he made this year. Eight of those wins came in MARS Late Model Championship action en route to the 2023 points title, making Feger the third driver from the State of Illinois to win the series championship.

“This is the most wins we’ve had since probably 2012 or 2013,” Feger said. “There’s a lot of races [going on]. There’s midweek shows, the Summer Nationals and now the MARS Series – there’s just so many races, so we get to race more.”

Feger on the way to his DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory at Brownstown Bullring in June (Tyler Carr Photo)

Feger topped fields at nine different DIRTcar tracks this season, including marquee victories on the DIRTcar Summer Nationals trail at Brownstown Bullring, Lincoln Speedway and Paducah International Raceway in addition to two weekly points titles. He and veteran crew chief Jason Palubicki have spent the past two seasons conforming to their current setup after multiple chassis changes over the past few seasons and have since reaped the big rewards.

“[It’s my] second year in a Longhorn [Chassis] car; it just fits me really well,” Feger said. “We’ve just had a really good balance and we’ve got a good notebook. Pretty much everywhere we unloaded, we were fast. We were just making good decisions, we know what to do, and it just comes from working hard.”

UMP Modified – Tyler Nicely (Owensboro, KY)

Two years ago, he ranked third. Last year, he came up one spot short in second. But this year, Tyler Nicely is the 2023 DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion.

A nation-high 27 Feature wins this season put the 28-year-old Kentucky racer on top of DIRTcar’s most populated division for the first time in his career. He began the year with five wins during UMP Modified Florida Speedweeks in January-February and continued his excellence throughout the summer, winning five times in 17 starts en route to his first DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship.

Nicely winning his fifth Summit Modified Feature of the season at Butler Motor Speedway. (Terry Page Photo)

Nicely was also the early favorite to win the inaugural MARS Modified Championship, but Late Model duty called later in the summer aboard the Hatcher’s Auto Sales, Longhorn Chassis #6, shuffling his priorities and taking him out of contention for the points title. Still, he notched a total of three victories in MARS competition this year en route to a fifth-place finish in points.

“The main thing was just [me being] comfortable and having a good group behind me that kept the car going and do what we set out to this year,” Nicely said. “At the beginning of the year, we wanted to win the national title, the [Summit Modified title], and we were leading the MARS championship too when I got the Late Model ride.

“To do what we did with both series, it’s kind of hard to believe.”

Pro Late Model – Jose Parga (New Berlin, IL)

Twenty Feature wins in 22 starts. A 19-race win streak. A fourth national points championship. Jose Parga has had quite the 2023 season.

The 26-year-old racer dominated the Pro Late Model division like none before him have, winning over 90 percent of the races he started.

“I thought three years ago was the best year I would’ve ever had,” Parga said. “And then to sit back and really look at everything we’ve done this year, it’s like, wow. Now we definitely don’t think we’ll be able to do what we’ve done this year again.”

Read More – ‘UNBELIEVABLE’: Jose Parga Headlines DIRTcar Fall Nationals After Near-Perfect, 19-Win Season

DIRTcar Pro Late Model driver Jose Parga racing at Lincoln Speedway

Parga at Lincoln, where he’ll try for five wins in five starts at the 1/4-mile this year. (Brendon Bauman Photo)

Parga made the switch to a BMF Race Car for 2023 and made the most of it, going a perfect seven-for-seven at Farmer City Raceway and six-for-six at Lincoln Speedway in weekly competition. Near perfection at this level requires immense talent and attention-to-detail, and Parga devotes a lot of the credit for keeping up with those details to his crew who worked throughout the season to keep him on top.

“I firmly believe races are won in the race shop, not at the racetrack,” Parga said. “Me and my crew chief, Alex [Zuniga]… he’s picked up on a lot of things. I wouldn’t necessarily say I do all the work; he does a lot of it. It’s just a deal where I’ve got to teach him the right and wrong way that we do things.

“I could trust him to go, ‘Hey, do this,’ and it gets done. It just makes life a lot easier as a driver, not having to worry about other things on the race car. All I have to do is worry about driving.”

Pro Modified – Deece Schwartz (Ashmore, IL)

Twenty-year-old Deece Schwartz had big shoes to fill when he began his career a short time ago. His grandfather – 2006 DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion Denny Schwartz – and father – famed Illinois veteran racer Danny Schwartz – watched him as he began racing in the Pro Modified ranks around DIRTcar’s staple Illinois tracks with aspirations of success.

They’ve since watched Deece transform as a driver in the Crate-engine-powered Modified division, winning his first national championship last year and now a second in 2023.

Schwartz capped his 2023 season with a sweep of the DIRTcar Fall Nationals at Lincoln Speedway (Brendon Bauman Photo)

“It’s great because I’ve always wanted to do something my dad and grandpa have never done,” Schwartz said. “My grandpa’s won a [UMP] Modified national championship, so that’s kinda hard to beat. But it’s something he hasn’t done, dad hasn’t been able to do, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do and I could only dream of doing my whole career.”

Schwartz also notched both the Kankakee County Speedway and Charleston Speedway track championships with a total of 25 Feature wins in DIRTcar-sanctioned action.

UMP Sportsman – Josh Litton (Paragon, IN)

Deep in the heart of Indiana dirt track racing country lies a hotbed for DIRTcar UMP Sportsman racing and the home tracks of 2023 national champion, Josh Litton.

Litton, 28, of Paragon, IN, collected his first career DIRTcar national points title on the back of eight Feature wins, spread between two Indiana dirt staples – Lincoln Park Speedway and his home track, Paragon Speedway.

He defeated nearest rival Larry Raines by only 22 points in the final standings. Raines was one of several tough competitors Litton raced on a weekly basis this year and credited him for the challenge throughout the season.

“There were nights we had all of the top-10 from Indiana at the track,” Litton said. “Larry Raines – he’s one of the best there is – it was just great competition over there.”

Stock Car – Jerrad Krick (Earl Park, IN)

After winning a three-peat of national DIRTcar championships in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Jerrad Krick endured a dry spell of championship gold.

“We’ve been second so many times, I didn’t know if I was ever going to get back to the top again or not before my career was over,” Krick said.

But 2023 was the 46-year-old veteran’s year, as he cashed in for a nation-high 13 Feature wins in 31 starts en route to his first national championship in 15 years. Krick joined forces with Stock Car dynasty owner Mike Alsop for 2023 and closed out the championship in the final weekend of the season at Charleston Speedway, where he also won the track championship with nine Feature wins in local competition.

“Mike Alsop Racing put me in good equipment, Cody Roberts at Bullet Chassis built me a hell of a racecar, and HP Machine had some awesome power to go with it,” Krick said.

Factory Stock – Trevor Isaak (Highland, IL)

The last four seasons of DIRTcar Factory Stock racing have been dominated by one man who continued his rule over the division in 2023 – Trevor Isaak.

Isaak, 33, of Highland, IL, collected his fourth-straight national championship – fifth of his career – this season on the back of 18 Feature wins in 25 recorded races. Boasting a win percentage of 72, Isaak has established a longstanding reputation of winning with the fans and in the pit area.

“I try not to get a big ego or a big head over it,” Isaak said. “I want to go out there and do the best I can at any given second and put on a show for the fans.”

Austin Foutch // Bigdog’s Racing Photography

The fans show up every week at his home track of Highland Speedway, where he’s now won the last six division track championships. Isaak greatly values the success he has at the 1/4-mile oval and knows the role it’s played in his quest for the national title each year.

“Highland’s always been one of those tracks when you talk to people like if you run well at Highland, you can run pretty decent at most tracks,” Isaak said. “That’s my backyard track, I’ve got thousands of laps around there, so that definitely comes into play.”

Sport Compact – Jimmy Dutlinger (Peoria, IL)

Another first-time national champion in DIRTcar’s 40th weekly racing season, Jimmy Dutlinger topped the Sport Compact division with a perfect, 20-win season in 53 recorded races.

Dutlinger captured both the Kankakee County Speedway and Charleston Speedway track championships en route to the national title, notching a combined 16 Feature wins between the two tracks.

Dutlinger becomes the sixth different driver in the last six years to win the Sport Compact national title.

Mod Lite – Jimmy Smith (Toboso, OH)

For the second-straight year, Jimmy Smith has captured the DIRTcar Mod Lite national championship.

The 38-year-old Ohio racer has raced Modifieds and Late Models before but has since found a home racing in the Mod Lite division. He dominated his competition this season with 18 wins in 31 recorded races; no other driver has more than nine Feature wins.

Thirteen of those wins in 2023 came at Hilltop Speedway, where he captured the track championship again, thanks in part to a chassis change from his 2022 setup.

“We switched chassis brands earlier in the year and it all just fell together,” Smith said. “I just feel more comfortable in the new car, and the people that are behind me – they treat me like family.”

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