Modified Ace Scores Career Win in Dirt Late Model at Eldora

ROSSBURG, OH – He wasn’t a part of the original 44-man invite list. He didn’t earn one of the first four fan-vote spots either. But did Kyle Strickler ever make the most of his alternate spot in the inaugural Dirt Late Model Stream Invitational, as he put a whooping on the rest of the 48-strong DIRTcar Late Model field Thursday night at Eldora Speedway to win the first preliminary Feature of the weekend over Shane Clanton and Brandon Sheppard.

 

That Feature was the first of its kind in the long and storied 67-year history at the famed half-mile. An empty grandstand due to the mass gathering restrictions set as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On the backstretch fence hung a long mesh sign that read “We miss you! The world’s greatest race fans” – a true sign of the times and a message of appreciation to the large audience watching online from inside their homes, garages and race shops across the country.

 

And the moment Strickler excitedly climbed atop his #8 Longhorn Chassis on the prestigious Eldora stage after leading flag-to-flag, the online viewers could feel the former DIRTcar UMP Modified star’s excitement of a first-time victory at The Big E, as he energetically pumped his fists in the air and gave a loud “whoooo!” scream to the vacant bleachers.

 

“Man, I’m telling you, I’ve won a lot of Modified races, but this is a career win for me,” Strickler told broadcast pit reporter Ben Shelton in Victory Lane.

 

A solid ninth-place effort for the North Carolinian in Qualifying set him up for a runner-up finish to fast qualifier and track record holder Chris Ferguson in Heat #1. The top two from each Heat were given their qualifying times back, then faced an inversion of six to set the lineup for the 30-lap Feature.

 

This put Strickler right on the pole, where he shot out of a cannon on the initial start. He pinned the throttle and began setting a blistering pace, a full second faster per lap over second-running Michael Norris and third Shane Clanton. By the time the first caution was displayed on lap four, Strickler had over a half-straightaway advantage.

 

Under the yellow, Strickler was making no plans of slowing down his pace. He led the field back to the green and immediately went back to work, tearing up the high-banks with a best lap of 15.579 – exactly one tenth off of the time he posted in Qualifying.

 

A bit further back, Sheppard had already begun his charge to the front. Using that high-side momentum, B-Shepp had made it up to seventh by Lap 6 from his 12th-place starting spot and was able to grab third by the checkers.

 

“It was blowing a lot of crumbs across the track there at first, and I was able to run though them really good. Everybody was going to the bottom, so I was just trying to keep my speed up top and try and pick off as many as I could up there before they started moving around,” Sheppard said.

 

Meanwhile, Clanton was continuing his chase-down of leader Strickler out front. Still over four seconds ahead at the completion of Lap 10, Strickler showed no signs of slowing down. That was until Lap 12, when he got distracted coming out of Turn 2 and scraped the outside wall, damaging the sheet metal on his right-side rear decklid and spoiler.

 

“I was paying attention to my signal guy, Vinny, so much that I screwed up off of Turn 2 and got in the fence. Man, I thought I gave it away, so I barely looked at him the rest of the race. I just focused on hitting my line,” Strickler said.

 

This would have broken most rookie Late Model drivers’ concentration, especially with the pressure of leading at Eldora. But Strickler wasn’t about to let that ruin the opportunity. He recalls what happened to him while leading the 25th Dirt Late Model Dream last year, and simply wasn’t going to be denied Thursday night.

 

“I didn’t know I had that much damage. But it’s huge here. At the Dream last year, I was leading and knocked the quarter panel off it. I didn’t want to do that again,” Strickler said, looking at the banged-up right side of his car in Victory Lane.

 

Strickler was able to gather everything back in and keep his cool out front, but as the field dipped down into the final five laps, Clanton was coming fast.

 

The several-second gap Strickler maintained had been shaved down to just eight-tenths of a second by Lap 28. Clanton was smooth on the top side and was racing with everything he had left, but it just wasn’t enough to catch Strickler in the end.

 

“I could see, he was running like a dog chasing a rabbit,” Clanton said of Strickler’s wicked pace. “I don’t think he could’ve made it 100 laps up there, but it was 30 laps and he made it. Hats off to him, he drove a hell of a race.”

 

As Strickler soaked in the glory on the Eldora Victory Lane stage, a bit of last-minute reflection dawned upon him of the struggle and hard work it took he and crew chief Vinny Guliani to get to get to this position.

 

“Two weeks ago, we were ready to quit and go back Modified racing, we were struggling so bad,” Strickler said. “We’re literally a Late Model team racing on a Modified budget. This is what makes it worthwhile, when we struggle and it’s just the two of us.”

 

The Dirt Late Model Stream Invitational action continues from Eldora Speedway Friday night, as round #2 of preliminary action kicks off with Hot Laps at 6:30 Eastern. Keep it locked to the DIRTcar Racing social media channels for live updates all weekend long.

 

Qualifying
1. 22-Chris Ferguson, 15.281; 2. 76-Brandon Overton, 15.371; 3. 20-Jimmy Owens, 15.373; 4. 39-Tim McCreadie, 15.393; 5. 32p-Bobby Pierce, 15.417; 6. C9-Steve Casebolt, 15.425; 7. 25-Shane Clanton, 15.437; 8. 72-Michael Norris, 15.446; 9. 8-Kyle Strickler, 15.479; 10. 83-Scott James, 15.483; 11. 0m-Chris Madden, 15.487; 12. 7m-Donald Mcintosh, 15.531; 13. 7-Ricky Weiss, 15.544; 14. 20rt-Ricky Thornton Jr., 15.565; 15. 9-Devin Moran, 15.572; 16. 18b-Shannon Babb, 15.574; 17. 14-Josh Richards, 15.580; 18. 21jr-Billy Moyer Jr, 15.593; 19. 40b-Kyle Bronson, 15.615; 20. 1-Brandon Sheppard, 15.623; 21. 49-Jonathan Davenport, 15.656; 22. 12-Ashton Winger, 15.668; 23. 25f-Jason Feger, 15.668; 24. 50-Shanon Buckingham, 15.672; 25. 28-Dennis Erb Jr., 15.705; 26. 16-Jason Jameson, 15.712; 27. 32-Chris Simpson, 15.741; 28. 1t-Tyler Erb, 15.743; 29. 18x-Michael Page, 15.757; 30. 7r-Kent Robinson, 15.757; 31. 21-Billy Moyer, 15.762; 32. 99jr-Frank Heckenast Jr., 15.771; 33. 91-Rusty Schlenk, 15.790; 34. 95-Jerry Bowersock, 15.821; 35. 0-Scott Bloomquist, 15.828; 36. 17m-Dale McDowell, 15.882; 37. 25z-Mason Zeigler, 15.902; 38. 28c-Tyler Carpenter, 15.907; 39. 55-Jeep Van Wormer, 15.935; 40. 1p-Earl Pearson, Jr., 15.968; 41. 22s-Gregg Satterlee, 16.009; 42. 81e-Tanner English, 16.069; 43. 17-Zack Dohm, 16.082; 44. 29v-Darrell Lanigan, 16.160; 45. 0e-Rick Eckert, 16.359; 46. 18-Chase Junghans, 99.999; 47. C4-Freddie Carpenter, NT; 48. 2-Nick Hoffman, NT

Heat #1 – (10)Laps – Top 4 Transfer
1. 22-Chris Ferguson[1]; 2. 8-Kyle Strickler[3]; 3. 7-Ricky Weiss[4]; 4. 32p-Bobby Pierce[2]; 5. 49-Jonathan Davenport[6]; 6. 28-Dennis Erb Jr.[7]; 7. 14-Josh Richards[5]; 8. 18x-Michael Page[8]; 9. 25z-Mason Zeigler[10]; 10. 91-Rusty Schlenk[9]; 11. 0e-Rick Eckert[12]; 12. 22s-Gregg Satterlee[11]

Heat #2 – (10)Laps – Top 4 Transfer
1. 76-Brandon Overton[1]; 2. 20rt-Ricky Thornton Jr.[4]; 3. 83-Scott James[3]; 4. C9-Steve Casebolt[2]; 5. 18-Chase Junghans[12]; 6. 16-Jason Jameson[7]; 7. 12-Ashton Winger[6]; 8. 21jr-Billy Moyer Jr[5]; 9. 7r-Kent Robinson[8]; 10. 28c-Tyler Carpenter[10]; 11. 81e-Tanner English[11]; 12. 95-Jerry Bowersock[9]

Heat #3 – (10)Laps – Top 4 Transfer
1. 25-Shane Clanton[2]; 2. 0m-Chris Madden[3]; 3. 9-Devin Moran[4]; 4. 20-Jimmy Owens[1]; 5. 25f-Jason Feger[6]; 6. 40b-Kyle Bronson[5]; 7. 21-Billy Moyer[8]; 8. 17-Zack Dohm[11]; 9. 0-Scott Bloomquist[9]; 10. 55-Jeep Van Wormer[10]; 11. 32-Chris Simpson[7]; 12. C4-Freddie Carpenter[12]

Heat #4 – (10)Laps – Top 4 Transfer
1. 39-Tim McCreadie[1]; 2. 72-Michael Norris[2]; 3. 1-Brandon Sheppard[5]; 4. 1t-Tyler Erb[7]; 5. 18b-Shannon Babb[4]; 6. 17m-Dale McDowell[9]; 7. 99jr-Frank Heckenast Jr.[8]; 8. 50-Shanon Buckingham[6]; 9. 29v-Darrell Lanigan[11]; 10. 7m-Donald Mcintosh[3]; 11. 1p-Earl Pearson, Jr.[10]; 12. 2-Nick Hoffman[12]

B-Feature #1 – (12)Laps – Top 3 Transfer
1. 49-Jonathan Davenport[1]; 2. 28-Dennis Erb Jr.[3]; 3. 18-Chase Junghans[2]; 4. 14-Josh Richards[5]; 5. 25z-Mason Zeigler[9]; 6. 7r-Kent Robinson[10]; 7. 12-Ashton Winger[6]; 8. 22s-Gregg Satterlee[15]; 9. 0e-Rick Eckert[13]; 10. 21jr-Billy Moyer Jr[8]; 11. 81e-Tanner English[14]; 12. 16-Jason Jameson[4]; 13. 95-Jerry Bowersock[16]; 14. 18x-Michael Page[7]; 15. 91-Rusty Schlenk[11]; 16. 28c-Tyler Carpenter[12]

B-Feature #2 – (12)Laps – Top 3 Transfer
1. 17m-Dale McDowell[4]; 2. 99jr-Frank Heckenast Jr.[6]; 3. 40b-Kyle Bronson[3]; 4. 50-Shanon Buckingham[8]; 5. 17-Zack Dohm[7]; 6. 25f-Jason Feger[1]; 7. 0-Scott Bloomquist[9]; 8. 32-Chris Simpson[13]; 9. 29v-Darrell Lanigan[10]; 10. 1p-Earl Pearson, Jr.[14]; 11. 55-Jeep Van Wormer[11]; 12. 21-Billy Moyer[5]; 13. 2-Nick Hoffman[16]; 14. C4-Freddie Carpenter[15]

A-Feature – (30)Laps
1. 8-Kyle Strickler[1]; 2. 25-Shane Clanton[3]; 3. 1-Brandon Sheppard[12]; 4. 20rt-Ricky Thornton Jr.[8]; 5. 32p-Bobby Pierce[13]; 6. 0m-Chris Madden[7]; 7. 83-Scott James[10]; 8. 7-Ricky Weiss[9]; 9. 72-Michael Norris[2]; 10. 22-Chris Ferguson[6]; 11. 1t-Tyler Erb[16]; 12. 18b-Shannon Babb[18]; 13. 17m-Dale McDowell[20]; 14. 39-Tim McCreadie[4]; 15. 18-Chase Junghans[23]; 16. 9-Devin Moran[11]; 17. 28-Dennis Erb Jr.[21]; 18. 49-Jonathan Davenport[19]; 19. 99jr-Frank Heckenast Jr.[22]; 20. 40b-Kyle Bronson[24]; 21. C9-Steve Casebolt[14]; 22. 7m-Donald Mcintosh[17]; 23. 76-Brandon Overton[5]; 24. 20-Jimmy Owens[15]

DIRTcar Racing is brought to fans by many important sponsors and partners, including: Hoosier Racing Tire (Official Tire), SIS Insurance (Official Insurance Provider), VP Racing Fuels (Official Racing Fuel), Chevy Performance Parts, iRacing (Official Online Racing Game) and NAPA Auto Parts (SDS). Contingency sponsors include: ARP Automotive Racing Products (SDS), ASI Race Wear (SDS), Bicknell Racing Products, Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux, Cometic Gasket (SDS), COMP Cams (SDS), DART (SDS), Fox Shox (SDS), and Wrisco (Exclusive Racing Aluminum) (SDS); along with manufacturer sponsors, including: Beyea Headers, FireAde, Intercomp,Racing Electronics and TNT Rescue.

 

-DIRTcar Racing Press Release

-Photo credit: Paul Arch

Modified Ace Scores Career Win in Dirt Late Model at Eldora