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DirtCar Summer Nationals kicks off a Hellish series of 32 races over 39 days

DirtCar Summer Nationals

On June 14 dirt track racing’s greatest endurance race kicked off at Kankakee (Ill.) Speedway with Ryan Unzicker winning the late model portion of the DIRTCar Summer Nationals and Nick Hoffman victorious in the UMP Modified division.

It is the 37th annual running of the Hell Tour, as the series has affectionately come to be named.

Tonight, the series races at Peoria (Ill.) Speedway and on June 16 the late model drivers head to Davenport (Iowa) Speedway. Modifieds will join them once more Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. the following night.

Is a picture beginning to form?

Over the 39 days, 32 late model and modified races will be run on 30 tracks in the Midwest. There are few open days that will undoubtedly be spent repairing equipment and rain usually cancels an event or two, but the stamina of the drivers, officials and PR representatives is unparalleled in auto racing. The first scheduled break in the action won’t come until June 26th and 27th.

Unzicker, who finished 14th in the standings last year after competing in 11th races, knew the importance of getting a strong start. As he shot to the lead early in the event, last year’s champion Bobby Pierce was hot on his tail. So was the current World of Outlaws Late Model Series points’ leader Dennis Erb, Jr.

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With second-place swapping spots a couple of times in the closing laps, that is how they finished. It was the 12th Summer Nationals win for Unzicker and his first since June, 2018. And there is no time to rest.

The results were a little less dramatic in Modifieds, but the forecast is no less extreme.

The four-time and defending champion might not have been a surprise winner, but the night was not as easy as Hoffman made it appear.

“We were smoking earlier. … Dad had just changed the valve cover gaskets on both sides, so we had a mess back there with oil and stuff,” Hoffman said in a press release. “Had some issues with my transmission too. It’s just wear-and-tear on parts.

“This deal’s grueling; we’re only one night in.”

Chasing the series would be almost as challenging as running it, but fans can keep up with the action by watching on DirtVision, (subscription required).