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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Dirt racing has been taking center stage recently in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Leading the dirt racing charge not just this year, but for the last several years, is Craig VonDohren. A nine-time 358 Modified Division champion at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania, VonDohren continued to lead the dirt racing charge on Saturday night by winning the 50-lap Forrest Rogers Memorial.
The race, run in honor of the late founder of the speedway Forrest Rogers, paid VonDohren a hefty $10,000.
The victory, his record breaking eighth in the annual event and second this season, came despite damage suffered in his heat race earlier in the night that forced him and his crew to scramble to repair the car. He became just the second driver to win the event three-straight years, joining Fred Rahmer, who won the race three-straight times from 1982-84.
Once he made it to the main event, VonDohren found himself battling Colt Harris for the lead midway through the feature. He finally got by Harris on lap 31, but he wasn’t out of the woods just yet. Mike Gular was in hot pursuit, challenging VonDohren several times for the lead.
In the end, VonDohren was able to hold off Gular by 1.696 seconds to earn the victory. He admitted it was far from easy.
“It was hard, flat-out racing and his crew worked diligently to repair the car after it got tore up in the heat race,” VonDohren said. “The top was the place to be even though it was good on the bottom and I had to mix it up and run the middle while battling with Gular.”
VonDohren is in pursuit of his 10th track championship this year, which would tie him with Jeff Strunk for the most all-time at the third-mile dirt oval. He has two wins, 11 top fives and 15 top 10s in 15 races and leads Strunk by 74 points with five points races left on the schedule. VonDohren is also the defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Pennsylvania champion -- where he leads Strunk by 55 points -- and sits 19th in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I rankings.
• VonDohren isn’t the only driver slinging dirt that has been making headlines in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series this year.
At Ohio’s Limaland Motorsports Park, veteran dirt modified racer Jerry Bowersock captured his first K&N Filters UMP Modified championship after a season-long battle with defending track champion Tony Anderson.
Bowersock, a former modified and late model track champion at Ohio’s legendary Eldora Speedway, was able to beat Anderson for the track championship by 10 points thanks to three victories and an extremely consistent season.
His wins, coupled with eight top-five and eight top-10 finishes in nine starts at the quarter-mile clay oval, not only allowed him to secure the track championship at Limaland, but also the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Ohio championship. He beat Anderson by 12 points for that honor.
• Not to be outdone by VonDohren and Bowersock, a young rookie named Mitch Keeter is making his own headlines in Division I of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Keeter, 23, who hails from Webb City, Missouri, currently ranks eighth in the nation thanks to 10 victories in 18 starts at Humboldt Speedway in Kansas. Combined with his 13 starts at Oklahoma’s Salina Highbanks Speedway, Keeter has amassed 24 top-five and 28-top-10 finishes.
That kind of consistency has allowed Keeter to rank in the top 10 in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National standings for Division I. He’s the highest ranking dirt driver in the nation as well as the highest ranking national Rookie of the Year presented by Jostens candidate.
As if that wasn’t enough, Keeter is also the modified division points leader at Humboldt and leads the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Kansas state rankings by more than 100 points.
That’s one heck of a season for a rookie.
• There are two other names also making headlines on dirt this year in lower divisions across the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, 16-year-old Ryan Siewell and Josh Sink.
Siewell, from Bandon, Oregon, has been dominant in the hornet division at Coos Bay Speedway. He holds a comfortable 76-point lead in the race for the division track championship and his 11 victories in 16 races has him sitting second in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division IV rankings.
He’s also in the running to win the UNOH Youth Achievement Award, an honor specifically for drivers 17-and-under. Siewell is currently in a heated battle for that award with Grant Brown from Minnesota’s Elko Speedway and Ryan Vargas from California’s Irwindale Speedway.
Dirt racing is also thriving in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series’ Division III, where Sink currently sits atop the national standings.
Despite having only two victories in 16 starts between Adams County Speedway and I-80 Speedway in Nebraska, his consistent finishes against strong car counts have Sink sitting 34 points clear of John Ketron in the battle for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III national championship.
Jerry Bowersock captured his first K&N Filters UMP Modified championship at Ohio’s Limaland Motorsports Park. CampbellPhoto.com