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HPH Regional Drivers Struggle in Gateway Dirt Nationals Finale



St. Louis, MO - In the third and final day of competition at The Dome at America's Center for the Gateway Dirt Nationals, the HPH Regional drivers all showed potential, but struggled ultimately to find the speed, or the luck, needed to make the big dance. Some were forced to run a non-qualifier, others into a Win and You're In LCQ, and misfortune took others out of contention.


The first driver to fall from contention on Saturday was Michigan native, Rachel Carpenter. Finishing outside of the top eight on her Thursday prelim night forced her to compete in a Non-Qualifier race, the first event of the evening. Only the top two would move on to a Qualifier event later in the day. By virtue of accidents and smooth driving, Carpenter advanced five spots finishing fifth, short of the transfer.


Portage, Michigan native, Carson Hocevar started on the outside pole of Non-Qualifier #2 and seemed to be well on his way to a win, before his car suddenly lost power leaving turn two; an 8th place DNF sent the new NASCAR Cup Series driver packing.


Qualifier #1 featured multi-time DIRTcar UMP Late Model National Champion, Rusty Schlenk, and well-known IMCA Modified driver, Mike Epplett. The night came to an end quickly for Schlenk when the "Smooth Operator", Bobby Pierce spun entering turn one; Schlenk tried to avoid but ran up and over the nose of Pierce's car, puncturing a left rear tire, ending his night. Epplett didn't favor much better odds in the race, pulling in early with an apparent issue.


In Qualifier #2 it was Cody Bauer who held the fate of the HPH Drivers. Starting inside of row number two wasn't the place to be on the top dominant race track, and Bauer fell back to fourth. The finish, while not enough to transfer to the main event, was good enough to transfer to the Win and You're In Last Chance Qualifier.


Mechanical issues plagued Megan Sanders throughout the weekend. Her No.8 machine didn't start the Thursday night Prelim B-Main and Qualifier #6 saw nearly the same fate. After rolling in the race track under caution, Sanders pulled into the infield after taking the green flag.


In the Win and You're In Last Chance Qualifier, Bauer had his work cut out for him rolling from the grid in 8th. The Farwell, Michigan driver set the car on the outside of the race track and searched around for speed. Bauer picked up three spots, finishing 5th, ending his run at the Gateway Dirt Nationals.


For the Summitt Racing Equipment Modifieds, all three HPH Regional Drivers were in the same Qualifier #1. Dillon Nusbaum, Todd Sherman, and Chad Bauer lined up nose to tail inside rows four, five, and six respectively. Warsaw, Indiana's Nusbaum finished the best of the three, but had to settle for 9th. Bauer finished 10th, while Sherman pulled in early being scored 12th. Only the top three transferred to the show, while 4th-6th raced in the Win and You're In LCQ.


The 2024 edition of the Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals Presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts is scheduled for December 5-7th with tickets on sale Tuesday at 11:00AM ET. Horsepower Happenings' coverage of the 7th Running of the Gateway Dirt Nationals was presented by C-N-T Services.


Story - Zach Hiser

Photo - Gateway Dirt Nationals


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