Hometown: Oakwood, IL
Current Level: Dirt Late Models
Last Year’s Pick: 5th
Like the 2019 NFL Draft, a lot of speculation surrounded which driver would be selected as the number-two pick in the 2019 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes. Looking at the ballot of over 300 eligible drivers, a handful of short track racers had a legit chance to land second on the draft board.
But at the end of the day, only one driver can be selected as the number two pick in the draft. After tallying votes from 80 industry experts, that driver is Dirt Late Model racer Bobby Pierce.
The driver known as “The Smooth Operator” climbed from his fifth-place selection last year to second in 2019.
With the selection, Pierce is now the highest ranked full-time dirt racer to be selected in the Short Track Draft. Christopher Bell was selected first in the 2015 draft; however, he was already beginning to win big Super Late Model races on asphalt prior to that year’s draft.
For Pierce, the honor of being named the second overall selection is a huge accomplishment to add to his already impressive resume.
“Out of all those drivers, that’s a big accomplishment for sure,” Pierce said. “That’s a pretty big accomplishment. There are a lot of drivers, whether it’s dirt or asphalt, and to kind of put the two together into a category like that and rank them, that’s pretty unique. To be put with all of them, that’s really cool. It says a lot about everything we do. It takes all of the accomplishments I’ve had and kind of puts them under the spotlight; that’s really cool. Hopefully we can get to the number-one spot sometime.”
At the age of 22, Pierce has established himself as one of the most prominent superstars in Dirt Late Model racing. With victories in crown jewel events such as the World 100 at Eldora Speedway (OH) and North/South 100 at Florence Speedway (KY), he has proven he can prevail against the toughest Dirt Late Model competition in the country.
The 2018 season saw Pierce competing full-time on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series circuit for the first time in his career. Competing against the most competitive fields in Dirt Late Model racing, he tallied four victories on his way to a seventh-place finish in the championship standings.
Away from the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Pierce added another big race victory to his resume when he won the $30,000 Gateway Dirt Nationals. He also pocketed over $40,000 in the inaugural Dirt Million at Mansfield Motor Speedway (OH).
For the 2019 season, Pierce has returned to his family-owned team and stepped away from full-time competition with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. That decision paid off almost immediately in January when he won three consecutive events during the Wild West Shootout at Arizona Speedway.
Pierce followed up his hot start with a $5,000 victory in the Spring 50 at Florence Speedway, DIRTcar Late Model wins at Tri-City Speedway (IL) and Peoria Speedway (IL), and a Lucas Oil MLRA victory at 34 Raceway in Iowa.
In 2019, Pierce will look to boost his Short Track Draft stock by eyeing additional victories in Dirt Late Model crown jewel events. Moving forward, he has a long-term goal of being able to contend for a championship on one of the major national tours.
“I think one of the things would be eventually be trying to win a national championship like the Lucas Oil Late Model Series or the World of Outlaws Late Model Series,” Pierce stated. “Right now my schedule with all the races I go to, I go to about 90 races a year and we try to hit all the big wins. We don’t really follow a series outside of Summer Nationals when it rolls around. Any of the races I go to, it’s always stout competition. If we could just win the big races, I think that would definitely give me a little bit of a boost. The big races you want to win are like the World 100, North South and the Show-Me 100. Luckily I’ve already won all of them, so if we could get a few different ones. There are so many big races in Dirt Late Model racing, so many events paying big money to win.
“I’d definitely like to win the crown jewels for sure, for the money and the glory in it. Maybe it boosts my stock to number one; you never know.”
In recent years, Pierce has taken advantage of a few opportunities to compete in NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series events. In his first start in the Mittler Brothers No. 63, Pierce grabbed the attention of the racing world by winning the pole and finishing second in the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora. He followed that up with a 22nd-place finish in his first asphalt start at Martinsville Speedway (VA) and a 16th-place finish at ISM Raceway (AZ).
Pierce again earned the pole for the 2016 Mudsummer Classic but a crash took him out of contention in that race. In 2017, he started 26th and charged to a sixth-place finish in the race.
Since that race, Pierce has not competed in a NASCAR event. He’s not sure if that will change in the future, but either way he is very content with what he’s doing right now in the Dirt Late Model ranks.
“When I drove for Mittler Brothers in the NASCAR Trucks, it was a really cool experience for sure. I think it actually made me a better driver on the dirt too because anytime you get out of your comfort zone or drive something else you learn more skills that you don’t know you have. You can apply them in different areas when you need to. You never really know what’s going to happen but when I did that it was a lot of fun.
“The dirt is definitely where my heart is at. I grew up dirt racing so it’s a lot of fun for me. When you’re having a lot of success at it, that’s when it’s going really good.”
Pierce isn’t ruling out a return to the NASCAR ranks, indicating that he’d be interested if sponsorship dollars came in and the opportunity presented itself.
“I talked to Mittler when he was at my race party sometime in January. It’s pretty cool that he showed up to that thing. I talked to him for a bit. He’s like, ‘Hey, I really want to get you back in the truck for Eldora.’ We haven’t really talked about it a whole lot since then. I’ve actually been meaning to give him a call sometime. I’ve texted him a little bit but haven’t really talked about it much. I
“I’ve done that deal three times and the first time I did it I came really close to winning it. The second time I felt like I had a really good shot again, and the third time we had a fast truck again; I just caught up in a wreck early on. I’ve had a really good chance at finishing up front, if not winning it all three years. If I did it again, I’d be looking to get the job done for sure. It’d be pretty cool to win a NASCAR race.”
While Pierce’s on-track performance speaks for itself, he has also established himself as one of the top drivers when he’s not behind the wheel. “The Smooth Operator” has gained the reputation of being a fan favorite and takes advantage of every opportunity he can get to connect with his fans.
“It’s really cool whenever I’m at the t-shirt trailer at the race track and all sorts of fans come up,” Pierce said. “They’re buying your merchandise with your name on it, and it’s definitely really cool to see the fan base and see it like that. They’re buying shirts and they’re into the sport like crazy. It makes you feel good, and it’s definitely good for sponsors and all that to have that fan base to get everyone’s name out there for them. It’s something that I think when you’re having a bad night, you can always count on the fans to cheer you up. It’s kind of a unique experience for sure.
“When I was a little kid going to dirt races and stuff, I had my idols growing up and I’d want their signatures on my checkered flag or t-shirts. Now that’s me doing the autograph signing and all of that. That’s pretty cool to see. Whether I was racing a Truck, a Dirt Late Model, a Midget or anything, there’s that fan base there and it’s pretty cool.”
With nearly 80 races remaining on his 2019 schedule, race fans will have plenty of opportunities to watch the driver who can now call himself the number-two pick in the 2019 Short Track Draft.
Only one driver beat out Pierce in this year's draft. To see who was selected as the number one pick, click here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51