Volusia Speedway Park welcomed 90 cars for the inaugural Drifters Riverfront Bar & Grill Showdown Saturday night and several new faces to Victory Lane.
After five Features – Kale Van Sickle, Dustin Peterson, Dalton Lanich, Tanner Thomas and Chris Mathis stood atop their cars as the Showdown champions.
602 Late Models
A rookie racing like a professional, 13-year-old Kale Van Sickle controlled the 602 Late Model field, earning his first win in just his fourth start ever in a 602 Late Model.
The Jacksonville, FL native withstood competition from familiar faces that race at Volusia, grabbing the checkered flag in front of his family, friends, and an excited crowd of race fans.
“This car was real good,” Van Sickle said. “I just drove it, hit my marks, and the car handled perfect. I just drove it around there and my dad was perfect on the setup.”
His father, Kyle Van Sickle, was over the moon to see him in Victory Lane. After racing at Volusia Speedway Park through the years, he said he’s excited to see what’s next for his young prodigy.
“It’s definitely stressful to watch him too,” Kyle said. “Sitting there, watching him at 13 years old racing with grown men. He did a really, really good job from the time the green flag dropped. He hit his marks, got by lap traffic and was able to get out front and keep a decent lead.”
Finishing close behind Van Sickle was Valdosta, GA’s Cole Exum, who kept Van Sickle in his sights for the duration of the Feature. But he was never able to get around the #3K car.
Completing the podium was Ormond Beach, FL’s Tim Swartz, who battled side-by-side with Exum throughout the Feature.
Wrapping up the top five from the Feature was Umatilla, FL’s Travis Staats, and Jacksonville, FL’s Adam Bennett. With their finishes from Saturday night Bennett and Swartz are tied for the points lead with 130 points total.
After so many times of being in contention to win, it seemed as if the glass slipper was never the right size for DeLeon Springs, FL’s Dustin Peterson throughout his time racing at Volusia Speedway Park.
That was until Saturday night, as Peterson was finally able to break through and win the Drifters Riverfront Bar & Grill Showdown ahead of a hornets’ nest of challengers.
“It’s all coming together,” Peterson said about the progress made. “(At the last race) we were going to take the lead until we broke everything on the rear end. So, I think we have the bugs worked out for sure. We may have went a little too far with [the setup], but we definitely made out with the best (result).”
Orange City, FL’s Rusty Young came home a close second place, but kept his head high with the result. After he climbed out of his car, he bolted his way to Victory Lane to celebrate with Peterson, his friends and teammates.
Points leader Jesse Powers finished third after having to “power” his way through the field after a flurry of chaos in the 15-lap Feature, including multiple track-wide battles and an equal field of competitive cars.
Grabbing the last two spots in the top five were Lake Helen, FL’s Timmy Hogan and Palm Coast, FL’s Aidan Foley. Foley was the hard charger of the race, making up eight spots from his original starting position of 13th.
DIRTcar UMP Modifieds
When Dalton Lanich arrived at the track on Saturday night, he talked about the nerves of being at the track as a way of saying he was ready to kick off the 2023 season for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds. By the night’s end, he drove home with a $2,000 check and a Drifters Riverfront Bar & Grill Showdown trophy.
Second initially seemed to be his place for the night, qualifying second, finishing second in his Heat Race and then running second during the Feature. However, that changed with four laps to go when leader Clay Harris broke in Turn 4.
Once Lanich found himself in the lead, he ran away with it to capture his first win of the year.
“I think I’m more nervous with all the adrenaline inside of me,” Lanich jokingly said. “As I said (earlier tonight), it’s the excitement of getting back to a racetrack (and racing). The last race in the regular season (in 2022), we won. So, it’s what I wanted to start out with and we did it. I hate to see Clay (Harris) break a driveshaft like that, but I’ll take (the win).”
Finishing behind Lanich was Balm, FL’s Terry Bronson, who charged his way up 10 spots from a 12th-place starting spot en route to finishing in the middle of the top three.
Gast wound up finishing in third, after a night that saw him battle Lanich and Harris for the Feature win.
The top five consisted of Tampa, FL’s Jason Jack, and 2023 Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals Feature winner Todd Neiheiser.
The trend of first-time winners continued with the Thunder Stocks, as Oviedo, FL’s Tanner Thomas grabbed his first career Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday night.
Thomas, who’s entering his second season racing at Volusia, had to fend off seasoned Thunder Stock veterans in order to take home the win. One of those was Curt Spencer, which the duo raced hard throughout the closing stages of the Feature.
For Spencer, the Feature tells two stories. For the majority of the race, Spencer was the leader, and was hardly threatened with a battle. But, after spinning in Turn 4, his night ended with a 12th-place finish.
Cashing in from the chaos of that last lap was Orlando, FL’s Justin Reynolds and Daytona Beach, FL’s Ron Adams. Both drivers finished second and third, respectively.
Completing the Feature’s top five was Deland, FL’s Bubba Christian, and Clermont, FL’s Kyle Peters. Peters was the hard charger of the Feature, making up 11 positions from his 16th place starting spot in the Feature.
Pick Your Part Street Stocks
Edgewater, FL’s Chris Mathis was also a first-time winner, winning his first Volusia Speedway Park Feature with the Pick Your Part Street Stocks on Saturday night.
It seemed as if everything went to plan for the driver of the #46, as he started from the pole position and used all his lessons learned to produce a class session for the field on Saturday night.
Mathis’ win was threatened late into the Feature by Daytona Beach, FL’s Joe Belkey and the Palatka, FL native of Jerrid Bennett. Both drivers tried all they could to best the #46 as the laps kept ticking. By the time they had a shot to beat Mathis, the clock had expired.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mathis said. “We did our homework, we come here every (race) and try to be supportive of (Volusia). And my setup guy and his team have really gotten this thing dialed in. I knew (Joe Belkey) was definitely on our tail. I knew if we went out and got some clean air and hit my marks, then I would be faster than (the field). I heard them closing in but paying close attention and reading what the track was doing helped me with what I was doing.”
Belkey and Bennett settled for second a third place respectively, and both drivers went to congratulate their competitor, who was over the moon to capture his first Feature win.
Sending the race into the books with top five results was Dade City, FL’s Jimmy Wagner, and 2022 PYP Street Stocks champion Bruce Griffin.
The season rolls on at the World’s Fastest Half Mile with action on June 3. The Top Gun Sprint Cars return, alongside the DIRTcar UMP modifieds, 602 Late Models and 3/4 Modifieds.
General Admission tickets start at $20, and kids 12 and under receive free admission. Gates will open at 4 p.m., with Hot Laps at 6 p.m. For more information on the next race and other events held at the track, visit VolusiaSpeedwayPark.com
Can’t make it to the track? You can also watch all the action live on DIRTVision. Coverage starts with Hot Laps at 6 p.m. (ET).
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.