BARBERSVILLE, Fla. – February 17, 2017 – Jason Johnson made a grand entrance into 2017 Friday night, winning the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series opener at the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals. Johnson, whose 2016 season was highlighted by a Knoxville Nationals victory, took home his first Gator and a $10,000 purse.
“Yeah, 365 days later we start the season off in the best case scenario,” said Johnson, rehashing on his team’s troubles last season. “It’s a long season, and you need to condition for it. My little [Jaxx] on FaceTime over there… he and my wife mean the world to me, and I wish he could be here for the win. [The win] is huge for our operation, for our team, for the people working on this team and for my self-confidence.”
For Johnson’s four World of Outlaws wins last season, Johnson brought his son up on stage to wave their index finger in the air symbolizing “No.1.” This time Johnson scaled the wing of his No. 41 Priority Aviation Services, LLC/ Mesilla Valley Transportation Maxim car solo, but dropped back down to high-fives and hugs from his crew. Johnson, who was involved in a horrific wreck earlier in the week, opted to withdraw from the All-Star Circuit of Champions finale Thursday night. But one day later, consistently bested 35 other cars on sprint car racing’s biggest stage.
Johnson started on the outside of the first row for the 30-lap feature event. Where he started, is where he stayed. Johnson – continuing to stay on-top of the wheel and high on the track – darted to the front within the first lap. Sweet followed Johnson to the front but from the bottom. The first of three cautions came on the third lap, when David Gravel suffered from more mechanical failures. Notably, Gravel raced nearly 80 races without blowing a motor heading into this year’s DIRTcar Nationals. The caution regrouped the field, giving Sweet the opportunity to recreate last season’s season opener with a win.
“I’ll tell you what, I really thought we were going to have something there for Jason,” Sweet said. “I had to [eventually] move to the top but Johnson set a really torrid pace out there. He did it, so hats-off to him. We have two more nights so hopefully we can end up where he is.”
Sweet swapped spots with Brian Brown throughout the race, but in the final two laps swiftly moved passed him on the front straightaway. Brown forfeited third to a red-hot Christopher Bell, who rounded-out the podium. Bell not only beat Johnson in the dash, but also set the night’s quick time with a 13.121.
“I kind of struggled on starts and restarts there,” said Bell, who led the feature field into the green flag. “Mistakes on my part for starts and restarts, but this thing is really fast. It’s a great machine to drive. Thank you Tony [Stewart] for letting me come out and have some fun.”
From the victory, Johnson leads the points championship for the first time in his career. As Sweet alluded to, Johnson’s aggressive driving style opened up the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” for him. Earlier in the program, Johnson qualified third but claimed his stake for a Gator in the third heat. His car weaved in-and-around series newcomer Brent Marks. Though he was in a transfer spot, Johnson did not let off the gas.
He went on to start fourth in the Craftsman Club Dash and finish second after yet another battle – with Brown. Brown’s uncle and crew member, 2001 Series Champion Danny Lasoski, is the most winningest sprint car driver at Volusia Speedway Park. He is scheduled to compete predominantly with the Outlaws, though it will not be full-time.
Series veteran Jason Sides set the pace early in the program, recording the quickest time in hot laps of 13.602. Sides went on to set quick-time in qualifying – putting him in position to “Double Down” as his nickname suggests – but the time only stood until Bell knocked him off with 15 drivers remaining. Ultimately, four out of the five top-qualifiers were series regulars. Three regulars finished the night in the Top-five.
Volusia Speedway Park Notebook
RACE NOTES:Jason Johnson collects his first win of the season Friday night, beating fellow series regular Brad Sweet by a 3.553-second margin. Sweet and Brian Brown battled nearly the entire 30 laps, until quick-timer Cristopher Bell made a last-minute moved to knock Brown off the podium.
CONTINGENCY WINNERS: MSD Ignitions ($25 cash): Jacob Allen; MSD Ignitions ($50 cash): Jason Johnson; Penske Shocks ($50 cash): Kerry Madsen; JE Pistons ($50 cash): Daryn Pittman; VP Racing Fuels ($50 cash): Joey Saldana; Edelbrock ($50 cash): Joey Saldana; Comp Cams ($50 cash): Joey Saldana; Morton Buildings ($50 cash): Joey Saldana; Super Flow ($50 cash): Kraig Kinser; Craftsman Club Fast Five ($100 cash): Jason Johnson, Jason Sides, Brad Sweet, Daryn Pittman, Brent Marks;Craftsman/Sears: Christopher Bell; KSE Hard Charger: Chad Kemenah; Comp Cams ($50 product certificate): Jason Johnson; JE Pistons (Set of Rings): Brent Marks; JE Pistons (Set of Rings): Jason Sides
SEASON WINNERS: Jason Johnson – 1 (Volusia Speedway Park on Feb. 17)
World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series Statistical Report; Volusia Speedway Park, Fla.; Feb. 18, 2017
BARBERVILLE, FL - February 18, 2017 - Nick Hoffman darted past Robbie Eilers on the opening lap and turned in a dominating 20-lap performance in the main event for his second UMP Modified win of the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park on Friday night.
Hoffman, a Mooresville, NC native, was perfect all night long. He turned in his second perfect night of the week after he set quick time overall in qualifying before winning his heat race and capped the night with a main event victory.
Eilers of Highland, Ill. started on the pole, but Hoffman dove past him on the bottom of the first two corners and never looked back on his way to the victory.
"Rolling out on to the track before the feature, I knew I would be pretty dialed in," Hoffman said.
"Robbie just buried it into [turn] one a little too deep and missed the bottom on the first lap. I drove by him by the center and led every lap. It was really good and after that I just made sure to hit my marks."
On lap 12, Hoffman raced his way into lapped traffic and had to negotiate slower cars. It was a short challenge though, as a caution on lap 14 granted Hoffman a clean racetrack for the final six laps.
Hoffman's teammate, Willie Krup of Mount Carmel, Ill., used the restart to take second from Eilers and then sustained the runner-up spot for his first podium finish this week.
"If I could hit the bottom without the water being out there [in turn three], we were pretty decent," Krup said. "All in all, it was a pretty good run for us. I've had a fast car all week, I just haven't gotten the good finishes yet."
Krup had one final opportunity to steal a win from his teammate when the second and final caution waved for a spin on lap 19 just before Hoffman could take the checkered flag. However, Hoffman wouldn't be denied as he drove to victory by over two seconds following the restart.
"The way it went all night, I knew if I just hit the bottom and didn't miss it, I'd be fine," Hoffman explained. "It was pretty nerve-wracking riding around during that caution thinking something might break."
Eilers maintained the third spot for his first top-five finish of the week. Rounding out the top-five were Trent Young of Crofton, Ky. and Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, WV.
"It's fun here. This is our first trip here," Eilers said. "It's Ty Dillon's old car. The car is familiar with the track, just not me. I think this is good for our first time here."
Hoffman now enters the weekend of split qualifying nights for Monday's $5,000-to-win event on a high as the only driver with a pair of Gator trophies this week.
"It's definitely a confidence booster," Hoffman said. "The biggest thing is to make sure you get through the heat race, don't run into anybody and try to keep all four tires inflated."
Krup, Eilers, Devin Dixon of Apollo Beach, Fla., Taylor Cook of Stanley, NC, and David Stremme of South Bend, Ind. were also heat race winners. Matt Crafton of Tulara, Cali., Tyler Clem of St.Petersburg, Fla. and Justin Allgaier of Riverton, Ill. claimed B-Main victories.
The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds return to action on Saturday night for the first of two qualifying nights for Monday's $5,000-to-win show. They join the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series for the second straight night. Additional event information is available at www.dirtcarnationals.com.
46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park
Ruhlman Rallies for Second Career Gator Win By Clayton Johns
BARBERVILLE, FL - February 17, 2017 - Brian Ruhlman devised a perfect plot and forced Ken Schrader from his preferred line as he engineered a pass in the outside groove with two laps to go for his first win of the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park on Thursday night.
After passing Schrader, the Clarklake, Mich. driver took the checkered flag by over two seconds for his second career Volusia win, extending his point lead in the week long chase for a Big Gator trophy.
Ruhlman started fourth in the 20-lap main event and ran second to the polesitter Schrader until he took advantage of a lap 17 restart. Ruhlman showed the nose of his No.49 to the inside of Schrader’s No.9 several times before the final restart on lap 17, which he revealed was a setup move to make the winning pass.
“Kenny’s a smart racer and he’s one of my heroes,” Ruhlman said in Victory Lane. “He was in the rubber and I had to get him out of the rubber to where I could pass him. I kept showing him the nose on the bottom so he would move down to the bottom, then I could roll the top [lane]. To say I shnookered Kenny Schrader is pretty cool.”
Schrader, a Fenton, Mo. native, earned his first top-five finish of the week, outdueling Tuesday night winner and second-place starter Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, WV in the process. Schrader shook off Ruhlman’s initial challenge, but knew he couldn’t hold him off until the checkered flag.
“I knew he was coming,” Schrader said. “We started getting slow off of [turn] two. I got to the bottom to block him, but it didn’t make any difference. He was faster. He was going around.”
Hawkins’ third-place finish was his second of the week on the podium and third straight top-10 result. He held off a trio of late-race challenges from Taylor Cook of Stanley, NC to earn the third spot.
“Once Brian got by me I knew he was going to be tough to beat,” Hawkins said. “We had a good car, but Schrader got the jump on me on the start. I could maintain with him, but the closer I got, the more it seemed the [dirty] air affected by car.”
Ruhlman’s quick time on Tuesday night and trio of heat race wins have put him at the front of the starting grid all week and have helped produce consistent results. He enters the weekend as the UMP Modified point leader after finishes of first, second and third so far this week, but the driver of the No.49 isn’t looking at the standings.
“We’re just taking it night by night. We’re so proud to have our luck go the way it has,” Ruhlman said. “It’s just me and my girlfriend, Veronica. It’s just a small team here. To hang around with Kenny Wallace, Kenny Schrader and all the people here is just really cool.”
Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, NC set quick time in group time trials for the second straight race with a lap of 18.498 seconds. Ruhlman, Schrader and Hawkins were all heat race winners along with Tony Anderson of Lima, Oh., Justin Allgaier of Riverton, Ill. and Josh Rice of Verona, Ky. Ray Bollinger of Kewanee, Ill., Chase Collins of Jacksonville, Fla. and Hoffman earned wins in the B-Mains.
The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds return to action alongside the season opener for the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series at Volusia Speedway Park for night four of the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals on Friday.
46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park
DIRTcar UMP Modified Notebook
A-Main - (20 Laps) - 1. 49 - Brian Ruhlman ; 2. 9 - Ken Schrader ; 3. 13 -Jacob Hawkins ; 4. 21C - Taylor Cook ; 5. 36 - Kenny Wallace ; 6. 2 - Nick Hoffman ; 7. 7 - Justin Allgaier ; 8. 3E - Robbie Eilers ; 9. 65 - Josh Rice ; 10. 45J - Johnny Broking ; 11. K9 - Will Krup ; 12. 64JR -Billy Workman Jr ; 13. 22T - Tony Anderson ; 14. 77 - Ray Bollinger ; 15. 25 -Tyler Nicely ; 16. 58 -Devin Dixon ; 17. 14T - Tyler Clem ; 18. 98 - Shon Flanary ; 19. 10Y - Trent Young ; 20. 3L - Jeff Leka ; 21. 72 -Todd Neiheiser ; 22. 54 - Larry Burkins ; 23. 2X4 - Chase Collins ; 24. 35 - David Stremme ; 25. 88 - Matt Crafton ; 26. 11N - Gene Nicholas ; 27. 1 - Blake Spalding ; 28. 33 - Jeff Matthews .
Gravel Completes the Outlaw Sweep Wins his first ever Gator at DIRTcar Nationals
BARBERVILLE, Fla. – February 16, 2017 – David Gravel shuts down a Donny Schatz sweep Thursday night, taking the checkers for the Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series finale at the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals. Schatz, who threatened to win his fourth All-Star show in the last five he entered, was denied the lead late despite a caution in the final laps.
“[Schatz] is the best, so you always want to beat him,” said Gravel, cradling his first Gator in the crook of him arm. “The track took rubber so I had a little bit of an advantage there early in the race. I just tried not to miss my marks, and there in lap traffic I tried to go slow to not slip a tire. I knew tire wear was going to be a problem late.”
Both Schatz and Gravel earned a Gator in the All-Star’s multi-day showing; the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series drivers not only swept the event, but also took all three podium spots in the finale. Schatz has now won an All-Star feature event at DIRTcar Nationals the past two seasons.
Nick Hoffman Records Perfect Night To Earn UMP Modified Win
Barberville, Fla. – February 16, 2017 – Nick Hoffman led every lap he raced en route to his first win of the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals in DIRTcar UMP Modified action at Volusia Speedway Park on Wednesday night. The Mooresville, N.C. driver paced all 20 laps of the main event to earn his eighth career Volusia victory.
“This will just add to my pond. I have eight of them now,” Hoffman said in Victory Lane as he received his Gator trophy. “Nothing went wrong tonight. Last night was kind of a struggle, but it was awesome tonight. I knew the racetrack was going to be in my favor tonight. I just tried to hug the infield wall and make laps as smooth as I could.”
Hoffman was flawless in the bottom groove and proved too strong even for the field of talented veterans. He held off Arnold, Mo. driver Kenny Wallace in the opening laps and David Stremme of South Bend, Ind. following the final restart of the night on lap 17.
“I knew a couple of those guys would try the top, but most of the time here you’re married to the bottom,” Hoffman said. “I knew if I hit my marks those last two laps it was going to be hard to get around me.”
Stremme was happy to earn a podium finish after starting seventh and recording a sixth-place result on Tuesday night. However, the driver of the No.35 was adamant his team can still find more speed.
“We were just a little bit off last night and we’re just going to keep working on some stuff,” Stremme said. “Hats off to Nick. He was the best car last night and tonight. We’ll keep digging. There are a lot of great cars here. We had to pass a lot to get up here.”
Clarklake, Mich. driver Brian Ruhlman was among the top-three for the second straight night. Ruhlman had to dispatch of Wallace on the final lap to earn a third-place finish.
“We went harder on tire, I think, than anybody else here,” Ruhlman explained. “We got rolling in the middle. We didn’t need that caution at the end because I think those guys were slowing down, but a top-three, we’ll take it.”
Hoffman set fast time to start the night during group time trials with a lap of 18.218 seconds, topping Ruhlman’s Tuesday fast time of 18.747 seconds around the half-mile.
Hoffman was also a heat race winner, along with Ruhlman, Wallace, Garrett Stewart of Leesburg, Fla., Blake Spalding of Lima, Oh., and Jeff Leka of Buffalo, Ill.
Will Krup of Mount Carmel, Ill., Johnny Broking of Grand Rapids, Minn. and Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, NC were winners in a trio of B-Mains. Gene Nicholas of Lowell, Ark. qualified into the main event as the fastest 4th-place finisher in the three B-Mains.
The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds return to action alongside the Arctic All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series on Thursday night as the 46th annual DIRTcar Nationals continue at Volusia Speedway Park.
46th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park
DIRTcar UMP Modifieds Complete Results
DIRTcar UMP Modifieds A-Main - [20 Laps – Starting Position in Brackets]: 1. 2 Nick Hoffman , 2. 35 David Stremme , 3. 49 Brian Ruhlman , 4. 36 Kenny Wallace , 5. 67 Garrett Stewart , 6. 90 Jason Beaulieu, 7. 13 Jacob Hawkins , 8. 9 Ken Schrader , 9. 4 Mike Learman , 10. 65 Josh Rice, 11. K9 Will Krup , 12. 2x4 Chase Collins , 13. 7 Justin Allgaier , 14. 3L Jeff Leka , 15. 98 Shon Flanary , 16. 88 Matt Crafton , 17. 21C Taylor Cook , 18. 10Y Trent Young , 19. 11N Gene Nicholas , 20. 45J Johnny Broking , 21. 77 Ray Bollinger , 22. 25 Tyler Nicely , 23. D4 Dave Jamieson , 24. 1 Blake Spalding , 25. 3E Robbie Eilers , 26. 72 Todd Neiheiser , 27. 8 Kyle Strickler , 28. 69 AJ Fike .
B-Main 1 [10 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-feature]: 1. K9 Will Krup, 2. 69 AJ Fike, 3. 77 Ray Bollinger, 4. 11N Gene Nicholas, 5. 43 Kyle Schmidt, 6. 12K Scotty Kincaid, 7. 9G Ernie Gingerich, 8. 23 Ryan Cripe, 9. 07 Jeff Thomas, 10. 2J Troy Johnson, 11. 83 Ray Ciccarelli, 12. 11T Dugan Thye, DNS. 17T Tyler Evans, 01 Jared Spalding, 25B Shawn Beasley.
B-Main 2 [10 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-feature]: 1. 45J Johnny Broking, 2. 98 Shon Flanary, 3. D4 Dave Jamieson, 4. 00 Will Norris, 5. 8A Austin Holcombe, 6. 17JE J.E. Stalder, 7. 64JR Billy Workman Jr., 8. 23G Robbie Gates, 9. 71 Jessie Hoskins, 10. 9s Slater McCray, 11. 71M Shayne Meadows, 12. 2M David Mitchell, 13. 6B Dave Baldwin, DNS. 15 Hunter Gustafson.
B-Main 3 [10 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-feature]: 1. 8 Kyle Strickler, 2. 7 Justin Allgaier, 3. 3E Robbie Eilers, 4. 5 Jonathon Taylor, 5. 54 Larry Burkins, 6. 33 Jeff Mathews, 7. 28B Jason Brookover, 8. 24Z Zeke McKenzie, 9. 89W Rick Weitekamp, 10. Z06 Larry Mott, 11. 96J Matt Johnson, 12. 6 Dylan Browning, DNS. 22T Tony Anderson, 05 David Wietholder.
Heat Race 1 [8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws]: 1. 67 Garrett Stewart, 2. 35 David Stremme, 3. 21C Taylor Cook, 4. K9 Will Krup, 5. 69 AJ Fike, 6. 11N Gene Nicholas, 7. 12K Scott Kincaid, 8. 07 Jeff Thomas, 9. 2J Troy Johnson, 10. 11T Dugan Thye, 11. 25B Shawn Beasley.
Heat Race 2 [8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws]: 1. 2 Nick Hoffman, 2. 90 Jason Beaulieu, 3. 65 Josh Rice, 4. 23 Ryan Cripe, 5. 83 Ray Ciccarelli, 6. 77 Ray Bollinger, 7. 17T Tyler Evans, 8. 01 Jared Spalding, 9. 9G Ernie Gingerich, 10. 43 Kyle Schmidt.
Heat Race 3 [8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws]:1. 49 Brian Ruhlman, 2. 9 Ken Schrader, 3. 10Y Trent Young, 4. 45J Johnny Broking, 5. D4 Dave Jamieson, 6. 17JE J.E. Stalder, 7. 8A Austin Holcombe, 8. 9S Slater McCray, 9. 2M David Mitchell, 10. 15 Hunter Gustafson.
Heat Race 4 [8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws]: 1. 1 Blake Spalding, 2. 4 Mike Learman, 3. 72 Todd Neiheiser, 4. 64JR Billy Workman Jr., 5. 98 Shon Flanery, 6. 6B Dave Baldwin, 7. 00 Will Norris, 8. 23G Robbie Gates, 9. 71M Shayne Meadows, 10. 71 Jesse Hoskins.
Heat Race 5 [8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws]: 1. 3L Jeff Leka, 2. 25 Tyler Nicely, 3. 88 Matt Crafton, 4. 3E Robbie Eilers, 5. 7 Justin Allgaier, 6. 8 Kyle Strickler, 7. 89W Rick Weitekamp, 8. 54 Larry Burkins, 9. 96J Matt Johnson.
Heat Race 6 [8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws]: 1. 36 Kenny Wallace, 2. 13 Jacob Hawkins, 3. 2x4 Chase Collins, 4. 33 Jeff Mathews, 5. 22T Tony Anderson, 6. 5 Jonathan Taylor, 7. 28B Jason Brookover, 8. 24Z Zeke McKenzie, 9. 6 Dylan Browning, 10. Z06 Larry Mott.
Qualifying Group No. 1: 1. K9 Will Krup [18.454], 2. 35 David Stremme [18.724], 3. 21c Taylor Cook [18.819], 4. 67 Garrett Stewart [18.889], 5. 69 AJ Fike [18.932], 6. 07 Jeff Thomas [18.967], 7. 25B Shawn Beasley [19.203], 8. 2J Troy Johnson [19.311], 9. 11N Gene Nicholas [19.464], 10. 12k Scott Kincaid [19.747], 11. 11T Dugan Thye [20.261].
Qualifying Group No. 2: 1. 2 Nick Hoffman [18.218], 2. 77 Ray Bollinger [19.059], 3. 90 Jason Beaulieu [19.087], 4. 65 Josh Rice [19.131], 5. 17T Tyler Evans [19.231], 6. 43 Kyle Schmidt [19.408], 7. 01 Jared Spalding [19.565], 8. 23 Ryan Cripe [19.612], 9. 83 Ray Ciccarelli [19.668], 10. 9G Ernie Gingerich [19.942].
Qualifying Group No. 3: 1. 49 Brian Ruhlman [18.477], 2. 10Y Trent Young [18.847], 3. 45J Johnny Broking [18.921], 4. 9 Ken Schrader [18.922], 5. 8A Austin Holcombe [18.928], 6. D4 Dave Jamieson [19.040], 7. 9S Slater McCray [19.076], 8. 17JE J.E. Stalder [19.117], 9. 2M David Mitchell [19.190], 10. 15 Hunter Gustafson [19.551].
Qualifying Group No. 4: 1.72 Todd Neiheiser [18.695], 2. 98 Shon Flanary [19.188], 3. 4 Mike Learman [19.245], 4. 1 Blake Spalding [19.251], 5. 64Jr Billy Workman Jr. [19.294], 6. 00 Will Norris [19.478], 7. 6B Dave Baldwin [19.610], 8. 71 Jesse Hoskins [19.617], 9. 23G Robbie Gates [19.713], 10. 71M Shayne Meadows [19.769].
Qualifying Group No. 5: 1. 7 Justin Allgaier [18.805], 2. 25 Tyler Nicely [18.892], 3. 3L Jeff Leka [18.994], 4. 88 Matt Crafton [19.043], 5. 54 Larry Burkins [19.122], 6. 3E Robbie Eilers [19.144], 7. 8 Kyle Strickler [19.398], 8. 89W Rick Weitekamp [19.878], 9. 96J Matt Johnson [21.100], 10 05 Dave Weitekamp [No Time].
Qualifying Group No. 6: 1. 36 Kenny Wallace [18.762], 2. 13 Jacob Hawkins [18.863], 3. 33 Jeff Mathews [18.899], 4. 2x4 Chase Collins [19.265], 5. 28B Jason Brookover [19.298], 6. 24Z Zeke McKenzie [19.340], 7. 5 Jonathan Taylor [19.392], 8. 22T Tony Anderson [19.652], 9. Z06 Larry Mott [19.781], 10. 6 Dylan Browning [19.815].
Donny Schatz Hoists the First Gator Trophy for Sprint Car
BARBERVILLE, Fla. – February 15, 2017 – What started out as a race between reigning series champions quickly became a race between two teammates Wednesday night, as Donny Schatz fended-off a late charge from Kyle Larson to win by a .113-second margin. Schatz, who has won three of the last four Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions races in 2017, paraded down victory lane of the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals in front of an electrified crowd.
“This should be a tribute to this race team,” said Schatz. “It’s not something that’s built over night. You work hard, and these guys work their tails off. They are a great group of guys who do an incredible job.”
Schatz shared the front row with Chad Kemenah when he led 25 cars into the 30-lap feature courtesy of winning his heat race and dash earlier in the night. He never looked back after making a pass to reclaim the lead before the halfway-point. Larson, who was a last-minute replacement for the Tony Stewart Racing team, had no previous experience on the fast-action half-mile.
There was another barn-burner earlier in the race between Jason Johnson and Joey Saldana. The two jockeyed for a podium spot; all but one spot in the top-five was owned by a series regular. Even with a horrific flip by Saldana in turn two, there were three series regulars who finished in the top-five. Both Johnson and Saldana were cleared.
Jacob Hawkins Soars to DIRTcar Nationals Opening Night Victory
By Clayton Johns
BARBERVILLE, FL - February 15, 2017 – Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, WV led all 20 laps of the DIRTcar UMP Modified feature to earn his first career Gator trophy and win at Volusia Speedway Park on night one of the DIRTcar Nationals.
Hawkins led the opening lap after starting on the outside of the front row and held off Clarklake, MI-native Brian Ruhlman over the final 10 laps to earn his spot in Victory Lane. Hawkins attributed his success to car owner Junior Nolan who has accompanied him there to Florida Florida in search of a Gator over the last 12 years.
“It hasn’t been from lack of effort,” said Hawkins. “Junior’s given me good equipment every time. It takes a lot of luck down here. There’s so many good cars, you get to run with guys like Ken Schrader, Kenny Wallace and the top talent in the Modifieds. It’s a great feeling [to win],”
Hawkins said. Hawkins overcame a lap 12 restart but had to deal with Ruhlman until the final corner. Ruhlman had the advantage in turn two, but Hawkins had an answer for the driver of the No.49 off turn four.
“I had something for him down in [turn] one and two, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with them down [in three and four]. I was hoping I could make him make a mistake, but I think he knows I’ll always leave him a lane,”Ruhlman said following his runner-up finish.
Arnold, MO driver Kenny Wallace raced his way to a podium finish after starting ninth and was content to finish third behind Hawkins and Ruhlman, he said.
“It was a great job by my team. This is a brand new car. We just unloaded it today,” Wallace said. “We learned some adjustments to make tonight, but when you have Jacob Hawkins and Brian Ruhlman, these are two of the best the United States has to offer. They’re fast.”
Earlier in the night, Ruhlman set fast time in qualifying time trials with a lap of 18.747 seconds around the half-mile Volusia oval. He was also a heat race winner along with Hawkins, Will Krup, Jeff Leka, Ray Bollinger and Scott Kincaid.
Reigning DIRTcar UMP Modified DIRTcar Nationals champion Nick Hoffman raced his way into the 20-lap feature from the first Last Chance Showdown. Contact in Hoffman’s heat race forced him to battle his way in to the show through the back door, but did so in convincing fashion as he advanced from 13th to win. Billy Workman Jr. of Canbury, OH and Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, NC both won Last Chance Showdowns from the pole starting position.
The UMP Modifieds return to action on Wednesday alongside the Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions for night two of the DIRTcar Nationals.
DIRTcar UMP Modifieds A-Feature - [20 Laps]: 1. Jacob Hawkins ; 2. Brian Ruhlman ; 3. Kenny Wallace ; 4. Will Krup ; 5. Todd Neiheiser ; 6. David Stremme ; 7. Ray Bollinger ; 8. Justin Allgaier ; 9. Jason Beaulieu ; 10. Trent Young ; 11. Jeff Leka ; 12. Nick Hoffman ; 13. Tyler Evans ; 14. Kyle Strickler ; 15. Johnny Broking ; 16. Scotty Kincaid ; 17. Jonathon Taylor ; 18. Tony Anderson ; 19. Hunter Gustafson ; 20. Billy Workman Jr ; 21. Larry Burkins ; 22. Austin Holcombe ; 23. Jason Brookover ; 24. Kyle Schmidt .
B-Main 1 (10 Laps – Top 2 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. Nick Hoffman (Mooresville, NC), 2. Jonathon Taylor (Saltsburg, PA), 3. J.E. Stalder (Martins Ferry, OH), 4. Shon Flanary (Surgoinsville, TN), 5. Chase Collins (Jacksonville, FL), 6. Robbie Eilers (Highland, IL), 7. Will Norris (Lima, OH), 8. Blake Spaulding (Lima, OH), 9. Matt Johnson (Jenson Beach, FL), 10. Matt Crafton (Mooresville, NC), 11. William Moores (Ostern, FL), 12. Robbie Evans (Mineral Wells, WV), 13. Tyler Nicely (Owensboro, KY), 14. Josh Rice (Verona, KY),
B-Main 2 (10 Laps – Top 2 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. Billy Workman Jr (Mooresville, NC), 2. Austin Holcombe (Elm City, NC), 3. Ryan Cripe (North Manchester, IN), 4. Jared Spaulding (Ima, OH), 5. Slater McCray (Mooresville, NC), 6. David Mitchell (Robards, KY), 7. Dugan Thye (Burlington, IA), 8. Ray Ciccrelli (Reistertown, MD), 9. Shayne Meadows (Lima, OH), 10. Rick Weitekamp (Springfield, IL), 11. Dave Jamison (Peebles, OH), 12. Jessie Hoskins (Longdale, OK), 13. David Wietholder (Liberty, IL), 14. Bob Broking (Grand Rapids, MN),
B-Main 3 (10 Laps – Top 2 finishers transfer to the A-feature): 1. Kyle Strickler (Mooresville, NC), 2. Justin Allgaier (Springfield, IL), 3. A.J. Fike (Galesburg, IL), 4. Garrett Stewart (Leesburg, FL), 5. Zeke McKenzie (Claypool, IN), 6. Mike Learman (Woodstock, IL), 7. Ken Schrader (Concord, NC), 8. Troy Johnson (Sugargrove, PA), 9. Dave Baldwin (Perrysville, IN), 10. Gene Nicholas (Lowell, AR), 11. Paul Shead (Deland, FL), 12. Larry Mott (Leesburg, FL), 13. Ernie Gingerich (Bunker Hill, IN), 14. Jeff Thomas (Petaluma, CA),
Heat Race 1(8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws): 1. Will Krup (Mt Carmel, IL), 2. Todd Neiheiser (Panama City, FL), 3. David Stremme (Mooresville, NC), 4. Will Norris (Lima, OH), 5. J.E. Stalder (Martins Ferry, OH), 6. Shon Flanary (Surgoinsville, TN), 7. William Moores (Ostern, FL), 8. Matt Johnson (Jenson Beach, FL), 9. Josh Rice (Verona, KY), 10. Nick Hoffman (Mooresville, NC),
Heat Race 2 (8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws) : 1. Jeff Leka (Buffalo, IL), 2. Trent Young (Crofton, KY), 3. Jason Brookover (Washington, WV), 4. Jonathon Taylor (Saltsburg, PA), 5. Chase Collins (Jacksonville, FL), 6. Robbie Eilers (Highland, IL), 7. Robbie Evans (Mineral Wells, WV), 8. Matt Crafton (Mooresville, NC), 9. Blake Spaulding (Lima, OH), 10. Tyler Nicely (Owensboro, KY),
Heat Race 3 (8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws): 1. Jacob Hawkins (Fairmont, WV), 2. Kenny Wallace (Imperial, MO), 3. Larry Burkins (St. Augustine, FL), 4. Billy Workman Jr (Mooresville, NC), 5. Jared Spaulding (Ima, OH), 6. Slater McCray (Mooresville, NC), 7. David Mitchell (Robards, KY), 8. Jessie Hoskins (Longdale, OK), 9. David Wietholder (Liberty, IL), 10. Dave Jamison (Peebles, OH),
Heat Race 4 (8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws) : 1. Brian Ruhlman (Clarklake, MI), 2. Kyle Schmidt (Farmington, AR), 3. Hunter Gustafson (Howey, FL), 4. Ryan Cripe (North Manchester, IN), 5. Austin Holcombe (Elm City, NC), 6. Dugan Thye (Burlington, IA), 7. Shayne Meadows (Lima, OH), 8. Rick Weitekamp (Springfield, IL), 9. Ray Ciccrelli (Reistertown, MD), 10. Bob Broking (Grand Rapids, MN),
Heat Race 5 (8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws) : 1. Ray Bollinger (Kewanee, IL), 2. Tyler Evans (Mineral Wells, WV), 3. Johnny Broking (Grand Rapids, MN), 4. Kyle Strickler (Mooresville, NC), 5. Justin Allgaier (Springfield, IL), 6. Mike Learman (Woodstock, IL), 7. Troy Johnson (Sugargrove, PA), 8. Gene Nicholas (Lowell, AR), 9. Ernie Gingerich (Bunker Hill, IN), 10. Ken Schrader (Concord, NC),
Heat Race 6 (8 Laps – Top 3 finishers transfer to the A-Feature; Winner redraws) : 1. Scotty Kincaid (Rising Sun, IN), 2. Jason Beaulieu (Campbell River, BC), 3. Tony Anderson (Lima, OH), 4. Garrett Stewart (Leesburg, FL), 5. A.J. Fike (Galesburg, IL), 6. Zeke McKenzie (Claypool, IN), 7. Dave Baldwin (Perrysville, IN), 8. Larry Mott (Leesburg, FL), 9. Paul Shead (Deland, FL), 10. Jeff Thomas (Petaluma, CA),
Qualifying Group No. 1: 1. Nick Hoffman [19.450]; 2. Todd Neiheiser [19.632]; 3. Will Krup [19.743]; 4. David Stremme [20.227]; 5. Josh Rice [20.271]; 6. J.E. Stalder [20.353]; 7. Will Norris [20.408]; 8. Shon Flanary [20.461]; 9. William Moores [20.757]; 10. Matt Johnson [22.822].
Qualifying Group No. 2: 1. Jonathon Taylor [19.385]; 2. Tyler Nicely [19.535]; 3. Trent Young [19.909]; 4. Jeff Leka [19.957]; 5. Jason Brookover [19.968]; 6. Robbie Eilers [20.124]; 7. Matt Crafton [20.199]; 8. Robbie Evans [20.237]; 9. Blake Spaulding [20.354]; 10. Chase Collins [20.511].
Qualifying Group No. 3: 1. Kenny Wallace [19.084]; 2. Jacob Hawkins 19.194]; 3. David Wietholder [19.702]; 4. Dave Jamison [19.839]; 5. Billy Workman Jr [19.921]; 6. Larry Burkins [20.141]; 7. Slater McCray [20.286]; 8. Jessie Hoskins [20.350]; 9. Jared Spaulding [20.423]; 10. David Mitchell [20.879].
Qualifying Group No. 4: 1. Brian Ruhlman [18.747], 2. Bob Broking [19.390], 3. Kyle Schmidt [19.836], 4. Hunter Gustafson [20.151], 5. Ryan Cripe [20.220], 6. Austin Holcombe [20.231], 7. Shayne Meadows [20.258], 8. Dugan Thye [20.710], 9. Ray Ciccrelli [20.769], 10. Rick Weitekamp [21.293]
Qualifying Group No. 5: 1. Kyle Strickler [18.817], 2. Tyler Evans [18.921], 3. Johnny Broking [18.990], 4. Ray Bollinger [19.211], 5. Mike Learman [19.258], 6. Ken Schrader [19.485], 7. Troy Johnson [19.604], 8. Justin Allgaier [19.612], 9. Gene Nicholas [20.394], 10. Ernie Gingerich [20.415]
Qualifying Group No. 6: 1. Jason Beaulieu [18.791], 2. Zeke McKenzie [18.864], 3. Tony Anderson [19.259], 4. Scotty Kincaid [19.309], 5. A.J. Fike [19.311], 6. Paul Shead [19.337], 7. Dave Baldwin [19.490], 8. Garrett Stewart [19.558], 9. Larry Mott [20.113], 10. Jeff Thomas [DNF]
Juggling Act: Chassis Builders Set For DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified Competition at Volusia
By Clayton Johns
If eight consecutive nights of racing sounds challenging, it is. Four DIRTcar UMP Modified drivers are adding another layer to that task when they compete at the 46th DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, FL from February 14-25, 2017.
David Stremme, Nick Hoffman, David Reutimann and Brian Ruhlman are gearing up to tackle eight straight nights at Volusia, but all four drivers are also chassis builders. They’ll not only be focused on their own equipment, but also on as many as a dozen others competing in cars they’ve fabricated.
Stremme, who enters his third season operating Lethal Chassis in Mooresville, NC, anticipates he’ll have up to 13 customers racing at Volusia. Organizing for a trip of this length, with customer service and maintenance in mind, is a challenging task, but one Stremme’s ready to tackle.
“I’ve always been a planning and scheduling type person,” Stremme said. “I would say we’re prepared as much as we think we need to be, but I don’t think you’re ever prepared [enough]. I’ll bring a whole other trailer with stuff for our customers.”
Nick Hoffman, the two-time defending DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified champion, is also based in Mooresville as the builder of Elite Chassis. Now in its fifth year, Hoffman and his team are currently building their 65th car and expect as many as seven clients to compete at Volusia. Countless hours of preparation have gone into the offseason to make sure he can service his teams as needed in the Sunshine State.
“It’s the biggest thing for me. If we have seven cars down there, I have to have stuff for myself but I’ll also bring 10-15 bumpers and I’ll have my trailer packed front to back and all the way to the top with tires and body panels,” Hoffman explained. “It’s a lot of preparation to get stuff built and stocked up for this.”
David Reutimann, the owner of Beak Built chassis in North Carolina, knows that space in the trailer is always at a premium. Regardless, he’ll find a way to meet his customers’ needs.
“You’ll have some guys say ‘while you’re coming down, how about you bring us four or five bumpers’. Sometimes it’s a bit of a juggling act to get everything in there,” Reutimann said.
Clarklake, Mich. native Brian Ruhlman, the owner and builder of Ruhlman Racecars, is also knee-deep in his planning. Ruhlman also expects to have a handful of competitors driving equipment with his stamp at the DIRTcar Nationals. Last year, he found Victory Lane at Volusia for the first time and knows another successful trip south is the best publicity available.
“For us, it’s more of a marketing deal in order to keep yourself relevant. If you go down there and run well or win races, that kind of makes you relevant within the market for the year,” Ruhlman explained.
In theory, it seems like a stressful operation, but only until the cars are loaded and out of the shop. Then, its time to race, relax and enjoy a reunion of sorts amongst customers, who often become good friends.
“Our customer base is really spread out, which is a good thing for us. I’ve got guys all over the place and everybody kind of congregates down there because that’s the only thing going on. It’s nice to see them face-to-face,” Ruhlman said.
There’s an added benefit to the rare opportunity to learn and converse with customers in person.
“The approach I take, with all of our customers, they get exactly what we’re running, unless we’re working on something new,” Ruhlman said. “Being an engineer, it’s a lot easier to explain the why. Here’s what it does, here’s why it does it and here’s how to manage it.”
Stremme echoed a similar sentiment, but highlighted the DIRTcar Nationals are more than a business trip.
“I’ll be honest, when I get to the track, that’s my de-stress time. You work so hard in the shop to do all this stuff, but when you go there and you can see a customer run well, that result is what’s refreshing from the work in the shop,” Stremme said.
“The biggest thing is I pretty much get along with all my customers really well. We’re all a bunch of buddies,” Hoffman said. “We try to treat it like a vacation as much as we can. That’s what makes it different from any other race the rest of the year.”
It doesn’t mean competitive spirit is thrown out the window. Each of these drivers knows there’s plenty of prestige associated with a Gator trophy.
“My main thing is I want to win, but I want my customers to win too. I want them to run as well as I do and we try to give it everything we’ve got,” Stremme said.
The DIRTcar Nationals are also a measuring stick for a number of drivers who hope to reach Victory Lane throughout the season.
“Pretty much anybody that’s anybody in the Modified world is there racing. You can win at a local racetrack on any given level and feel like you’re in pretty good shape, but then you’ll go to a place like Volusia and realize how far you’re off,” Reutimann said. “Sometimes it’s a reality check.”
“We get to race against some cars that we don’t get to race against for the rest of the year,” Hoffman said. “I think it improves your whole program for the rest of the year racing against that competition level.”
The historic DIRTcar Nationals is the most accessible motorsports event during the Florida in February jaunt. Every ticket is a pit pass, so fans can get up close and personal to all the action. Fans will be able to meet their favorite drivers from each of the competing series below.
The 2017 DIRTcar UMP Modified season gets underway for drivers from across the United States and Canada this month in the Sunshine State. The annual Florida Tour takes drivers to three different Florida tracks this month, culminating in eight straight nights of competition at the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.
Following four nights at North Florida Raceway and another four at East Bay Raceway Park, UMP Modified drivers have converged on Volusia for a shot at the Big Gator trophy as DIRTcar Nationals champion, and there’s no shortage of heavy-hitters seeking one of racing’s most unique prizes.
Over the past five editions of the DIRTcar Nationals, two drivers have dominated the highly competitive division at Volusia. Since 2012, Nick Hoffman and Ty Dillon have each found victory lane seven times. Both drivers have claimed the Big Gator trophy twice during the same time period, with Hoffman earning the title in each of the past two seasons.
Austin Dillon is third on the wins list at Volusia over the past five seasons with five, while former NASCAR regular Kenny Wallace has made the DIRTcar UMP Modified division his home over the last decade. He is the only other driver with multiple wins at Volusia since 2012, with three. A total 19 other drivers have a single victory.
Big Gator Hopefuls
Crofton, KY native Trent Young is among the top contenders to steal the Big Gator from Hoffman’s grasp. Young finished third in the UMP Modified national standings and won the Deep South and South Regions in 2016. Young claimed a victory while finishing sixth in the overall points chase at last year’s DIRTcar Nationals.
Ray Bollinger of Kewanee, Ill. also earned his first Gator trophy with a win at last year’s DIRTcar Nationals. Bollinger was one of the busiest UMP Modified drivers in the country last season with over 80 starts to his name and will begin a new campaign in Florida once again. Bollinger finished the 2016 season sixth in national points and third in the Summit Modified Nationals last summer.
Clarklake, MI driver Brian Ruhlman hopes to find Victory Lane for the second-straight season at Volusia. Ruhlman scored his first career Volusia win last February when he held off perennial contender Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, WV and Austin Dillon.
Hawkins, should he make his third straight trip to Volusia, will also be a tough customer. He’ll benefit from some leftover momentum from his DIRTcar Fall Nationals win last October at Eldora Speedway against over 100 of the division’s best.
NASCAR Talent Returns to Roots
A number of current and former NASCAR national series drivers return to their short track roots in the DIRTcar UMP Modified division during February when the racing world has its focus on Florida. In addition to Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader is a tough challenger in a Modified who earned a Big Gator trophy most recently in 2013 and claimed four DIRTcar UMP Modified victories last year.
David Stremme is also on the list of confirmed entrants for the DIRTcar Nationals. Stremme scored a Volusia win in 2015 and has jumped into the Modified world with both feet as the builder of Lethal Chassis. NASCAR XFINITY Series wheelman Justin Allgaier will compete as well and looks to pick up a checkered flag for the second season in a row. Allgaier earned a win in one of three Triple 20s on the final night of action at last year’s event.
With an all-star roster set to tackle the DIRTcar Nationals again this year, fans can expect the same level of competition that has brought them 23 different winners over the last five seasons.
Visit www.DIRTcar.com for the latest news and information surrounding the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.