Like road courses, NASCAR events on dirt tracks bring competitors not regularly associated with asphalt stock car racing.
It is hard to believe that NASCAR is celebrating 10 years of revived dirt racing, as it was 2013 when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rolled into the legendary Eldora Speedway, ending a 43-year absence with the sport not having a dirt event.
It has proven common over the last decade for team owners to seek highly successful competitors from professional dirt series around the country for these infrequent events as many believe they have an advantage over the NASCAR regulars who primarily compete on asphalt ovals and not small dirt tracks.
Thus, in the decade since NASCAR’s triumphant dirt return, we’ve seen legendary dirt aces like National Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Scott Bloomquist, 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz and USAC Triple Crown champion Chris Windom go to-wheel-to-wheel with stock car racing’s best.
As NASCAR heads to the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track this weekend, there is a smaller number of dirt ringers than in years past. Yet, of the ones that are here, there is plenty of accolades on their resumes.
So let’s get you up to speed on who these unfamiliar names are …
Surprisingly, Jonathan Davenport will be the only dirt ringer in the NASCAR Cup Series event this weekend, as the rest on this list will compete in the Truck race.
Davenport is a 39-year-old Blairsville, Ga., native, and is a three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion. Davenport has also found victory lane a whopping five times in the World 100, one of the biggest annual dirt events in the country held every year at Eldora.
Other accolades include a Knoxville Nationals win, the 2022 Eldora Million crown, a victory in the 2015 Dirt Late Model Dream and three victories in the USA Nationals.
Davenport attempted to qualify for a Truck race back in 2013 but missed the cut. This year, Davenport is guaranteed a make his Cup debut as he’ll drive the No. 13 Chevrolet Camaro for Kaulig Racing.
He’ll also pilot the No. 7 entry for Spire Motorsports in the Truck series this weekend, but will likely have to qualify in as the team has little points to ensure his starting spot.
Tyler Carpenter earned his first NASCAR ride at Knoxville Raceway in a truck last year after winning the Gateway Nationals for a second time as part of Niece Motorsports’ win-and-you’re-in program.
However, his Knoxville trip was ill-fated as a driveshaft failure left him last on the results page. Carpenter returns to the series this weekend, this time at Bristol. He’s with the very same team, so expectations are high for Niece’s No. 41 entry.
In addition to his 2021 Gateway Nationals win, the West Virginia native also claimed victory in the 2019 edition of the legendary indoor dirt event held at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis every December.
Jessica Friesen has the most NASCAR experience of the dirt ringers entered this weekend. It also certainly helps when you are the wife of full-time truck competitor Stewart Friesen (who originally was a dirt ringer in his own right before making the full-time jump into the series).
Jessica will compete against her husband driving their team’s second entry: the No. 62 Toyota. The New York native has entered four NASCAR dirt races, qualifying for two of them.
Although she has scaled back her racing in recent years, Jessica is a veteran of many dirt circuits including driving winged sprint cars in the World of Outlaws and the All-Star Circuit of Champions. She also captured the 2004 Sportsman championship at Utica-Rome Speedway in Upstate New York.
Her father Ray Zemken also had a long driving career, wheeling modifieds on numerous regional circuits through the northeast for many decades.
Attempting to make his NASCAR debut this weekend, Tanner Carrick is a young dirt racer from California with 17 sprint car wins under his belt.
Having been a part of Toyota Racing Development and the renowned Keith Kunz Racing program, Carrick has put together some impressive showings in USAC competition, including at the biggest midget race in the country: the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Andrew Gordon hails from DuBois, Pa., and actively competes in a dirt late model throughout the region. Like Friesen and Carpenter, Gordon also has some very limited NASCAR experience, having competed in three dirt events between 2021 and 2022.
Yet his family is no stranger to the sport as his uncle Benny competed in 29 races across the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck series between 2007 and 2017.
Gordon will drive a second entry for G2G Racing this weekend, using his own equipment. Without any points to fall back on, the 32-year-old must race his way into the feature.
The flagship No. 46 G2G Racing entry will be piloted by Jerry Bohlman. The Florida racer is the most unknown and has the least dirt experience of all the ringers.
A businessman by trade, Bohlman primarily competes as an asphalt short-track racer at Five Flags Speedway in the panhandle of the Sunshine State.
Bohlman also has some experience racing in vintage classes across Florida.
About the author
Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.
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