After a week of World of Outlaws Sprint Car racing, the wings are coming off for two days of United States Auto Club (USAC) Non-Wing Sprint Car racing at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals.
Championship points, impressive paydays and gator trophies will be on the line both days (Monday-Tuesday, Feb. 12-13) as USAC’s Winter Dirt Games continue at Volusia Speedway Park. Points collected between the two days will go toward the elusive Big Gator title.
Jake Swanson scored the Big Gator last year, becoming the first driver to win the life-size gator trophy with USAC. CJ Leary was the first Non-Wing driver to win a Big Gator in 2022 when the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Car Series debuted Non-Wing Sprint Cars at “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” that year.
This year, with championship points on the line, USAC’s elite field of national stars will battle to take home the prestigious gator trophies, including two-time and defending Series champion Justin Grant, two-time and defending Chili Bowl Nationals champion Logan Seavey, four-time Series champion Brady Bacon, 2015 Series champion Robert Ballou, Swanson, Leary and more.
Drivers will contend for a $6,000 payday on Monday and a $10,000 payday on Tuesday.
Here are the top storylines to follow:
HUMAN HORSEPOWER: Justin Grant, of Ione, CA, enters Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals as the class favorite after winning USAC’s two season-opening events at Ocala Speedway. He’s also the two-time and defending USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National champion.
However, among all of Grant’s accomplishments, his trophy collection is still void of a golden gator. In four starts at Volusia, he’s scored one top five and two top-10 finishes.
If he can win Monday with his TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink #4 Sprint Car, he’ll bring NOS Energy its third straight win at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile.” NOS Energy picked up back-to-back wins to conclude the first week of DIRTcar Nationals with Tyler Courtney winning Friday night with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars and then Sheldon Haudenschild winning on Saturday.
GATOR CHAMPS RETURN: There have only been two Non-Wing Sprint Car Big Gator champions in DIRTcar Nationals history, and both will be back to take home more gators.
CJ Leary, of Greenfield, IN, won the inaugural Big Gator title for the Non-Wing division in 2022 and Jake Swanson, of Anaheim, CA, picked up the championship last year.
Leary also won the inaugural Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Car race at Volusia in 2022, and then followed that with finishes of fourth, seventh and third at the half-mile track.
He enters 2024 with a full season under his belt with the BGE-Dougherty Motorsports team, and they’ve already hit the ground running with finishes of second and fourth at Ocala.
Swanson is the defending Big Gator champion, after placing first and fifth in last year’s DIRTcar Nationals doubleheader. However, he did that with Team AZ Racing. This year, he’s piloting the #2B for Scott Benic’s 2B Racing team. Logan Seavey drove the car last year and finished 14th and 15th in the two Volusia races.
Swanson and the team are currently tied for seventh in Series points with Daison Pursley, who won the last Non-Wing Sprint Car race at DIRTcar Nationals and is now the driver of Team AZ Racing’s #21AZ.
CONSISTENT BALLOU: Piloting his own Ballou Motorsports #12 machine, Robert Ballou has been one of the most consistent drivers at Volusia but has yet to score a trophy to show for it.
In 2022, he finished fourth and third, and then followed that with finishes of second and eighth last year.
The 2015 USAC Sprint Car champion, from Rocklin, CA, is already off to a good start this year with back-to-back top five finishes at Ocala to open the USAC season. He’s the winningest driver/owner in USAC Sprint Car history, with 32 wins, but a gator trophy still waits to be added to that stat.
SEAVEY CHASING HISTORY: Logan Seavey, of Sutter, CA, has already stood atop the world this year after winning his second consecutive Chili Bowl Nationals title. Now, he’s chasing USAC’s coveted Triple Crown accolade with Abacus Racing.
He won USAC’s national Midget and Silver Crown titles last year with the team, and this year they want a slice of history by joining Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley as Triple Crown winners. And with DIRTcar Nationals being a Series points event this year, it’ll be another key stop on their journey to achieve that.
Seavey has yet to best a 14th-place finish in four starts at the track, but after back-to-back third-place finishes to open the season, he and the Abacus team might have momentum on their side for a strong gator hunt.
BACON!: Brad Bacon, of Broken Arrow, OK, is 10 wins away from besting Dave Darland’s all-time Series record of 62 wins. DIRTcar Nationals offers him two chances to close on that record and pick up his first gator trophy.
After only getting two laps in during the first Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Car race at Volusia in 2022, Bacon has garnered finishes of second, fourth and seventh in his following three races at the track.
The “Macho Man” has gotten off to a rough start with his Dynamics, Inc. #69 car after back-to-back finishes outside the top 10 to open the season. But his strong stats at Volusia could be the crutch that helps him get back on track with chasing Darland’s record and his fifth Series title.
TRACK RECORD: 16.362 seconds established by Thomas Meseraull on February 14, 2023
PAST VOLUSIA WINNERS:
2023 – Jake Swanson on Feb. 13, Daison Pursley on Feb. 14
2022 – CJ Leary on Feb. 14, Thomas Meseraull on Feb. 15
BIG GATOR CHAMPIONS (Non-Wing Sprint Cars):
2023 – Jake Swanson
2022 – CJ Leary