MARYVILLE, Tenn. — A Friday night showdown in the Smoky Mountains kicks off the final 12 races of the season for the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series.
The drivers will push further down the road on their way to the World of Outlaws World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte on Nov. 2-5.
As the series spends the weekend at Smoky Mountain Speedway on Friday, Sept. 2, and Lavonia Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 3, two drivers have emerged as prime contenders for the championship — Dennis Erb Jr. and Tanner English, both looking for their first World of Outlaws championship.
Erb, the veteran, has sat firmly on the championship throne since March, taking over the points lead at the Rock Gault Memorial at Cherokee. Meanwhile, English, the rookie, has been slowly climbing his way up the points mountain, now 98 points behind Erb after scoring his first two series wins at Davenport Speedway.
English knows trying to make the rest of the climb won’t be easy.
The Most Powerful Late Models on the Planet return to a type of surface he’s struggled on. However, English believes the key to the final 12 races is staying consistent.
“I think if we keep on doing what we’re doing and staying consistent, we’ll be alright,” English said. “Some of these tracks coming up are a little harder for me. The red dirt tracks I’m not the best on. We need to learn a little bit down there and maybe lean on our guys at Longhorn a little bit and see if we can get some more information and get a little bit better.”
English isn’t only battling the tracks for the rest of the season — he’s battling Erb’s experience.
As a national touring veteran, Erb has seen both tracks the series will race this weekend on many occasions. He also claimed a second-place finish at Lavonia in 2020.
He said that experience over the next two months would factor into deciding this year’s champion.
“I’m hoping it plays out pretty good,” Erb said. “I feel pretty confident going into a lot of these places here. I’ve had a lot of good runs at Charlotte, so I’m definitely looking forward to going there. Hopefully, we can get a little bit more of a cushion built up before we get back there.”
With all but three of the remaining CASE Construction Equipment features happening on a red-clay surface, Erb realizes how vital track position will be going forward.
“It’s definitely going to play a factor in it,” Erb said. “When you get to some of these places, qualifying is a big key, and track position is for sure. You’re definitely going to want to qualify and start up front with these places coming up for sure.”
English echoed that statement, along with the importance of tire management.
“Down there in the South, you better qualify good,” English said. “A lot of it is tire management and stuff like that. You have to be on top of your game there and be prepared on tires and do your research on how to groove them, sipe them, and stuff like that.”