Darrach drives for Washington state native, Kasey Kahne, while Lutar got started in the Northwest making this year's battle even more exciting.
Courtesy: WoO Sprint Car Series Media Relations
Concord , NC—January 20, 2010—The season opening Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park can be daunting for even the most seasoned of veteran drivers, let alone a rookie. With drivers from across the country converging on the half-mile to open the year and one of the strongest fields in the history of the event expected in 2010, the level of competition will be at an all-time high for the three-day event, February 5-7.
The 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals will serve as the kick-off for three rookie driver’s seasons with the World of Outlaws. Cody Darrah, Ben Gregg and Toni Lutar all will take to the road full-time with the series and vie for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award beginning at Volusia. Darrah and Gregg have competed in the season opening tilt in the past, while Lutar will be making his debut at the half-mile.
Darrah will embark on his rookie season driving for Kasey Kahne Racing, owned by the NASCAR star, after competing for the last four years on the always tough Central Pennsylvania Circuit. The 20-year old won his first World of Outlaws event last season at his home track of Williams Grove Speedway in the finale of the Summer Nationals. He will be teamed with veteran Joey Saldana, who led the World of Outlaws in wins last season, including a victory on the second night of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia.
“I’m very excited for the season,” said Darrah. “It’s going to be a very big year for me as a driver and a very big year for our team Kasey Kahne Racing.”
Ben Gregg, who was born and raised in Tipp City, Ohio, in the shadows of the famed Eldora Speedway, fondly remembers watching sprint cars as a boy at the legendary half-mile. After moving to Arizona, he began racing sprint cars in 2002 first without a wing and then with a wing. He won his first race in a sprint car in 2006 in Arizona and has won a number of races in the Southwest over the last few years. He will return to the DIRTcar Nationals for the third time in the last four years.
“It’s been a dream of mine to do it ever since I was a kid,” said Gregg of taking to the road full-time with the World of Outlaws. “We didn’t get the opportunity to race until later on, so we’ve been on a steep learning curve the last few years. We had the opportunity to go this year. Being from Arizona we don’t have a lot of option of places to race, so we have been racing wherever we can. You are only as good as the guys you race against and they are the best of the best so we wanted to get out there and run with them.”
Lutar, who first raced a sprint car back in 1979, has wanted to take to the road full-time with the World of Outlaws for a number of years and the right opportunity presented itself for the 2010 season. The native of British Columbia, Canada, has competed at a number of tracks over the years, including many that are part of this year’s World of Outlaws schedule, though he’ll be visiting Volusia Speedway Park for the first time in two weeks for the DIRTcar Nationals.
“We just thought it would be about time,” said Lutar, when asked of what led to the decision to hit the road. “We’ve been trying to do it for a long time and we are pretty well set in our business ways up here and we’re ready to go.”
Darrah has always been fast at Volusia Speedway Park and looks to use his experience at the half-mile to open his rookie season. The native of Red Lion, Pennsylvania finished seventh in the opener of the three-day event last season and has taken part in the DIRTcar Nationals in each of the last three years, setting fast time in his debut at the track in 2007 as well as again in 2008. He has qualified fourth or better in six of his nine career starts at Volusia.
“You’re going against the best of the best there,” shared Darrah when asked about Volusia. “You don’t race in an event like that again until probably August. It is super competitive with all of those good guys there all at once. There are a lot of cars there and it only takes a little mistake to miss the show. It’s tough to make all the races there, but that’s our goal going in this year.”
Gregg competed in the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia in both 2007 and 2008. In addition to having some laps at the track, he’ll have veteran crew chief Kirk Dewease turning the wrenches for him. Dewease has been to Volusia many times over the years, helping a variety of drivers including his brother Lance, a standout from Pennsylvania.
“In some respects, it’s tougher than Knoxville because everyone is on the track every day of the week, the field is not split up,” stated Gregg of the DIRTcar Nationals. “It’s definitely a big undertaking and a big challenge to start the season, but we are really looking forward to it.”
Having raced in World of Outlaws events many times in his career, including several in each of the last two seasons, Lutar looks forward to the challenge of competing for one of the coveted 24 starting spots each night during the DIRTcar Nationals. He also will be able to add another track to the list of facilities he has competed at over the years.
“When you run with the World of Outlaws, you run with tough competition anyway,” said Lutar, when asked about the competition at the DIRTcar Nationals. “It’s really no different. People say, ‘Oh well car counts are down,’ but even at an event where there are 35 cars, they are 35 strong cars. It doesn’t really matter anymore it is tough whenever you compete in an Outlaws event.”