(Elizabeth City, NC) June 19,2021A massive overflow crowd from the Tidewater region of Virginia and the Outer Banks of the Tarheel state gathered just off Highway 158 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on a picture perfect June evening for the debut of a much anticipated event.
It was Round 4 of the SouthAtlantic DieselSteel Block Bandits Dirt Late Model Challenge presented by Racing for Heroes at Red’s spectacular, Dixieland Speedway. Eighteen of the East coast’s very best Limited drivers gathered on the grounds of a speedway that is celebrating its 39th year of racing excellence.
The night began with qualifying and for the third straight race, Russell Erwin claimed Bryan Sullivan’s $200 as he dashed to the pole. Up next would be the two 8 lap heat races that would set the field for the 40 lap $4000 to win showdown on the coast.
In the HGR’s Truck & Trailer Sales, Inc. Heat race number 1, Shaun Harrell would slip past an unaware Erwin as the two battled it out for the right to lead the field to green later. Harrell would grab the win as Erwin later admitted to “being too comfortable” allowing Harrell to sneak by.
Heat number 2 saw Willie-Crystal Milliken and Dustin Mitchell on the front row for the Scott Service Company heat race. Milliken would out duel Mitchell to earn the outside pole.
The stage was set for the first ever event on the 3/8ths mile oval for the Bandits as the energy level exploded when D.j. Garrett led the field out with the Stars and Stripes perched on his driver’s door. Two old rivals who knew each other well, raced off into turn one door to door only to be slowed by a yellow as Mason Price and Brad Rigdon tangled in turn one with Rigdon’s car underneath Price. Harrell would slip past Milliken for an early lead while Erwin , Milliken and Michael Rouse waged a battle royale for the top 5 spots.
On lap 10 Erwin made a bold move and reeled in Harrell to overtake the lead but the fastest car on the track was Rouse as he pulled to the rear deck of Milliken for third. As the two exited turn 2, Milliken took the high side of a lapped car as Rouse tried to make it three wide. The lapped car unknowing that Rouse was there cut down on the Love’s Sweet Poatoes MasterSbilt Race Cars ending his bid for back to back wins. Meanwhile Erwin survives several restarts to cross the finish line a second ahead of Harrell with Milliken , Cy Nelms Jr and John Staton rounding out the top 5.
Erwin was pleased with his effort- “ Man since 311, this thing has been incredible, Eric Erwin and I have made some great strides on this thing and now it’s just down to me getting the job done.” “Three and four was racey but down here in one and two it got dirty so I was just protecting. We made some ground in the points deal, I hate Derick had problems but I’m sure those guys will bounce back.”
-Notable tid bits:
In his Bandit debut, Cy Nelms masterfully scores a fourth place finish in his CT525 powered machine. Nelms avoided several wrecks and at the finish, was hounding Milliken for the third spot.
Milliken and Harrell bounce back after disappointing runs at Halifax County Motor Speedway last weekend. Milliken will make up a ton of points on Quade after his misfortune late in the event.
Great runs for Brad Rigdon, Sherman Underwood and Clint Hodges. Rigdon and Underwood held serve as hometown favorites against the touring regulars with 7th and 9th place runs. Hodges arrives late starts in the rear of his heat, races his way through the field to grab a 8th place finish that should propel him back into the top 5 in points.Can’t leave Dixieland without mentioning the incredible staff and the enormous crowd that turned out to see the Bandits ride.
Up next:The Bandits reach the halfway mark of the season on July 17-18 as we travel to the Queen City for a $3000 to win show followed by a $5000 to win feature at the The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Steel Block Bandits Dirt Late Model Challenge
Dixieland Speedway (Elizabeth City, North Carolina)
June 18, 2021
1)Russell Erwin 2)Shaun Harrell 3)Willie Milliken 4)Cy Nelms 5)John Staton 6)Brent Robinson 7)Brad Rigdon 8)Clint Hodges 9)Sherman Underwood 10)Mason Price 11)Joey Cascell 12)DJ Garrett 13)Derick Quade 14)Dustin Mitchell 15)Ray Millard 16)Michael Rouse 17)Jake Riethmeier