GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Ask Danny Dietrich what he wants to become during the upcoming season and beyond, and the answer is simple.
“We’ve been a really good car in the past, but I want to become dominant,” Dietrich said. “You see all the greats … Fred [Rahmer], Lance [Dewease], Greg [Hodnett], who won 20 to 30 races a year. That’s what I want to be.”
As a new season dawns in central Pennsylvania, the storylines and faces seem fresher than ever, but the area’s most polarizing personality wants to overwrite it all.
Winning 13 times and earning a Central Pennsylvania points title, which came down to the final race Nov. 13 at BAPS Motor Speedway, is no longer fulfilling. Dietrich just wants to win at a clip such as those enshrined in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame once did.
“I want to go out and just be dominant,” Dietrich said. “I want people to get tired of me. It’s just that simple. I want the competition to get tired of us.”
Sometimes it may be tough to discern what Dietrich wants. Go to his Twitter account – which sits at 20,800 followers, more than Posse stars Freddie Rahmer, Anthony Macri, and Dewease combined – and one will quickly find his outspoken takes.
He gets into side altercations seemingly more than any other driver and finds himself at the center of attention often.
But anyone who truly gets to know Dietrich and watch him in his element will start to understand his passionate nature.
While he’s quick to voice himself and rarely shies away from speaking his mind, he’s quick to lend a hand in the pit area or simply anyone in need.
He pushes for safety innovation. He sometimes feels he is the only one who will speak up.
“I truly think we need more people like myself in the sport who stand up for themselves,” Dietrich said. “There are just too many [people] who I call prima donnas. I think about all the hard work that Fred [Rahmer] or Greg [Hodnett] or Lance [Dewease] put into it. They didn’t expect to go out and win. You had to put the work in, and sometimes take advice from an older driver.”
Dietrich has long cared about the sport and now he wants to take his career and reputation to bigger places. He wants to put himself alongside icons like Rahmer, Dewease and Hodnett. He often studies their framework, too.
Like the aforementioned trio, Dietrich has a National Open victory at Williams Grove Speedway. However, the one thing that separates Rahmer, Hodnett and Dewease from Dietrich are the hearty number of wins each one accomplished over the course of a season.
Accomplishments are just the beginning when describing the gap between Dietrich and the Hall of Fame drivers he wants to put himself alongside.
“The biggest thing with Lance and Greg is they’ve always stayed level-headed,” Dietrich said. “When they went to the track, they had a job to do. Fred did, too, but he’s like me at times. We’re not as level-headed. Greg and Lance, they’ve always stayed calm. They didn’t really do anything to make people mad in a sense. They drove hard. They just went there to do their job and go home.”
Dietrich has noticed his voice carries more and more weight as the years pass, especially since Dewease is one of the few veteran figures that remain.
“There’s drivers, kids in the stands that look up to you,” Dietrich said. “And that’s why I’ve kind of settled down a bit recently.”
But Dietrich’s “settled down” is different from the world’s definition.
“You still want to sell t-shirts,” Dietrich said with a slight laugh. “You still want to have a fanbase. You don’t want to give all that up.”
Dietrich won’t give up the want to put on a show. He is, however, here to prove he’s matured enough since last summer.
“You just have to stay focused,” Dietrich said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
He became a dad over the winter to Emmitt, who now keeps Dietrich in line at two months old. Last year, when Dietrich was mired in the worst stretch of his 410 career, going 16 races without a podium, he learned more about himself than he ever had.
“I basically learned there was nothing wrong with the car,” Dietrich said. “I was just worn out. We just needed to get back doing what we do. I’m tired of searching. It just creates more work when you’re searching.”
There are also moments like last year’s Pennsylvania Speedweek. Going into race five of nine in the series at Grandview Speedway, Dietrich held a 12-point lead over Kyle Larson and remained focused as ever to finish the week in the national spotlight.
Then, the tide turned. Larson snatched the win and the Speedweek points lead for good. He went on to win 12 of his final 19 sprint car races in central Pennsylvania, matching Dietrich for most wins in the area last year.
Dietrich, meanwhile, began his stretch of maturation. Now, he’s ready to put it all together for perhaps his best season yet.
No, Dietrich isn’t hitting the road anytime soon, but he’s still going to be racing plenty.
“People don’t realize how much that wore us out,” Dietrich noted of his schedule last year. “We won’t be doing that again. I have a little one now.”
Dietrich will chase his second Williams Grove Speedway track title this year, and he’ll also race often at Lincoln Speedway as well.
Those pursuits loom ahead as Dietrich comes off a second-place finish with the World of Outlaws at Volusia Speedway Park during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals.
“Volusia shows just how capable we are,” said Dietrich, who also set quick time that night. “Hey, if we can run good there, throw our notes away, and come back [to Pennsylvania] with that momentum, we’ll be one step ahead of everyone else.”
He doesn’t care what you think: Dietrich knows his capabilities. He also knows he’s outspoken sometimes.
In the end, he just wants to go down as one of the best.
“We have big things coming for us,” Dietrich said. “I think we’ll have a better year than we’ve ever had.”