The final night of racing for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds as part of the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals was also the busiest in the history of the prestigious event. With the postponement of Saturday’s Last Chance Showdowns and Feature as well as the entire Sunday schedule of events, the Ironmen of the DIRTcar Nationals completed the two postponed shows before the originally scheduled Gator Nationals Championship Feature. A total of 14 races were conducted over the course of the evening for the UMP Modifieds.
After the Sinking Spring, PA start won the Sunday Gator Qualifier Feature, his first of the week, Kyle Strickler added a $5,000 paycheck to his busy day by winning his second straight Big Gator Feature in two years. The 34-year-old, who now calls Mooresville, NC home, started third in the 30-Lap Feature and drove around early race leader David Stremme on lap seven and withstood a consistent charge from him while dealing with lapped traffic, to become the only repeat winner of the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.
“We’ve had a heck of a week with all the stuff that happened earlier here. We (Strickler and Stremme) might not like each other very much, but we’re both professionals and we definitely put on a show for the fans,” stated Strickler after climbing from his #8 G-Style Transport / Longhorn Chassis machine and earning a total of $5,700 for a night’s work. “But we put our heads down and went to work, and it all worked out. We went out and did what we were supposed to do. Man, this is so awesome, this is such a relief. I’m looking for a Late Model ride for this year. That’s where I want to go looking ahead, and this is the best way I can show what I can do.”
By taking the green flag in the Feature, Nick Hoffman clinched his fourth consecutive DIRTcar UMP Modified DIRTcar Nationals Championship. The 26-year-old driver, originally from Belleville, IL who now calls Mooresville, NC home, recorded one Feature win, two second place finishes, two fourths and a six to wrap up his all-time DIRTcar Nationals best fourth straight title.
“We really weren’t as strong this year down here as we have been in the past," remarked the driver of his familiar blue #2 Fox Shox / Elite Chassis ride. " But we were very consistent, even when the car wasn’t capable of winning. To win this deal, though, you have to have consistency and a little bit of luck.”
After the Redraw of the top five finishers from both Big Gator Qualifier Features, Ryan Ayers and David Stremme led the star-studded 28-car field to Chief Starter Dave Farney’s green flag. Stremme edged out to the early race lead, while Ayers and the rest of the field settled in behind them. Strickler moved up to second and began stalking Stremme for the lead as they navigated around the half-mile high-banked dirt oval in DeLeon Spring, FL. Strickler sized up Stremme and on lap seven made his move around the outside of the former NASCAR driver to take over the race lead.
Strickler, Stremme, and later, R.C. Whitwell, who started seventh and had charged his way up to third, all pulled away from the rest of the field. With the laps clicking off, Stremme resurged his efforts to get around Strickler but had to fall back and negotiate the traffic Strickler left in his path. That played a pivotal role in the outcome as Strickler was able to lose Stremme in the traffic and walk away with his second Feature win of the night. With the victory, the sixth of his DIRTcar Nationals career, Strickler moves into a tie for fifth all-time in career wins with 2007 DIRTcar Nationals Champion Steve Arpin.
Stremme finished second for the second time of the night, tying his best finish of the week in one night over Whitwell, while Lucas Lee and NASCAR Xfinity Series star Justin Allgaier completed the top five. Now a four-time DIRTcar Nationals Champion, Hoffman actually finished the worst he had all week in sixth, while Brian Ruhlman was seventh. Taylor Cook, who started 20th, charged up to the eighth finishing position and Tyler Nicely overcame a spin earlier in the race to climb back to ninth after originally starting in 18th. Ayers finished off the final top 10.
David Wietholder, Steve Meyer Jr., Brenden Rassel and Allen Weisser all collected checkered flags in the four Last Chance Showdowns. Officially, 105 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds made at least one appearance during their seven nights of racing during the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals.
Earlier in the evening, during the conclusion of the Saturday, February 9 show, Paris, TN driver Lucas Lee scored his first career Gator in the Saturday Big Gator Qualifier Feature. The 31-year-old aboard the #40 Brandon Ford / Racecar Engineering entry started on the outside of the front row, and after beating pole-sitter Stremme to the first corner, Lee never looked back en route to his first career Feature Win at Volusia. In doing so, Lee became the ninth different Feature winner and eighth first-time Gator winner of the week.
Stremme finished second, while Allgaier posted his best finish of the week in third to complete the podium finishers. Hoffman was fourth and Shon Flannery rounded out the top five. Michael Altobelli Jr. grabbed his best finish of the week in sixth, and Tyler Evans, Jason Beaulieu, Curt Spalding and Brandon Green finished off the top 10. Todd Neiheiser and defending Track Champion Larry Burkins won the Saturday Last Chance Showdowns.
During the Sunday, February 10 show, also postponed due to weather, Strickler started the night off by winning his first Gator of the 2019 DIRTcar Nationals and becoming the 10th different winner in 10 Features leading into the Big Gator Championship. Strickler started on the pole and, after a hard-fought battle with Ruhlman and later Whitwell, led all 20 laps for his first feature win of the night.
Whitwell finished second over Zeke McKenzie, who grabbed his best finish of the week by rounding out the top final top five. Ruhlman and Ayers, with his best finish of the week, were the top five. Trey Harris posted his best finish of the week in sixth, and Will Krup, Ryan Cripe, with his best finish of the DCN, Nicely and Cook completed the top 10.
Mark Whitener won his first Fast Qualifier award of the week with an 18.491, while McKenzie, Ruhlman, Strickler and Bryan Foy won the Heat Races. Gordy Gundaker and Brad Waits scored the triumphs in the Last Chance Showdowns.
The DIRTcar Late Models return to action on Tuesday, February 12 to continue DIRTcar Nationals Late Model Week. It’ll be the final night of competition for the DIRTcar sanctioned Late Models before the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series takes over for the final four night from February 13-16. The Super DIRTcar Big Block Modified Series will move in and take over for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds also on Tuesday, February 13.
For more information about the remaining five nights of the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals and to order tickets, please call: 1 (844) DIRT-TIX or visit dirtcarnationals.com. Follow the DIRTcar Late Model portion of the show on Tuesday by visiting the DIRTcar Racing Social Media outlets. Just search for “DIRTcar Racing” on both Facebook and Twitter as well as the DIRTcar Nationals Twitter page at: @DIRTcarNats for the very latest updates from Volusia Speedway Park and the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals.
DIRTcar Racing PR