Steel Block Bandits


FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Michael Rouse broke out the broom Saturday night (March 30) at Fayetteville Motor Speedway, sweeping the night to kick off the 2024 Vision Wheel Steel Block Bandits Dirt Late Model Challenge season.

Rouse, of Wilson, N.C., set quick time in qualifying, took a wire-to-win win in his heat race, and led all 40 laps at the 3/8ths-mile dirt oval to pocket his fifth career Bandits victory. He got pressure from Russell Erwin in the middle and late stages of the event, but Erwin could never get close enough to challenge for the lead and took the checkered flag .890 seconds behind Rouse.

“Everybody thinks when they climb in these racecars it’s all about the driver, but it’s all about these (crew) guys that work on this thing every weekend,” said Rouse, who earned $5,000. “We gave up on this old car, went through it over the winter time, and I think it’s pretty good. This is the oldest car we got, but it’s running pretty good.”

Rouse’s Longhorn chassis was, indeed, just what the doctor ordered against the 24 other cars in the field. The only serious challenge Rouse faced was dealing with lapped traffic, but the event’s three cautions helped minimize the impact they could have on his race-winning run. Rouse also won the 2023 Bandits opener, held at Halifax County Motor Speedway in Brinkleyville, N.C.

“You always get concerned (about lapped traffic) here, kinda the way the race track is,” Rouse said. “You can’t really move around a whole lot. Luckily, the cautions fell (at the right time) and we didn’t have a real crazy race.”

Erwin, of Beaverdam, Va., started third, and shot past Tyler Bare on a restart to take the second spot – a position the 2021 inaugural Bandits champion wouldn’t relinquish.

Bare, of Rockbridge Baths, Va., settled for third, followed in the top five by 2022 series titlist Dustin Mitchell of Princeton, N.C., and Michael Batten of Elm City, N.C.

Derrick Rankin of Fishersville, Va., delivered an impressive run, knifing through the field after starting 20th to capture sixth. He placed one spot ahead of 2023 Bandits champion Derick Quade of Mechanicsville, Va., as drivers from seven states showed up at Fayetteville.

The Bandits’ 14-race schedule continues Saturday, April 6, at Sumter (S.C.) Speedway. The Billy Cagle Memorial offers a $7,500-to-win purse, and is one of five races this season paying at least that much to win. The season concludes back at Fayetteville on Oct. 19 for the $10,000-to-win Cash Money 100.

Scott Service Company Heat Race 1 Winner - Michael Rouse
MW Transport Heat 2 Winner - Dustin Mitchell D8
Nichols Plumbing Heat 3 Winner - Quade Racing #74

HGR's Truck & Trailer Sales, Inc. Qualifying Results

  1. Michael Rouse (23) - 14.739
  2. Tyler Bare Racing (B8) - 14.848
  3. Russell Erwin racing (22) - 14.850
  4. Dustin Mitchell D8 (D8) - 14.906
  5. Team Michael Batten Motorsports (32) - 15.004
  6. Timmy Mills (52) - 15.012
  7. Derick Quade Racing #74 (74) - 15.158
  8. Michael Marlowe Racing (08) - 15.260
  9. Matthew Bissette (23B) - 15.268
  10. Todd Frank (21) - 15.304
  11. ZACH COX Racing (40) - 15.318
  12. Robbie Emory's Racing (9E) - 15.367
  13. Landen Zakalowski (Fierce57) (57) - 15.523
  14. Dan Breuer (7) - 15.543
  15. Dale Moore Racing (29) - 15.565
  16. Bradley Mccaskill (18) - 15.567
  17. Rogger Lucas (79) - 15.638
  18. Bobby Liles (L3) - 15.760
  19. Dylan Watson (1W) - 15.809
  20. Derrick Rankin Racing #72 (72) - 15.925
  21. Timmy Blackwell (17) - 16.153
  22. Ronnie Long (7) - 16.165
  23. Daniel Tucker (0) - 16.306
  24. Shaun Harrell (3)
  25. AJ Belanger (24)

For more on the Vision Wheel Steel Block Bandits Dirt Late Model Challenge, visit or follow them on Facebook.

Article Credit: Written: Thomas Pope/ Photo:ZSK Photography

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