Story By: JUSTIN ST. LOUIS / KING OF DIRT – RUTLAND, VT – There is a new King of Dirt Racing: Justin Comes. The Middlebury, Vt., driver has officially been named the champion for the 2020 King of Dirt Racing (KOD) Crate Modified Series, following a season that saw the tour’s schedule drastically abbreviated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original KOD schedule contained five dates, though only two events at Devil’s Bowl Speedway were completed. Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., has announced that it will not be holding its event planned for September 25 due to ongoing pandemic restrictions in New York State; that event was scheduled to be the final KOD race. Other events planned for The Flat Track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and New York’s Fonda Speedway had previously been cancelled.
Comes finished fourth in both races that were completed at his home track, Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vermont. In each case, he was the second-highest finishing driver who was eligible to earn KOD championship points; drivers who also compete regularly in Big Block or Small Block Modified events do not earn points.
Proving his strength, Comes was one of only two drivers to finish inside the top five in both events, joining Demetrios Drellos, who is ineligible for points. Comes ran from sixth starting position to finish fourth in the first KOD event, the “Leon Gonyo Memorial” 40-lap race on August 9, finishing just behind Kevin Root, Drellos, and Kenny Tremont Jr., and ahead of Jack Speshock.
In the second event, the 11th Annual “Northeast Crate Nationals” 50-lapper on September 12 – which was originally planned for Fonda Speedway – Comes started seventh and made his way into a thrilling battle for the win with Drellos, Adam Pierson, and Tanner Siemons, leading 15 laps in the process. He was shuffled back on some late restarts, finishing behind Drellos, Pierson, and Siemons, with David Schilling behind him in fifth place.
Comes is the first Vermonter to win a King of Dirt Racing championship, joining New York racers Rocky Warner, Connor Cleveland, and Bobby Hackel as a KOD Crate Modified Series titlist. Known as “The Highside Hustler” for his tendency to use the far outside lane on the racetrack, Comes has competed occasionally with KOD since 2015 and has seven career wins in weekly Sportsman Modified competition at Devil’s Bowl and Bear Ridge Speedway.
“We are proud to call Justin Comes the King of Dirt Racing champion for 2020,” KOD president Mike Bruno said. “We obviously wish that the schedule had played out differently, but Justin Comes earned his title and he raced hard for the win at the Northeast Crate Nationals last week. He is an outstanding racer with a small, family team, and that is what KOD was built on. It’s good to have a driver like Justin Comes on the list of KOD champions.”
Bristol, Vt., rookie Josh Masterson is the runner-up in the KOD standings for 2020, and he will also take home “Newcomer of the Year” honors. Masterson was strong in his first season on dirt, with finishes of 11th and 8th in the two KOD races. Johnstown, N.Y.’s Brian Calabrese finished third in KOD points for the second straight year, followed by Tim LaDuc and Siemons. Even with only two events run, 54 different drivers competed with KOD.