It seems as if a new hot chassis in Dirt Late Model racing that everyone just has to have emerges every year until that particular brand is overtaken by the next must-have chassis. Whether it be by winning scores of features or by amassing championships, one brand seems to make the most noise each season. That, in turn, leads other drivers and teams to put their orders in for that same type of race car.
Inevitably, however, one or two drivers who have something different from the chassis that was all the rage in the previous season win a few big races and the pendulum swings in another direction and that brand becomes all the rage.
In 2021 on a national level, it was North Carolina-based Longhorn Chassis that emerged as the must-have brand. Tim McCreadie won the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship in that type of car. But at the same time, Brandon Overton made a huge splash in his Longhorn by Wells machine when he completely swept the Double Dirt Late Model Dream weekend at Eldora Speedway then went on to collect so many big paydays that his season earnings approached the $1,000,000 mark. Also, Jonathan Davenport proved to be no slouch at all as he also brought home some impressive hardware and paychecks from big races in his Longhorn.
As a result, we have already seen some well known drivers make the move to Longhorn as they prepare for the 2022 campaign. Four-time Lucas Oil champion Jimmy Owens and his Ramirez Motorsports team ran a couple of races at the end of the season with their “horns up”. Another four-time LOLMDS champion made a return to Longhorn in the second half of 2021 as the brand’s original standard bearer Earl Pearson Jr. joined forces with Jason Papich to pilot that chassis for his new car owner.
Add to that list four-time DIRTcar Summer Nationals titlist Brian Shirley who turned some heads when he and his Bob Cullen Racing team showed up at the World of Outlaws-sanctioned World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte with a new Longhorn. And another Summer Nationals champion, Bobby Pierce, ran a race at the Volunteer Speedway driving a Vic Hill-owned car earlier this year for the purpose of getting a feel for a Longhorn.
Keep in mind, however, that it was not long ago that everyone thought Rocket Chassis was the way to go in Dirt Late Model competition. In 2020, the Shinnston, West Virginia company won the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series championship with Brandon Sheppard driving their house car while Jimmy Owens captured the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series crown in a Rocket.
Also remember that Sheppard had an amazing run in 2019 that saw him take almost half of all the World of Outlaws Late Model Series feature races as well as three events that paid $100,000 or more to win. After that, it seemed as if everyone had to have a Rocket.
Rocket was not completely buried under the Longhorn stampede in 2021 by any means. Sheppard won his fourth WoO Late Models championship while Hudson O’Neal and the Double Down Motorsports team used that type of car to win the Show-me 100 and the Topless 100 while remaining in contention for the Lucas Oil points title throughout the season.
Further, Chris Madden finished the season in a strong way with his Rocket by earning $52,052 with a Peach State Classic win at Georgia’s Senoia Raceway then claiming his seventh career Blue-Gray 100 at the Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC.
Might the tide be turning back in Rocket’s favor?
And it isn’t just those two brands that are capable of competing at the national level. Tyler Bruening earned World of Outlaws Late Model Series Rookie of the Year honors while finishing third in the overall standings driving a Capital Race Car and teammate Shane Clanton won a feature and ranked in the top-10 of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series standings.
Don’t forget too that Madden went on a tear during the late summer months of 2019 that saw him reel off multiple crown jewel wins driving a Team Zero Race Car for Scott Bloomquist Racing. The USA Nationals, the North-South 100 and the Topless 100 were all claimed by the red hot South Carolina native.
On the regional level, there seems to be much more parity among the chassis types. Dale McDowell piloted his Shane McDowell Racing Team Zero Race Car to the Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals title while Payton Freeman won the Southern All-Star Dirt Racing Series title in a Capital Race Car.
Perennial east Tennessee front runner Cory Hedgecock won several features in 2021 driving a Black Diamond Chassis in multiple classes and was joined by young Sam Seawright who also won for that brand.
Please consider also reading “How long will the ‘Kyle Larson Effect’ be felt in dirt racing?“
Crate Late Model ace Matt Henderson pieced together a stellar season in a CVR Race Car. Michael Page and chassis builder Chase King found success in Stinger Race Cars during the year. Warrior Race Cars and MasterSbilt Race Cars also remain active on the regional scene with drivers Ryan King and Pierce McCarter respectively earning strong finishes.
Trying to predict which chassis brand will be the hot Dirt Late Model ticket in 2022 is not as easy as it may seem. As recent history has shown us, one brand will seemingly have the upper hand only to see that dominance taken away by another brand. But one thing that is easy to predict is that whichever brand gets hot and begins winning races will generate new customers for that car builder.
Respond to this post on Twitter by following @RichardAllenIDR and @MichaelRMoats or by liking the InsideDirtRacing.com Facebook page.
Also, NASCAR and pavement racing fans can check out InsideCircleTrack.