Nebraska Driver Is Two-For-Two In Dirt Late Model Starts

Nebraska Driver Is Two-For-Two In Dirt Late Model Starts

Nebraska driver Anthony Roth is two-for-two in the first two Dirt Late Model starts of his career at U.S. 30 Speedway and Off Road Speedway.

May 17, 2024 by Todd Turner
Nebraska Driver Is Two-For-Two In Dirt Late Model Starts

Anthony Roth's first laps in his Jerry Pospisil-owned Late Model were anything but glamorous.

"I don't even know if you call it a practice session," the 28-year-old Platte Center, Neb., driver said with a laugh, recalling the 10 laps he logged at his local U.S. 30 Speedway with the surface not even prepared for racing action.

The track "rained out the last two weeks and half the track was still flooded. I called (the promoter) and I'm like, 'Man, I need to get out there and just at least turn a couple laps to make sure nothing is gonna leak and nothing's gonna break. Just to get a little feel for it,'" Roth said. "I told him not to prep it because there ain't no use of doing any of that."

Nothing leaked. Nothing broke. And when Roth got the chance to drive the Team Zero Race Car in competition last week, things were quite a bit more glamorous — as well as emotional — for the fourth-generation driver who has been successful in the modified division for more than 10 seasons.

Roth won May 9 at U.S. 30 Speedway in his first-ever Late Model start, then two nights later made it 2-for-2 in the full-fender division at Off Road Speedway in Norfolk, Neb., the same town where his grandfather and father competed for many years at the now-closed Riviera Raceway.

The weekend “turned out phenomenal," Roth said. "Damn near a dream come true."

Watching Roth's hometown victory, his father Travis wept with joy watching his son's No. 60 (tagged with the Roman numerals IV to signify his racing generation).

"After Thursday night, he was tearing up down there, and it was emotional for all of us, because I've never raced (a Late Model) and then we just went out and beat Cory Dumpert, who's a five-time (IMCA) champion, so it was very emotional for everybody," Roth said. At Off Road Speedway, "my whole family was up there because they're like, 'This is so cool, a Late Model No. 60 back up there.' It's been so long before we've seen a car at Norfolk with 60 on it — and then we won the whole thing. It was awesome."

It was a remarkable weekend for the driver who calls racing in the Late Model division his "ultimate goal," putting him atop's Weekly Notebook presented by FK Rod Ends.

While Roth has more than 110 feature victories, multiple track championships and impressive paydays in modifieds, the chance to move up to Late Models came in January. Jerry Pospisil, the Off Road Speedway promoter and father of veteran Late Model driver Tad Pospisil, visited with Roth while he was working the Razor Chassis booth at a Columbus, Neb., trade show.

"I was there just talking to people and, and just showing a few products off, and he's like, 'Hey, I got a Late Model you should drive.' I'm like, 'Man, you say this all the time, Jerry,' just giving him a hard time. I said, 'If you're serious, just give me a call tomorrow," Roth recalled. "And so Sunday about noon, he called me and he's like, 'Hey, I'm serious. I got this Late Model sitting here. We can't seem to sell it. We'll just stick somebody in it.' And so he's like, 'Think about it a little bit.' So I'm like, talk to the wife and talk to my dad, and I'm like, 'What do you think about this opportunity?' They're like, we hee-hawed around about it, we all did, and we just said, 'Let's just do it. What's it going to hurt?' "

If his impressive start is any indication, it might end up hurting Roth's competition. He won flag-to-flag at U.S. 30 and made a mid-race, third-to-first move on a restart at Off Road to outrun Dumpert and Chase Osborne. The transition to Late Models has been seamless, Roth said.

"I literally got it like a week before we were supposed to go race and I went through the whole thing, every bolt, nut, heim bar, I did all that," he said. "And it all just worked out. I'm just a maintenance freak, I guess you could say. I just went through everything with a fine-toothed comb and did it.

"Honestly, I got in there, and I just felt comfortable. My seat's mounted just right. I hopped in there and I just hit the gas and it just went. It steers really nice. You don't hardly have to turn the wheel. And that wide tire just holds you right there. You could just feel everything and it just went. It was very comfortable. It was really easy to drive and I just adapted really quick to it."

After years of racing modifieds and struggling to find traction with the 8.5-inch tires, the benefits of the 11-inch Late Model tires were what Roth noticed most.

"It was very, very comfortable and easy to adapt to. And wherever you stuck that car, it just went. I think after you drive modified for so many years, you hop in this Late Model, the wider tire, you can just put it wherever you want," he said, noting that modified-turned-Late Model drivers like Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series star Ricky Thornton Jr. have found the same thing. "We're all modified guys for how many years, and then we hop in these Late Models and it's just comfortable. It just comes natural, I think."

In his victory at Off Road, "everyone's like, 'How did you know your car was gonna stick when you went in the middle?' I said, 'Man, after you race a modified, you could do it for one lap in a modified.' I said I knew you could do it in the Late Model. Like your tires cool down just a little bit and you can drive through that junk and it's gonna hold you for one or two laps, and I just trusted the car right off the get-go."

While the adjustments and variables of a Dirt Late Model suspension give drivers plenty to tinker with, Roth barely touched his new ride.

"The craziest thing is I didn't change nothing on Thursday," he said. "And all I did was changed a little bit of shock valving in the right front for Saturday. That's it. Otherwise I haven't done no adjustments to the car, just adapted myself to what the car was giving me."

His 2-for-2 success has Roth sorting out his Late Model plans, adjusting his racing schedule among his modified races while also operating his sandblasting business and assisting with the family's Razor Chassis modified and Shell Valley Classic Wheels, another family-owned operation. It'll be a busy summer.

Spectators asked Roth after his second victory if he'd chase IMCA's Rookie of the Year title or points championship. It's too early to think about that, he said.

"I'm in this seat to have fun. Go fast and whatever happens at the end of that year happens. We'll know when it gets closer to the end, if we're in the (contention) for something, then yeah, we're gonna push for it," he said. "But for right now, we're just gonna go out and this coming week we're gonna just go do the best we can and knowing that we won last week. The car is there. So now we just gotta just keep pushing to find more speed like everyone wants to do."

He'll likely be mixing it up with Dumpert, Osborne, Austin Svoboda, Dylan Schmer and other top Nebraska racers in the next few months. Dumpert had a stint working with Roth at Razor Chassis, where the drivers sometimes swapped tips about racing in their respective divisions, but the friendliness might wear a little thin if Roth is among drivers trying to stop Dumpert from capturing a sixth IMCA Late Model crown.

"Thursday, he was really pumped up for me and, and he's like, 'Yeah, dude, that's cool.' And then Saturday not so much, you know?" Roth said. "I think he's already over it. He's like, 'Dang, this guy is gonna be competition all we all year long.' "

While most of Roth's racing will come at Nebraska tracks, he'd like to make a September run at the prestigious IMCA Super Nationals at Boone (Iowa) Speedway, where he's been a regular in modified action.

"My dad did tell me at the beginning of the year, when I got this Late Model deal, if you win six or more races, I'll let you take this to the Boone Super Nationals," Roth said. "Well, I'm two (victories) in already, so I got four more to go and I'm going to Super Nationals with the Late Model, too."

Anthony Roth File

Age: 28 (birthdate Nov. 20)

Hometown: Platte Center, Neb.

Family: Anthony and his wife Kayla have an 18-month-old son, Atlas

Occupation: Owner of Elite Mobile Blasting, a sandblasting company

Chassis/engine: Team Zero/604 Crate

Sponsors: AERO Race Wheels, AFCO, CNC Machine Tool Repair, Dirt Stars Racing Products, D-Sign Shop, Elite Mobile Blasting, FastShafts, Fastenal, KB Carburetors, KSE Racing Products, Noonan Industries, Razor Chassis by Roth, Roth Racing Performance, Robert and Sons Aluminum, Schoenfeld Headers, Shell Valley Classic Wheels, Superior Fuel Cells, Superior Bearing, Swift Springs, Totally Clipz Salon, Ultra Shield, Wehrs Machine, Crucible AGC, Gaver Tire Pros, S&M Repair, Bad Chad Motorsports, Uncle Jerry, Bill's Repair.

Car owner: Jerry Pospisil

Crew members: Travis Roth (father), Austin Beenblossom, Bill Rombach and Tiger Jrecki

Racing career: The fourth-generation racer started in go-karts, winning seven championships over 10 seasons, then graduated to modifieds, where he's captured more than 110 feature victories. His 2018 season included four track championships and his biggest modified victories include the $4,000 Fall Classic at Heart O' Texas Speedway in Waco, the Abe Lincoln Memorial at his hometown U.S. 30 Speedway and the Topless Challenge at Salina (Kan.) Speedway. He won his first two Late Model starts on May 9 and 11.