As we replace our calendars at the start of the new year, anticipation grows for a racing event that starts the season for many competitors, fans and officials. The 15th annual Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts starts this Friday, with an open practice session for all competing divisions, in preparation for the first two races being held this weekend.
FK Rod Ends retains track naming rights for the fourth consecutive year and continues their support of the Wild West Shootout, since initially sponsoring the pace truck in 2017. Arizona Speedway is a high-banked, small 3/8th’s mile oval located in San Tan Valley, which is about 45 minutes southeast of downtown Phoenix. 2021 marks five straight years that FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway has hosted this big event.
Changes for 2021
There are several positive changes for the 2021 Wild West Shootout, which I’ve highlighted here:
- FloRacing.com will now carry live, flag-to-flag PPV coverage of the Wild West Shootout, since their acquisition of DirtonDirt last year. Ben Shelton (Mr. MSR Mafia) returns for the call, but will be joined by Texas-native, now local Arizona Speedway announcer, Jason Carter (Ruben Mireles accepted an opportunity with WRG, so he will be covering the WoO events in Florida). Dustin Jarrett continues his presence in the infield and victory lane, throughout the entire event
- Late Model teams now have a revised tire rule: Hoosier 1350 allowed on all 4 corners, with Hoosier LM40 or WRS-2 Right Rear option (previous rule: exclusive hard tire .. only D55, WRS2 or WRS-2)
- Event Historic $25,000-to-win and $1,000-to-start Late Model “Shaw Trucking 50” finale, with $20,000 total purse increase over 2020, courtesy of Shaw Trucking and Premier Waste Services ($10,000 increase to win, along with additional $10,000 increase spread throughout remainder of field)
- New “Best in Show” Competition for all three divisions, featuring $1,000 to the Late Model driver with the best appearing, western-themed, graphics scheme, courtesy of Dirt Pro Inc. A driver from each Modified division will also be eligible to win $500, courtesy of Schill Construction, for the best appearing, western-themed, graphics scheme. The winner from each division will also be awarded a $250 product certificate to The Joie of Seating, courtesy of Randy LaJoie. (Best in Show competition results will be announced on the final race day, 1/17/2021)
Possibly the largest and certainly the most detrimental change, is the scheduling conflict with a major national touring series. As a unique event that does not have a sanction, the Wild West Shootout event is healthier than ever, with nearly 50 Late Models already committed to race. I will add both Modified divisions and update this Entry List throughout the event:
While over 150 total cars are expected to compete in the 2021 Wild West Shootout, it will be without several key Late Model drivers, due to this scheduling conflict. These drivers include:
- Brandon Sheppard will miss his first Wild West Shootout since 2013. His event stats include: 2019 and 2020 points Champion, 4 career feature wins in the last 3 years (includes 2018 and 2020 finale)
- Ricky Weiss has competed in this event annually since before 2014, this will be his first missed Wild West Shootout in nearly 10 years. His event stats are: 4 career feature wins in the last 3 years (includes 2019 finale)
- Cade Dillard will miss his first Wild West Shootout since 2017. After dominating the 2016 Wild West Shootout in his Modified, Dillard returned in 2018, in his Late Model. Dillard won his first career Late Model feature in 2019 and has secured several top-5 finishes during each year he has competed
- Chase Junghans also began competing in the Wild West Shootout in his Modified, in the early 2010’s, before his switch to Late Models. Junghans has secured several top-5 finishes throughout his career, but he will also miss his first Wild West Shootout in nearly 10 years.
Overall, these four drivers have combined to win two event points Championships, nine career features and the last three event finales, all within the last three years, to go along with 20+ career top-5 feature finishes. However, the 15th annual edition of the Wild West Shootout will continue to feature a strong and eclectic field of competitors, hailing from states spread over the entire country. In fact, over 15 Late Model drivers are expected to be making their event debuts, this year!
- Keyser Manufacturing returns to sponsor the Wild West Shootout and offers the “Quarter-Million Challenge” to Late Model competitors. For the sixth consecutive year, a Late Model driver stands to collect $250,000 if they can manage to win all six races. Winning five events would net a $100,000 bonus, while four wins lands $25,000. Lastly, the first Late Model driver to win three races would pocket a $10,000 bonus
- Late Model features on 1/9, 1/10, 1/13, 1/15 and 1/16 will each pay $5,000-to-win, while the 1/17 finale pays all all-time high of $25,000-to-win and $1,000-to-start
- Late Models will pill draw for groups, then qualify and heat race within those set groups. The heat races will be aligned by quickest qualifying time, within those respective groups and the top 3-to-5 finishers (dependent on car count) will transfer into that night’s feature. Late Model drivers who do not transfer from their heat races, will have another chance in their respective B-mains
- A “Pro Power Racing Dash” will be held on 1/9, 1/10 and 1/16, offering the top-10 remaining non-transfers a chance at $1,000, or they can forgo the money and start dead last (25th) in that night’s feature
- Modified features on 1/9, 1/13, 1/15 and 1/16 will each pay $1,000-to-win, while the 1/10 and 1/17 features will see a $2,000 payout given to the winner
- X-Mod features on 1/9, 1/13, 1/15 and 1/16 will each pay $500-to-win, while the 1/10 and 1/17 features will increase to pay a winner’s share of $1,000
- Modified and X-Mods will pill draw for their hot lap/heat race groups. Each heat race winner will automatically advance to that night’s feature, along with the overall top-16 in passing points. The remainder of the field will have one final chance to make that night’s feature, in their respective B-mains
“Squirrel” Brian Shirley made his Wild West Shootout debut in 2020 and returns as the favorite in 2021. The Chatham, Illinois native finds himself in a six-way tie for 10th on the all-time event wins list, having won three of the six events last year and only missed finishing in the top-5 in one of those races. The four-time UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals Champion continues to prove that he is a threat to win on any night, at any local bullring.
As you may recall, “Superman” Jonathan Davenport absolutely dominated the 2016 Wild West Shootout, aboard the #6 Kevin Rumley-owned Longhorn Chassis. Davenport enters the 2021 event in that same six-way tie for 10th on the all-time wins list, after winning three features that year. His domination included top-5 finishes in all six races, on the way to securing the overall event points Championship. Even more impressive, Davenport had that much success during a time where the event featured passing points (instead of the current group qualifying format). His success also inspired the $10,000 Keyser bonus for the first driver to secure three feature wins in the same year. The Blairsville, Georgia native is a three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Champion and immediately inserts himself as an event favorite, even after missing the last four years. This will be his first time turning laps on the FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway track surface.
“The Winfield Warrior” Mike Marlar has proven to be a steady competitor at the Wild West Shootout, having secured a feature win and four top-5 finishes in 2018, on his way to claiming that year’s overall points Championship. Marlar is scheduled to return to this year’s event, after missing the past two and I expect that he will return to that same championship-level form. While the Winfield, Tennessee native does not usually compete for points over a full season, he regularly competes for wins in many crown jewel events throughout each year.
With 50+ entries expected for each division, it is nearly impossible to predict who will win on any given night of the Wild West Shootout. This event not only acts as a “racing vacation” for many, allowing them to escape their local frozen winter weather, but it also offers a great opportunity for race teams to become acquainted with one another, to experiment with new equipment and to start their 2021 season with success. One thing is for certain, you will not want to miss any lap of the action, whether you can attend in-person or watch along on FloRacing.com PPV. As usual, I will be posting pictures and live race updates each night, on The Dirt Network Twitter (@TheDirtNetwork).
Visit the Wild West Shootout website to purchase tickets, or if you would like any additional details about this great event.
The Wild West Shootout is made possible by Keyser Manufacturing, O’Reilly Auto Parts, FK Rod Ends, Dirt Track Bank, Black Diamond Race Cars, Shaw Trucking, Schaeffer Oil, SportTruck RV, Mesilla Valley Transportation, Border Tire, Arizona Differential, RHR Racing Swag, Barnett Harley Davidson, Dirt Pro Grading & Padwork, Contractors & Developers (C&D) Bonding, Shocks by Hammer, Hoker Trucking, Premier Waste Services, Midwest Sheet Metal, Speedway Motors, Rodeo Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, VP Racing Fuel, Hoosier Racing Tires, Pro Power Engines, Penske Racing Shocks, Beaver Stripes, Gorsuch Performance Solutions, Toste Construction, Sipes Tractor & Transport Service, Total Ag Solutions, Merry’s Home Furnishings, The Joie of Seating, Schill Construction, Screven Motor Speedway, Whisler Investments, DirtDraft.com, FinishLine Graphics, and FloRacing.com
Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Short track racing is my passion!