A grand total 102 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds packed the Volusia Speedway Park pit areas for opening night of the 52nd annual Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals Monday night and put the newly refreshed event format on display for the first time, awarding six of the field’s top drivers with the first gator trophies of the week for their Feature wins.
Feature #1 – Lucas Lee
For a driver that has not been fond of Volusia in the past, Lucas Lee made it look like he’d been winning races at the half-mile oval for years with his flag-to-flag performance in the opening Feature.
Lee led all 20 laps, virtually unchallenged for the win, holding off podium finishers George Dixon and Trent Young through several restarts to bag his second career DIRTcar Nationals victory. Despite his speed, Lee said there were still some issues he’s hoping to have fixed asap.
“The car was good, but the motor wasn’t running right,” Lee said. “It was just loading up real hard; not running real well. It wouldn’t get up to temperature, and my car wouldn’t fire-off.”
“Other than that, everything else was decent. I think if I can get the car to pull harder, I might have more traction.”
Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 12L-Lucas Lee; 2. 77-George Dixon; 3. 10Y-Trent Young; 4. 13-Charlie Mefford; 5. 90R-Raymond Kable; 6. 60-Shannon Fisk; 7. 8A-Austin Holcombe; 8. 99G-Gavin Graham; 9. 51-Dalton Lanich; 10. 12-Robert Gast; 11. 130-Chase Allen; 12. 07N-Adam Nayler; 13. 29-Steve Shellenberger; 14. 9PG-Percy Gendreau; 15. 16C-John Clippinger; 16. 34X-Shane O’Connor; 17. 463-Daniel Sanchez
Feature #2 – Kyle Strickler
Two-time Gator Championship Feature winner Kyle Strickler added to his collection of small gator trophies with his 10th career DIRTcar Nationals Feature win in exciting fashion.
Strickler sat on the outside pole and jumped out to a nice lead in the opening laps over polesitter Justin Allgaier. Allgaier, the 2021 Gator Championship winner, stayed with Strickler the entire race, and when Strickler got tripped-up by a stray lapped car, Allgaier nearly blew by on the bottom for the lead.
“I just didn’t want to wreck, because that’s been how our luck’s been going lately – if something bad can happen, it’s going to happen to us,” Strickler said. “Ol boy decided to pit right in front of us, and I had to turn hard to the right, got up over the cushion and then was coming back down the racetrack. Got into Allgaier a little bit and had to put it on the fence and blast it around the top.”
However, Strickler was able to recover, get back in front of Allgaier and drive it across the line first to bag the win.
“I love driving the Modifieds,” Strickler said. “The Late Model stuff can be a lot of high pressure and high stress, so it’s fun to come back and just enjoy the week of going back to my roots and running the Modified stuff. They’re so much fun to drive.”
Feature 2 (20 Laps): 1. 8-Kyle Strickler; 2. 7A-Justin Allgaier; 3. 99M-Mike Mullen; 4. 18L-Michael Long; 5. 51G-Brandon Green; 6. 114-Clayton Bryant; 7. 8X-Cody Brightwell; 8. 11S-Jared Spalding; 9. 17-Rob Pitcher; 10. 00EH-Steve Arpin; 11. 23B-Ethan Boomsma; 12. 100-Robert Murray; 13. 21C-Taylor Cook; 14. 11Z-Zane Oedewaldt; 15. 6B-Dave Baldwin; 16. 12M-John McClure; 17. 24-Zeke McKenzie
Feature #3 – Tyler Nicely
In one of the more dominating performances seen all night, Tyler Nicely bagged the fourth gator trophy of his career, leading all 20 laps unchallenged and adding 80 points to his Florida Speedweeks total.
He broke out a brand-new Elite Chassis that he’d been saving specifically for DIRTcar Nationals, which seemed to pay dividends.
“We tested it two weeks ago at All-Tech [Speedway] and it seemed really good,” Nicely said. “Nick Hoffman and his crew got here today and we changed a few things, and it was pretty spot-on tonight.”
Feature 3 (20 Laps): 1. 25-Tyler Nicely; 2. 88-Matt Crafton; 3. 25W-Allen Weisser; 4. 90-Jason Beaulieu; 5. 9-Ken Schrader; 6. 25A-Jason Altiers; 7. 07-Curtis King; 8. 22J-John Baker; 9. 77B-Ray Bollinger; 10. 7D-T J DeHaven; 11. 1S-Brian Shaw; 12. 77S-Jim Shipman; 13. 57-Fletcher Mason; 14. 4S-Craig Shaw; 15. 59-Doug Stine; 16. 54-Zachary Hawk; 17. 27-Jason Garver
Feature #4 – Justin Haley
Less than 24 hours after competing in NASCAR’s headline Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, Justin Haley showed up at Volusia, running on no sleep and a strong drive to win. He did just that Monday night in an intense battle with Illinois weekly racer Trevor Neville.
Starting on the pole, Haley jumped out to a small advantage over the guy to his right. That gap, however, was quickly dissolved, and Neville got another chance on the outside. He made it stick in the outside lane and took the spot, which was later taken back by Haley with a big dive into Turn 1 on Lap 5.
Haley held onto the spot from that point forward and drove it back across the stripe to bag his second career DIRTcar Nationals Feature win, thanks in part to a certain caffeinated beverage in his arsenal, which sponsors his Cup Series team.
“Yeah, a lot of Celsius,” Haley said. “I’m ready to go to sleep.
“I had a Coke on the plane and then probably three Celsiuses, so I’ve got it all covered. I’m definitely ready for bed; I haven’t been to sleep in 48 hours.”
Feature 4 (20 Laps): 1. 99-Justin Haley; 2. 777-Trevor Neville; 3. 09-Michael Leach; 4. 4-Mike Learman; 5. 22K-Dale Kelley; 6. 72X-Todd Neiheiser; 7. 7G-Seth Geary; 8. 22TW-Tim Ward; 9. M20-Mike Potosky; 10. 17C-Coleman Evans; 11. 00-Dylan Henkins; 12. 3D-Makayla Tyrrell; 13. 11W-Chris Wilson; 14. 199-Travis Pastrana; 15. 21S-Kenny Shaw; 16. 41-Brad Goff; 17. 24D-Jesse Dill
Feature #5 – Ethan Dotson
Only one Feature was decided by more than a two-second gap Monday night, and that was the one won by 24-year-old Modified sensation Ethan Dotson.
Dotson, the 2022 Reutimann Memorial winner from Bakersfield, CA, led all 20 laps unchallenged and beat second-place Drake Troutman to the line by nearly five seconds. With the speed Dotson has showed thus far, it’s going to be one tough task for any driver to try and match him this week.
“Our Longhorn Chassis was super good tonight,” Dotson said. “We were one of the last Features, so it got pretty slick and slow, so that’s good for Saturday. We can put it in our notes and build on that for the big show on Saturday.”
Feature 5 (20 Laps): 1. 00E-Ethan Dotson; 2. 5T-Drake Troutman; 3. 145-Kyle Hammer; 4. 21CZ-Benji LaCrosse; 5. 43A-Mark Anderson; 6. 21J-Clay Harris; 7. 2A-Matt Altiers; 8. 35W-Ethan Weber; 9. 7B-Brad Deyoung; 10. 7-Evan Taylor; 11. 32-Chad Roush; 12. 2C-Ronnie Chance; 13. 0-Glenn Styres; 14. 40R-Shawn Reiss; 15. 33-Kenny Mihalik; 16. 222-Cory Hupp; 17. 17T-Tyler Evans
Feature #6 – David Stremme
After breaking through last February for his first DIRTcar Nationals Feature win since 2018, David Stremme now has wins in back-to-back years at Volusia.
The Lethal Chassis builder/co-founder led flag-to-flag and fended-off a hungry Michael Altobelli, driving a brand-new Lethal Chassis, in the closing laps. Altobelli came from ninth and was challenging for the lead after the final restart with three-to-go, but Stremme kept him at bay.
“Michael’s a great guy; that’s a brand-new car we built him,” Stremme said. “I’m just happy that he was coming up through. He had some issues in Qualifying. Michael is a great racer.”
Feature 6 (20 Laps): 1. 35-David Stremme; 2. 95-Michael Altobelli; 3. 05-Dave Wietholder; 4. 97-Mitch Thomas; 5. 5CS-Curt Spalding; 6. 49-Brian Ruhlman; 7. 22B-Austen Becerra; 8. 49G-Billy Green; 9. 91B-Chris Beaulieu; 10. 1-Randy Giroux; 11. 22-Doug Carson; 12. 99W-Wade Olmsted; 13. 00B-Buzzie Reutimann; 14. 11-Jesse Rupe; 15. 3-Josh Sanford; 16. 7M-Steve Maughan; 17. 4M-Tim Monroe
The UMP Modified bash at Volusia Speedway Park continues on day #2 of the 52nd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals – Tuesday, Feb. 7 – racing alongside the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars.