HomeDirt Late Model NewsWorld of Outlaws MD3 Rookie Contenders Capitalize on ‘Off-Time’ Before Heartland Grand...

World of Outlaws MD3 Rookie Contenders Capitalize on ‘Off-Time’ Before Heartland Grand Tour

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Sorensen picked up three Late Model wins while McLaughlin, Hilsabeck, and Overton gained comfort and experience with Summer Nationals 

SUMMERTOWN, TN (June 19, 2024) – Experience is everything for a rookie.

And 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 the “off-time” before the World of Outlaws Late Models’ Heartland Grand Tour – a stretch of 11 races in 17 days.

All four kept themselves busy by either racing near home or spending a few days on the road with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model Hell Tour.

Sorensen, of Rochester, MN, currently leads the Rookie of the Year points heading into the Heartland Grand Tour. In the month of June, Sorensen picked up three wins in his No. 19 machine on home turf – two wins coming with the Dirt Kings Late Model Tour at Mississippi Thunder Speedway and Winneshiek Raceway, then followed up the next week with a Friday night victory in “The Masters” at Cedar Lake Speedway.

“It was nice to get to race around home with tracks I’m more familiar with,” Sorensen said. “Pretty much, all of these 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 with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models and overcome previous hurdles to score his first Series win.

“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 tracks on the upcoming Tour that he hopes to perform well at in front of a home crowd, including the prestigious NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 at Deer Creek Speedway.

“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 (Speedway), I-94 (emr Speedway), and Deer Creek that I’m really looking forward to, and hopefully have some more good runs towards home.”

McLaughlin returned to the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified at Weedsport Speedway for the Heroes Remembered 100 on Memorial Day Weekend. The Mooresville, NC driver won his Heat race and finished the night with his first top-five finish with the Series since the 2023 World Finals in Charlotte.

“It took me a minute to get back into the groove of where the steering box was and getting to re-drive a Big Block,” McLaughlin said. “Qualified in the top-two, won our Heat Race by a good margin, I just didn’t tighten it enough for the Feature, and it kind of cost us. We had a solid car, definitely feeling good and it was fun to get back into a Modified.”

Then, he and the No. 22* team joined the first week of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals, along with Hilsabeck and Overton. McLaughlin scored a best finish of 11th at Peoria Speedway and started on the front row with Overton at Fairbury Speedway.

“(Summer Nationals) has been really cool, to be honest,” McLaughlin said. “It 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.

“The crew guys are mostly all my guys from the Modified days, and we got some new guys strolling along with us as well. So, we’re all starting to figure it out together, and we needed this grind before the next World of Outlaws swing starts. We’ve learned a lot, and it’s been fun to work on the road so far.”

After missing the first Summer Nationals race, Overton found new life the following two nights with back-to-back top 10 finishes. Hilsabeck struggled, only scoring one top-20 finish, but said the experience gained was still beneficial to prepare him for the summer grind with the World of Outlaws.

“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.

“I’ve been to Brownstown once and Hamilton County about 10 years ago. I haven’t been to (Hamilton County) since they made some changes to the track, but a lot of it is still new for me. Haven’t been to Ponderosa or River Cities, so it’s still fresh to me even though we’ll be closer to home, but I’m looking forward to them.”

McLaughlin shares Hilsabeck’s inexperience at the upcoming Midwestern tracks but hasn’t let that hurt his confidence.

“A lot of these places are just new to me, honestly,” McLaughlin said. “As long as I accomplish my race car, I can study these tracks as we go along with the travel. Tracks-wise, all of these are new, and I like the challenge, though. As long as we get the race car good in the next few weeks, stay up on the track conditions, and I got a lot of confidence towards what’s next. G.R. (Smith, car owner of the No. 22*) has given me a lot of faith and a big opportunity, so it’s been a lot of fun working with him so far, and we got a good deal for years to come.”

See the batch of rookies continue to build their futures with the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models at the Heartland Grand Tour, beginning at Thunderhill Raceway in Summertown, TN on Thursday, June 20, and concluding with the return of the NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 on Independence Day Weekend, July 4-6. For more info on the events and ticket options, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the tracks, you can watch every World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models race live on DIRTVision.

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