With only three races to go in the 2023 Volusia Speedway Park championship, fans and teams made the trip to DeLeon Springs for a special night one of the annual Labor Day Classic.
The first night of the two-day program, featuring the 604 Late Models, 602 Late Models, DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, and 3/4 Modifieds, provided the heart-pumping racing that was expected.
After four Feature races – Clay Harris, Nevin Gainey, Dalton Hopke, and Bud Chancey claimed the Labor Day Classic Feature races.
604 Late Models
Nevin Gainey has always been a threat to win at Volusia Speedway Park, no matter what the car he is driving.
The Ft. White, FL continued his prowess on Saturday, winning the 20-lap, $1,500 to win Feature race. The race was commanded by Clay Harris from the start, leading the first five laps until Gainey drove by Harris and never looked back.
“It was really really good,” Gainey said. “We got behind a little bit early and quickly overcame it. I have made enough laps around here to know where I need to be at the right times when it is time to go. I’d say it was pretty good.”
Harris continued to put pressure on Gainey throughout the Feature but was never able to formulate momentum to challenge the #17G.
Defending race winner Cole Exum finished in third place, three seconds back from Harris and Gainey. Exum won his Heat race earlier in the night but was busy fending off other contenders, settling for a podium spot.
Finishing fourth was Dustin Carter, who now leads the 2023 points standings by nine points over Joe Kump. Jacksonville, FL’s Derike Bennett rounded out the top five of the Feature.
602 Late Models
The 2021 Labor Day Classic was the last start at Volusia Speedway Park for Bud Chancey until Saturday night, when the Yulee, FL made his return to the “World’s Fastest Half Mile”. Saturday night was Chancey’s first start of 2023.
Chancey did not miss a single beat. Racing with nothing to lose, Bud Chancey pulled off the huge upset, fending off a strong Nevin Gainey to win his first Labor Day Classic Feature in his #32 machine.
“I had a blast,” Chancey said. “I gave Nevin plenty of space for us to race it out. I hadn’t raced in a while, so I decided to come out and have some fun. This is great.”
Gainey had to claim second place, despite battling Chancey for the Feature win with a cylinder down in his motor. He complimented Chancey and the race they put on for the fans to enjoy.
“I raced with Bud a bunch,” Gainey said. “He’s a really good guy. We took off there and it was pretty good, and about halfway through, it dropped a cylinder. I mean 602 engines don’t carry a ton of power so it was hard, but I really enjoyed the race we had.”
Cole Exum went two for two in third-place finishes, doing so in the 602 Late Models Feature. The Valdosta, GA driver has hit the ground running since his return to Volusia, and he is a driver looking for more on Sunday.
The Feature top five includes Callahan, FL’s Kole Platt, who started the 20-lap Feature on the pole, and Miami, FL’s Tim Ryan earned his first top five at Volusia since the January Sunshine Nationals.
DIRTcar UMP Modifieds
After a season that has been full of ups and downs, Clay Harris earned his second Volusia Speedway Park Feature win in 2023. His first came at February’s Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals on February 9.
Harris was close to winning multiple times during the local season but dealt with mechanical issues and bad luck. Saturday was when it came together for the Jupiter, FL driver.
“We’ve definitely been struggling all year,” Harris said. “I don’t know why everything has gone wrong this year and broke everything you can think of. We didn’t put a new body on this (UMP Modified) and put everything to scrap from last year. So I feel like I’m finally figuring this thing out after how many races? We had no luck, and I think we’re finally figuring it out now.”
Finishing second was Bunnell, FL’s Dalton Lanich, who clawed his way up to the front after jostling with a hornets’ nest of drivers fighting for positions. His second-place result now gives him the lead in the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds points by just one point over the Keystone Heights, FL native of Josh Sanford.
Completing the Feature’s podium was the #24B of Dillon Buhr. The driver out of Jacksonville, FL ran consistently inside the top five, and it paid off with a third-place result.
Finishing inside the Feature top five were Panama City, FL’s Todd Neiheiser, and Gibsonton, FL’s Seth Geary.
Dalton Hopke has not stopped the domination train in the 3/4 Modifieds, grabbing his second win in three starts for the Jacksonville, FL native.
Hopke won his Heat race, started sixth in the Feature, and immediately grabbed the lead on the first lap, never looking back and sailing to the finish line by 1.9 seconds over second place Timmy Hogan.
Hogan’s second consecutive top-two finish marks an impressive comeback for the Lake Helen, FL native, who swept the March Spring Showdown.
Dustin Peterson, of DeLeon Springs, FL, finished in third after jostling for positions with multiple 3/4 Modifieds.
Included in the top five from the Feature includes points leader Jesse Powers, who has effectively locked up the 2023 3/4 Modifieds championship, and Colton Lane, the young sophomore driver who has steadily improved his performance in 2023.
The next race on Volusia Speedway Park’s schedule is the Labor Day Classic Finale, on Sunday, September 4. The weekend will include the 604 Late Models, 602 Late Models, Thunder Stocks, and the Pick Your Part Street Stocks. There will be open practice on Friday, with racing action on Saturday and Sunday. Pit Gates and Grandstand Gates will open at 4:00 p.m. EST, with Hot Laps beginning at 6:00 p.m. EST.
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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