Leading the standings heading into the final month of the season, Dietrich was on track to win his first Williams Grove Speedway championship.
The team didn’t plan on chasing points but decided to go after the title following a fast start to the season.
He won the second race of the year after a runner-up effort in the season opener. Entering September, Dietrich had a career-high five victories at the legendary half-mile oval, including the prestigious Mitch Smith Memorial.
Dietrich also finished second, third, fifth and seventh in the four World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series races at The Grove this season.
“We tried some stuff at the beginning of the year, even at the end of last year, we tried some stuff and thought it was going to work and then we switched to these cars and really felt like we got better,” Dietrich said.
His fifth Grove win came Labor Day weekend, pushing his point lead to 410 with five races remaining. It was a good example of how Dietrich’s improved as a driver. He didn’t always have the fastest car, but he raced better.
He’s been the best in Central Pennsylvania all season with a commanding lead in the Central PA point standings as well.
The Kauffman team traveled around on Saturday nights to higher-paying races, which kept them out of championship contention at Port Royal and Lincoln Speedways. Dietrich joined his father, Dan, as a Lincoln Speedway champion in 2012.
Dietrich won twice at Port Royal early in the season, including a $10,000 score that helped him earn the overall Bob Weikert Memorial championship, which was a goal he set for the year and the reason the team focused its Saturday night efforts at Port Royal during the first three months of the season.
The Weikert Family helps sponsor Dietrich and the Bob Weikert No. 29 is one of sprint car racing’s most famous cars.
Dietrich and the No. 48 team were just as competitive outside of Central Pennsylvania.
In May, Dietrich held off 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz to win on the new three-eighths-mile track at New Jersey’s Bridgeport Speedway. It was his fourth career Outlaws victory.
Dietrich also won a pair of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions features at New York’s Weedsport Speedway and Orange County Fair Speedway.
After watching his dad race as a youngster, Dietrich got his start racing 205 and 358 sprint cars. He ran his own 410 at Lincoln Speedway before teaming with Kauffman 10 years ago. Dietrich has been Kauffman’s only driver.
They’ve been a potent and consistent combination, amassing 99 victories together. This season has been particularly dominant.
Even when he’s not winning races, he’s in the hunt. To go along with his 14 victories, Dietrich had 13 runner-up finishes (five at Port Royal alone) and 40 top-five finishes.
“I think as far as wins and top threes, we’re over and above what we’ve done in the past,” Dietrich said. “We’ll see how we finish the year out.”
It has been a very successful run for the team.
To go along with the Williams Grove National Open victory, Dietrich has won the Labor Day Classic at Port Royal three times and topped the Selinsgrove National Open in 2015. He was the Pennsylvania Speedweek champion in 2016.
“It feels good to stand on the frontstretch no matter where you’re at or when it is,” Dietrich said.
Kauffman was a fan of sprint car racing before becoming a team owner.
“They work hard every week,” Kauffman said. “It’s been a great year, but we’ve got a long way to go yet. We just take one race at a time. We want to win a few of the big races.”
“Gary’s supplied us with some of the best equipment,” Dietrich said. “I can’t do it without Derek Snyder and Todd Weikert as well and the group of other guys that pitch in. They’re big backers of not just the team, but of me and what I do.
“It’s phenomenal to have the group of guys I’ve got and the sponsors I have.”