BARBERVILLE, FL – Nick Hoffman wrestled the lead from Jacob Hawkins on lap 24 after a multi-lap side-by-side battle and paced the final six laps to win the $5,000 UMP Modified Gator Championship on night seven of the 46th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park on Monday night. The victory was the third Gator Championship triumph of Hoffman’s career and his fourth in six starts this week.
Hoffman’s teammate, Will Krup of Mount Carmel, Ill., took the lead from polesitter Taylor Cook of Stanley, NC on the opening lap of the 30-lap Feature. Fifth-starting Hawkins of Fairmont, WV quickly drove to second on lap four and then took the lead from Krup while racing against the cushion in the outside lane.
Hoffman was able to get to the back bumper of Hawkins’ No.13 on a pair of restarts at laps 12 and 16. Hawkins used the momentum of the outside lane to his advantage though and maintained the lead while Hoffman kept pace on the inside line.
The two drivers engaged in a thrilling side-by-side battle where Hoffman led at the start-finish line on lap 22 before Hawkins reclaimed the lead on lap 23 only to have it snatched away for good again on lap 24.
“I knew eventually that cushion would go away and my stuff was really good on the bottom,” Hoffman said in Victory Lane as he was presented with his $5,000 check. “I searched around just to see what I had. I married myself to the bottom again and had so much traction off the corners. He had the momentum off the top, but I could still stay with him.”
Hawkins tried both the top and the bottom grooves over the final six laps in his attempt to regain the lead, but Hoffman had already solidified his lead. At the finish line, Hoffman took the checkered flag 1.7 seconds ahead of Hawkins.
“I saw him down there and I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt a little bit now,” Hawkins said. “I should have tried the bottom down in [turns] three and four. The top was working good for me and when you get the lead up there it’s hard to get yourself to change positions on the track. I definitely think down here in three and four if I had moved down I could have held him off.”
Krup, meanwhile, was ecstatic with a podium finish after his qualifying night win on Sunday. His third-place effort along with Hoffman’s victory put two Elite Chassis cars in the top-three.
“To come out here and run with these guys and end up sharing the same podium is huge, especially to run consistently like we have all week,” Krup said. “Nick obviously is the mastermind behind everything. He’ll find out what works or vice versa.”
Rounding out the top-five were Kenny Wallace of Arnold, Mo. and Tyler Nicely of Owensboro, Ky.
“I can’t thank everybody who helped enough,” Hoffman said. “This is my third Big Gator. I knew he was going to be tough the way those track conditions were tonight.”
Billy Workman Jr. of Canby, Or. and Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, NC earned victories in the pair of B-Mains to transfer to the Gator Championship Feature with second-place finishers Mike Learman of Woodstock, Ill. and Chase Collins of Jacksonville, Fla.
Provisional starting spots were awarded to Tony Anderson of Lima, Oh. and Ernie Gingerich of Bunker Hill, Ind. based on the 2016 UMP Modified national point standings. Jason Beaulieu of Campbell River, BC and Josh Rice of Verona, Ky. gained provisional starting spots based on the 2017 DIRTcar Nationals standings.
The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds return on Tuesday for their final night of competition with a trio of 20-lap features alongside a 30-lap Feature for the DIRTcar Late Models. Additional information is available at www.dirtcarnationals.com.
-DIRTcar Press Release. Photo credit: GT Smith
A-Main – (30 Laps) – 1. 2-Nick Hoffman ; 2. 13-Jacob Hawkins ; 3. K9-Will Krup ; 4. 36-Kenny Wallace ; 5. 25-Tyler Nicely ; 6. 21C-Taylor Cook ; 7. 35-David Stremme ; 8. 3E-Robbie Eilers ; 9. 72-Todd Neiheiser ; 10. 45J-Johnny Broking ; 11. 77-Ray Bollinger ; 12. 49-Brian Ruhlman ; 13. 90-Jason Beaulieu ; 14. 33-Jeff Mathews ; 15. 8-Kyle Strickler ; 16. 28BX-Robert Garnes ; 17. 22T-Tony Anderson ; 18. 64JR-Billy Workman Jr. ; 19. 2×4-Chase Collins ; 20. 4-Mike Learman ; 21. 3L-Jeff Leka ; 22. 9G-Ernie Gingerich ; 23. 65-Josh Rice ; 24. 9-Ken Schrader ; 25. 10Y-Trent Young ; 26. 24Z-Zeke McKenzie ; 27. 54-Larry Burkins ; 28. 98F-Derek Fisher .