Steve Arpin

GATOR DUELS: Hoffman Gets DIRTcar Nationals Win No. 20, Arpin Bags First Win at Volusia Since ’07

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.

Josh James Photo

 

Feature (20 Laps) 1. 2-Nick Hoffman [1]; 2. 25-Tyler Nicely [2]; 3. 67-Garret Stewart [11]; 4. 88-Matt Crafton [5]; 5. 7-Justin Allgaier [4]; 6. 11H-Spencer Hughes [3]; 7. 25W-Allen Weisser [13]; 8. 12H-Jason Hughes [8]; 9. 17X-Richard Michael [27]; 10. 6A-Ryan Ayers [9]; 11. 9-Ken Schrader [15]; 12. 8S-Kyle Strickler [12]; 13. OOD-David Reutimann [24]; 14. 51-Brandon Green [6]; 15. 21D-Danny Schwartz [29]; 16. 4T-Zeke McKenzie [20]; 17. 7D-Brad DeYoung [22]; 18. OO-Buzzie Reutimann [25]; 19. 77-Ray Bollinger [7]; 20. 11J-Justin Haley [10]; 21. 49-Brian Ruhlman [21]; 22. 22T-Tony Anderson [28]; 23. 2A-Matt Altiers [30]; 24. 6-Ryan Fowler [26]; 25. 24-Travis Dickson [17]; 26. T9-Ryan Thomas [16]; 27. 47-Collin Thirlby [23]; 28. 8A-Austin Holcombe [14]; 29. 80-Rich Dawson [19]; 30. 99-Hunt Gossum [18]

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.

Josh James Photo

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.”

Feature (20 Laps) 1. OOEH-Steve Arpin [1]; 2. 95-Michael Altobelli [7]; 3. 21A-Nick Allen [3]; 4. 45H-Kyle Hammer [8]; 5. 12L-Lucas Lee [5]; 6. 96M-Mike McKinney [2]; 7. 44-KC Burdette [18]; 8. 18L-Michael Long [10]; 9. 3L-Jeff Leka [24]; 10. K19-Will Krup [14]; 11. 45-Johnny Broking [30]; 12. O5-Dave Wietholder [6]; 13. 36-Kenny Wallace [13]; 14. 17T-Tyler Evans [21]; 15. 15B-Dave Baker [26]; 16. 15L-Joey Logano [20]; 17. 11N-Gene Nicholas [11]; 18. 5S-Curt Spalding [4]; 19. 6B-Dave Baldwin [28]; 20. 463-Daniel Sanchez [17]; 21. 97-Mitch Thomas [15]; 22. 12-John McClure [25]; 23. 88B-Chris Bolyard [19]; 24. 32-Chad Roush [22]; 25. 22K-Dale Kelley [16]; 26. 60-Shannon Fisk [29]; 27. 7T-Drake Troutman [9]; 28. 72-Todd Neiheiser [12]; 29. M41-Steve Maisel [34]; 30. 21J-Clay Harris [32]; 31. 35-David Stremme [23]; 32. O1-Earnie Woodard [27]; 33. O2-Chris Cook [31]; 34. 21-Taylor Cook [33]; 35. 27C-Billy Cevaal [35]

UP NEXT

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!

Gator Qualifier #1 Prelim Event Results:

Qualifying Flight-A 1. 2-Nick Hoffman, 19.102; 2. 25-Tyler Nicely, 19.404; 3. 88-Matt Crafton, 19.484; 4. 67-Garret Stewart, 19.506; 5. 6A-Ryan Ayers, 19.549; 6. 77-Ray Bollinger, 19.592; 7. 24-Travis Dickson, 19.614; 8. 80-Rich Dawson, 19.699; 9. 25W-Allen Weisser, 19.817; 10. 17X-Richard Michael, 19.829; 11. 49-Brian Ruhlman, 19.871; 12. 9-Ken Schrader, 19.972; 13. 47-Collin Thirlby, 20.116; 14. 176-Scotty Owens, 20.502; 15. 2J-Troy Johnson, 20.634; 16. 21D-Danny Schwartz, 20.646; 17. 83-Brianna Robinson, 20.647; 18. 9PG-Percy Gendreau, 20.694; 19. 57-Mark Grosvenor, 20.706; 20. 22J-John Baker, 20.728; 21. OO-Buzzie Reutimann, 20.753; 22. 11M-Tyler Morehouse, 20.837; 23. 7+7-Jeff Solinger, 21.185

Qualifying Flight-B 1. 7-Justin Allgaier, 19.143; 2. 11H-Spencer Hughes, 19.537; 3. 11J-Justin Haley, 19.61; 4. 12H-Jason Hughes, 19.7; 5. 99-Hunt Gossum, 19.707; 6. A1-Gary Bentley, 19.719; 7. 51-Brandon Green, 19.74; 8. T9-Ryan Thomas, 19.753; 9. 8A-Austin Holcombe, 19.773; 10. 8S-Kyle Strickler, 19.874; 11. 7D-Brad DeYoung, 20.112; 12. 4T-Zeke McKenzie, 20.159; 13. 114-Clayton Bryant, 20.231; 14. 22T-Tony Anderson, 20.254; 15. 2A-Matt Altiers, 20.296; 16. 31G-Stephen Pedulla, 20.322; 17. 6-Ryan Fowler, 20.369; 18. 15-Joey Miller, 20.378; 19. OOD-David Reutimann, 20.549; 20. 11-Jesse Rupe, 20.736; 21. 62E-Kim Edington, 20.782; 22. 74-Mike Franklin, 20.931; 23. 27-Tom Wakefield, 21.163

Heat #1 – Flight (A) (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer 1. 2-Nick Hoffman [1]; 2. 88-Matt Crafton [2]; 3. 6A-Ryan Ayers [3]; 4. 25W-Allen Weisser [5]; 5. 24-Travis Dickson [4]; 6. 49-Brian Ruhlman [6]; 7. 47-Collin Thirlby [7]; 8. OO-Buzzie Reutimann [11]; 9. 2J-Troy Johnson [8]; 10. 83-Brianna Robinson [9]; 11. 7+7-Jeff Solinger [12]; 12. 57-Mark Grosvenor [10]

Heat #2 – Flight (A) (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer 1. 25-Tyler Nicely [1]; 2. 77-Ray Bollinger [3]; 3. 67-Garret Stewart [2]; 4. 9-Ken Schrader [6]; 5. 80-Rich Dawson [4]; 6. 176-Scotty Owens [7]; 7. 21D-Danny Schwartz [8]; 8. 22J-John Baker [10]; 9. 9PG-Percy Gendreau [9]; 10. 17X-Richard Michael [5]; 11. 11M-Tyler Morehouse [11]

Heat #3 – Flight (B) (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer 1. 7-Justin Allgaier [1]; 2. 51-Brandon Green [4]; 3. 11J-Justin Haley [2]; 4. 8A-Austin Holcombe [5]; 5. 99-Hunt Gossum [3]; 6. 7D-Brad DeYoung [6]; 7. 6-Ryan Fowler [9]; 8. OOD-David Reutimann [10]; 9. 114-Clayton Bryant [7]; 10. 2A-Matt Altiers [8]; 11. 62E-Kim Edington [11]; 12. 27-Tom Wakefield [12]

Heat #4 – Flight (B) (8 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer 1. 11H-Spencer Hughes [1]; 2. 12H-Jason Hughes [2]; 3. 8S-Kyle Strickler [5]; 4. T9-Ryan Thomas [4]; 5. 4T-Zeke McKenzie [6]; 6. 22T-Tony Anderson [7]; 7. 31G-Stephen Pedulla [8]; 8. 15-Joey Miller [9]; 9. 11-Jesse Rupe [10]; 10. 74-Mike Franklin [11]; 11. A1-Gary Bentley [3]

Last Chance Showdown 1 (10 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer 1. 49-Brian Ruhlman [1]; 2. 47-Collin Thirlby [3]; 3. OO-Buzzie Reutimann [5]; 4. 17X-Richard Michael [10]; 5. 21D-Danny Schwartz [4]; 6. 176-Scotty Owens [2]; 7. 9PG-Percy Gendreau [8]; 8. 83-Brianna Robinson [9]; 9. 2J-Troy Johnson [7]; 10. 7+7-Jeff Solinger [11]; 11. 57-Mark Grosvenor [13]; 12. 22J-John Baker [6]

Last Chance Showdown 2 (10 Laps) – Top 5 Transfer 1. 7D-Brad DeYoung [1]; 2. OOD-David Reutimann [5]; 3. 6-Ryan Fowler [3]; 4. 22T-Tony Anderson [2]; 5. 2A-Matt Altiers [9]; 6. 11M-Tyler Morehouse [14]; 7. 15-Joey Miller [6]; 8. 74-Mike Franklin [10]; 9. 114-Clayton Bryant [7]; 10. 27-Tom Wakefield [13]; 11. 62E-Kim Edington [11]; 12. 11-Jesse Rupe [8]; 13. 31G-Stephen Pedulla [4]; 14. A1-Gary Bentley [12]

Gator Qualifier #2 Prelim Event Results:

Qualifying Flight-A 1. 12L-Lucas Lee, 18.283; 2. 35-David Stremme, 18.745; 3. 17T-Tyler Evans, 18.883; 4. 97-Mitch Thomas, 18.967; 5. OOEH-Steve Arpin, 18.997; 6. 5S-Curt Spalding, 19.027; 7. 36-Kenny Wallace, 19.174; 8. 95-Michael Altobelli, 19.2; 9. 12-John McClure, 19.252; 10. O1-Earnie Woodard, 19.408; 11. 7T-Drake Troutman, 19.585; 12. O2-Chris Cook, 19.745; 13. 463-Daniel Sanchez, 19.793; 14. 11N-Gene Nicholas, 19.854; 15. 21-Taylor Cook, 19.883; 16. 88B-Chris Bolyard, 20.137; 17. 60-Shannon Fisk, 20.179; 18. 27C-Billy Cevaal, 21.304

Qualifying Flight-B 1. 96M-Mike McKinney, 18.894; 2. 21A-Nick Allen, 19.028; 3. K19-Will Krup, 19.091; 4. 21J-Clay Harris, 19.226; 5. 18L-Michael Long, 19.273; 6. 22K-Dale Kelley, 19.28; 7. O5-Dave Wietholder, 19.331; 8. 45H-Kyle Hammer, 19.362; 9. 32-Chad Roush, 19.365; 10. 72-Todd Neiheiser, 19.431; 11. 44-KC Burdette, 19.438; 12. 15L-Joey Logano, 19.58; 13. 45-Johnny Broking, 19.629; 14. 3L-Jeff Leka, 19.677; 15. 15B-Dave Baker, 19.735; 16. 6B-Dave Baldwin, 19.982; 17. M41-Steve Maisel, 20.119

Heat #1 – Flight (A) (8 Laps) – Top 10 Transfer 1. OOEH-Steve Arpin [3]; 2. 12L-Lucas Lee [1]; 3. 7T-Drake Troutman [6]; 4. 36-Kenny Wallace [4]; 5. 463-Daniel Sanchez [7]; 6. 17T-Tyler Evans [2]; 7. 12-John McClure [5]; 8. 60-Shannon Fisk [9]; 9. 21-Taylor Cook [8]

Heat #2 – Flight (A) (8 Laps) – Top 10 Transfer 1. 5S-Curt Spalding [3]; 2. 95-Michael Altobelli [4]; 3. 11N-Gene Nicholas [7]; 4. 97-Mitch Thomas [2]; 5. 88B-Chris Bolyard [8]; 6. 35-David Stremme [1]; 7. O1-Earnie Woodard [5]; 8. O2-Chris Cook [6]; 9. 27C-Billy Cevaal [9]

Heat #3 – Flight (B) (8 Laps) – Top 10 Transfer 1. 96M-Mike McKinney [1]; 2. O5-Dave Wietholder [4]; 3. 18L-Michael Long [3]; 4. K19-Will Krup [2]; 5. 44-KC Burdette [6]; 6. 32-Chad Roush [5]; 7. 15B-Dave Baker [8]; 8. 45-Johnny Broking [7]; 9. M41-Steve Maisel [9]

Heat #4 – Flight (B) (8 Laps) – Top 10 Transfer 1. 21A-Nick Allen [1]; 2. 45H-Kyle Hammer [4]; 3. 72-Todd Neiheiser [5]; 4. 22K-Dale Kelley [3]; 5. 15L-Joey Logano [6]; 6. 3L-Jeff Leka [7]; 7. 6B-Dave Baldwin [8]; 8. 21J-Clay Harris [2]

BACK FOR MORE: Steve Arpin Returns to UMP Modified Racing at Volusia with Longhorn by Loenbro

New racing venture, partnership with Longhorn bred relationship with McKinney and Nicely

For the first time since his accident in 2008, Steve Arpin will return to the seat of a DIRTcar UMP Modified this week in the 50th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

The former DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified champion from Fort Frances, ON, won a record five-consecutive Features at Volusia in 2007, leading to his first event points title. A year later, he decided to leave the dirt track world behind to pursue other racing ventures after suffering severe burns when a water line came unhooked while on the track.

This year, Arpin makes his return to Volusia behind the wheel of a Longhorn Modified by Loenbro Motorsports, debuting his new #00eh against a deep field of UMP Modified talent as they race seven-straight nights, Feb. 2-8, in search of the Big Gator championship.

Twelve seasons away from the DIRTcar world has left Arpin longing to strap back into the seat of his own UMP Modified, and what better place to do it than on the 50th anniversary of Volusia’s biggest event.

“The time was coming regardless because this has been where my passion is from the get-go,” he said.

EXPLORING HIS PASSION

Since his debut in 2013, Arpin has become a household name in the Rallycross world, competing internationally in events under several sanctioning bodies and the X Games. Several seasons of success on the circuit have quenched his thirst for thrills, but his passion for the dirt track has never been a dying flame.

“When I got into Rallycross, I was actually in Brazil racing, right after the X Games, and I called my dad and said, ‘This is as much fun I’ve had since I was racing Dirt Modifieds.’ So that’s always been my benchmark for where my love in the sport is,” he said.

Arpin’s car for the 2007 DIRTcar Nationals (Rick Young Photo)

Like most of the nation’s top wheelmen, Arpin advanced through several levels of motorsports before seeing success on the big stage. Racing everything from go-karts, mini-sprints and even snowmobiles as a kid, Arpin got his first Modified start at the age of 15. Although he had raced (and won) at Volusia before, a 23-year-old Arpin came to Volusia in 2007 and made DIRTcar Nationals history with his record five-consecutive Feature wins – one that has since only been tied by Jared Landers in 2009.

His accident in the following year’s DIRTcar Nationals took him out for the better part of 2008. Then, in 2009, he cashed-in on an opportunity to drive in the ARCA Menard’s Series. Some great finishes there landed him a NASCAR Xfinity Series ride at JR Motorsports in 2010 before making starts for Turner Motorsports in both the Truck and Xfinity Series through the 2012 season.

Two seasons of Rallycross competition led Arpin to NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi’s new Rallycross program for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Loenbro Motorsports proprietors Paul & Jon Leach were co-owners of the operation at the time and eventually took over the team’s assets after Ganassi’s disinvolvement in 2017.

NEW VENTURE

Arpin has been with Loenbro ever since and brought the Modified program into the mix in October of last year. Loenbro partnered with Longhorn Chassis to build cars at their shop in China Grove, NC, as well as Bilstein Shocks, to provide customers with their own take on the UMP Modified.

“For me, it was just all about the people,” Arpin said. “It wasn’t the plan going into 2020 that this is what we were going to be doing. I had a great opportunity to start building a relationship with Bilstein on lots of the other programs that we’re doing. Ultimately, those conversations just led to the Modified program.”

Bloom working at the Loenbro Shop

The Loenbro squad brings in several experienced professionals to the table, including those who have already worked with some of the division’s biggest names. Austin Bloom, who worked with multi-time DIRTcar Nationals Feature winner Kyle Strickler, has helped the team with their Rally car program and is one of many on the frontlines of the Loenbro Modified fabrication efforts.

“It was about that group of people all collaborating all their strengths to build an awesome racecar,” Arpin said. “It’s all just a bunch of steel, you just need really good people to tell it what to do.”

TEAM LONGHORN

For every great car, there’s a great driver sitting behind the wheel, and Longhorn by Loenbro’s got quite a stacked lineup ready for to compete in the 50th DIRTcar Nationals and throughout the 2021 season.

Mike McKinney, of Plainfield, IL, suits up with a Loenbro Longhorn for the 2021 season after a solid year of competition in 2020 that saw him reach DIRTcar UMP Modified Victory Lane 19 times. The Magic Man has zero plans of scaling back on that number in 2021, and Longhorn by Loenbro is where he feels he has the best chance of continuing his success in the future.

“For me, it was kind of a business decision,” McKinney said. “This sport – it isn’t a hobby of mine; it isn’t something I do for fun. It’s something I take very seriously and want to be around for a long time.”

Like Loenbro, McKinney has built a professional relationship with the folks at Bilstein Shocks, which also aided in making the connection to Loenbro.

“For me, it’s a no-brainer with the support that Steve and the Loenbro guys are going to bring,” McKinney said. “I’ve worked really close with Bilstein Shocks, and they’re the primary shock on this car. To work directly with them on one chassis brand’s gonna help a lot.”

Outside the Loenbro Motorsports headquarters in China Grove, NC

Two-time and defending Summit Racing Equipment American Modified Series champion Tyler Nicely, of Owensboro, KY, also stepped up to the plate with a Longhorn by Loenbro last fall and scored two big victories – one right at Volusia Speedway Park in the 7th annual Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial.

Nicely was introduced to Arpin and the opportunity to drive a Longhorn by Loenbro through his team’s new business partners, John & Scott Clippinger. Scott and Arpin are longtime racing friends and reconnected last year, settling on a plan for both John and Nicely to drive Loenbro Longhorns in 2021.

“This is a good opportunity for me to try and take my racing career to the next level,” Nicely said. “We’re all gunning to be in a Late Model, so we’re just surrounding ourselves with the right people and trying to make the next move in our racing careers.”

Both McKinney and Nicely spent several years with their former chassis brand Elite Chassis, owned and operated by two-time and defending DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion Nick Hoffman. Each won numerous races and are very pleased with the time they spent driving under the Elite banner. Their talks were mutually understanding, and all recognized that the switch was just the next step in each of their racing careers.

“I talked with Nick and he understands the people I’m involved with, Bilstein and them,” McKinney said. “He understands it as well, to be in this sport, you’ve got to surround yourself with the right people and the right help. Nick’s been my buddy well before he was building Modifieds, and he’s going to continue being my buddy.”

“I still consider Nick one of my best friends,” Nicely said. “If it wasn’t for Nick, my name probably wouldn’t have been a bigger name in the Modifieds. He’s helped me tremendously.”

2021 READY

Back at the shop, Arpin and the Loenbro group have some big plans for 2021 and beyond. In addition to continuing the Rallycross ventures, Arpin and Loenbro plan on producing their Longhorn chassis under multiple different rules packages for the different sanctioning bodies across the country. But there’s a reason why they’re starting 2021 racing with the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.

Inside the Loenbro Motorsports headquarters in China Grove, NC

 “It’s where the technology is,” Arpin said. “It’s been fascinating watching Hoffman and [David] Stremme do what they’ve done with their cars. The Lethal [Chassis] and the Elites – they’re good cars.

“To have the opportunity to come out and compete with those guys… I feel like they’re at the top of their game, and if you want to be the best, you’ve got to race against the best.”

The events that are yet to unfold for Arpin as he makes his return to DIRTcar UMP Modified racing in 2021 are as good as anyone’s guess. But one thing’s for sure – he’s proud of where he’s been, and has the utmost confidence in his team to help him reach new heights.

“I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in my Modified career, but I’ve been gone for a long time,” Arpin said. “For the likes of Justin Labonte and everyone at Longhorn to have the confidence in me to take this over… it’s truly one of the highlights of my career.”

Be on the lookout for Arpin as he takes on a full week of DIRTcar UMP Modified racing in the 50th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 2-8. McKinney, Nicely, Hoffman, Stremme and more will be on the track; catch all the action live on DIRTVision!

TOP 50 DRIVERS: 50 years of elite DIRTcar Nationals drivers

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. In that time, hundreds of talented drivers have entered Volusia County, attempting to leave a winner. Many have. More are still trying.

From Sprint Cars to Late Models to Modifieds to Big Blocks, Volusia and the DIRTcar Nationals has served as one of the best time capsules for all of dirt racing. For the 50th year of the event, we went through the long list of drivers that have competed for the coveted DIRTcar Nationals championship title and picked 50 of the best to ever grace the clay surface.

These are the top-50 drivers of the DIRTcar Nationals in alphabetical order:

Steve Arpin

 

 

Dave Blaney

Scott Bloomquist

 

 

Kenny Brightbill

 

 

Clint Bowyer

 

 

Shane Clanton

 

 

Austin Dillon

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

Craig Dollansky

 

 

Rick Eckert

Steve Francis

 

Stewart Friesen

 

 

Tim Fuller

 

 

David Gravel

 

Brett Hearn

 

Doug Hoffman

 

 

Nick Hoffman

 

 

Jimmy Horton

 

 

Kenny Jacobs

 

Alan Johnson

 

Danny Johnson

 

 

Jack Johnson

 

 

Jared Landers

 

Steve Kinser

 

 

Darrell Lanigan

 

 

Danny Lasoski

 

 

Chris Madden

 

Tim McCreadie

 

Billy Moyer, Sr.

 

Don O’Neal

 

 

Jimmy Owens

 

Billy Pauch

 

 

Earl Pearson, Jr.

 

Daryn Pittman

 

Josh Richards

 

Brian Ruhlman

 

Joey Saldana

 

Donny Schatz

 

Kenny Schrader

 

Jeff Shepard

 

Brandon Sheppard

 

 

Matt Sheppard

 

David Stremme

 

Kyle Strickler

 

Brad Sweet

 

Sammy Swindell

 

Kenny Wallace

 

Pat Ward

 

 

Larry Wight

 

 

Doug Wolfgang

CHASSIS WARS: Top DIRTcar UMP Modified Chassis Builders Ready for Battle at Volusia

Drivers hit Volusia Speedway Park for seven-straight nights, Feb. 2-8, in 50th DIRTcar Nationals

Volusia Speedway Park will be the latest battleground of a chassis war among the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds during the 50th DIRTcar Nationals.

Elite Chassis and Lethal Chassis have been among the most successful brands in recent UMP Modified history — accounting for 48 percent of all Feature wins recorded by the top-10 drivers in 2020 national points. But in 2021, a new challenger will look to end their reign.

October 2020 brought forth the formation of Longhorn Modifieds by Loenbro Motorsports into the DIRTcar realm, featuring the 2007 DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified champion Steve Arpin and Longhorn Chassis proprietor Justin Labonte joining forces to start the production of Loenbro-unique chassis from within their shop in China Grove, NC. The brand immediately recruited several big-name drivers to their lineup, including a few of Elite’s biggest names.

Strickler (middle) in Victory Lane at The Dirt Track at Charlotte at the 2020 Drydene World Short Track Championship with runner-up Chris Arnold (right) and third-place Nick Hoffman (left) [Michael Boggs Photo]
Longhorn by Loenbro made its first on-track appearance in the Drydene World Short Track Championship at The Dirt Track at Charlotte with 8-time DIRTcar Nationals Feature winner Kyle Strickler at the controls. A $4,000 Feature win Saturday night verified the brand’s projected competitiveness and gave a glimpse into the future of the battle forming between Elite and Longhorn.

Two-time and defending Summit Racing Equipment American Modified Series champion Tyler Nicely, of Owensboro, KY, took the checkered flag in last November’s Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial at Volusia, besting Elite Chassis owner/fabricator Nick Hoffman and NASCAR regular Justin Allgaier in a 50-lap, $5,000-to-win throwdown. Hoffman and Allgaier drove their Elite Chassis to a 2-3 finish Saturday’s night main event, but could not catch Nicely, a former Elite pilot, making his debut in a brand-new Longhorn by Loenbro.

Their next heavyweight bout went down the very next weekend at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, TN, where Nicely took his Loenbro Longhorn to Victory Lane on Friday night with Allgaier and Hoffman again finishing 2-3. But Saturday night was Hoffman’s turn to get one for Elite, besting Nicely over 25 laps to keep the friendly rivalry going.

While their competitiveness was on full display in the fall of last season, the Loenbro Longhorns will face some decorated Elite and Lethal drivers at Volusia come February.

Hoffman posing with his 2020 DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship trophy (Josh James Photo)

Hoffman, the two-time and defending DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion, has left Volusia in each of the last five DIRTcar Nationals with the Big Gator trophy and a total of 16 Feature wins in the event since his first in 2012. His triumph in 2020 kicked off one of the most dominant seasons in Elite’s history, featuring four of the top 10 drivers in DIRTcar UMP Modified national points standings at season’s end driving Elite Chassis – himself, Mike McKinney, Will Krup and Hunt Gossum. All four combined for 61 total Feature victories in DIRTcar-sanctioned competition.

Former NASCAR veteran David Stremme founded Lethal Chassis in 2014, serving several big names in the UMP Modified community that always bring tough competition into the state of Florida.

Stremme himself has two career DIRTcar Nationals Feature wins. Spencer Hughes pulled off a thrilling victory in last year’s Gator Championship on Monday night, passing Jason Hughes (no relation) on the final lap to bag the $5,000 prize. NASCAR Xfinity Series star Justin Haley scored his first DIRTcar Nationals victory in 2019, as did Michigan’s Curt Spalding last year. Floridian Modified veteran Devin Dixon and North Carolina’s Austin Holcombe are also projected to join Lethal’s roster at Volusia in 2021.

The 50th DIRTcar Nationals will feature a stacked lineup from Elite, including the regulars Hoffman, Allgaier and Krup. Kenny Wallace, who switched to Elite last fall, makes his first Elite starts at Volusia this year. Garret Stewart, Volusia’s winningest driver in 2020, and Kyle Hammer, the Illinoisan making his first trip south for Florida Speedweeks this year, also bring Elites for 2021.

Stremme in his Lethal Chassis at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Melanie Cherry Photo, 2020)

Longhorn by Loenbro will also bring a stellar lineup to Volusia in February, including Nicely and Strickler. Arpin will make his return to the seat of a UMP Modified for the first time since 2008, alongside Floridian Modified veteran Jeff Mathews. Plainfield, IL-wheelman Mike McKinney will also be making his very first trip south to compete at the 50th DIRTcar Nationals behind the wheel of a Longhorn after spending all eight of his first UMP Modified seasons with Elite, finishing second only to Hoffman in 2020 national points.

The rosters for each side are set. Every driver knows the score. When the teams pull into Volusia to compete for seven-straight nights, the gloves will come off in search of dirt racing’s most prized trophies. There’s no telling what kind of history will be made in the 50th edition of DIRTcar Nationals when the ironmen hit the track.

Don’t miss the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds in action at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 2-8. Tickets are on sale now at DIRTcarNationals.com or by calling 844-DIRT-TIX. If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live from the comfort of your home with a Platinum Fast Pass subscription to DIRTVision!

THE BIG 5-O: Ironmen UMP Modified Drivers Take on 50th DIRTcar Nationals Feb. 2-8, 2021

New stars Hoffman, Nicely set to battle with veterans Wallace, Stremme and others

Jan. 6, 2021 – The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds have long been known as the “Ironmen” of the DIRTcar Nationals.

For the past several years of the iconic Florida event, they’ve competed the first seven nights alongside the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series.

When the stout field rolls into Volusia Speedway Park Feb. 2-8 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event, one hand will point to the division’s future stars while the other reaches back on the history books. Some of the division’s most exciting points chases and storylines have been produced over the past 15 years, featuring a slew of instantly recognizable names.

Rick Young Photo (2007)

The 2007 DIRTcar Nationals was headlined with the success of one young Canadian, who ushered in a new level of dominance not previously seen in DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified history. Twenty-three-year-old Steve Arpin, of Fort Frances, ON, brought his Larry Shaw Race Cars #00 into the facility and made his mark on history, winning an incredible five consecutive Features in seven nights to earn his first DIRTcar Nationals championship. It seemed as though Arpin would hold this record forever, until one man sparked a legacy of his own the following year.

When Arpin was seriously injured at Volusia in February 2008, the door swung open for another driver to step up to the plate. Jared Landers, of Batesville, AR, won two Features that year, setting him up for a memorable run in 2009 where he won five non-consecutive Features over seven nights of racing, tying Arpin’s record and crowning him DIRTcar Nationals champion for the first time in his career.

The next four years didn’t see quite the level of dominance brought on by Arpin and Landers but was made up for with a diverse group of Feature winners and champions.

Present-day Late Model veteran Dave Hess Jr., of Waterford, PA, won two Features en route to his Golden Eagle trophy in 2010, one year before Emporia, KS’s own Clint Bowyer led the charge of NASCAR-driven success at the event.

Bowyer won three Features on his way to a Golden Eagle in 2011, paving the way for fellow Richard Childress Racing teammates Ty and Austin Dillon’s three newly styled Big Gator championship trophies, collected from 2012-2015. The brothers won a combined 12 DIRTcar Nationals Features over that period, missing out on only the 2013 points championship to another NASCAR legend, Kenny Schrader.

While Austin hoisted his first Big Gator in 2015 with Ty finishing just 10 points behind in third, one driver stood between them in the points that year.

Belleville, IL-born Nick Hoffman, now residing in Mooresville, NC, has since been the one man to beat when it comes to the UMP Modifieds at the DIRTcar Nationals. He and his blue/orange Elite Chassis #2 have been tearing up Volusia in February for the past five years, winning 13 Features and five consecutive Big Gator trophies from 2016-2020.

Hoffman (2) and David Stremme (35) racing for position in the 2020 DIRTcar Nationals (Rick Neff Photo)

Armed with his second consecutive DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship and DIRTcar UMP Modified national championship honors that 2020 brought him, 2021 is looking brighter than ever for the reigning Big Gator champion to repeat at Volusia.

Of course, several big-name contenders in the division will be gunning for their right to hoist the Big Gator trophy as well, including former NASCAR stars David Stremme, Kenny Wallace and 2020 Reutimann Memorial winner Tyler Nicely.

Tickets for the 50th annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 2-13, are on sale now at DIRTcarNationals.com. If you can’t make it to the track, be sure to tune into DIRTVision to watch all the action live from the comfort of your home!

Previous UMP Modified Feature Winners
February 10, 2020 – Spencer Hughes
February 9, 2020 – Kyle Strickler
February 8, 2020 – Nick Hoffman
February 7, 2020 – Curt Spalding, Jason Beaulieu, Christian Thomas, David Reutimann
February 6, 2020 – Nick Hoffman
February 5, 2020 – Kyle Strickler
February 4, 2020 – Michael Long
February 11th, 2019 — Kyle Strickler
February 11th, 2019 — Kyle Strickler
February 11th, 2019 —Lucas Lee
February 8th, 2019 — R.C. Whitwell, Justin Haley, Gordy Gundaker, Brandon Green, Jesse Rupe
February 7th, 2019 — Nick Hoffman
February 6th, 2019 — Taylor Cook
February 5th, 2019 — Michael Long
February 11th, 2018 — Kyle Strickler
February 10th, 2018 — Tyler Nicely
February 9th, 2018 — Kyle Strickler, Tyler Nicely, Frank Paladino, Larry Mott
February 8th, 2018 — Nick Hoffman
February 7th, 2018 — Nick Hoffman
February 6th, 2018 — David Stremme
February 21st, 2017 — Jacob Hawkins, Jonathan Taylor, J.E. Stalder
February 20th, 2017 — Nick Hoffman
February 19th, 2017 — Nick Hoffman
February 19th, 2017 — Will Krup
February 17th, 2017 — Nick Hoffman
February 16th, 2017 — Brian Ruhlman
February 15th, 2017 — Nick Hoffman
February 14th, 2017 — Jacob Hawkins
February 16th, 2016 — Derrick Ramey, Justin Allgaier, Ray Bollinger
February 15th, 2016 — Nick Hoffman
February 14th, 2016 — Brian Ruhlman
February 13th, 2016 — Nick Hoffman
February 12th, 2016 — Trent Young
February 11th, 2016 — Tyler Nicely
February 10th, 2016 — Nick Hoffman
February 9th, 2016 — Nick Hoffman
February 16th, 2015 — Austin Dillon
February 15th, 2015 — Austin Dillon
February 14th, 2015 — Nick Hoffman
February 13th, 2015 — Ty Dillon
February 12th, 2015 — David Stremme
February 11th, 2015 — Kyle Strickler
February 10th, 2015 — Austin Dillon
February 18th, 2014 — Ty Dillon
February 18th, 2014 — Joel Ortberg
February 17th, 2014 — Ty Dillon
February 16th, 2014 — Austin Dillon
February 15th, 2014 — Ty Dillon
February 14th, 2014 — Ty Dillon
February 13th, 2014 — Kyle Bronson
February 11th, 2014 — Kyle Strickler
February 19th, 2013 — Ty Dillon
February 19th, 2013 — Jacob Poel
February 19th, 2013 — Jason Zimmer
February 18th, 2013 — Ken Schrader
February 17th, 2013 — Matt Westfall
February 16th, 2013 — Jacob Poel
February 15th, 2013 — Nick Hoffman
February 12th, 2013 — Rodney Sanders
February 21st, 2012 — Austin Dillon
February 21st, 2012 — Mike Wedelstadt
February 21st, 2012 — Tyler Carpenter
February 20th, 2012 — Nick Hoffman
February 19th, 2012 — Kenny Wallace
February 18th, 2012 — Chad Kinder
February 17th, 2012 — Ty Dillon
February 16th, 2012 — Kenny Wallace
February 15th, 2012 — Kenny Wallace
February 14th, 2012 — Dale Mathison
February 15th, 2011 — Ty Dillon
February 15th, 2011 — Kenny Schrader
February 15th, 2011 — Austin Dillon
February 14th, 2011 — Ty Dillon
February 13th, 2011 — Clint Bowyer
February 12th, 2011 — Richie Tosh
February 11th, 2011 — Ryan Gustin
February 10th, 2011 — Clint Bowyer
February 9th, 2011 — Clint Bowyer
February 8th, 2011 — Austin Dillon
February 8th, 2010 — Jared Landers
February 7th, 2010 — Austin Dillon
February 6th, 2010 — Dave Hess, Jr.
February 4th, 2010 — David McWilliams
February 3rd, 2010 — Dave Hess, Jr.
February 10th, 2009 — Austin Dillon
February 9th, 2009 — Jared Landers
February 8th, 2009 — Jared Landers
February 7th, 2009 — Randy Hall
February 6th, 2009 — Jared Landers
February 5th, 2009 — Austin Dillon
February 4th, 2009 — Jared Landers
February 3rd, 2009 — Jared Landers
February 11th, 2008 — Dave Groves
February 10th, 2008 — Tim Hancock
February 9th, 2008 — Dave Hess, Jr.
February 8th, 2008 — Jared Landers
February 7th, 2008 — Jared Landers
February 6th, 2008 — Scott Drake
February 5th, 2008 — Jesse Stovall
February 12th, 2007 — Joey Kramer
February 11th, 2007 — Steve Arpin
February 10th, 2007 — Steve Arpin
February 9th, 2007 — Steve Arpin
February 8th, 2007 — Steve Arpin
February 7th, 2007 — Steve Arpin
February 6th, 2007 — Kenny Wallace
February 12th, 2006 – Joey Kramer
February 10th, 2006 – Duke Whiseant
February 9th, 2006 – Duke Whiseant
February 8th, 2006 – Chad Ohnsted
February 7th, 2006 – Craig Thatcher
February 6th, 2006 – Blake Jetvig
February 14th, 2005 – Joey Kramer
February 13th, 2005 – Craig Thatcher
February 12th, 2005 – Joey Kramer
February 11th, 2005 – Joey Kramer
February 10th, 2005 – Craig Thatcher
February 9th, 2005 – Steve Arpin