Las Vegas, NV — Bobby Hogge IV finished the job he started last year to emerge as the 2009 Western Allstars DIRTcar Late Model Series champion.
Now the star driver from Salinas, Calif., will bring his crown to The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in search of one more winning weekend to take into the off-season.
Hogge, 32, is set to pull double-duty in the inaugural Silver State DIRTcar Championships this weekend (Nov. 20-21), entering both the DIRTcar Late Model and Modified action at the state-of-the-art half-mile oval outside Sin City. A 50-lap, $5,000-to-win ‘Topless’ Late Model A-Main and a 30-lap Modified feature offering a $2,000 first-place prize headline the two-day spectacular, which begins with full preliminary programs for each division on Friday night (Nov. 20).
“I’ve been going to Vegas at least once a year since the first year they ran a special Modified show (in 1998),” said Hogge, who tuned up for the Silver State weekend by traveling to LVMS one week early and finishing seventh in Saturday night’s ‘Duel in the Desert’ Modified event. “We haven’t gotten a win, though. We’ve had some chances and then something stupid happens, so hopefully (this weekend) we’ll have some good luck.”
Hogge is riding high heading into this weekend’s action, which will feature a Late Model field that includes standouts from DIRTcar Racing’s Western Allstars, Northwest I-5 and Southwest Dirt Racing Association (SWDRA) series as well as national star Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis. Just three weeks removed from clinching his first-ever Western Allstars title to cap a spectacular season that saw him win seven of the tour’s 12 events, Hogge has plenty of confidence in his ability and equipment.
For the Late Model competition, Hogge has prepared his newest car and most powerful engine. On the Modified side, he’ll run the same machine owned by California GRT dealer Joe Glade that he’s steered to several big wins this season.
Hogge is especially excited about putting his Late Model combination to the test on the big LVMS stage. He has a four-bar Victory Circle car equipped with a ProPower engine he purchased in 2004 from fellow Californian Eric Jacobsen.
“We got our last three wins on the (Western Allstars) tour with the new four-bar car so I’m feeling pretty good about it,” said Hogge, who has done the majority of his dirt Late Model racing with a swing-arm mount since making his full-fendered division debut in 2004. “We ran the swing-arm car last year at Vegas and it was good (he finished third in a February 2008 event behind nationally-known drivers Tim McCreadie and Scott James), but I don’t know how we could get it any better. There’s a little more we can do with the four-bar car at a track like Vegas.”
Hogge has certainly been red-hot since breaking out the four-bar car for the Western Allstars stretch run. His victories on Oct. 3 at Antioch (Calif.) Speedway, Oct. 17 Chowchilla (Calif.) Speedway and Oct. 31 at Kings Speedway in Hanford, Calif., allowed him to cap his championship season with a historic flourish – a tour record-setting five consecutive triumphs.
“It felt good to peel off some wins to end the season,” said Hogge, who defeated defending Western Allstars champion Chris Shannon of Merced, Calif., by an 88-point margin (1,889-1,801) in the final standings. “You like to finish strong and that’s what we were able to do.”
Contrast that with 2008. Hogge led the Western Allstars points standings by 94 markers with two races remaining, but he skipped the next-to-last series event to run a special DIRTcar Modified event at Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, Ore., and lost the title to Shannon by 60 points.
“I still feel kind of bad about last year,” said Hogge, who was on the verge of adding a Western Allstars championship to his back-to-back titles (2005-2006) with the defunct Western Dirt Late Model Tour. “At the time it was the right thing for us to do – and it worked out for us because we won 10-grand for winning the Modified race. But I also like to follow things through and we didn’t with that points deal.”
The personable Hogge, who works for State Farm Insurance, went all the way with the West Coast’s premier dirt Late Model tour in 2009. He put together a virtually spotless campaign, finishing outside the top five just once (a seventh-place run) along a schedule that visited seven tracks in the Golden State.
And Hogge did it in family-owned and -prepared equipment, giving him a special sense of accomplishment.
“It shows the quality of work we do as a team,” said Hogge, whose primary help comes from his father and grandparents. “Winning a championship takes commitment and a lot of hard work, so it’s always going to show the work ethic of a good team. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do this year.”
Hogge likes to say his operation “makes good use of what we have,” and there’s no truer comment he could utter. Consider his motor program – he has three dirt Late Model engines in his arsenal, but each is far from a brand-new piece. In addition to the Pro Power engine he purchased used and has since had rebuilt by S&S Automotive near his home, he also won races this season with a 360 cubic-inch steel-block SB-2 powerplant built by North Carolina’s Hendren Racing Engines and a 1998-vintage Gaerte 410 motor that he purchased from a Sprint Car team in late-2008 and converted to dirt Late Model specifications. Showing his resourcefulness, Hogge literally pulled the Gaerte engine out of a Sprint Car, took the injectors off (and sold them) and put on his own intake.
With his dirt Late Model operation among the strongest on the West Coast, Hogge is well-positioned to carry his success well into the future. He’s looking forward to the Western Allstars DIRTcar Late Model Series being a big part of his career for many years to come.
“Anytime you can win a championship with a nationally known sanctioning body like DIRTcar (Racing), it puts your name with a pretty elite group of people,” said Hogge, who leads the four-year-old Western Allstars tour’s career win list with 17 victories. “We’re still new to the whole DIRTcar program, but hopefully we can keep growing to be a bigger part of it. Late Model racing on the West Coast needs stability; DIRTcar came in (to run the Western Allstars) halfway through 2008 and this year we got a full season in under them and gained a little momentum, so I hope we can keep moving forward.
“I feel the show is there. We put on a great show wherever we go, and I think if some sponsors come on board to get the points-fund going the series will get bigger and better and more fans out here will see how exciting Late Model racing can be.”
Hogge will pocket $4,000 in 2009 post-season cash from DIRTcar Racing, including $3,000 from nearly $10,000 in posted Western Allstars awards. He also will pick up $1,000 for finishing second to Nick Bartels of El Segundo, Calif., in the new-for-‘09 UMP DIRTcar Racing Pacific Region points standings, which combined drivers’ finishes in Western Allstars and Northwest I-5 DIRTcar Late Model Tour events.
“We’re proud to call Bobby Hogge IV the 2009 Western Allstars DIRTcar Late Model Series champion,” said DIRTcar Racing Western Region director Chris Morgan. “He will be a great representative for the series as we work to create more opportunities for the West Coast’s DIRTcar Late Model teams, including big special events like this weekend’s Silver State DIRTcar Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.”
The Silver State DIRTcar Championships, which also include support-division events for the INEX Legends cars and LVMS Bombers, carries a two-day ‘Super Saver’ general-admission ticket for the price of $29. Two-day passes are $24 for Seniors/Military and $9 for Juniors (ages 6-12), with kids 5-and-under admitted free.
Single-day general admission tickets are available for $19 (adults), $15 (Seniors/Military) and $5 (Juniors).
Tickets can be purchased on-line at www.lvms.com or by calling 1-800-644-4444.
Racing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on both Fri., Nov. 20, and Sat., Nov. 21.
Additional info on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing is available at www.DIRTcar.com.
Final 2009 Western Allstars DIRTcar Late Model Series Points Standings:
1. Bobby Hogge IV 1889
2. Chris Shannon 1801
3. Rob Sanders 1681
4. Nick Bartels 1675
5. Matt Micheli 1535
6. Ron Bartels 1302
7. Mike Johnson 1282
8. Andy Obertello 1266
9. Ken Micheli 1260
10. Johnny Malcolm 1195
11. Jeff Decker 1152
12. Clay Daly 1091
13. Richard Papenhausen 1069
14. John Lowery 928
15. Bill Bartels 762