CONCORD, NC – The 48th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, FL are now only 39 days away, and with all of the end-of-2018 festivities nearing, it’s time to look back on a former Series champion’s dominance at the big ½-mile over the years.
“The Big Gator” trophy is what everyone is after come February, and only a handful of drivers have been fortunate enough to claim one of the unique, gold, amphibious mementos of their triumphs over the Outlaws in the Sunshine State. For 2015 Series Champion Shane Clanton, he’s one of only 12 drivers to ever hoist a gator of any size. In fact, he has six, all sitting in a small shrine in his house; a testament to his love for and success at Volusia.
“I made a gator pond out of them,” Clanton said. “They’re all sitting in my mancave looking at each other.”
“The Georgia Bulldog” has been among the most successful drivers to ever compete with the Outlaws in the state of Florida, despite all of his wins coming strictly from Volusia. Bubba Raceway Park (formerly known as Ocala Speedway) is the only other Floridian venue the Series has visited in its 17 years of competition, where three-time Series Champion Darrell Lanigan has six victories since the tour’s first visit in 2010. Overall, four-time Series Champion Josh Richards holds the most wins in Florida with nine, followed by Lanigan at seven, and Scott Bloomquist and Clanton tied for third with five.
Nonetheless, Clanton’s repeated success at the DIRTcar Nationals cannot be denied. Sweeping the event in 2015 with three straight victories would quite well prove the No. 25’s dominance that year, as he would tack on six additional victories en route to claiming his very first Series championship later that season. With a big gator in 2015 and another in 2017, it’s safe to say Clanton knows just how big of a difference getting the season started off on the right foot can make come the end of the year.
“It gives you momentum going into the season,” Clanton said. “If you get the ball rolling early, it seems to follow all year. We ran good at the beginning of last year, but at the end of Volusia, we struggled a little bit on Friday and Saturday, so hopefully [in 2019] we can be as good as we were all week and just carry the momentum into the end of the year.”
Every driver has their own preferences on track sizes and surface types; Clanton’s seems to rest right within the confines of the larger, tackier tracks, which could explain his success at such venues.
“Honestly, I think it’s just the high-speed places,” Clanton said. “I like high-speed places, and if you look at my record at any half-mile or so, I’m usually pretty good.”
Of course, another additional perk of racing down south is the warmer weather. Not many race fans would prefer to be bundled up in the bleachers over a shorts-and-tee-shirts night at the races. And the drivers would agree, starting the year off with more favorable temperatures is definitely a bonus.
“Anytime you can get the warmer weather with everybody ready to kick the year off,” Clanton said.” “The atmosphere, I guess [seems like] everybody’s just trying to get going and see where they stack up because there’s always good competition down there.”
He hit the nail right on the head – the competition always has been and always will be tough come February, and 2019 will certainly be no exception. #FLinFeb will be here soon, so get your tickets now by clicking here!
Don’t miss the 48th Annual DIRTcar Nationals, February 5-16, featuring the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and Late Models, the Super DIRTcar Series, All Star Circuit of Champions, and the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and Late Models!
Can’t make it to the track? No problem! Let the DIRTVision team hook you up with each and every night of racing from Volusia, click here to learn more!