This past weekend, the World Short Track Championship took over The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Throughout the weekend, there was plenty of exciting racing action, but it was an incident between Kyle Strickler and David Stremme in the DIRTcar UMP Modified All-Star Invitational that left people talking.
While on-track incidents are a regular occurrence in racing, this specific incident had a much larger backstory than your ordinary tangle between two drivers.
Just two years ago, Strickler was the driver of the Lethal Chassis house car owned by Stremme. The driver and business owner experienced success together before parting ways in December 2015 with “no hard feelings,” according to Strickler at the time.
With both drivers being among the most competitive in the DIRTcar UMP Modified ranks, it is to no one’s surprise that the two have often found themselves racing hard against each other at the front of the field.
Strickler, who now drives a Longhorn Chassis, found himself locked in a three-way battle for the lead with Stremme and Taylor Cook in the Invitational race at The Dirt Track.
With Stremme riding in second, Strickler threw a slide job in turn two and put himself in front of Stremme's front bumper off the corner. Stremme pulled a crossover and pulled up next to Strickler before the two drivers made contact and Strickler’s No. 8 ended up on top of Stremme’s No. 35.
It didn’t end there. Strickler exited his car and showed his displeasure with Stremme by entering the car and physically confronting his former boss.
Speed51.com caught up with both drivers early this week to discuss their budding rivalry and the incident on Saturday evening at Charlotte.
“It has kind of been building this whole entire year,” Strickler told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “When he started his company it was Longhorn rear clips and then he was doing the front clips and everything. So now, with me driving for Longhorn, there has been a lot of fuel added to the fire where it has been a ‘him versus me’ thing. Definitely don’t want the other one to outrun each other.”
For Stremme, the incident went beyond just the two parting ways and the rivalry between chassis manufacturers.
“It really had nothing to do with us being teammates,” Stremme told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “He drove for us. And first off, I’m going to say as far as his driving talent, yeah he is really talented. As far as respecting people, he does have no respect for nobody.”
The incident on Saturday night took place in the All-Star Invitational race that was a shootout among the top drivers in the UMP Modifieds. The pressure was on and both North Carolina natives wanted to win in front of the hometown crowd.
“It really wasn’t even about the money because all three of us really wanted to win that race because we are all from around here,” Strickler began. “We wanted to go out and show all of our sponsors and supporters that we wanted to win, so I think that played into it too. I think that if it would have been anybody else besides me and Stremme, I think this whole event would have played out differently.”
Much of Strickler’s frustrations on Saturday came from the fact that he believed he had the fastest race car that night. Prior to the incident with Stremme, he had driven from the 17th starting spot into the top three.
“The race track had gone to the top where I needed to get to the top to keep going. I kind of got to him and tried to pull a slider the lap before and I wasn’t going to clear him so I lifted and gave him enough room around the top and drove down into the corner and felt like I could clear him for sure,” Strickler stated. “I drove it into the bottom hard enough to make sure that I could clear him and that’s why I jumped the cushion because I drove so hard in I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t run into him and he crossed a slide job over and we were going down the backstretch and I felt like he turned right and stuffed me in the fence for no reason. That was kind of the way I saw it and I don’t know if it was intentional or not but that point and time it sure seemed like it.”
Stremme had his own side to the story regarding what happened to cause the two drivers to tangle on the backstretch.
“Obviously, you can see there are multiple lanes with Taylor Cook and I racing side by side for seven laps or so or whatever it was. I was running the top and committed to the top and it just comes down to someone not showing me respect,” Stremme said. “When you go up and park in front of somebody and I try to pass them and they get into me a little bit, you know s--- is going to happen and that’s basically what went on.”
There was no doubt that there had been bad blood boiling between the two drivers prior to this past weekend. The way that the events unfolded was the tip of the iceberg that set both of the drivers off.
“I am usually against fighting but this was completely situational,” Strickler emphasized. “It is something I never do, but this had built up and built up."
Following his altercation on the track, he admitted he somewhat regretted how he handled the situation. However, he still felt that a point needed to be made.
“Afterwards when everything comes down to it, I wasn’t 100-percent pleased that there was a bunch of people and kids and they see me out there fighting. It’s not something that I was proud of as far as the fighting, but I also wanted everybody to know how upset I was and how passionate I am about what we do,” Strickler said. “We work way too hard to just go out there and tear up race cars especially when we were as fast as we were. I felt like it was a deliberate act against me trying to wreck us.”
For Stremme, the bad blood was far more than rubbing fenders and fixing race cars at the end of the night.
“And the thing is, there was an incident where he was drunk at Eldora; very, very drunk. He got in my face and I was pretty pissed off about it and that was from a year ago,” Stremme claimed. “I felt like I was owed an apology. He knows where my shop is at and he has never confronted me about it again. I should say I confronted him about it because I told him basically my feelings then and he knew where I stood and that was a year ago.”
Strickler didn’t deny Stremme’s allegations about the incident at Eldora but questioned the relevance to what happened on the track Saturday night.
“It happened at Eldora. We had words and it wasn’t a really big deal. It was after the races at Eldora a year ago,” Strickler admitted. “There has been bad blood between us for a while now, but I don’t know what that had to do with this situation. I don’t know how what happened after the races then has to do with this situation now. He’s trying to pull that in to make me look bad, but whatever.
“I’m not sure if it’s over or it’s going to boil over but we’re going to keep on working on our race cars to make them faster than they already are and continue to win races; something that he’s not good at.”
When asked if he felt the incident may have fueled the events that took place on the track, Stremme reiterated the idea that all he wanted was respect.
“All I ask for is to be raced with respect. I race people how they race me is basically how it is at the end of the day,” he began. “Any racer that runs that way understands that. I grew up running that way whether it was asphalt, dirt, doesn’t matter. That is basically all it boils down to. It’s not about someone being faster and at that time he had shown on Saturday that he had plenty of speed, so to make the move he did was kind of unnecessary and the way I look at it is if you’re the overtaking car, it is your responsibility to make sure that everything is done safely.”
DIRTcar officials confirmed with Speed51.com on Monday evening that the incident between the two drivers is currently being reviewed.
-By Hannah Newhouse, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com