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World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series

WoO rookies seek laps during break from tour

June 20, 2024, 10:58 am
By Matt Skipper
World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series
Max McLaughlin celebrates in Quincy, Ill. (Tyler Carr)
Max McLaughlin celebrates in Quincy, Ill. (Tyler Carr)

Experience is everything for a rookie. And World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series MD3 Rookie of the Year contenders Dustin Sorensen, Max McLaughlin, Daniel Hilsabeck and Cody Overton made sure to gain as much as they could during a nearly month-long break on the series heading into one of the national tour's busiest stretches with 11 races in 17 cars on the Heartland Grand Tour.

All four kept themselves busy by either racing near home or running events on WoO's sister DIRTcar Summer Nationals tour with Sorensen and McLaughlin grabbing June victories.

Sorensen, the Rochester, Minn., driver leading WoO's rookie points, tallied three victories earlier this month, winning on the Wabam Dirt Kings Tour at Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wis., and Winneshiek Raceway in Decorah, Iowa, along with a triumph at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.

“It was nice to get to race around home with tracks I’m more familiar with,” Sorensen said. “Pretty much, all of these (WoO) tracks this year are places I’ve never been to before, but it was good to race around some of our fans, sleep in my own bed, and pick up some wins on the way.

“It was huge to get some laps in competition, but also in clean air the past few weeks. Just for confidence, it was about really feeling what the car’s doing. Like, when I’m racing with the World of Outlaws, you get stuck in dirty air and can’t really tell what the car’s doing. I think I learned a lot there but getting comfortable in the car and knowing what it’s doing and what I need to do to make minor adjustments from track to track and I think we’re getting closer to getting myself fully comfortable.”

He'll look to take those lessons learned into the Heartland Grand Tour that opens Thursday at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Summertown, Tenn., as he chases his first WoO victory.

“Qualifying has been the biggest hurdle,” Sorensen said. “I think it’s more me than anything, I just haven’t been able to get it good until the end of the night, it just makes everything tougher when you begin the night a step behind. I think it’s partly me and a little bit of the setup and the type of knowledge for all these tracks we’re going to. The few times we qualify good, we’ve shown good pace in the feature.”

Looking to capitalize on his past experiences and style of racing, Sorensen pinpointed three upcoming tracks where he hopes to perform well: Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn., for the long-running NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50; Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City, Iowa; and I-94 EMR Speedway in Fergus Falls, Minn.

“I’m real excited to get back around my area of tracks and style,” Sorensen said. “Everybody will tell you that the dirt in the South is different than the dirt in the Midwest, so getting back to the kind of dirt that I used to race and other places like Hamilton County, I-94 and Deer Creek that I’m really looking forward to, and hopefully have some more good runs towards home.”

McLaughlin, Overton and Hilsabeck kept busy as the DIRTcar Summer Nationals launched its first week in Illinois and began a month-long trek that will continue as the WoO rookies return to the national tour. McLaughlin turned in the best performance of the three when he captured Wednesday's $5,000 Summer Nationals event at Adams County Speedway in Quincy, Ill.

The high-running Mooresville, N.C., driver overtook Daryn Klein in the early laps and fought off a late challenge from former Summer Nationals champion Jason Feger for a victory at the quarter-mile oval for Team 22 Inc. and car owner G.R. Smith.

“I’m just new to this stuff,” McLaughlin said. “It takes something else to find what you like and (Smith) has been super supportive and has been awesome being patient with me in my learning curve. It takes time and you gotta figure out what you like.”

After the race, the team was heading south to Thunderhill, where "hopefully we can carry the momentum into the World of Outlaws weekend,” said McLaughlin, who also competed in Super DIRTcar Series big-block modified action at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway during WoO's break. He enjoyed his Summer Nationals run even if he banged up his left index finger when he got into the wall at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.

The day-after-day grind of the Summer Nationals "teaches me a lot of how to work on the road because there is always something to do on the race car. You’re at the shop, you look at car parts and think ‘Holy smokes, you’ve got five days of work to do.’ When you’re on the road, you get it done right there and then. It’s been a grind I’ve had to try and get used to," he said.

Overton had a pair of top-10 Summer Nationals finishes, including an eighth-place finish at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway, where he started on the front row with McLaughlin and led early in the feature. Hilsabeck never cracked the top 10 in three Summer Nationals starts and his most promising opportunity in the Peoria (Ill.) Speedway opener ended in a second-lap crash.

Still, Hilsabeck said the experience was still beneficial in preparing for WoO's summer grind.

“Anytime you can get in a rhythm and race, it seems that I race better like that,” Hilsabeck said. “I don’t get to race well if it’s only once or twice, then take a break for two or three weeks and race at somewhere different. I don’t know what it has helped me with, but it gets you in the right mode to race.”

Editor's note: Additional information provided by DIRTcar's Colby Trotter.

“Anytime you can get in a rhythm and race, it seems that I race better like that. I don’t get to race well if it’s only once or twice, then take a break for two or three weeks and race at somewhere different. I don’t know what it has helped me with, but it gets you in the right mode to race."

— Daniel Hilsabeck, World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series rookie

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