BARBERVILLE, FL – Max McLaughlin walked into Volusia Speedway Park with one mission — win races. He captured one victory, three top-fives and four top-10s to take the 50th DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championship for the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds.
The banner win came with a dose of redemption that had been on McLaughlin’s mind since he drove for Heinke-Baldwin Racing in 2017.
“Not only have I wanted to win at this race track for a long time, but to get a DIRTcar Nationals championship is really special,” said McLaughlin, of Mooresville, NC. “I almost got one in 2017 when I tied with Brett Hearn. He ended up winning the final night which gave the championship to him. It’s been bothering me for a few years that we didn’t win it. Now, this makes up for it.”
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the multi-discipline race car driver at The World’s Fastest Half-Mile. The 20-year-old driver of the #32C made contact with seven-time Series champion Matt Sheppard in Turn 1, Lap 1 during the rain-delayed Feature on Feb. 11. McLaughlin went on to win the race with Sheppard finishing fifth, however the drivers were involved in an altercation afterward.
“I made a mistake hitting the water on Lap 1 and got into Sheppard and got punched in the face for it,” McLaughlin said. “That’s alright. Whatever. I got one black eye, one busted lip, and one DIRTcar Nationals championship.”
McLaughlin now has his first two Super DIRTcar Series wins with the Sweentener’s Plus Big Block.
“Thank you, Vic Coffey and everyone at the Sweetener’s Plus race team, for giving me the opportunity,” he said. “We won our first Heat Race of the week and I remember saying in an interview that this team has won here before and now it’s up to me and that’s what we did.”
McLaughlin finished in an average position of 4.5 and accumulated 594 points in four completed 30-lap Features. Just behind him was The Franklin Flyer Billy Decker in his Gypsum Wholesalers Big Block who finished with 589 points. Decker had four top-five finishes to finish the week in second place overall which is a good indicator that the #91 will be contending for a Super DIRTcar Series championship in 2021.
Michael Maresca finished in third place overall and came out with his first career Super DIRTcar Series win. The St. Lawrence Radiology #7MM is off to a strong start in 2021.
Check out the final Big Gator championship points standings here.
The Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds start up the championship points season at The Nasty Track,Can-Am Speedway, on Saturday, April 10. If you can’t make it to the track DIRTVision will have you covered for the broadcast.
Be sure to follow us on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also bookmark SuperDIRTcarSeries.com for the schedule, features, race reports, and more.
BARBERVILLE, FL – Michael Maresca stomped his throttle at the drop of the green flag and drove wheel-to-wheel with seven-time Volusia Speedway Park winner and three-time Big Gator champion Matt Sheppard to capture his first career Super DIRTcar Series Feature win.
The Pierrepont, NY driver of the #7MM is the pride of the North Country back in New York after topping a DIRTcar Nationals podium crowded with Series championships and Gator trophy winners. Seven-time Series champion Matt Sheppard, from Waterloo, NY, finished second while three-time champ and Gypsum Racing driver Billy Decker finished third.
That’s the definition of a stout crowd.
“Everyone’s dream, when they start racing in the Northeast, is to win a Super DIRTcar Series race and I finally won one,” Maresca said. “It’s cool to start the year off with a win and to get a Big Block win is especially awesome. It means a lot. I don’t think it’s set in yet. I try to go with the mindset that each race is the same but I’m sure tonight, when I’m lying in bed, I’ll think about all the struggles in the past and realize how awesome this is.”
Maresca, who raced a DIRTcar Late Model earlier in the week, has found speed in his Big Block around The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.
“Our car had been consistent the last two nights,” he said. “We’ve made little tweaks here or there. We did some testing and the track really suited my style for those first 10 laps when it was really racy.
“We’ve been close the last couple of nights. Our first night was rough but we completely regrouped and went back after it.”
He’s found success with his setup using a new shock package on the #7MM.
“I want to thank the guys at Penske Racing Shocks,” Maresca said. “They gave us a package to get around this place that’s working really good. There are only two of us here running them. My whole team just kept working and we got it done. I’m really happy to get this car in Victory Lane for those guys.”
When the green flag flew to start the 30-lap Feature, there was an immediate battle between the #9S of Sheppard and Maresca. Sheppard threw his Big Block to the outside but couldn’t execute the pass.
“We had a really good race there,” Maresca said. “I figured Sheppard would be on the bottom but he came around the outside and I was able to clear him and move up. I think we had a really stout race car.”
Despite falling short of the win, Sheppard was pleased with his result.
“It was a good night for us,” Sheppard said. “We gave Michael [Maresca] a run on the high side for a while but I just couldn’t get by him once he cleared down to the bottom. I think he was a little better than me anyway.”
Billy Decker has been wracking up podiums all week but, once again, needed a little more out of his Bicknell to get in a winning position.
“We like parking on the front stretch but obviously we’d like to park down there,” said Decker, of Unadilla, NY. “The Gypsum Wholesaler car has been good. These guys work really hard. We’ve been consistent. We’ve had a rocket since we unloaded it. We didn’t always Time Trial well some nights but we raced really good every night which is important because we normally run really long races. We’re looking forward to it.”
Max McLaughlin still leads the 50th DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator championship going into Saturday’s finale. Billy Decker rides in second while Maresca climbed into third. Both McLaughlin and Maresca have a chance to win their first Big Gator the same year as their first Little Gators.
Billy VanInwegen picked up a strong fourth-place finish. He will be eager to come back for the 50-lap Feature while Peter Britten grabbed another top-five.
Next up, on Saturday, Feb. 13, the final night of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals is set to pit the stars of the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds against each other for 50 laps and a $5,000-to-win prize. If you can’t make it to the track, watch live on DIRTVision. Hot Laps begin at 5:30pm (ET).
BARBERVILLE, FL – Max McLaughlin raced home to his second Super DIRTcar Series win and his first trip to Volusia Speedway Park’s confetti-filled Victory Lane on Thursday night during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals.
The 20-year-old pilot of the #32C Sweetener’s Plus Big Block Modified was just barely able to box out future Hall of Famer Billy Decker in a wild finish where the two swapped lines on the track trying to block and slide each other at the same time. Hard charger Michael Maresca in the #7MM car cruised from 19th to third in an amazing run through the field.
After a lengthy rain delay, drama built quickly in the 30-lap Feature as McLaughlin made contact with seven-time Series champion Matt Sheppard on the first lap, sending Sheppard’s #9S up the race track and into Peter Britten’s #21A. Sheppard made his displeasure with McLaughlin known during the caution flag, but was able to recover for a fifth-place finish.
“I got into the water there on lap one,” said McLaughlin, of Mooresville, NC. “It was a bonehead move, I guess. They checked up and he [Matt Sheppard] started pushing and I figured I’d go right below him. The left front hit the water and pushed up and I got into Matt. I hate that. That’s kind of what I was thinking about the whole race.”
When the race returned to green flag action, McLaughlin had to contend with some heavy hitters. “Mad Max” found a way around defending Series champion Mat Williamson as well as “The Baldwinsville Bandit” Jimmy Phelps, who started on the outside pole.
However, once McLaughlin took the lead on Lap 15 there was no time to relax. Decker had his Gypsum Wholesalers #91 at full song around the top side of the speedway in pursuit during the closing stages.
“I didn’t really know where he was but I knew he was coming around the top,” McLaughlin said. “I knew I had to change something and I saw the [signal] sticks get smaller and smaller. I had to do something different.”
With an adjustment of his line, McLaughlin was able to hold Decker’s crimson #91 at bay.
Decker did all he could to try and pass for the lead.
“We had to go where he wasn’t,” said Decker, of Unadilla, NY. “I think we were as good as he was on the bottom, but he fired a little better on the restarts than we did. After a few laps, I think we got it rolling so it was one of those deals where he had to stick to his lane. I started hazing the outside and closing the gap. He obviously got the signal from the infield to move. If he didn’t, he was going to finish where I did. He had to move and I didn’t get him soon enough.”
Decker will look to improve just one more position tomorrow night for a coveted 50th Anniversary DIRTcar Nationals win.
Michael Maresca, from Pierrepont, NY, advanced 16 positions to capture his second consecutive third-place finish. The #7MM started the night behind the eight-ball.
“We buried ourselves in a hole in qualifying,” Maresca said. “We had a really good car all night. I think with it being a little bit wetter, I think it threw me off on my gear selection. We were able to capitalize on good restarts.”
A fast, widening race track gave him what he needed to work through two-thirds of the field in 30 laps. Unfortunately, for the pilot of the St. Lawrence Radiology Big Block Modified, Decker and McLaughlin were just a click faster.
“Congrats to Max and Billy,” Maresca said. “I couldn’t keep up with them. I think I was just a little bit under-geared for that. But I know our car is good so we are just going to keep trucking and hopefully contend for a win tomorrow.”
Catch all the action in person or on DIRTVision on Friday, February 12 at Volusia Speedway Park as the Super DIRTcar Series take on The World’s Fastest Half-Mile for the fourth night in a row alongside the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models.
BARBERVILLE, FL — For the second consecutive night, Stewart Friesen charged to victory with the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds at Volusia Speedway Park’s 50th DIRTcar Nationals, sweeping to the lead past Erick Rudolph with 10 to go and holding on to the checkered flag.
A field of 32 roaring Big Block Modifieds took the green flag Wednesday night to start the second Series Feature of 2021, and after picking up his second Billy Whittaker Cars Fast-Time Award in two days and convincingly winning his Heat Race, Friesen redrew sixth to start the Feature. With Mat Williamson, Jack Lehner, Erick Rudolph, Billy Decker, Matt Sheppard and more in his midst, Friesen had his work cut out for him in the 30-lap Feature.
“We had a plan coming into this,” said Friesen, of Sprakers, NY. “If you want the plan to work you gotta work the plan and it’s paid off.”
The hard work and wins have paid off indeed as Friesen collected his second $4,000 check at the DIRTcar Nationals.
The Volusia Speedway Park surface produced phenomenal Feature racing for the Big Blocks as well as the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models. The fastest racing lines went high to low, low to high, and everywhere in between. Drivers had their choices to make passes happen.
“This is a very technical and challenging race track right now,” noted Friesen. “It’s kind of like mogul skiing on ice. You gotta try to get the car loaded up right. If you miss it, it shoves, but if you get it loaded up this thing was on the money.”
In the first half of the race, Friesen and his #44 Halmar Racing Big Block were forced to watch the top 5 battle door-to-door. Then lapped traffic came into play and remained a factor as there was only a single caution flag for the Big Blocks all evening.
“I was just trying to see which way those guys [lapped cars] were going,” said Friesen. “It’s super slick in spots and in other spots you think it’s slick, but it turns out to be gripped up. Watching Max [McLaughlin] and Erick [Rudoloph] dice there and I got passed and lost a bunch of spots. Jack [Lehner] and Maresca got back by me. It was an awesome race track. I was just trying to find different lines and move around.”
Rudolph, from Ransomville, NY, started third behind the formidable front row of Williamson, from St. Catharines, ON, and Lehner. Rudolph had an excellent initial start and immediately took the fight to the front row starters. After dispatching Lehner, he got alongside the defending Series champion Williamson.
Williamson and Rudolph drove cleanly side-by-side for several laps before Rudolph took over the top spot only to be assailed by Max McLaughlin in the #32C. McLaughlin and Rudolph went toe-to-toe but the #25R built a lead in lapped traffic.
“We started third and were able to wrestle away the lead from Williamson,” said Rudolph. “It seemed like we were able to work lapped traffic pretty good and I really didn’t want to see the caution come out, but it made a race out of it. Friesen got by me and we were about the same speed but the race played into his favor tonight.”
After a caution flag came out for a stalled out #19 of Tim Fuller, Friesen pounced and worked the middle of the track and the outside to make the pass on Rudolph.
Maresca, from Pierrepont, NY, struggled in the first night of Series action. However, his #7MM came back on Wednesday with some important shock changes that helped the balance of the car. Maresca drove up from the sixth-place starting position, passing Lehner, Mclaughlin, and Williamson in the process and proved the St. Lawrence Radiology #7MM is likely a threat for more podiums throughout the rest of the DIRTcar Nationals.
Danny Creeden, from Wurtsboro, NY, started deep in the field: 27th place. But the driver of the #16C used the long green flag runs to his advantage and managed to pass 11 cars for the hard charger award. He finished 16th.
In Tuesday’s opener, the #26 ended the Feature on its roof, but hard work overnight and through the day allowed Derrick McGrew Jr. to finish the Feature in 19th.
Thursday is Night 10 of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals and race three for the Super DIRTcar Series. If you are unable to make it to Volusia Speedway Park, be sure to watch live on DIRTVision and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for full coverage of the DIRTcar Nationals.
BARBERVILLE, FL – The 2021 Super DIRTcar Series season hits the ground running in 2021 with five straight nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park. The best Big Block Modified drivers in the world will be on the hunt for the prestigious Big Gator championship trophy.
Big Block Modified Features at the DIRTcar Nationals are a touch different from traditional Series races where race fans are accustomed to seeing 100-lap battles. Instead, the Features at Volusia from Tuesday to Friday are 30 laps and $4,000-to-win. Saturday night’s finale is 50 laps and $5,000-to-win. These races do not count towards the Super DIRTcar Series points championship but they do count as prestigious Series wins in the record books.
How to watch:
Tickets are available for all five nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park.
Tonight, Tuesday, February 9, features the DIRTcar Late Models with the Big Blocks. The next four nights, Wednesday to Saturday, the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models take over on the card. Alternatively, race fans can watch the live broadcast on DIRTVision.
Who to beat:
Defending Series champion Mat Williamson, from St. Catharines, Ontario, was the other man to beat in 2020 at Volusia. Williamson won the first night and the final night as Wight picked up three straight in between. Look for Williamson in his #88 Buzzchew Racing, Shakelton Auto Parts Big Block Modified to be fast out of the box at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”
The defending Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar Nationals champion Larry Wight will not be in attendance but for good reason: His wife had a baby on February 8. Although Wight will not be traveling with the team, race fans will see the familiar Gypsum Racing red gracing Billy Decker’s #91. He’s looking to make a championship run this year and starting out fast at Volusia is often a key indicator for early-season success.
For all of his success, only two of his 70 Series wins have come in DIRTcar Nationals competition. “The Franklin Flyer” is eager to add to his total this week.
Matt Sheppard, a member of the Top 50 DIRTcar Nationals drivers, says Volusia is unique because once you think you have it down, you don’t. He’s looking to a strong DIRTcar Nationals as the 2020 edition was not his best Florida excursion.
Sheppard has eight wins to his name at Volusia and three Big Gator championships.
The Ransomville, NY racer Erick Rudolph is a strong contender at every race. The top guns of the Series know the #25R is coming for them again in 2021. Can Rudolph kick off the 50th anniversary of the DIRTcar Nationals with a win.
Rudolph has won Series races in New York, Quebec, Canada, and Ohio but so far a Florida victory eludes him.
Big names in attendance:
Never count out Stewart Friesen. The Sprakers, NY Canadian-American wheelman has added another motor racing vehicle to his repertoire; a dirt late model. Now Friesen will be back behind the wheel of his Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified before going to “the big track” to run his NASCAR Camping World Truck. Friesen was held winless at Volusia in 2020.
Seven out of Friesen’s 33 Series victories have come at Volusia.
Brett “The Jet” Hearn is back behind the wheel. He has the most DIRTcar Nationals checkered flags out of all Super DIRTcar Series drivers. Notably, Hearn’s first win came on a flat three-eights of a mile track on the same grounds when the half-mile was paved over.
When it comes to success at the DIRTcar Nationals Hearn is in a league of his own. He’s earned nine Big Gator trophies and a whopping 21 Feature wins. No one else is close.
Max McLaughlin has made a name for himself behind the wheel of a Big Block Modified, an asphalt modified, and stock cars. He had an incredible run during last fall’s OktoberFAST including his first career Super DIRTcar Series win which came at Weedsport Speedway.
Tim Fuller has 31 career Super DIRTcar Series wins under his belt. His last DIRTcar Nationals win came in 2016. Watch for the #19 to be a steady presence at the front of the field.
Stories to follow:
Albany-Saratoga Speedway hot shoe, Jessey Mueller, planned to make 2020 his rookie season in the Super DIRTcar Series. He’s going for it again as we get 2021 started with a bang.
“The Batman” Peter Britten has a brand new Bicknell Racing Products chassis for the 50th annual DIRTcar Nationals. True to his nickname, he’s gone all black on the #21A.
A couple of Big Block veterans, Rick Scagliotta and Dave Rauscher are looking to make their presence known at Volusia. Rauscher is coming off an injury plus a huge rollover at Land of Legends Raceway this past summer in his #48too.
Jack Lehner continues to improve and could soon become a consistent threat for podiums this year. Watch his Time Trials results to see if the #2L is going in the right direction at Volusia. A solid Time Trial can set a driver up for a strong night.
Keep an eye on these drivers:
Thirty-plus drivers are expected to let their Big Blocks loose at Volusia. Watch for drivers like Kyle Coffey, Billy VanInwegen, Jimmy Britt, Cass Bennett, Brandon Hightower, Danny Creeden, Rob Pitcher, Derrick McGrew, Justin Wright, Tyler Jashembowski, Ryan Godown, Marcus Dinkins, CG Morey, Tyler Dippel, Darwin Greene, and Matt Stangle want to start their 2021 off with a gator to bring back home.
For live up-to-the-minute coverage, all week long follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also catch shots and videos up on Instagram. Schedules, features, race reports, and more are all on SuperDIRTcar.com.
Elite Chassis finishes 1-2, six-straight Big Gator points championships for Hoffman
The Little Gator is now officially a Big Gator winner.
Justin Allgaier cashed-in on his DIRTcar UMP Modified experience at Volusia Speedway Park Monday night for his second career DIRTcar Nationals victory and first in the division’s most prestigious event – the Gator Championship Feature.
For his efforts, a $5,000 check in his pocket and one of the most coveted dirt track racing trophies in the world headed back to his race shop.
Over 100 different drivers entered at least one event over the seven-day stretch, and Allgaier has now topped them all. Including his car builder and the newly crowned six-time Big Gator points champion, Nick Hoffman.
“We’ve been coming down here for a number of years,” Allgaier said. “What this week means to all of us as racers… I really don’t think people understand what the DIRTcar Nationals is all about.
“To have over 100 cars here this week and just to grind it out and battle some of the best racers in the country is truly special.”
Hoffman started on the pole of the 30-lap main event and looked as strong as he ever had been before, opening up a solid gap over the other leaders until the lapped traffic hit on Lap 11.
“I went into [Turn] one, and I don’t know what actually happened in front of me in the lapped traffic, but it was about four rows in front of me,” Hoffman said. “It looked like somebody was turned sideways and they were gonna wreck, so I checked-up because I didn’t know which way they were gonna go.
“Then they were four-wide down the back-straightaway; I got tight getting into [Turn] 3, so Justin passed me, then [Michael] Altobelli passed me. I think [Spencer] Hughes was alongside me; luckily the caution came out and saved me right there.”
With Hoffman now in his rearview, it was Allgaier’s time to shine. He picked up the pace throughout the rest of the race, keeping Hoffman, Altobelli and eventual third-place finisher Mike McKinney at bay behind him through several restarts.
McKinney came from 12th on the starting grid and made big gains throughout the first half of the race, cracking the top-five by the halfway point.
“There was a mud ring down on the bottom and some guys just weren’t really hitting it right,” McKinney said. “Once I hit it, I’d just wait for those guys to push up out of the groove and I was already set up to pounce on it when they made a mistake.”
Hoffman tried mightily throughout the final laps to catch Allgaier after making his way back around Altobelli for second, but just could not muster the speed he needed to get by his fellow Elite Chassis driver in the end. However, he was proud to see so many of the cars be built have success at Volusia over the entire week. His sixth consecutive Big Gator points championship is just icing on the cake.
“It’s one of the best years that I’ve had down here, for sure,” Hoffman said. “Very consistent every night. To run second to one of my team cars is pretty cool. I couldn’t ask for a better person to run second to.”
In Victory Lane, Allgaier jumped atop his Elite Chassis #7 before the confetti cannon was even in position, displaying his excitement after winning one of the biggest and most meaningful dirt races of his career after so many attempts at it throughout the past several years.
“I was able to win a [little] Gator on multi-Feature night one time, and I knew how much that meant to me. But this Big Gator, to add our name to the list, to beat the caliber of drivers we had here this weekend… there were a lot of teams that put on an all-out assault to try and knock Nick off, and we just got lucky enough that we were the ones to be able to do it,” Allgaier said.
This concludes the DIRTcar UMP Modified action in the 50th DIRTcar Nationals, but the Late Models are just getting started. Night #2 of Late Model Week gets underway Tuesday night with the second show for the DIRTcar Late Models; watch all the action live on DIRTVision!
Both winners now with a chance to start on the pole of Monday’s Gator Championship
Two of the biggest names in DIRTcar UMP Modified chassis building were shining bright on Gator Qualifier night.
Nick Hoffman, representing his own Elite Chassis, stood tall in Volusia Speedway Park Victory Lane with his 20th career DIRTcar Nationals Feature win Sunday night in Gator Qualifier #2.
The first Gator Qualifier from the rained-out portion of Saturday night was contested immediately following the Sunday Qualifier and saw the return of a former DIRTcar Nationals champion to Victory Lane for the first time in 14 years. Steve Arpin, representing Longhorn Modifieds by Loenbro Motorsports, was presented with his first Gator trophy as a DIRTcar Nationals Feature winner after leading flag-to-flag in Gator Qualifier #2.
The top-10 finishers from each of the Qualifiers have now been locked into Monday’s $5,000-to-win Gator Championship Feature; the top-five will redraw for their starting spots before the Feature Monday. Everyone else will be placed into a Last Chance Showdown event to try and get one of eight remaining spots on the grid of the big show.
Gator Qualifier #2 (Sunday’s program) – Nick Hoffman
Nearly nine years ago, Nick Hoffman captured his first Gator trophy at Volusia with a Feature win, then an up-and-coming UMP Modified driver with no national championships, Summit Modified titles or Big Gators. Sunday afternoon, he stood in Volusia Victory Lane after his third victory of the week in the 50th DIRTcar Nationals, now a favorite to win the Big Gator a sixth time.
On the track, it was another giant helping of Elite Chassis dominance, not only by Hoffman who led all 20 laps nearly unchallenged, but by many of Hoffman’s Elite customers. Four of the top-five drivers in the official finishing order are Elite pilots, including Hoffman himself, Garret Stewart, Matt Crafton and Justin Allgaier.
Hoffman now has a shot for the pole on Monday as he’ll be one of ten drivers in the redraw before the $5,000-to-win Gator Championship Feature. Sunday’s Qualifier redraw could be a sign of things to come for the five-time and defending event champion.
“Tonight, I was on my game on the redraw to draw the one, and I think that was crucial just to get out and set the pace and control the race myself,” Hoffman said. “My stuff’s just really good when it cleans up like that.”
Regardless of where he starts, there’s plenty of time in the 30-lap Feature to get it done from almost anywhere on the grid. He’s got the car, confidence in the seat and success in the history books on his side as he chases another coveted trophy that he comes to Florida every year in search of.
“[The Big Gator] is one of the most prestigious trophies in all of motorsports, and I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of them,” Hoffman said.
Gator Qualifier #1 (from Saturday’s program) – Steve Arpin
The last time Steve Arpin was in Volusia Speedway Park Victory Lane, he was a 23-year-old Modified ace who had just claimed his first DIRTcar Nationals championship on the back of five-consecutive Feature wins. On Sunday night, he made a big trip down memory lane with a dominant victory in the second of two Gator Qualifiers.
“Honestly, I have never in my life had such a proud moment in my racing career,” Arpin told DIRTVision pit reporter Chase Raudman after the race.
Arpin, the Rallycross racer and Longhorn by Loenbro pilot, started on the pole after a Heat Race win and cleaned-up in the Feature, leading all 20 laps for his first Gator trophy and first Volusia win since his event championship year in 2007.
Three of the top-six drivers in the Feature finishing order were Longhorn by Loenbro cars, including Nick Allen and Mike McKinney who have been fast all week.
“To have these Longhorn by Loenbro cars just so consistently fast for our first time out, honestly, the only thing I’m more excited about than standing here is coming back next year,” Arpin said.
McKinney did try and swipe the lead from Arpin on one corner after a restart, attempting a big slide job as they dove into Turn 1. He was unsuccessful and later faded back to sixth, one spot out of the redraw, but gave those watching on DIRTVision a bit of mid-race excitement.
The Longhorn by Loenbro bunch has been fast all week, notching several podiums, top-fives and top-10s. Arpin has been taking notice and expressed his gratitude for each of their new customers on the property.
“I remember when my dad was out here watching me in 2007, and I could just see it in his eyes how proud he was of me,” Arpin said. “I feel like that now watching Tyler Nicely, Brandon Green, all these guys coming out here.”
The seventh and final round of racing for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds at Volusia Speedway Park goes down Monday night in the 30-lap, $5,000-to-win Gator Championship. Last Chance Showdown races will kick things off before the redraw; catch all the action live on DIRTVision!
Logano 19th-to-3rd in impressive UMP Modified debut; Michael Jr. beats division’s best in stacked Feature
Five separate DIRTcar UMP Modified Features raced, four first-time winners went to Volusia Speedway Park Victory Lane on Friday night.
Night #4 of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals was all about appreciation for each and every one of the 96 UMP Modified drivers signed-in for competition; everyone got to form-up in the four-wide salute to the fans and race a 15-lap Feature for $700-to-win and a chance to stand in Victory Lane, front and center on the DIRTVision cameras.
Each race was lined up by the overall event points standings going into the evening, inverting both the top-10 starters in each race and the order the Features ran in. When all was said and done, four brand-new faces and one repeat winner from last year stood in Victory Lane, collecting their Volusia Gator trophies as DIRTcar Nationals Feature victors.
Feature #1 – David Reutimann
David Reutimann’s first DIRTcar Nationals victory came on Friday last year in the quad-Feature night, setting the stage for his second act as Friday night’s only repeat winner of the five Features contested.
“We’re not in the race we need to be in, but it’s a far cry from dropping out nine laps into the Feature because we were terrible last night,” Reutimann said in Victory Lane. “Track’s a little bit different; they’ve done a great job. Track’s got a little moisture in it, so it was fun.”
Reutimann started 15th on the grid and advanced through the field rapidly, using the wrecks and restarts to his advantage to gain his first chunks of position. By Lap 3, he had already cracked the top-five and was hot on the trail of the leaders.
Reutimann finally reached the back of leader Taylor Cook as they got the two-to-go signal, and that’s when he pulled the trigger. A great run down the backstretch set Reutimann up for the pass on the high side coming out of Turn 4, which he executed perfectly to take the lead and the eventual win for his second career Volusia Gator trophy.
Crossing the stripe third was none other than the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano, making his DIRTcar Nationals debut in a UMP Modified. Starting dead-last 19th place on the grid, Logano avoided multiple wrecks in front of him and made several clean passes under green-flag conditions to grab the final podium spot in what was a very impressive first competitive start in a UMP Modified.
“I only got one gear, and it was to go,” Logano told DIRTVision pit reporter Chase Raudman in his post-race interview. “It was a good time, I finished third, that’s great, and learned a little bit. Got a little bit of damage to fix, and we’ll come back at it tomorrow night.”
The first of four first-time Volusia Gator trophy winners went to Jupiter, FL’s own Clay Harris.
Harris, a notable 602 Late Model driver, wasted no time, getting right to work on leader Troy Johnson from his fourth-place starting spot in the early going. He got a good run on Johnson on Lap 5, completed the pass and cruised home for the win after a late restart, despite making an error in car setup.
“We tightened it up for the slick and it ended up being hammer-down,” Harris said in Victory Lane. “We had a little hiccup, but we recovered and [the car] was awesome tonight.”
In what was easily the best race of the night for the lead, Nick Allen squared off with three-time NASCAR Truck Series champion Matt Crafton and came out on top in the end for his first career Volusia Gator trophy.
Allen pulled out to a comfortable lead from the outside pole in the early going but was quickly met by a challenge from seventh-starting Crafton, who was a rocket ship on the bottom.
Crafton pulled up alongside Allen and took the spot away for two consecutive laps as the field eclipsed half-way; their side-by-side battle bringing those in attendance to the edge of their seats. Allen then cracked the whip on the top side and wrestled the lead back, fending Crafton off in the final laps and crossing the stripe first to collect the $700 check.
“I knew [Crafton] was good around the bottom; I just couldn’t hold the bottom like he could,” Allen said. “I was just trying to carry a little more momentum through the middle.”
With Strickler, Hoffman, Stremme, Nicely, Arpin, McKinney and Hughes all in the same Feature, Richard Michael Jr. knew he had to be on his A-game if he wanted to win his first Volusia Gator trophy from outside the front row Friday night.
When the green flag dropped on a re-do of the original start after polesitter Kyle Strickler hit the Turn 2 wall, taking him out of the race, Michael pulled that A-game right from out of his pocket and put it on full display, leading all 15 en route to his first DIRTcar Nationals victory in dominating fashion.
“This is probably the biggest one of my career,” Michael said in Victory Lane. “We used to come down here a lot; haven’t been down here in about eight years. Every time we came down here, we didn’t have any good equipment.”
Once he got the lead on the original restart, Michael took off and flat-out ran away with the win, pulling away from the stacked competition in his Elite Chassis, built by Nick Hoffman, who finished fourth.
“We just put this car together about a week and a half ago at Nick [Hoffman’s] place. I’ve just got to thank him; if it wasn’t for him, there’s no way we’d be in Victory Lane,” he said.
The first of the two Gator Championship qualifying nights for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds hits the track Saturday night in Round #5 of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. Half of the field in attendance will race while the other half will have the night off and return on Sunday for their qualifier night, all helping to determine a portion of Monday night’s starting field for the $5,000-to-win Gator Championship finale.
First DIRTcar Nationals win for Hughes while Strickler remains unbothered by injury
A new single-day record car count 96 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds signed-in to compete Thursday night at Volusia Speedway Park for Round #3 of the 50th DIRTcar Nationals and graced those in attendance with another double-shot of Feature racing action.
Jason Hughes, the Dirt Modified veteran from Westville, OK, made the move early on Wednesday night winner Tyler Nicely to hoist the gator trophy as a first-time DIRTcar Nationals winner in Feature #1. Kyle Strickler, with a bandaged-up finger and all, caught David Stremme in the thick of lapped traffic and made the move to win Feature #2.
Feature #1 – Jason Hughes
Dirt Modified racing and chassis-building veteran Jason Hughes had made multiple DIRTcar Nationals appearances with the UMP Modifieds in his career but had never been able to reach Victory Lane. Until Thursday night.
“I’m pretty happy, we finally got us a gator,” Hughes said. “I felt like we got one stolen from us last year, and to come back and get one this year is pretty good.”
Hughes started his journey to Victory Lane from the fourth position and wasted no time going forward, reaching the runner-up spot inside of the first five laps. Tyler Nicely, Feature #1 winner from Wednesday night, led the opening laps and looked to be the one to beat until an early caution flag stacked up the field with Hughes right on his tail.
The green flag waived and Nicely got a solid start, as did Hughes. They raced close for three corners before Nicely made a rare slip-up out of the groove in Turn 4, opening the door for Hughes down low to take the spot.
“[Nicely] got in there tight and shoved across the corner and I got turned underneath him, and that was what got us out front,” Hughes said.
Nicely, of Owensboro, KY, came back at Hughes to his inside just a few laps later but was unsuccessful. Hughes put it on cruise control after a few more restarts and took the checkered flag for his first time at Volusia, Nicely coming in right behind.
Steve Arpin, of Fort Frances, ON, bagged his first podium finish of the week and his first at DIRTcar Nationals since his championship year in 2007 with a third-place run Thursday night. Fellow Longhorn by Loenbro chassis driver Mike McKinney was scheduled to start third and was penalized to the tail for a late arrival to staging, but overcame the fault and made it all the way back up to eighth by the checkered flag.
Kyle Strickler went from the hospital, back to the track, from the Last Chance Showdown to the Feature and from 23rd to third in the Feature on Wednesday for one of the wildest nights in DIRTcar Nationals history. He backed that up Thursday night with his ninth career Feature win in the event, holding off longtime competitor Nick Hoffman in the process.
Fellow notable DIRTcar Nationals frontrunner David Stremme brought it home right behind them. Stremme, Hoffman and Strickler have become among the brightest faces of the UMP Modified division over the past few years, which Strickler made it a point to acknowledge in his Victory Lane interview on DIRTVision.
“These three cars here on the front-stretch here, we come down here and this Speedweeks means so much to us. We know who we’ve gotta outrun when we get here, and we all work really hard,” Strickler said.
Stremme kicked off the 20-lap Feature by jumping out to the lead in the opening laps, looking very strong and keeping Strickler and Hoffman at bay behind him. That was, until he hit lapped traffic.
Just past the halfway point, Stremme dove deep into a field of slower traffic, which gave Strickler and Hoffman the opportunity they needed to slip by. Which, they did, when Stremme got pinched a bit by a lapped car out of Turn 2 on Lap 13. Strickler got a great run out of the corner and drove firmly into Turns 3-4, sliding up in front of Stremme to complete the pass as they crossed the stripe.
“I was adjusting my driving style, and when we caught lapped traffic, it’s so tough when you’re the leader. So, that helped us out a bunch, and I think the track started coming our way too,” Strickler said.
Hoffman went with him one lap later to secure the second spot. A final restart appeared with 5 laps remaining but did not affect the running order; Strickler was just too smooth for anyone to catch.
The DIRTcar UMP Modified action continues Friday night at Volusia Speedway Park with one of the pit area’s favorite nights of the year – everybody runs a Feature! A total of five Feature races for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds is preliminarily scheduled for competition, lined up by points totals after the already completed Features. Catch all the action on DIRTVision!
Strickler bags podium finish out of Last Chance Showdown after hospital visit just hours before
A grand total of 94 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds packed Volusia Speedway Park’s pit area Wednesday for night #2 of competition at the 50th DIRTcar Nationals, prompting a format change that called for two separate, 20-lap Features before the night was out.
Volusia’s reigning Reutimann Memorial winner Tyler Nicely, of Owensboro, KY, took advantage of another slick and smooth racing surface to grab the win in the first Feature, while the five-time and defending DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified champion Nick Hoffman, of Mooresville, NC, did the same to score the victory in Feature #2.
Feature #1 – Tyler Nicely
Tyler Nicely seems to be picking up right where he left off at Volusia last November.
His then-brand-new Longhorn by Loenbro chassis powered him to his first career victory in the track’s marquee event, the Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial, in November of last year. Less than three months have passed and he’s already back in Victory Lane. This time, making the pass for the lead on Lucas Lee and holding off another star-studded cast of competitors for his fourth career win in the event.
“All Speedweeks I’ve been trying to get this win; I’m glad it’s on this stage at Volusia,” Nicely said. “It’s always nice to win it with a bunch of cars, standing on this stage and getting a gator.”
Nicely’s been in action since the opening round of the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park two weeks ago and hadn’t been able to find Victory Lane through those five starts plus another last weekend at North Florida Speedway. But after a third-place finish in Tuesday night’s opener, Nicely cashed out with his momentum and advanced two spots higher to collect the $1,000 victory Wednesday night.
Nicely started on the outside of the front row and immediately went to work on polesitter Lucas Lee, catching him in open track and making the pass to his inside on Lap 5.
From there on out, it Nicely’s race to lose. Nobody seemed to have anything for the race leader by the end of 20 circuits as he crossed to collect the checkers. However, if there had been just one more caution later in the race, he may have had a familiar foe knocking on his door.
Kyle Strickler, of Mooresville, NC, may have gone though one of the most bizarre, painful, yet most successful runs to the front in DIRTcar Nationals history Wednesday night.
Earlier in the evening, Strickler was taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital after severely cutting his left middle finger in the pit area while operating the lift his team uses to raise their car up.
“When I was in the ambulance after almost cutting my finger off, they told me, ‘it’s a hard no on you racing tonight,’ because that was the first question I asked them,” Strickler said. “We ended up going to the hospital, getting it stitched up and making it back here in time.”
Indeed, he did get back to the track on time. But only to tag the tail of Last Chance Showdown #1, where he snagged the final transfer spot into the first Feature. This set him up for a 23rd-place starting spot in that event, where he drove all the way back to finish third, making for what will surely be one of the most memorable nights of his career.
Nick Hoffman has often preferred the slicker, slower racing surfaces at the big tracks like Volusia. That certainly showed again Wednesday night, as he took full advantage of it in collecting his 19th career DIRTcar Nationals Feature win.
Compared to the Feature event previous, Hoffman wasted even less time in moving to the front, making the pass on polesitter David Stremme on Lap 3. From there on out, nobody had anything for the two-time and defending UMP Modified national points champion as he crossed the stripe for the win.
He makes it look so simple on the DIRTVision cameras, but sometimes, much of the battle is won before the race even starts in the pit area. Like Tuesday night, it came down to a tire selection to help Hoffman pick up the win.
“I knew it was probably gonna latch-up there in the second Feature, so I went with the hard tire again tonight,” Hoffman said. “Once it started to latch-up, I got really tight and just couldn’t maneuver quite like I needed to.”
Hoffman’s Elite Chassis had yet another good showing with himself and Justin Allgaier finishing 1st and 3rd, respectively.
“I know every nook and cranny on that racecar, so that really helps. Just running my own chassis for the last eight years; we’ve got a really good balance, obviously, at this place. It just suits my style, momentum racing, and when it gets dead slick like this, it’s really where I’m the best,” Hoffman said.
The DIRTcar UMP Modified action continues Thursday night from Volusia Speedway Park’s 50th DIRTcar Nationals with Round #3 of racing. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision!