December in Volusia is where the action was at, as the 2nd Annual Battle in Barberville closed out the 2023 Volusia Speedway Park season with the 360 Sprint Cars and DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.
In two highly contested Feature races, Danny Martin Jr. swept the weekend with a win in the 360 Sprint Cars, and Hunter Gustafson returned to Volusia Victory Lane in the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.
360 Sprint Cars
It was all business for the Shaw Racing #24 of Danny Martin Jr., who sought to bookend his 2023 season at Volusia with a second Feature win with the 360 Sprint Cars.
After starting third in the 20-lap, $3,000-to-win Feature race, Martin got a clean jump on the front row of Garrett Green and Mark Ruel Jr. to take the lead by the end of the first lap.
Using his experience and clean air to his advantage, the Sarasota, FL driver proved why he can succeed at Volusia, leading every lap of the Feature and winning his second consecutive Boot trophy.
“This place is interesting,” Martin said. “Clean air was important to get it fast, and we made it happen. Our motor wasn’t taking off as quick but it runs really good once you get wound up. I played with the fuel valve right on the start and there are little tricks to the trade. I got lucky, but it all worked out.”
With the Feature victory, Martin has claimed the first spot into the $10,000-to-win, $600-to-start 2nd Annual Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout. For Martin, it is all about being on his A-game as he prepares to beat the country’s top 360 Sprint Car drivers.
“We have a lot of laps here,” Martin said. “There’s going to be a lot of heavy hitters here and it’s good to be locked in. So we still have to be on our game and I really want to win it. I have won races at almost every state in the southeast, but never a $10,000-to-win. We’ll be here and ready to give them hell.”
2022 Battle in Barberville champion Tyler Clem came home with a second-place finish. The St. Petersburg, FL driver had to fight his way up to the podium after a sixth-place Feature start, coming up just short of the feat he pulled one year ago.
Completing the night’s podium was Jacksonville, FL’s Mark Ruel Jr. He began the night with a Heat win but had to fight with a plethora of hungry 360 Sprint Cars to earn a spot in the Feature’s top three.
Rounding out the night’s top-five finishers was Dade City, FL’s Garrett Green, and Marco Island, FL’s Nick Snyder.
DIRTcar UMP Modifieds
The journey back to Volusia Victory Lane was a culmination of hard work for Hunter Gustafson, with an action-packed 20-lap Feature race to boot.
Beginning the Feature with the pole position, the Howey In The Hills, FL driver lost the early lead to DeLand, FL’s Paul Shead.
After a caution stacked up the field for a run to the checkered flag, Gustafson used the low line to race side-by-side with Shead as the laps began to wind down. Then, with a fully committed send on the bottom line, Gustafson powered by Shead to win his first Battle in Barberville Feature, capping off the road back to the top.
Gustafson had to build his way back, and was super happy to be back at Volusia and earn a Boot trophy.
“I used to race out here weekly,” Gustafson said. “We had some evil people take away a lot from us during DIRTcar Nationals a couple of years ago, so we had to move to Leesburg and finally got back to racing again. I raced all of last year (at Volusia) and raced only three times this year. It feels so good to get a win because of work, I haven’t had a chance to race much. Volusia is my home track, I got all of my UMP Modified wins here.”
Gustafson went on to credit Shead with having the most fun he ever had battling in the Feature race.
“It was a lot of fun to race with (Paul),” Gustafson said. “We were side-by-side for at least five laps. I knew we had a car for the end there, and with a guy like Paul there was no sense to junk his or my stuff so I had a lot of fun. Probably the most fun I have ever had racing for a win.”
Shead came home with a second-place finish, a valiant effort for the local favorite.
Completing the night’s podium is Zephryhills, FL’s Eric Moon. After beginning the night with a Quick Time and a Heat race win, Moon had to battle his way into staying inside the top three.
The Feature’s top five include Keystone Heights, FL’s Josh Sanford, and Chatham, NY’s Robert Pitcher.
The 2024 season is going to be here sooner than you think, with Volusia Speedway Park hosting the 5th Annual Sunshine Nationals, Jan. 18-20. The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models kick off their 2023 season, with the 602 Late Models and DIRTcar Pro Late Models joining the fray, making the weekend a “True Late Model Palooza”.
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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About Volusia Speedway Park
Volusia Speedway Park, The World’s Fastest Half Mile, is a 0.5-mile dirt track located in DeLeon Springs, Florida. VSP is home to the most prestigious dirt racing events, such as the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout, Sunshine Nationals, and the Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial. The track hosts weekly races year-round with divisions of Dirt Late Models, Modifieds & Stock Cars. The track also hosts dirt karting races at the facility. For more information, visit VolusiaSpeedwayPark.com