DELEON SPRINGS, FL — After a stellar field of 91 teams made the trip south for opening night, the car count bulged to 95 total entries at the legendary half-mile high-banked dirt oval on Night Two of the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals. Taylor Cook made the most of his first appearance of the week by passing three-time defending DIRTcar Nationals Champion Nick Hoffman on the white flag lap to secure his first career feature win in the DIRTcar Nationals.
“I knew we had a really good car, and I knew that I could hold my own line through the traffic and try to make something happen. Plus, I had the safe benefit of being behind him (Hoffman) to see what he was doing, where he was going. I knew that if it played out just right, we’d win this thing,” an emotional Cook stated in Victory Lane after climbing from his #21 High Octane Wraps & Apparel / Team Harris Auto Racing machine. “I can’t thank my family enough for this. We worked our butts off all winter. To come out on our first night of the new season and win the biggest race of my career, to win this in front of a field of cars like this, when someone like Nick finishes second, this is truly special,” the 25-year-old offered.
Perennial contenders, David Stremme and Kyle Strickler started on the front row of the massive 28-car field, and once Dave Farney’s green flag flew, the battle commenced immediately between the two rivals. It didn’t take long for something to happen; on lap two, the two battlers collided sending both up into the turn one wall. Opening night feature winner Michael Long, who was right behind the two combatants, had nowhere to go and slammed into both drivers. All three were done for the night. This gave the lead to Hoffman, who tried to immediately pull away from the rest of the field.
Brian Ruhlman, who started fourth, and Cook, who started seventh, worked their way up to the second and third spots and began chasing down the race leader, Hoffman. With five laps to go, Cook, originally from Sylvania, OH and now calling Stanley, NC home, maneuvered his way by Ruhlman and set his sights on Hoffman for the race lead. With three laps to go, Cook pulled up to Hoffman and in the midst of traffic, an epic battle ensured.
As the white flag flew, Cook dove underneath Hoffman to take the lead, but Hoffman wasn’t giving up and charged back at Cook. With the checkered flag in the air, Cook was able to put just enough real estate between himself and Hoffman to secure his first career DIRTcar Nationals feature win.
Hoffman settled for second for the second night in a row after starting fifth, taking over the DIRTcar Nationals points lead. Ruhlman finished off the podium finishers in third as Will Krup and Zeke McKenzie completed the top five. RC Whitwell finished sixth after starting 14th, while Jason Beaulieu was seventh. Lucas Lee, Curt Spalding and Allen Weisser, from 16th, finished off the final top 10.
Strickler was the fastest of 95 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds on hand with a lap measured at an 18.437 = 97.630mph and won his heat race. Krup, McKenzie, Ruhlman, Cook, Long, Strickler, Hoffman and Stremme also scored heat race triumphs while Johnny Broking, Will Long, Garret Stewart and Ryan Thomas each bagged Last Chance Showdown checkered flags.
The 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals continues for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds for the third of seven straight nights (10 Features total) on Thursday, February 7. The third $1,000 payday in three nights await the teams before their widely popular Quad-15s night on Friday, February 8. The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars presented by Mobil 1 return for their final night of competition on Thursday before the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series takes over for three nights in a row starting on Friday.
For more information about the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals and to order tickets, call: 1 (844) DIRT-TIX or log onto the event website at: dirtcarnationals.com You can also follow the DIRTcar UMP Modified portions of the DIRTcar Nationals throughout race week by visiting the DIRTcar Racing Social Media outlets. Just search for “DIRTcar Racing” on both Facebook and Twitter as well as the DIRTcar Nationals Twitter page for the very latest updates from Volusia Speedway Park and the 48th annual DIRTcar Nationals.
-DIRTcar Racing Press Release
-Photo credit: DIRTcar Racing