Illinois drivers Dennis Erb Jr. and Brian Shirley are set for a demanding stretch of races with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models that trace back to their Midwestern roots.

The two former DIRTcar Summer Nationals champions – a tour with 29 races in 33 days – take on the Heartland Grand Tour – a stretch of 11 races in 17 days that includes nine tracks in six states, and over 1,600 miles of travel that begins at Thunderhill Raceway on Thursday, June 20, and ends at Deer Creek Speedway on Thursday-Saturday, July 4-6.

Though the two drivers have yet to find Victory Lane with the Series in 2024, each driver made new changes to their team and cars in the offseason that have taken time to understand and develop over the first six months of the season.

Erb, the 2022 World of Outlaws champion of Carpentersville, IL, changed to Fox Factory Shocks for 2024. So far, it’s been a tough, but positive, process between the two to find the right balance for the No. 28.

“We’re happy with the shock program so far,” Erb said. “It’s been an aspect where we’ve had to work on it each night. We’re just continuing to work with the good people at Fox to make things better. It’s not really where we want to be right now, but we get into this part of the season where we’re racing a lot and a chance where we can get rolling and be upfront.”

Shirley, of Chatham, IL – who is fourth on the all-time wins list with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Models – entered 2024 with a new set of crew members and has had to rely on his veteran knowledge to prepare them for the grind ahead. Recently, that’s resulted in the Bilstein Pole Award at Mississippi Thunder Speedway and three top-10 finishes with the World of Outlaws this year.

“Honestly, it shows where we’re at as far as getting better on track,” Shirley said. “Hopefully, we can do better overall and make up ground in the Features. As far as 2024, it’s been a little rough. But, at the end of the day, we just continue to grind and do everything we can to improve as the season goes on.

“This year, the crew guys on the car are new, so it’s been an adjustment in itself to get used to with how they all work. It’s been a good adjustment though, everyone’s working hard and getting to know each other better and we’ll see what we get into in the summer and familiar tracks of mine.”

Erb, a three-time Summer Nationals champion (2007-2009), is using the week before the Heartland Grand Tour to compete in the Summer Nationals Hell Tour. Erb wheeled his No. 28 machine to a second-place result in the season opener at Peoria Speedway on Wednesday.

“(The Hell Tour) has been a great help over the years,” Erb said. “Going to a lot of racetracks with different layouts and surfaces night in and night out, and just being in the seat really helped me out in my career. Getting things ready to travel around and being in the car every night to learn was super helpful to me.

“(Week one), especially, we’re gonna be able to run some of these tracks I know and have a lot of good notes about getting a good start. It also gives me a chance to get out, do some racing, try to learn some things, and get the car ready for what’s next.”

For Shirley, his main objective through the Heartland Grand Tour is a consistent series of races under his belt to gain more team experience and build notes. The four-time Summer Nationals champion (2012, 2018-2020) claimed a Feature victory at Hamilton County Speedway in 2016.

“There’s some tracks I’ve known and some new places I’m looking forward to getting to for sure,” Shirley said. “I’m more of a Midwest driver because of my background, but with some of these tracks we’ve been to last year up next, I got a bit of my notebook to go back to and get unloaded faster than when we did last year.

“Anytime we get to go to these tracks that you’ve been to before, it helps to get these new guys to understand the places better. Getting back to racing, in general, is the biggest thing we need to get their feet wet for what’s to come.”

Erb echoed Shirley’s sentiments of earning a solid run of races for his team in the summer amid his first top-five result in the last 2024 Series points race at Path Valley Speedway. Out of the races on the Heartland Grand Tour, he’s won at Brownstown Speedway in 2007 and River Cities Speedway in 2021.

“I always look forward to going to the new tracks on the schedule,” Erb said. “A lot of times, we get there and throw (the setup we think works) on the car and not overthink it too much. Definitely, the tracks we’ve been at and had previous success at, I look forward to them as well. It’s all about trying to get a good, solid run going coming up.”

Watch Erb and Shirley take their talents to the Heartland Grand Tour, featuring 11 races in 17 days through June and ending with the highly anticipated return of the NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 on July 4-6 – featuring fireworks on Thursday, a Dylan Scott concert on Friday and the $50,000-to-win finale on Saturday.

For more information and tickets about the 2024 World of Outlaws CASE Late Models season, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model race live on DIRTVision.