The 2019 Gateway Dirt Nationals Saturday Late Model A-Main will go down in history as one of the greatest Dirt Late Model feature events ever and will set-the-bar for future St. Louis Dome events. Going into the race, however, the storylines were centered around Brandon Sheppard, the 2019 World of Outlaws Late Model Series championship taking the wheel of Donny Schatz No. 15 entry for the event, Bobby Pierce looking to go back-to-back and Scott Bloomquist Racing coming in fresh off of a blockbuster sponsorship acquisition in the form of Drydene Performance Products. All of these storylines were important and deserved to dominate the print, digital and airway media space, but as the preliminary nights came to a close, the headline quickly changed in favor of Tyler Carpenter, who took his family-owned, designed and built Kryptonite Race Cars No. 28 to a Group 1 Prelim A-Main victory, followed by the interview of the century.
You see, in 21st-century motorsports, whether you are a NACAR, IndyCar. Formula 1 or Dirt Late Model fan, when someone does well or "makes it," the conversation quickly turns from what they just accomplished to the circumstances that surrounded that victory, nearly every single time. That could mean the driver or team that did well has more backing than the individuals they just beat, they drive for their family or have an endless budget to basically buy the speed needed to compete on a high level. In auto racing, mostly over the last few decades, we rarely celebrate the success of someone in the sport, no matter the discipline, without it being quickly followed by a "yeah, but," excuse or insult.
In Dirt Late Model Racing, we have seen a high number of these situations, even though fans of the form haven't had to deal with the same amount as say NASCAR or even USAC Midget fans. Drivers like Bobby Pierce and Josh Richards being called spoon-fed, because of their family chassis and technology backing, even though they are both obvious generational talents and champions, making some believe that you must have that kind of backing to get the job done and win races or compete for championships. Not only is this notion absolutely disrespectful to drivers like Pierce and Richards, who are two of the best drivers we currently have in ALL of dirt track racing, but this ideology also puts a black eye on the sport as a whole, making it seem like you can't compete upfront unless you have a bottomless budget or family support behind you.
Tyler Carpenter, a driver who grew up in small-town West Virginia and worked alongside his family to build one of the best chassis on the market today, scored one for the underdog and ended the notion, once-and-for-all, that a driver must have a large backing to take home a major event win. The Gateway Dirt Nationals has become one of the top ten, if not top five races in all of dirt track racing and Carpenter won two separate features, including the $30,000-to-win main event, behind-the-wheel of an underfunded car, in most peoples eyes and beating the defending World of Outlaws Late Model champion, Brandon Sheppard, at the line in spectacular fashion.
After taking home this win, the biggest victory of his career by a long-shot, Tyler gave fans a few one-liners during his post-race interviews but also used that platform to plead with fans to pray for his niece, who needed a "miracle," to get the medical help needed to survive. In just a few weeks, the family has been able to receive over $130,000 in donations for "Mannon's Miracle," a number that just keeps growing by the day and that was all made possible because of the values Tyler and his family showed in the eyes of victory.
Carpenter went from a well-known driver to a superstar, overnight, by not feeding into the PC culture most abide by in today's generation, showing humanity in victory and not giving in to the notion that he needs an endless budget and brand new equipment to compete upfront. This single event, a footnote in history, could change the landscape forever. At racetrack all across the country, drivers with a small budget sitting in the staging area will not be thinking about just grabbing a good run and going home, no, they very well could be thinking about out driving the bigger budget sitting beside them, because they all watched Tyler Carpenter do it against the best in the world, on one of the biggest stages there is.
- OneDirt Photo