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DIRTcar Pro / CRUSA 604 Late Models and 602 Late Models Open Sunshine Nationals at Volusia




Dillon Brown, Richie Stephens, Austin Yarbrough, Brock Pinkerous Win Pro Late Model Qualifying Features in Sunshine Nationals Opener

BARBERVILLE, FL (Jan. 19, 2024) – The DIRTcar Pro / Crate Racin’ USA (CRUSA) 604 Late Model division packed the Volusia Speedway Park pits with nearly 70 Chevrolet Performance Crate engine-powered machines Friday night and put on four entertaining Qualifying Features as part of the fifth annual DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals.

In the end, Dillon Brown, Richie Stephens, Austin Yarbrough and Brock Pinkerous emerged victorious and will head into Saturday’s finale with momentum as they chase the $10,000 grand prize in the 30-lap Feature.

Qualifying Feature #1 – Dillon Brown

A multi-time World Short Track Championship winner in Charlotte. A multi-time Crate Racin’ USA Feature winner. And now, Dillon Brown is a DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals Feature winner.

Brown, 31, of Gaffney, SC, made the trip to Volusia for the inaugural running of Sunshine Nationals in 2020 but did not get the results he was looking for. He returned to the half-mile oval this week and immediately got what he was looking for, leading all 20 laps of the first Pro Late Model Qualifying Feature.

While he controlled the race from start to finish, Brown’s lead of over 3.5 seconds nearly evaporated in the closing stages after he caught lapped traffic.

“When I caught those guys, the car that I was gonna lap – he pulled to the bottom down the front straightaway like he was going to give me the top,” Brown said. “But when I arrived at the corner, he wanted the top again. It’s the dirty air running so fast here.

“The racetrack was just so narrow that when he moved across me, the air just moved my nose and up the racetrack I went, and I really thought I was in trouble. If I didn’t have that lead, I would’ve been in trouble.”

Fortunately, Brown had the racer’s instinct and devised a plan to stay out front, even with the traffic in front of him.

“I was in control of the race and I decided to stay in control of my pace,” Brown said. “Just do a really good job of pacing myself from the lapped car [in front of me] to those guys [behind me]. When my sticks would get two car [lengths], I’d catch the lapped car two cars. When my sticks got four cars, I’d catch back up to those guys. So, I just kept pacing myself.”

Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 6-Dillon Brown[1]; 2. 18-David Showers Jr[4]; 3. 4-Rye Faulk[2]; 4. 16-Caleb Gay[3]; 5. 17-Rob Pitcher[7]; 6. 119-Joe Belkey[8]; 7. 23-Cory Hedgecock[9]; 8. 35-Christian Augspurger[11]; 9. 18B-Mark Fleischer[16]; 10. 47E-Thomas Earl III[10]; 11. 9-Nick Johnson[13]; 12. 87C-Jarrod Carey[14]; 13. 39-Jake Rainey[17]; 14. 26-Derrick McGrew Jr[18]; 15. 11-Daniel Dial[15]; 16. (DNF) 7-Corey Neil Jr[5]; 17. (DNF) 1G-Ross Bailes[12]; 18. (DNF) 5R-Lucas Ruark[6]

Qualifying Feature #2 – Richie Stephens

As a past Sunshine Nationals entrant, Richie Stephens has made laps around Volusia before, and made his best ones Friday night en route to his first career Sunshine Nationals win at the half-mile oval.

The 41-year-old from Phenix City, AL, started on the pole and took over the top spot after Lap 1 leader Mark Whitener suffered mechanical failure only eight laps in. From there, Stephens held on, fending off pressure from Cole Exum and Matt Henderson in the final green-flag stretch to secure the win.

Feature 2 (20 Laps): 1. 00-Richie Stephens[1]; 2. 86-Cole Exum[4]; 3. 22-Matt Henderson[8]; 4. 18I-Clay Harris[7]; 5. 74-Jason Garver[12]; 6. 5-Dustin Carter[9]; 7. 39W-Brandon Wells[11]; 8. 515-Bubba Roling[5]; 9. 42-Steven Stratton Sr[15]; 10. 21X-Ryan French[16]; 11. 30-Steven Stratton JR[10]; 12. 31B-Brad Seagle[17]; 13. 5W-Mark Whitener[2]; 14. 31M-Tyler Millwood[3]; 15. 14-AJ Miller[13]; 16. C4-Freddie Carpenter[6]; 17. (DNS) 29S-Cameron Saunders

Qualifying Feature #3 – Austin Yarbrough

One year ago, Austin Yarbrough scored his first career Feature win in a Pro Late Model at the Sunshine Nationals. Fast forward to Friday night, and he does it again – this time, in thrilling fashion.

New track record holder Nevin Gainey appeared to have the field covered through the first half of the 20-lap event, maintaining a strong gap over Yarbrough, until a caution was thrown with 13 laps complete. Before the ensuing restart, that’s when Yarbrough devised his plan to go for the lead.

“The long caution really helped me get the top packed-in, and that was my only shot to beat [Gainey] – for him to get tight on the bottom and me pass him on the outside,” Yarbrough said. “That caution really played into our favor. He didn’t know that the top was going to be better.”

Yarbrough pinned the throttle at the drop of the green and took the high side into Turns 3-4 while Gainey stuck to the bottom. Charged with the high-side momentum, Yarbrough zoomed past Gainey to his outside and took the lead down the front-stretch. From there, Yarbrough held the field off for his second career victory at Volusia.

“I felt like my car was really good on long runs; [Gainey’s] would just fire-off really good,” Yarbrough said. “Honestly, I didn’t think the outside was gonna work. I tried it just because it was so packed-in. I tried and we were able to get out of here with a win.”

Feature 3 (20 Laps): 1. 127-Austin Yarbrough[2]; 2. 17G-Nevin Gainey[1]; 3. 08-Joey Love[3]; 4. 111-Demetrios Drellos[4]; 5. 2-Zack Carley[7]; 6. 21-Mario Gresham[12]; 7. 12-Johnny Collins[8]; 8. 20-Owen Osteen[6]; 9. 54T-Tuck Trentham[9]; 10. 66-Jody Knowles[16]; 11. 47-Dean Abbey[10]; 12. K7-Keaton Smith[14]; 13. 38-Nick Love[15]; 14. 71C-Davy Cline[13]; 15. (DNF) 80-Ben Scott[11]; 16. (DNF) 07B-Bailey Cardwell[5]; 17. (DNF) 1A-Ricky Haugen[17]

Qualifying Feature #4 – Brock Pinkerous

At only 13 years of age, Brock Pinkerous has already made his first mark on Volusia Speedway Park history, winning the fourth and final Pro Late Model Feature.

The teenage racer traveled from his home in Ellenville, NY, to get a taste of the sunshine and found it in his first Feature event, leading all 20 laps en route to his first CRUSA Feature win.

He took the lead at the drop of the green from third on the starting grid after polesitter Will Roland jumped to the high side in Turn 1, opening the door for Pinkerous to shoot into the lead underneath him.

From there, Pinkerous played defense, holding off big pressure from Roland and fellow Southeast Crate Late Model standout Riley Hickman the rest of the distance to secure the win.

“I knew they were back there, and I knew I was pulling away,” Pinkerous said. “When I caught the grip, I could hear them getting close. Other than that, yeah, they were on me a bit, but I wasn’t too worried.”

Feature 4 (20 Laps): 1. 555-Brock Pinkerous[3]; 2. 22R-Will Roland[1]; 3. 17H-Riley Hickman[5]; 4. 2L-Trynt Lloyd[10]; 5. 31-Lincoln Smith[6]; 6. 17J-John Winge[4]; 7. 131-Matt Herlong[9]; 8. 721-Ivedent Lloyd[11]; 9. K37-Drew Kennedy[12]; 10. 9C-Ches Chester[8]; 11. C10-Carl Currin[13]; 12. 73-Larry Fitzsimmons[16]; 13. 89-Von Casey[14]; 14. (DNF) 96-Josh Vinyard[15]; 15. (DNF) 44P-Kole Platt[7]; 16. (DNF) KB1-Kerry King[2]; 17. (DNF) 7S-Brian Smith[17]

UP NEXT

The Pro/604 Late Models return to Volusia for the Sunshine Nationals finale on Saturday, Jan. 20, with a $10,000 grand prize on the line for the winner of the 30-lap main event.

Tickets for this event are on sale at WorldofOutlaws.com and will be on sale at the gate on race day. Can’t be at the track? Stream every lap live on DIRTVision.

Nevin Gainey, Chaz Haskins Earn DIRTcar 602 Late Model Qualifying Feature Wins at Sunshine Nationals

Twenty drivers are locked into Saturday’s $3,000-to-win Finale

Chaz Haskins and Nevin Gainey gained valuable momentum during Friday’s portion of DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, earning wins in the two 602 Late Model Qualifying Features.

Each earned $1,000 for their victories and can raise another trophy on Saturday night.

Here’s what happened in Friday’s Features:

602 Late Model Qualifying Feature 1

After four years of trying, Chaz Haskins finally punched his ticket into Sunshine Nationals Victory Lane.

The Gray, GA driver saw an opportunity on a Lap 6 restart, diving under Pierce McCarter in Turns 3 and 4 and taking the lead on the front stretch to score his first Volusia Speedway Park win.

McCarter led the field to the green flag, pulling away from Chase Giddens on Lap 1. Meanwhile, Haskins climbed toward the front, moving into third on Lap 2.

After two cautions slowed the field, Haskins saw his opportunity on a Lap 6 restart. He followed McCarter into Turn 3, and when the #71 slid up the racetrack, Haskins dove under McCarter—the two making contact as they exited Turn 4.

Haskins pulled ahead down the front stretch, taking the lead as they reached Turn 1. McCarter tried to reclaim the position but lost second to Mario Gresham as they drove down the backstretch.

Gresham couldn’t get any closer to Haskins, who held on to score the $1,000 prize.

Haskins said he knew he had to strike when the opportunity presented itself.

“That was my only chance,” Haskins said. “My car was better (on the bottom); I couldn’t really turn down there in the slick. I moved down there earlier in the race and figured out that’s where I had to run.

“My car was pretty good, and he left the door open on that start, and I got in there, and luckily, we gave each other room, and I was able to hold him off.”

Gresham, who had never raced at Volusia before Friday’s Feature, finished second. Like Haskins, he saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.

“They were racing pretty hard for the lead,” Gresham said. “I wasn’t sure which way they were going, and for a minute there, I thought they were going to wreck. But they gathered it up, stayed clean, and held on.”

McCarter settled for third, holding off a late race challenge from Nick Johnson for the final podium spot. The Pigeon Forge, TN driver said his car bottomed out, leading to handling issues while he was leading.

“I’ve never really raced here except for one other time,” McCarter said. “On that restart, my car bottomed out, and it bent the skid plate and folded it underneath. So, I started getting tight in the center and had to move up to where I could turn the car, rotate it, and finish on the bottom.

“On the restart, I went in too low, got a little shove, and left him too much room. It was racing. I made a mistake and didn’t stay on the bottom, but I won’t make that mistake [Saturday].”

Johnson finished fourth, while Koulten Herbert rounded out the top five.

602 Late Model Qualifying Feature 2

Nevin Gainey took advantage of his pole position, leading every lap to win the second 602 Late Model Qualifying Feature.

The Ft. White, FL driver led the field to the green in the 15-lap event, gaining a 1/4-straightaway advantage over Joshua Byrd as the field thundered down the backstretch. That was all he needed as even with three yellow flags slowing the race, he went unchallenged to earn the $1,000 prize.

But while dominating the race, he wasn’t set up for Volusia’s slick conditions at the night's end.

“This Kryptonite by Club 17 is pretty badass, man,” Gainey said. “We were set up for the hammer-down grip type of situation. At the end, it was starting to blow off some, and I was getting tighter. But we were able to overcome it, keep it hooked on the bottom, and pull out a win.”

Taylor Cole crossed the line second, after starting fourth. The Cartersville, GA driver fell back to third before retaking the spot from Chase Blackwell on a Lap 11 restart.

“I was pretty happy that it got slick,” Cole said. “In Qualifying, it was pretty fast, and I’m usually not the best at that. But it blew off, and all the guys up front raced me clean. That’s hard to ask for sometimes.

“The car was good. A little bit free. But it was the first time I’ve ever raced here so I’m not going to complain about second.”

Blackwell finished third, after climbing as high as second midway through the race. He said he made a mistake but hoped to learn from it before Saturday’s finale.

“This is only our second time here, and first time in this car,” Blackwell said. “I felt like I had second, but the driver slipped up a little bit. Maybe we can work on it a little bit and get it ready for Saturday.”

Bubba Roling finished fourth after starting 12th, and Michael Courtney rounded out the top five.

The DIRTcar 602 Late Models return to Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday, Jan. 20, for the Sunshine Nationals finale. Drivers will battle in a 20-lap, $3,000-to-win Feature. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, watch all our events live on DIRTVision – available either online or through the DIRTVision App.

Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 107Z-Chaz Haskins[6]; 2. 21-Mario Gresham[4]; 3. 71-Pierce McCarter[1]; 4. 109-Nick Johnson[11]; 5. 611-Koulten Herbert[9]; 6. 53-Brandon Yates[7]; 7. 8-Zack Owens[10]; 8. 12C-Chase Giddens[2]; 9. 131-Matt Herlong[19]; 10. 11S-Quentin Steedley[13]; 11. 27-Tim Ryan[8]; 12. 71C-Davy Cline[21]; 13. 14S-Brian Scott[17]; 14. 6C-Brian Carter[18]; 15. (DNF) 118-David Showers Jr[12]; 16. (DNF) 25-Chason Beasley[5]; 17. (DNF) 17SR-Brody Smith[3]; 18. (DNF) C4-Devin Whatley[15]; 19. (DNF) 51H-Harley Hughes[20]; 20. (DNF) 94-Holden Allen[14]; 21. (DNS) 11-JR Gray

Feature 2 (15 Laps): 1. 15-Nevin Gainey[1]; 2. 66-Taylor Cole[4]; 3. 6-Chase Blackwell[3]; 4. 515-Bubba Roling[12]; 5. 19-Michael Courtney[6]; 6. 17-Zach Blackwell[9]; 7. 28L-Austin Leamon[11]; 8. 5-Curtis Thomas[10]; 9. 9-Dalton Peavy[5]; 10. 27G-Matt Grable[13]; 11. 31-Donnie Birdwell[16]; 12. 3K-Kale VanSickle[18]; 13. 17F-Johnny Faucett[15]; 14. 59E-Allen Edwards[7]; 15. 44-Billy Rodriguez[20]; 16. 1J-Jason Papp[8]; 17. 2B-Robert Brynteson[19]; 18. 3C-Cale Gilbert[21]; 19. (DNF) 42-Joshua Byrd[2]; 20. (DNF) 01-Josh Lanford[14]; 21. (DNF) 1T-Tanner Thomas[17]


Photo - Jim DenHamer

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