Many racers start the year with grandiose visions of running a national Dirt Late Model circuit. They often carry impressive résumés loaded with wins and championships. However, a winning record locally or even regionally does not guarantee success, nor happiness, at the top level in dirt late model racing.
A racer’s dream can quickly turn into a nightmare when they come to the startling realization of what it takes to run one of the series. The teams that regularly crisscross the country make it look so easy when they roll into a track. This does not reflect the difficulty of running a national series. Instead, it serves as a testament to the talent, experience, and resources these teams possess. Few rookies make it to the end, but in the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models, three of them did complete the season. We asked the trio — Cade Dillard, Blake Spencer, and Ricky Weiss — to reflect on what makes racing at this level so tricky.
What Will Grind Your Gears
Before joining the World of Outlaws (WoO) series this year, Weiss won five national championships in WISSOTA, an organization that sanctions tracks primarily in the Upper Midwest and Canada. While that means battling with hundreds of racers competing at various local tracks, it does not entail extensive travel. In the WoO, you may be away from your shop for weeks. The same type of issue that creates concern for space missions has the potential to wreak havoc on a race team. Placing a group of people together in tight confines — in this case, a hauler — for an extended time, taxes the strongest of relationships.
You’re going to butt heads because not everybody thinks the same. – Ricky Weiss
“We’re with each other a lot,” said Weiss (31) of Headingley, Manitoba, Canada. “It’s not like you’re in a house — you’re in a small motor home. You see each other all day, every day. When you get back to the shop, you’re with each other all day, every day. It’s going to happen — you’re going to butt heads because not everybody thinks the same.”
His crew consists of his girlfriend Dayna Fossay, Bobby Grossman, and crew chief Shawn Gage. Like any relationship, Gage and Weiss have their moments, but they try to keep things in perspective.
“We’ve been together so long; I treat him like a brother,” Weiss said. “[When we get on each other’s nerves, Gage] tends to walk away and take a breather — whether he goes [to work] on a car, or I come out in the trailer and work on tires, or the truck, or do something in the motor home. Work’s still getting done, but we’re not right beside each other. That’s our way of resolving it.
“We both have the same goal in mind at the end of the day, and that’s trying to win and better the team. He knows it just as much as I know it.”
You can never be prepared enough to go two weeks or 31 days on the road. – Blake Spencer
The Missing Piece
When you race locally and regionally, as Spencer did, your shop is often within a day’s drive. However, when you travel from Florida to far-flung places such as North Dakota, Upstate New York, and Iowa, your shop feels as distant as Earth does to the International Space Station. Everything you need should be onboard the hauler, according to Spencer.
“You can never be prepared enough to go two weeks or 31 days on the road,” said Spencer (39) of St. Augustine, Florida. “It goes all the way down to how much food is in the truck to how many boxes of rivets you got. You get to the racetrack and always seem to need the part you don’t have.
“The really good teams are prepared. You cannot forget anything because it puts you behind the eight ball whenever you’re racing against a Mark Richards. They’ve done it long enough that they have enough of everything.”
It’s the Little Things
Cade Dillard knows how to race on the road. He spent time racing modifieds in one of the division’s premier series, United States Modified Touring Series (USMTS), which runs throughout the middle of the country. Part of Dillard’s learning curve related to the differences between open-wheel cars and the fendered elite.
“These late models are extremely sensitive to air, especially on big tracks,” said Dillard (28) of Robeline, Louisiana. “That’s been a big deal to learn — not getting your car in too much dirty air. You can wreck a race car in a heartbeat by just not having enough air on the nose.”
The Late Model also has more ways to fine-tune its setup when compared to a modified, which provides an additional challenge.
There’s no one-trick — everything has to work together. – Cade Dillard
“The late model over the modified — it’s a completely different ball game,” said Dillard. “With the modified, you can be off a bit, get on the wheel, drive hard, and still win a race. With a Late Model, if they’re not right on, there’s no driving around it — you’re just not good enough.
“There’s no one-trick — everything has to work together. There are a thousand little things that you got to pay attention to and get everything right.”