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Saturday, January 2, 2016

It's Gonna Be Wild Out West! - 2016 Wild West Shootout Preview



Keyser Manufacturing has given Dirt Late Model drivers a quarter of a Million reasons to head West and race in Tucson, Arizona this January.  That's right, if a Late Model driver wins all 6 nights of the 2016 Wild West Shootout, they pocket a cool $250,000 courtesy of Keyser!  That's not the only cash being offered at this huge event.

If a Late Model driver wins 4 of the 6 features, the earn an extra $50,000 and if they can manage to win 5 of 6 nights, that's an extra $100,000 in their pocket!  This is all on top of the $5,000 bonus, offered by Black Diamond Club 29 Race Cars, to the Late Model driver who earns the most points over the 6 race mini-series.  Plus, the first 5 races each pay $5,000 to win and the finale on January 17th pays $11,000 to the driver who crosses the finish line first.  That's nearly $300,000 in total possible winnings, if a Late Model driver can manage to win all 6 nights!

What has all this big prize money done?  It's caused some of the biggest names in Dirt Late Model racing to head West, eager to strike gold!  Fresh off of winning the 2015 Lucas Oil Late Model Series championship, "Superman" Jonathan Davenport is making his first trip out West, to compete in the Wild West Shootout!  A huge field will be on-hand to greet him, including 2015 World of Outlaws Late Model champion, "The Georgia Bulldog" Shane Clanton!  The Clint Bowyer Racing team will also be making their first appearance out West, giving both "The Real Deal" Don O'Neal and "The Bluegrass Bandit" Darrell Lanigan a chance at the big money!  Even 2015 World of Outlaws Sprint Car champion, Donny Schatz, will be racing 4 of the last 6 nights, after he fulfills his Sprint Car sponsor commitments in Australia.

The past 2 years have seen nearly 70 Dirt Late Models race each night for the big money in Tucson and here's a full list of the expected drivers: Entry List

Just how likely is it for someone to win all 6 races?  Based on history, nearly impossible.  "Mr. Smooth" Billy Moyer Sr. has a great track record racing in Arizona, winning 3 or 4 of the 6 races each year and nearly being a "lock" to win the big money finale.  However, not all of the past events have been held at USA Raceway in Tucson, Arizona and they certainly did not have the same level competition than what we have seen the past couple of years.  In fact, I'm betting not a single driver can pocket any of the bonus money being offered by Keyser Manufacturing.  Here's a breakdown of the drivers who won a feature during the last 2 years in Tucson:

2014 Wild West Shootout (Winter Extreme) Winners:

RC Whitwell
Billy Moyer Jr
Billy Moyer Sr
Tim Fuller
Jimmy Mars
Ryan Gustin

2015 Wild West Shootout Winners:

Darrell Lanigan
Tony Jackson Jr
Rodney Sanders
Jimmy Owens
Darrell Lanigan
Jimmy Owens


What does history tell us?  There are several drivers poised to each take a little piece of the pie.  It's easy for someone to look at Jonathan Davenport's 2015 season and immediately point to him as the favorite, especially considering how he dominated the "big money crown jewel" events this past year.  "Superman" had one of the best seasons in Dirt Late Model history, winning 8 of 13 events paying $20,000 or more that were 100 laps and he pocketed nearly $700,000 in total winnings!  Even him and Kevin Rumley have said they are treating the Wild West Shootout as an "extension" to their 2015 season and they'll be looking to add to their momentum.  Given all that he accomplished this past year, Davenport is not my favorite to win.  Listed below are 2 of my favorites to win, along with 2 dark horses that shouldn't surprise you, if they run well:

Darrell Langian


Picture Credit: 2015 PRI Event in Indianapolis

"The Bluegrass Bandit" proved how good of a Dirt Late Model driver he is during last year's Wild West Shootout in Tucson.  Lanigan won 2 features in the 2015 edition and had a firm grasp on the overall points lead, until missing the final race.  He finished 1st, 3rd, 2nd and 1st during the first four nights, before failing to finish his final feature attempt on the fifth night.  He competed in last year's event while driving the F5 for Childress Racing.  While Childress Racing has a great stable of Dirt Late Models, I think most would most would agree that Lanigan will be in better equipment this year, driving for Clint Bowyer Racing.  Combine that with the domination of Black Diamond Club 29 Race Cars during last year's Shootout, Lanigan is my favorite to win it all this year!

Shane Clanton


Picture Credit: 2015 PRI Event in Indianapolis


"The Georgia Bulldog" is coming off of a stellar 2015 season which saw him claim the 2015 World of Outlaws Late Model championship.  If it weren't for Davenport's amazing season, Clanton would surely be the "talk" of Dirt Late Model racing (see The DIRT Network's story about Clanton's 2015 season: Clanton's Season Not To Be Overlooked ).  Clanton has experience racing in Tucson and he has won features in previous years.  I'm predicting he'll win at least 1 feature and be a contender for the overall points fund!

Tony Jackson Jr

Tony Jackson Jr won a Wild West Shootout feature in 2015

The Lebanon, Missouri native had a successful 2015 season, claiming his 3rd consecutive MARS DirtCar Series championship!  Even before adding to his championship streak, Jackson Jr pocketed $5,000 by winning a feature in last year's Wild West Shootout.  Always a contender in the Midwest, Jackson Jr has competed in Tucson the past 2 years, steadily improving his performance each time.  Don't be surprised to see Tony Jackson Jr claim at least 1 more feature win in this year's Wild West Shootout and he could be a surprise contender for the overall points fund!

Jason Papich

Jason Papich and his teammate, Tony Toste, always display the American Flag in their pits

The Arroyo Grande, California native isn't necessarily a "household name" in Dirt Late Model racing yet.  Papich competed in the full 2014 Lucas Oil Late Model Series schedule, finishing 11th in final standings and settling for 2nd in Rookie of the Year points, behind Jason Hughes.  Papich did not commit to a full schedule in 2015, running races when and where he chose.  He did win in March, at Tucson, during the Copper on Dirt, one night after destroying the Black Diamond Club 29 Race Car chassis that found him success during the 2015 Wild West Shootout.  Papich made the feature all 6 nights of last year's mini-series, posting finishes of 9th, 8th, 3rd, 18th, 4th and another 4th.  He came up short in the final overall points fund, finishing just behind "The Sandman" Rodney Sanders.  Look for Jason Papich to add to his momentum gained in 2015 and don't be surprised if he wins a feature during this year's Wild West Shootout!


Papich won the final feature of the 2015 Copper on Dirt in Tucson, Arizona in March

One theme you may have noticed, 3 of the 4 drivers I selected will be racing a Black Diamond Club 29 Race Car chassis.  It's impossible to ignore the dominance displayed by Black Diamond Club 29 Race Car chassis in last year's Wild West Shootout, as all 6 Late Model features were won by that chassis brand.  This year could be different, however, as Jonathan Davenport will be running his Longhorn chassis, prepared by Kevin Rumley.  Shane Clanton will be competing in his Capital Race Cars chassis, while Billy Moyer Sr and "Kid Smooth" Billy Moyer Jr will be debuting their new Karl Performance Victory Circle chassis.  One thing is certain, there will be a stout field each night, featuring some of the best Dirt Late Model drivers from around the Country, including Canada.  If you can't make it to USA Raceway in Tucson, Arizona, be sure to catch all of the action by tuning-in to Dirt on Dirt's LIVE coverage!

And that coverage will be of the usual professional standard that you've come to expect from Dirt on Dirt.com


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https://www.dirtondirt.com/liveOrder.php?id=44



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