14 min read

Conflict in Colcord: #FantasyDirt Primer for the USMTS All-American from Arrowhead Speedway

Conflict in Colcord: #FantasyDirt Primer for the USMTS All-American from Arrowhead Speedway
Photo Credit to yours truly for this shot of the 4-Wide from Ogilvie Raceway for the 2023 Fall Classic.

Hi there! Phew, it sure has been a minute since I've gotten the chance to chat at y'all. Which is a bummer, for me mostly (entirely?), as I enjoy having nuanced discussions about #FantasyDirt picks, sharing stories, talking all things dirt racing, and cracking jokes (that are funny to me mostly (entirely?)). If you didn't know though, even when it's difficult to get longform stuff out, the DirtInfo team is still pumping out fantasy advice over on Twitter and Facebook.

I genuinely hope y'all are doing well. Things over here have been beyond hectic, but very fulfilling. In probably the biggest shocker, I have a Knucklehead in high school now! Yeah, me! I know! I'm still trying to figure out why they let me be an adult, much less a parent! I kid, a little. Not only is he in high school, he's a high school football player to boot. So that's a fun dad-son moment, seeing my little buddy, who I've coached since he was 7, out on the big boy field doing his thing. Makes my heart swell with pride.

Over the summer, I got the opportunity to coach the youngest Knucklehead (and 11 of his buddies) for his second season of travel baseball. Wanna have more fun than you thought possible while losing your hair in droves and having zero free time? Coach traveling baseball! For serious though, it was so much fun watching those kiddos find their way through the ups and downs (the many, many ups and downs baseball throws at you). I wasn't much of a baseball guy going into it, but man did I ever pour myself into learning every little thing I possibly could. I owed it to those young men to be the best I could be, so that they could be the best baseball player they could be. I'd do it again, for even less.

Not to mention how unbelievably cool it was to watch my little lefty go innings in the State Tournament. Knucklehead hadn't pitch a single inning going into the season. By the time it was coming to an end, he's out there straight dealing against the best competition he's faced all year. I'm telling ya, I could not have been more proud in that moment. Watching him push himself, test himself, under pressure he's never experienced, those are the moments I live for as a parent. I don't care if he succeeds or fails, I just want him to try his absolute best and let the chips fall where they may. It is cool when he succeeds, though.

Other than that, I've been grinding away at the bill paying job, trying to hit a dirt track as often as possible (which has not been often enough lately), doing a little somethin', somethin' in the dirt racing world, and working to expand and improve the DirtInfo offerings. Speaking of which, how freaking cool is WhoaNelly? My guy has been a huge addition to the team. Between pumping out analysis, pushing me and the team to improve, teaching me about those cars with the billboards above the quarters, and being a must follow on Twitter (can we all agree it will always just be Twitter? We can? Cool!), my man sure has become an integral part of DirtInfo and one of my best friends. Also, WhoaNelly will step in occasionally in this Primer to offer his insights.

All right, all right. ALL RIGHT! I'll get to the reason you're here!

The Event: The Inaugural ARMI Contractors USMTS All American.
The Track: Arrowhead Speedway. A 1/3-mile, semi-banked clay oval in its first year of operation.
The Format: Oh, the USMTS format. How I love and hate you. I don't like inverts, I don't. But there isn't a better racing product out there than USMTS. So, I guess that means I like inverts? Ugh.
The Format (for real): Qualifying by Heat lineup. Top 6 invert (fastest starts 6th, 6th fastest starts 1st). Top 12 in "Passing Points" transfer straight to A-Main. Top 8 redraw. 2 fastest non-qualifiers, by Qualifying Time, not Position, transfer to A-Main, in 13th & 14th starting position. Everyone else to a B-Main, lined up by Passing Points. Top X, straight up, in the Bs transfer. Then provisionalpalooza. Start 24 before provisionals, start between 26-30 with provisionals.

The Format (again) - STRATEGY: (Editor Note: USMTS did split group qualifying on 10/12/23, which was an unannounced and unexpected change. Thankfully, the analysis here held true. The change being that we have to identify the Heat Starting spot that corresponds with the Qualifying Positions mentioned here)

All right, so I have a bit of an obsession with figuring out the best fantasy strategy for the USMTS format. Obviously, we want to pick the guys who finish the best. However, USMTS fields are very deep and the format is highly variable. This places a premium on drivers who have the best chance, on a given night, to start in the Top 14.

So how do we do that? I have a theory! To date, there have been 425 transfers across 32 (or 31 for some, as the Silver Jubilee had a Mulligan Night) races. Here's where each of those drivers Qualified in their Heat:

Q Position Transferred %All Transfers
1 107 25.2%
2 84 19.8%
3 61 14.4%
4 42 9.9%
5 73 17.2%
6 49 11.5%
7 4 0.9%
8 3 0.7%
9 2 0.5%
Grand Total 425

Doesn't come as much of a surprise that Qualifying first in your heat is the best way to transfer straight in to the A-Main. Especially so, when there are two spots awarded to the fastest non-qualifiers. Nor is it a shocker that starting outside the invert is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night.

What is surprising though, is how much better Qualifying 5th is for your night compared to Qualifying 3rd, 4th, or 6th. Heck, a drivers odds of making the show nearly double by Qualifying 5th instead of 4th. Qualifying 5th increases a drivers odds by over 40% compared to 6th, and they both start on the front row! Seems to me, we should give strong consideration to rostering drivers that Qualifying 5th!

Frankly, Qualifying 4th is pretty tough on a driver's night. It very well could be tough for our fantasy night too. For our purposes, it's not a good strategy to roster drivers who Qualifying 4th. Personally, I won't roster a driver landing in that Qualifying position from here on out.

The long and short of it is though, that we should adopt a "Go Fast or Start Up Front" strategy. Either a driver qualifies on third row or the first row, or he isn't in my boat. Preferably, I want the guy on the outside row too.


Now that we know where we want guys to Qualify, we should also identify which drivers have had success in this format. Here is the Top 20 Drivers by Passing Points Transfers:

Driver Total Transfers Fast Time Transfers % Transfers /Total Events
Jason Hughes 23 2 74.19%
Tyler Wolff 21 3 67.74%
Rodney Sanders 19 4 61.29%
Dereck Ramirez 19 3 61.29%
Tanner Mullens 17 1 54.84%
Dan Ebert 17 2 54.84%
Zack VanderBeek 16 0 51.61%
Will Krup 15 2 48.39%
Jim Chisholm 15 1 48.39%
Jake Timm 15 2 48.39%
Jake O'Neil 14 0 45.16%
Terry Phillips 13 0 41.94%
Cayden Carter 13 1 41.94%
Tom Berry 12 2 38.71%
Kyle Brown 11 3 35.48%
Dylan Thornton 10 1 32.26%
Jeremy Nelson 9 0 29.03%
Steve Lavasseur 8 1 25.81%
Darron Fuqua 8 0 25.81%
Carlos Ahumada 8 2 25.81%

I'll be completely honest, Jason Hughes and Tyler Wolff being at the top of this list is a total surprise to me. I'd have thought Tanner Mullens and, especially so, Jim Chisholm would have been much more proficient at transferring via Heats.

Jake Timm is a bit of an outlier as well. The Fastest 49 hasn't run a full schedule, showing up 20 times this year. Yet he's transferred via Heats 15 times, or 75% of the time he's entered, narrowly edging past Hughes as the most proficient driver when it comes to transferring straight into the A-Main.

Tom Berry Jr. is another driver who hasn't run the full schedule. If we count just the events he's attended, we get a Transfer Percentage of 48%. That would put TBJ on par with Krup and Chisholm and ahead of Jake O'Neill, Terry Phillips, and Cayden Carter. Depending on where TBJ slots in on a given night, he could be a very sneaky play.

So, how do we use this? Well, I think some of these drivers transfer pretty well compared to their typical salary. Will Krup is frequently sub-$20K, yet he transfers at the same clip as Jim Chisholm, who is consistently one of the top 5 highest salaries. Tyler Wolff can generally be had for a sub-$20.5K salary. Hughes fluctuates consistently, but there may be a night or two we find him at or around the $20K mark. That would be a good time to pounce.

Ultimately, if we're fortunate enough to follow Qualifying live-ish we should be targeting "GFoSUP" guys for our lineups. Paying particular attention if it happens to be someone like Timm, Berry, Hughes, Wolff, Krup, ZBV. We're ecstatic if that combo comes on a night where one or more of these drivers have slipped down the Salary chart.

If I'm prioritizing these two charts, I think I get further with the Qualifying Position chart than I do with the Transfer Percentage chart.

The Standings: So, remember how I said there are a lot of provisionals? Well, we should probably have some idea how those are handed out. By and large, provisionals are based on points. We just spent a ton of time talking about transferring straight through and that is the optimal strategy, but if things go sideways in that quest it sure is nice having a B-Main and a provisional to fall back on. This is how the Top 25 sit heading into this weekend:

1 Rodney Sanders 2471
2 Jason Hughes 2307
3 Jim Chisholm 2279
4 Dereck Ramirez 2256
5 Jake O'Neil 2239
6 Tanner Mullens 2231
7 Dan Ebert 2173
8 Terry Phillips 2117
9 Tyler Wolff 2104
10 Zack VanderBeek 2086
11 Cayden Carter 2084
12 Will Krup 2000
13 Darron Fuqua 1953
14 Carlos Ahumada Jr. 1901
15 Tom Berry Jr. 1869
16 Jeremy Nelson 1850
17 Dylan Thornton 1723
18 Kyle Brown 1650
19 Gary Christian 1615
20 Brandon Givens 1592
21 Jake Timm 1550
22 Steve Lavasseur 1548
23 Al Hejna 1254
24 Taton Hansen 1201
25 Alex Williamson 1188

Who to Watch (Driver, Thurs Salary, Thurs Salary Slot): I've definitely thrown a lot of names, stats, and theories at you so far. I truly believe having a strategy and letting the drivers come to you is better than selecting drivers based on past performance alone. That being said, I'm as guilty as anyone for picking drivers I like, watch a lot at the tracks nearby, or who have an interesting story. That's ok too! Fantasy should be fun! I do tend to enjoy my good fantasy results more when it also means success for "my guys." We have also mostly covered the USMTS regulars/semi-regulars, whereas there is likely to be as many, or more, local and regional guys in attendance than touring drivers. So we should probably know a thing or two about them as well!

Jake Timm $21,100 (5): We talked about Timm earlier, yet there is still more rant and rave about the Killa Gorilla. Timm is tied with Rodney Sanders for most USMTS wins on the season with 4, has the third highest Average Finish Position (AFP) of all drivers with double digit starts, and, OH!, he just won the USRA Nationals this past weekend at Lucas Oil Speedway. There is a lot to like about Timm at this high salary, even more so if we see him slip down the salary chart at any point this weekend.

Chad Wheeler $20,900 (7): WhoaNelly says: Wheeler has contested three events at Arrowhead and has won all of them, including an ARMS event on June 23rd, where he bested a field including Tyler Wolff, Jason Hughes, Terry Phillips, and more. Wheeler has only run two weekends with the USMTS this year, but ran a solid 10th and 6th at Mason City back in August; he was a bit off when he finished outside of the top 10 twice at Lakeside in May. Wheeler grabbed an additional two victories at Lucas Oil Speedway, including two of three during the Show Me 100 weekend. Wheeler should be a threat to win on all three nights.

Jason Hughes $20,600 (10): Much like Jake Timm, we've spilled quite a bit of ink about Jason Hughes already. Yet, I wanted to stress how good of a value he is heading into Thursday's competition. Hughes sits second in USMTS points, has the best Transfer Percentage of any USMTS driver, and has a 3rd place finish at Arrowhead with ARMS on June 23, 2023. I would not be shocked to see Hughes sitting in victory lane at least once this weekend.

Tom Berry Jr. $20,200 (14): He's baaaaaccckkk! TBJ started the USMTS season pretty hot, picking up wins at Rocket Raceway Park and Hamilton County. Unfortunately, the team had a couple motors quit at Mason City in July and fell off tour. Recently, Berry picked up a Lethal chassis and is headed to Arrowhead this weekend. In 25 USMTS features (out of 27 events attended), TBJ has an AFP of 12.44, which puts him 11th amongst USMTS regulars & semi-regulars and ahead of drivers such as Terry Phillips, Darron Fuqua, Cayden Carter, and Tyler Wolff. Additionally, during his time on tour, TBJ regularly qualified near or at the top of his group, which fits in nicely with our GFoSUP strategy. Assuming he acclimates well to his new equipment, I won't be shocked to see TBJ on the podium at least once this weekend.

Will Krup $19,900 (17): Remember what I said about Krup earlier? Here is again at a below median salary. What's more, in 29 features, Krup has an AFP of 14.3, better than Carlos Ahumada Jr. and Jeremy Nelson, both of whom carry higher salaries heading into Thursday's action.

Trevor Hughes $19,800 (19): WhoaNelly says: The son of the great Jason Hughes picked up the inaugural Arrowhead track title by finishing inside of the top 5 in 7 of 9 features, with two victories being the cherries on top. Additionally, Hughes has won 6 of the 12 modified features at Tri-State Speedway in OK. Unfortunately, Hughes has failed to qualify in all 10 attempted USMTS events this season, which presents a bit of a conundrum. Hughes is clearly a stud at Arrowhead and on the regional scene, winning the USRA Southern Region Modified Weekly title, but can he break through with the USMTS? I say yes.

Alex Williamson $19,700 (20):Williamson is another driver who tends to be undervalued compared to his results. In 13 USMTS feature starts, Williamson sports a stout 12.07 AFP, sandwiching him between Dan Ebert and Zack VanderBeek. Pretty good company, huh? Especially when those two drivers tend to be about $1K more expensive each night than Alex.

Darron Fuqua $19,500 (22): Honestly, I am a bit surprised to see Fuqua carrying a sub-$20K salary. Darron carries a solid 12.89 AFP in 28 feature starts (the three he missed were due to a back issue) putting him right below TP and above, Carter, Wolff, and Krup, all who carry a higher salary. I'd keep Fuqua on the radar this whole weekend.

Tate Cole $19,100 (25): Tate Cole has made Arrowhead his home this season with 9 of his 11 results going down there. In those 9 Arrowhead starts, Cole has 5 Top 5s, with a best finish of 2nd to Trevor Hughes, another two Top 10s, a solid 13th place finish in ARMS action, and one DNS. His two non-Arrowhead results were a 9th in ARMS action at Salina Highbanks and a 6th against a pretty stout field at Tri-State. Overall, this is pretty enticing salary for Cole's resume.

Steve Lavasseur $18,900 (27): This one is definitely Qualifying dependent, but Lavasseur has picked up the pace recently. Lavasseur had finishes of 21st, 18th, and 13th at Mason City in July, 17th at Lucas Oil, a 9th in his Jubilee qualifying night (he did miss the big show, though) and put it in the show over 50 other drivers at the Jamboree coming home 24th. If we find Lavasseur sitting fast time or outside front row in his heat, I think you can confidently slide him into your lineup.

Joe Duvall $18,800 (31): Big Daddy came home 6th in ARMS action at Arrowhead on June 23, 2023, so we know he knows a thing or two about getting around this track. Big Daddy also is the ARMS Points leader. This far down the Salary charts, that singular result and the points leadership makes my ears perk up.

Jared Russell $18,700 (32): WhoaNelly says: Russell traveled to Arrowhead 5 times and came away with 5 top 5s, showing incredible consistency. In fact, Russell finished inside of the top 10 in 15 of his 16 USRA weekly starts in 2023. Two wins at Tri-State have been his season highlights, but Russell also made USMTS features at Rocket and Humbolt back in March, with finishes of 18th, 15th, and 17th.. Russell should give you a decent floor to work from without having to pay a premium. Consider the Oklahoman for your roster.

Kale Westover $18,400 (41): WhoaNelly says: Westover has not had a great season in his limited USMTS starts, but did post an 11th back on April 22nd at 81 Speedway. On the regional scene in OK and TX, he has been one of the top dogs, posting six wins in USRA Weekly Series competition, which propelled him to 8th in the National standings. He also sits 4th in the ARMS points, where he picked up a victory at Boothill in August. Westover’s 4th and 2nd at Arrowhead this year show that he is comfortable on the new surface in Colcord. At this low price, the Altus, OK driver is someone worth paying attention to come qualifying.

Who to Watch (Bonus Addition): There are a couple drivers not yet on DirtDraft who may show up and, more importantly, may be very undervalued.

Gary Christian: Christian has had a bumpy rookie season with USMTS, but all the trials and tribulations appear to be paying dividends as the season winds down. Christian took some time off tour to get right in June and July and get right he did. Since returning, Gary is sporting an AFP of 12.63 in 8 feature starts, won Mulligan Night at the Jubilee, and came home 10th in the big dance. Most recently, Christian came home 18th at the Jamboree.

Chase Junghans: Junghans doesn't have a modified result to speak of this year, but I don't care. When your last result is a 6th place finish at the Knoxville Late Model Nationals, I'm going to be intrigued.

10/13/23 update: Moved drivers who were Primed but did not attend the event down here to unclutter the Who to Watch.

Joe Chisholm $20,000 (16): We all know that Jim Chisholm is a very good modified driver, turns out that skill might be genetic! Joe Chisholm is Jim's younger brother and he might be an even better racecar driver! Smoke has a 5th place finish at Cedar Lake, a 7th on Mulligan Day at the Silver Jubilee, and most recently a 7th at Deer Creek on the only night of the Jamboree to get completed. What is interesting is that Joe was in Dustin Sorensen's MB for Cedar Lake and in Aaron Benson's Skyrocket for Mason City and Deer Creek. It don't matter the chassis, Smoke can wheel it.

Lucas Schott $19,600 (21): Schott made clear during the offseason that he was going to take this season slower than usual to tend to life events. I definitely applaud him for prioritizing his family, as I certainly can relate. With that though, came some results that were not quite as good as we are used to seeing with Lucas, including missing a feature at Deer Creek of all places. Recently, however, Schott has found his groove, coming home 2nd on his Silver Jubilee qualifying night and 9th in the big dance. Schott followed that up with a solid 12th on the single Jamboree night. I'm getting the feeling that Schott's salary isn't going to stay this depressed the whole weekend.

Tyler Davis $18,900 (27): Davis is another driver who started the season slow, but has found more success as it progresses. Specifically, Davis picked up a win at Lakeside in USMTS action back in May and, recently, strung together finishes of 5th, 1st, and 4th at the USRA Nationals. There is also reason to believe Davis is gearing up for another full-season USMTS run next year and, with only a few races left, now might be the time to get the momentum flowing his direction heading into next season. Word of caution, I'd still look for Davis to fit our GFoSUP strategy before starting him with confidence.

Wyatt Gaggero $18,200 (47): I want to give big ups to the legend, Brad Gorman, for the tip on Gaggero. Wyatt currently sits 19th in National USRA points and Top 5 in points at both Humboldt and 81 Speedway (keep that in mind for a couple of weeks from now, too). Pretty solid resume for the youngster, yeah? How about in his one attempt with ARMS, at Salina Highbanks, Gaggero transferred via his heat before suffering a DNS for the feature? Solid, right? There's something to work with at this low salary.

Brandon Davis: I probably don't need to say much about the 50 the Third, so I'll try not to. Davis has a USMTS win at Deer Creek in May, came home 3rd at the Jamboree, and most recently finished second at the USRA Nationals. If he is in attendance, he's worth heavy consideration each and every night.