Strickler Reflects on Magical 43-point Comeback to Win 2024 DIRTcar UMP Modified Speedweeks Title at Volusia

The Modified and Late Model veteran clinches his first DIRTcar points championship with two wins in Florida

Coming into the 13th and final race of UMP Modified Florida Speedweeks, Kyle Strickler sat 43 points behind the leader with only one 30-lap Feature left in front of him.

He was set to take the green flag from 17th position on the starting grid, driving one of DIRTcar UMP Modified racing’s fastest tracks – Volusia Speedway Park – buried halfway deep in a field of the best racers from across the country.

“I thought there was no chance today,” he said.

The walls were closing in, and Strickler’s canteen of hope was running dry.

“We were not fast enough to win this race,” he said.

But after hours of work in the pits with the Melanie Motorsports crew, Strickler pulled onto the track with a car that was fast enough. In 27 laps, he passed every car in front of him and went on to take the checkered flag in the Gator Championship Feature, surging 53 points in the standings to surpass his deficit by 10 points and clinch the Speedweeks championship for the first time in his career.

Strickler and the Melanie Motorsports crew in Volusia Victory Lane (Tyler Carr Photo)

“For it all to come together on Saturday, I couldn’t have drawn it up to be any more perfect in the way it played out,” Strickler, 39, of Mooresville, NC, said. “It took a little bit to sink in, but I was really happy with our overall performance and being able to get that points championship.”

Going back to his earliest days in the UMP Modified ranks in the mid-2000s, Strickler has since established himself as one of the nation’s top dirt Modified racers, but never possessed any DIRTcar points championships until 2024 Speedweeks. He admits he’s always raced for Feature wins and has never been a “points racer,” but Strickler said his efforts during Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals – and an untimely DNF from defending champion Lucas Lee – in the final race contributed the most to finally accomplishing a longtime goal of his.

“I think that’s kinda what led to the points championship, because I was so focused on doing whatever I had to do Saturday to give myself the best chance at winning that race, and whatever happens, happens,” Strickler said. “I think if I would’ve been leading or [if it was] a tight points battle, I might’ve run the race a little different, trying to salvage the points title.

“But it was balls-to-the-wall, do everything we could to try to win that race. Then, with Lucas’ (Lee) misfortune, it all played out and worked out in our favor.”

Though Volusia featured his crowning moment, some of Strickler’s early Speedweeks results fell short of his expectations. He began the two-week grind with a win in the opening race at North Florida Speedway but followed with three-straight DNFs at East Bay Raceway Park – due to mechanical failure, a blown tire and other incidents – setting him 76 points back in third place. In the remaining nine races, Strickler finished outside of the top-five only once and won twice.

Strickler and his crew working in the Volusia Gator Pond pit area (Tyler Carr Photo)

He arrived in Lake City for the first race at North Florida with only his equipment, himself to work on the car and help from Jerovetz Motorsports Shock Service. But as Speedweeks progressed, Strickler picked up more crew help from his dedicated friends and sponsors that helped him prepare the car for a steep climb back in the standings.

“[Troy Girolamo] with G-Style Transport – he came down to race, but he brought two of his guys with, Josh and Jake, that were there to help me,” Strickler said. “I had Glenn and Lori Miller that are longtime friends; they came over at Volusia and East Bay. Then, I had the guys from QuickDump and American Fence; they came over to help.

“It was definitely a support group thing that helped me keep everything together and keep battling. Whether it be through the bad luck, through the broke motors, wrecks… it was definitely a hard-fought battle and a huge struggle at some points.”

But his biggest help came from longtime team owners/sponsors at Melanie Motorsports. They’ve supported all of his racing operations, from Modified to Late Model, with sponsorship from Donaldson Grading and KAT Industries.

“Charlie and Melanie Donaldson – they’ve stuck with me,” Strickler said. “Charlie and I, when I first moved to North Carolina, he was one of my first guys to help me go racing and is still with me today.”

Strickler now owns 14 career DIRTcar Nationals wins – second-most all-time. (Tyler Carr Photo)

With his Modified success still fresh in his mind, Strickler turns his attention back to his Super Late Model, which he’ll race on a pick-and-choose schedule in 2024. He’s also got plans to contest the Modified in several marquee events across the country – riding the wave of Florida momentum as he continues to be a major player in the division that made him.

“It’s pretty cool to do it, and the way that we did it was awesome as well,” Strickler said. “Stepping back to have fun and just go back to my roots.”