Now entering its thirteenth year of offering dirt racing in the desert of Arizona, the Wild West Shootout has become a staple on the Dirt Late Model racing schedule. Many racers now consider this event as the opening of their racing seasons(as if there is an off-season in dirt racing). And once again, the series of races to be held at the FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway in Queen Creek, Arizona looks to draw an outstanding field of competitors.
Races within the mini-series will be contested on January 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, and 13. The January 13th feature will pay $14,000-to-win while all the other main events for the Late Models will dole out $5,000 to the individual victors.
DirtonDirt.com will broadcast the races on a pay-per-view basis.
A look at the former race winners and champions of this mini-series shows the type of competitors that are drawn annually to the arid region of the American southwest. Reigning World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Mike Marlar took home the crown as Wild West Shootout champion last year while multiple-time Summer Nationals title holder Bobby Pierce walked away with the honors in 2017. Current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champ Jonathan Davenport ruled the desert in 2016.
Billy Moyer is the all-time feature winner with 13 trips to victory lane to his credit while other notables such as Jimmy Mars, Steve Francis, Don O’Neal, Darrell Lanigan and Terry Phillips have walked away with trophies from WWS main events.
Here are some of the stars who have indicated either by their websites or social media that they plan to race in Arizona this January:
Scott Bloomquist– The sport’s most recognizable name will be making his first appearance in the Wild West Shootout. Bloomquist is coming off of a season in which he collected $100,000 for his win in the Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway and scored his 600th career feature win but fell short of winning the Lucas Oil crown. A successful WWS could provide a spark to set the 55-year-old National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame member’s upcoming season off on the right foot.
Bobby Pierce– Pierce has already had a successful “off-season” after winning the Gateway Nationals in St.Louis back in December, and as mentioned above, the ‘Smooth Operator’ has found previous success in the Arizona desert having won the 2017 WWS championship. Further, he has earned a total of three checkered flags in the events in which he has participated. The Illinois driver is coming off a year in which he grabbed major event wins while racing full-time on the Lucas Oil tour for Dunn Benson Motorsports. Now back with his family-run team, these early season races will offer the Pierces with even more of an opportunity to get back in the swing of things in terms of once again racing out of their own shop.
Earl Pearson, Jr.– The former Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion achieved the biggest payday of his career when he brought home over $200,000 from the Dirt Million race held at the Mansfield(OH) Motor Speedway in August. EPJ came home fourth in the final LOLMDS standings in 2018. The ‘Hurricane’ will be looking to kick off his second season as the driver of the Black Diamond Chassis house car with a strong effort in the Wild West Shootout.
Brandon Sheppard– The former WoO Late Models champion will be back for another go of it in the desert after taking the $13,000-to-win finale in 2018 while driving his family-owned No. B5 machine. While he will not be in the Rocket Chassis house car that he will compete with on the WoO circuit, an strong showing would definitely build positive momentum for the Illinois racer.
Ricky Weiss– The defending North-South 100 winner garnered a great deal of attention in the 2018 version of the Wild West Shootout when he won two of the feature races and contended for even more glory. This past season was definitely a breakout year as the Canadian drove a new Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car while working closely with the legendary driver in the process. Another solid effort in the desert would serve to confirm the previous year’s success.
Brandon Overton– Perhaps no other driver had as adventurous of a season as did Brandon Overton in 2018. The Georgia racer won multiple features, including the prestigious Hillbilly 100, while driving for multiple car owners on multiple series. This year, the talented driver looks to be on more solid ground as he has settled in with the team operated by former NASCAR truck racer Joey Coulter. The Rum Runner Racing operation could show the world that they will be contenders anywhere they go with a strong effort in the Wild West Shootout.
Hudson O’Neal– The son of Don O’Neal was in the midst of a banner year when shoulder surgery cut his campaign short in August of 2018. The young driver won the $20,000-to-win Clash at the Mag in Mississippi prior to his medical procedure. Making it through a series of six races over the course of eight days will go a long way toward showing that O’Neal is ready to withstand the rigors of a Dirt Late Model racing season.
Chris Simpson– The winner of a WoO Late Models preliminary race last year at Fairbury American Legion Speedway earned four consecutive podium finishes at Arizona Speedway in 2017. His Twitter account stated that they team will have a new Black Diamond Chassis for the Wild West Shootout.