CLASS IN SESSION: Birdwell, Powers, Lanich, Adams, Byers Score Back to School Night Wins

Like school, racing was back in session at Volusia Speedway Park with 83 cars making the trip to “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” Saturday night. 

After five divisions of Feature racing, Donnie Birdwell, Jesse Powers, Dalton Lanich, Ron Adams, and Tonya Byers went home with a Volusia Feature win trophy in hand. 


602 Late Models
There was no lack of excitement during and after Saturday night’s 602 Late Model Feature. After the initial top-two finishers, Nevin Gainey and Jason Garver, were found light at the scale, Donnie Birdwell was deemed the winner. 

For the DeLeon Springs, FL driver, this is his first win of the 2023 season and a night that showed him having competitive speed throughout the 602 Late Model program. 

The podium results show new faces alongside Birdwell, with Sanderson, FL’s Jimmy Peele and Keystone Heights, FL’s Shayne Dayhaw finishing in second and third, respectively. 

The Feature began with carnage from the get-go after a 10-car pileup. Included in the chaos were Feature-winning contenders and championship leaders Tim Swartz and Adam Bennett suffering damage and were not able to continue. 

Lithia, FL’s Austin Leamon’s fourth-place finish earned him the 602 Late Models points lead, staying out of trouble and earning his second top five in 2023. 

Palm Bay, FL’s Jason Papp earned a lot of firsts on Saturday night, winning his first Heat Race and his first top-five Feature result. The Morgan Speed Solutions #1J will be one to watch as the sophomore driver begins to pick up speed. 


DIRTcar UMP Modifieds 

Class was in session in the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds on Saturday night, with the teacher being the #51 of Dalton Lanich. 

The Bunnell, FL driver, who earned his second Feature win in 2023 on Saturday night, was consistently fast throughout the night, winning his Heat Race, then grabbing the lead on Lap 2. From there, Lanich had clear space in front of him, with little challenge to his lead. 

“The car was great,” Lanich said. “Really hooked up right from the beginning, got lucky and got out front, and didn’t have to deal with much traffic. Made a couple of mistakes, but car handled great wherever I could put it on the track. I gotta thank all my sponsors and my family.” 

Finishing second to Lanich was Starke, FL’s Jason Garver, who had to fend off Interlachen, FL’s Josh Sanford throughout the 20-lap Feature. 

Sanford completed the top three and now co-leads the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds points alongside Deland, FL’s Robert Gast. This will be a battle that is going to be closely watched going into September’s Labor Day Classic.  

Rounding out the top five from Saturday’s Feature includes Deland, FL’s Paul Shead, and Jacksonville, FL’s Makayla Tyrrell. 


3/4 Modifieds 

Jesse Powers needed a clean and issue-free night on Saturday to keep the 3/4 Modified points lead. Mission accomplished. 

After Volusia Speedway Park officials disqualified Dalton Hopke and Timmy Hogan, Hopke for not wearing gloves during the race, and Hogan for not clearing the scales after the Feature, Powers got his second win in the 2023 season. 

This extends his points total to 275, and 46 points ahead of second-place running Chris Olmstead. 

Deland, FL’s Ethyn Hwan finished second to Powers, earning his first top-three finish at Volusia Speedway Park. The young driver has begun to find more in the tank of his #57, and the next 3/4 Modifieds race on August 19 could be where the momentum continues. 

Deland, FL’s Olmstead completed the top three, driving Patrick Vareika’s #117 after his familiar #7 suffered mechanical issues at Golden Isles Speedway in July. 

Holly Hill, FL native Austin Culver grabbed his first top-five on Saturday night, finishing fourth after keeping his car out of trouble throughout the night. 

Completing the night’s top five was Lake Helen, FL’s Steven Powers, who earned his third top-five at Volusia in 2023, and his second in the points season. 


Thunder Stocks 

As Ron Adams said, it was a long time coming for him to get to Volusia Victory Lane on Saturday night after capturing his first win in 2023 at the track. 

It was the second career win for the Daytona Beach, FL driver, and a win that has rewarded him with the division’s points lead. 

“We had a plan,” Adams said. “Joe Belkey Jr. and Joe Belkey Sr. helped me get slowed down, went back to what worked a month ago, and we did it tonight. This was my eighth race with this car, and it all came together tonight. There are so many people I want to thank tonight, especially the Belkeys, and this Tony LaPorta horsepower.” 

Finishing second was Oviedo, FL’s Patrick Thomas, who overcame a spin on Lap 12 of the 20-lap Feature. Thomas, who won the Summer Sizzler Feature, will look to continue the momentum going into the Labor Day Classic. 

The podium was completed by Jason Garver, who completed his triple-duty night after racing a 602 Late Model, DIRTcar UMP Modified, and a Thunder Stock. 

The Feature top five includes Nevin Gainey, who did double-duty in a 602 Late Model and his Thunder Stock, and Clewiston, FL’s Tommy Hill. 



Though Saturday is the last night the Gladiators will be at Volusia in 2023, the return of these 4-cylinder beasts has been nothing short of fun to watch. 

Saturday produced a new winner, with Hollister, FL’s Tonya Byers taking home her first career Volusia Speedway Park Feature. 

“(It) feels pretty good,” Byers said. “I always wanted to win here at Volusia, because I got eight (wins) and a track championship at North Florida Speedway. But never won here until tonight so it feels good.” 

Byers had to deal with an ill-handling car, as her power steering went out, and the car was sputtering. Despite that, she still was able to grab the victory on Saturday. 

“I didn’t think I was gonna get it,” Byers said. “Car was sputtering really bad, I didn’t think I was gonna get around the leaders, but I did, and it was just an awesome night in general. The track ended up being great, I was worried in the Heat race, but it was what we liked so it was fun.” 

Most of the 15-lap Feature was led by Steven Wright of Orange City, FL. With two laps to go, a mechanical failure dashed his chances of winning, letting Byers and defending Gladiators winner Chuck Frater to battle it out for the win. Byers ended up clearing Frater and beat the field to the line. 

Frater ended up in second place. The St. Augustine, FL driver was up at the front for most of the evening, battling with Wright and Byers for the Feature win. 

Cocoa, FL’s Aaron Foye finished with a third-place result. The placing is one to look fondly on for Foye, who made his first start at Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday night. 

The rest of the top five consisted of Hudson, FL’s Mike Budka Jr, and Charles Friddle of Cocoa, FL. 


Up Next 

Racing returns to Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday, Aug. 19. The night will include the Top Gun Sprint Car Series, 602 Late Models, and 3/4 Modifieds and the Pick Your Part Street Stocks. Pit Gates and Grandstand Gates will open at 4 p.m. (ET), with Hot Laps beginning at 6 p.m. (ET). 

If you can’t make it to the track, watch the action live on DIRTVision – available either online or through the DIRTVision app. 

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