by Don Martin
The 4th Annual Arizona Sport Shirts Gateway Dirt Nationals kick off today. The event will take place at The Dome at America’s Center located downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Cars will take to the track today 3 pm central time. There are over 200 cars on the property ready to hit the 1/5mile dirt oval today. There are 3 classes represented including midgets, modifieds, and super dirt late models. All the defending champions of the event are back to defend their titles including Christopher Bell in midgets, Mike Harrison in modifieds, and Bobby Pierce in late models.
The midgets and modified fields were invitation only which are split up each day running preliminary shows Thursday and Friday before each of the main events take place on Saturday night. The Super Late models were not capped and have drawn around 90 cars each of the past 3 years. The Super Late model feature will be Saturday night as well. Below I will break down some of the major players in each division.
The midgets are well represented including defending Dome champion and 3-Time Chili Bowl winner and NASCAR driver Christopher Bell from Norman, Oklahoma. Some will say the favorite heading into the Dome is Elk Grove, California driver Kyle Larson. Larson comes into the event on a roll. He won the Hangtown 100 and Turkey night last month so he has the momentum. Other big names include Chris Windom, Jason McDougal, Justin Grant, Logan Seavey, Jake Neuman, Dave Darland, Gio Scelzi, Michael Pickens, Tanner Thorson, Sammy Swindell, and USAC Champion Tyler Courtney. NASCAR is well represented with Ryan Newman, Chase Briscoe, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the building.
Mike Harrison local favorite from Highland, Illinois is also back on hand to defend his title in his Aggressive Graphics sponsored Impressive Chassis #24H. He will be taking on the likes of Kyle Strickler, Mike McKinney, Ricky Thornton Jr., Tanner Mullens, Will Krup, Kenny Wallace, Michael Long, Peyton Taylor, Trent Young, and Summit Champion Nick Hoffman. Bobby Pierce, Kyle Bronson, and Tyler Erb are some notable names from the Dirt Late Model ranks that will be in the modified class this weekend.
The Super Late Models will be led by Bobby Pierce, his aggressive style always makes him a fan favorite and is the defending champion of the event. Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Illinois and the #1 Ranked Dirt Late model driver in the Nation and the reigning World of Outlaw Dirt Late Model Champion will be on hand as well. He will be driving for Donny Schatz this weekend. The car is a Rocket Chassis something that Brandon is very familiar with so this will add some sauce to the show. Other big names include Hall of Fame drivers Scott Bloomquist and Billy Moyer. The Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Champion Jonathan Davenport will also be in the house joining some of the biggest names UMP including Shannon Babb, Jason Feger, Gordy Gundaker, Tanner English, Rusty Schlenk, Rusty Griffaw, and Ryan Unzicker.
If you have never been to the Gateway Dirt Nationals at the Dome you need to come it is a must see event with side by side racing and the driver introductions are usually hysterical come Saturday night.
Please visit the website for more details www.gatewaydirt.com