Five First-Time Champs Highlight DIRTcar Title Winners

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Brian Shirley claimed the DIRTcar Late Model National Championship in 2020. (Josh James Photo)
Brian Shirley claimed the DIRTcar Late Model National Championship in 2020. (Josh James Photo)

CONCORD, N.C. – The DIRTcar Racing season had a bit of everything.

It featured earliest kickoff to the national points season in history, a shutdown period from pandemic restrictions and five first-time national champions.

From the sustained dominant ways of numerous Illinois-born late model heroes to one of the tightest points battles in the stock car division’s history, this season brought the same high-caliber competition in the national and regional points standings that DIRTcar fans have come to expect to a year that so desperately needed some excitement.

With nine wins in 47 races, Brian Shirley was crowned the DIRTcar Late Model national champion by 176 points over Frank Heckenast Jr. – the largest gap of his three national titles.

Of his nine victories in DIRTcar competition, seven were claimed en route to his fourth career Summer Nationals Late Model championship, memorably highlighted by his back-and-forth victory battle with longtime competitor Brandon Sheppard during Arizona Sport Shirts Week No. 4. The two traded Feature wins throughout the week at some of their home state of Illinois’ most prestigious tracks like Fairbury Speedway, Macon Speedway and Fayette County Speedway.

Shirley was also victorious in a weekend sweep of MARS DIRTcar Late Model action at Peoria Speedway back on Aug. 28-29, giving him three wins at the track this season.

With his third championship crowning, Shirley joins Bobby Pierce (’14-’16), Ed Dixon (’94, ’99-’00), Rodney Melvin (’01, ’03-’05) and Rusty Schlenk (’10, ’17-’18) as the only drivers in DIRTcar history to win the Late Model national points title three or more times.

“It’s a pretty big accomplishment,” Shirley said. “We feel pretty good that our team has been as good as it’s been over the last couple of years. We’re just trying to get better and better every day.

“It’s just more dedication, how much heart you put into it, what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re willing to go through to come out on top. I feel like we’ve definitely dedicated ourselves to the sport, and it’s a good achievement for me and Aaron [Mitchell] and my guys back home that work as hard as we do.”

After putting on one of the most dominant seasons in DIRTcar UMP Modified history a year ago, Nick Hoffman backed it up with another incredible season of victories in 2020 to become a two-time national champion.

With 22 wins in 44 nights of competition, Hoffman actually surpassed his win percentage from 2019, which was just under .500 (24 wins in 50 starts).

Hoffman was also crowned DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion in September for the third time in his career. Of the 24 completed races on the Summit Modified schedule, Hoffman was victorious in 12 of them – one short of the record he set last year.

Outside of winning five-straight Summit Modified races during the summer, Hoffman’s year was also highlighted by a weekend sweep of Summit American Modified Series action on Sept. 4-5 at Farmer City Raceway ($2,500) and Fairbury Speedway ($10,000), followed by another $10,000 victory the very next night in Spoon River Speedway’s Plowboy Nationals.

“It set out to be the best I can at whatever I do,” Hoffman said. “In the Modified ranks, I’ve been very successful and been able to win almost everything I’ve wanted to go after.

“There’s still a lot more I want to be able to do in my racing career. I’d like to run a lot of late model races and be successful in Late Models too. We’re working on that, and I’ve had a lot of great opportunities with some great teams to run some late model races, I just need to get out and race some more.”

As one of five first-time national champions, Torin Mettille racked up 11 feature wins in DIRTcar competition to win the 2020 Pro Late Model national championship.

Mettille’s year consisted of weekly visits to Farmer City Raceway (three wins) and Kankakee County Speedway (three wins) on Friday nights, while trips to Shadyhill Speedway (five wins) in Indiana served as his Saturday night starts.

Perhaps his most impressive weekend of the season came in back-to-back nights at Farmer City and Shadyhill on Aug. 21-22, winning both features as part of a five-win month.

With 31 nights recorded, the most of any driver in the division, Mettille finished the season 82 points ahead of runner-up Jake Little. Kyle Cooper, Brandon Eskew and Aaron Heck rounded out the top-five in overall standings.

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