Brian Shirley, who shocked the dirt track racing community by winning the late model version of the Knoxville Nationals last year in Iowa, is preparing to head east for the April 20-21 Circle K Colossal 100 at The Dirt Track @ Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Shirley normally drives the No. 3s late model owned by longtime St. Louis-area motorsports supporter Ed Petroff, but will be aboard NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader's No. 99s Red Baron Pizza machine during the Circle K Colossal 100 weekend.

"It's my type of track and to race for $50,000 to win is definitely an awesome situation," said the 25-year-old racer from Chatham, Ill. "I like race tracks that are big and super fast, and The Dirt Track is big and pretty much wide open. It just seems to fit my driving style.

"I'm excited to go there and I think we're going to be really good," Shirley added.

Shirley began racing motorcycles at age 10, but an injury at 18 forced him to switch from two wheels to four. After driving a friend's late model, Shirley decided to give dirt late model racing a try and he's been going full throttle ever since.

He's won numerous races, but Shirley joined an elite list of late model drivers last September when he held off two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart and Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame member Donnie Moran to win at Iowa's legendary Knoxville Raceway.

"To win the Knoxville Nationals was definitely one of the best days of my life so far," Shirley said. "To put myself in a different category than most race car drivers is pretty cool. There are only 30 or 40 guys who have won prestigious races like that. It's definitely something you don't take for granted because it may never happen again. You hope it will, but you just don't know."

Shirley is poised for the new season and hopes to pick up where he left off last year. "I definitely hope to start our winning ways a lot sooner than we did last year," he said. "I want to hit a few more prestigious races like the Colossal and The Dream. To win one of those would be extraordinary.

We're also running about half the World of Outlaws events. I want to be a contender racing with guys who are really good."

Shirley has built an impressive résumé in a relatively short amount of time. He's captured track championships and earned rookie-of-the-year honors with both the United Midwestern Promoters organization and the Northern Allstars Late Model Series. In addition, for the second consecutive year, he was the youngest driver included in the "Behind the Wheel: Driver of the Year" standings.

"To be young and considered one of the 40 best dirt late model drivers in the country is pretty good," Shirley said. "I try to look at what guys like Scott Bloomquist and Bill Moyer accomplished when they were my age and hopefully 20 years from now if I'm still racing, I hope I'm as good as they are.

"Right now, I'm totally happy with the lifestyle I have," Shirley continued. "Obviously, racing for a living couldn't get any better. I get to go to a job every day and have fun. It's not easy by any means, but it's better than going to a 9 to 5 job in an office. I'm just taking it as it comes, but I'm also going to strive for my best and hopefully win as many races as I can so if an opportunity comes to do something bigger and better, I can. I'm definitely going to try my best to go as far as I can.

"But, all in all, if it ends up that this is all I do for a living, I don't think it would be a bad thing to say I just raced late models. I want people to know that you can come from nothing and be a racer. There were times when I raced with nothing and just did the best I could. I never gave up and I never dreamed I'd be where I am today."

The Friday night portion of the Circle K Colossal 100 will feature group time trials and heat races. The top two finishers in each heat will secure a spot in the 100-lap finale and a draw will determine the starting lineup.

Saturday night's program begins with a driver autograph session and on-track action includes at least four additional qualifying races to the main event. The race will be part of the 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Series, but The Dirt Track's traditional format, including the extremely popular double-file restarts, will be utilized.

If purchased in advance, reserved tickets for both Friday and Saturday nights are $49 for adults and $19 for ages 12 and under. Two-day pit passes are $60 in advance.

Tickets and pit passes for the April 20-21 Circle K Colossal 100 can be purchased online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.

The Fleetwood RV Camping Resort is located adjacent to The Dirt Track and full-service camping spots can be reserved by calling (704) 455-4445.