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Ruhlman, Thomas, Nicely, Ward, Stremme, Krup Open 53rd DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia




BARBERVILLE, FL (Feb. 5, 2024) – In a packed pit area of 113 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, six drivers found Victory Lane to open the 53rd running of Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park Monday night.

 

Brian Ruhlman, Mitch Thomas, Tyler Nicely, Tim Ward, David Stremme and Will Krup each began their week on the right foot, capturing the checkered flag in their respective 20-lap Features and earning the maximum 80 points toward both the event championship standings and UMP Modified Florida Speedweeks.

 

Feature #1 – Brian Ruhlman

For the first time in almost seven years, Brian Ruhlman is a DIRTcar Nationals Feature winner after dominating the first Feature of the 53rd DIRTcar Nationals.

 

And wouldn’t you know it, the 53-year-old racing veteran had just pulled the car out from hibernation.

 

“We kinda figured this deal out right at the end of last year,” Ruhlman said. “It literally sat on jack stands all winter. Changed the oil in it last week, wiped the dust off of it. It’s still got last year’s body on it; I think we put one panel on it. If it’s working good, we don’t change it.”

 

Ruhlman, of Clarklake, MI, was strong all night long, turning the fastest lap of all 113 cars in Qualifying before starting the first 20-lap Feature from the pole. At the drop of the green, Ruhlman asserted his dominance early, jumping to the top spot and controlling the pace right away.

 

He held strong through multiple restarts and was not shy about showing his speed, crossing the finish line over two seconds ahead of runner-up Clayton Bryant.

 

“It’s what we always hope for,” Ruhlman said. “We get to come down with something this balanced and just hope to keep luck on your side.”

 

Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 49-Brian Ruhlman[1]; 2. 114B-Clayton Bryant[2]; 3. 27-Michael Turner[5]; 4. 77-Ray Bollinger[7]; 5. 17T-Tyler Evans[3]; 6. 7D-Brad Deyoung[12]; 7. 51-Dalton Lanich[11]; 8. 57-Charlie Sandercock[4]; 9. 5B-Bobby Bagley[13]; 10. 12-Robert Gast[10]; 11. 77S-Jim Shipman[16]; 12. 25B-Greg Belyea[8]; 13. 11Z-Zane Oedewaldt[15]; 14. 23-Jerol Stepp[18]; 15. 97G-Jason Crose[17]; 16. 1S-Brian Shaw[9]; 17. 43A-Mark Anderson[6]; 18. 95J-Justin Cullum[14]; 19. M12-Chris Meyer[19]

 

Qualifying Group 1 (3 Laps): 1. 49-Brian Ruhlman, 00:17.301[4]; 2. 114B-Clayton Bryant, 00:17.978[14]; 3. 17T-Tyler Evans, 00:17.999[17]; 4. 57-Charlie Sandercock, 00:18.055[2]; 5. 27-Michael Turner, 00:18.150[12]; 6. 43A-Mark Anderson, 00:18.153[19]; 7. 77-Ray Bollinger, 00:18.267[10]; 8. 25B-Greg Belyea, 00:18.283[1]; 9. 1S-Brian Shaw, 00:18.288[11]; 10. 12-Robert Gast, 00:18.323[16]; 11. 51-Dalton Lanich, 00:18.595[15]; 12. 7D-Brad Deyoung, 00:18.644[18]; 13. 5B-Bobby Bagley, 00:18.764[8]; 14. 95J-Justin Cullum, 00:18.780[3]; 15. 11Z-Zane Oedewaldt, 00:18.900[9]; 16. 77S-Jim Shipman, 00:19.325[5]; 17. 97G-Jason Crose, 00:22.429[13]; 18. 23-Jerol Stepp, 00:25.494[6]; 19. M12-Chris Meyer, 00:27.774[7]

 



Feature #2 – Mitch Thomas

Putting on one of the most dominant displays seen in Monday’s program, Mitch Thomas wheeled his brand-new Elite Chassis #97 to his second career gator trophy on the back of what was, at one point, a six-second lead in the second Feature event of the night.

 

Thomas said his speed was largely due in part to the new equipment testing he did in Georgia last week.

 

“This car’s brand-new; it’s the first 25 laps ever on the car,” Thomas said. “We had my backup car there and my new car; we tested them both. I told Matt, I said, ‘I like this car a little bit better.’

 

“The front-end’s better, and the FOX (Factory shocks) package we had – we tested four or five different shocks and really balanced out where the car worked the best with the front-end and the steering. I definitely think that’s how we won that gator is by doing that testing.”

 

During the 13-lap, green-flag stretch the race had after taking the green, Thomas had expanded his lead out to over six full seconds as he worked through lapped traffic. The 18-year-old from Oakland, MD, went the 20-lap distance unchallenged, taking heed from the driver who had won only minutes before he – Brian Ruhlman.

 

“By watching him, as good of a racecar driver as he is, I learned a lot,” Thomas said. “So when I rolled on the racetrack, that first lap – I made it really count to get that lead. I had the options if I was in out front in clean air that I could move around to make the car better if I needed it to be.

 

“Watching them guys and the old veterans like that, talking to Nick Hoffman – it’ll make you good in a racecar before even sitting in it.”

 

Feature 2 (20 Laps): 1. 97-Mitch Thomas[1]; 2. 777-Trevor Neville[5]; 3. 36-Kenny Wallace[9]; 4. 60-Shannon Fisk[4]; 5. 17N-Dillon Nusbaum[6]; 6. 5CS-Curt Spalding[8]; 7. 24-Zeke McKenzie[7]; 8. 28B-Jason Brookover[10]; 9. 91-Chris Beaulieu[2]; 10. 8M-Gregory Moore[3]; 11. 82-Gary Dillon[11]; 12. 11W-James Whittredge[19]; 13. E85-Jesse Strange[13]; 14. 5-Jonathan Taylor[12]; 15. 88-Nicholas Byrd[16]; 16. 187-Tyler Wiles[17]; 17. 07K-Curtis King[15]; 18. 57M-Fletcher Mason[14]; 19. N8-Nathan Huffingham[18]

 

Qualifying Group 2 (3 Laps): 1. 97-Mitch Thomas, 00:17.322[16]; 2. 91-Chris Beaulieu, 00:17.725[11]; 3. 8M-Gregory Moore, 00:17.834[7]; 4. 60-Shannon Fisk, 00:17.873[1]; 5. 777-Trevor Neville, 00:17.908[9]; 6. 17N-Dillon Nusbaum, 00:17.972[14]; 7. 24-Zeke McKenzie, 00:17.991[15]; 8. 5CS-Curt Spalding, 00:18.024[3]; 9. 36-Kenny Wallace, 00:18.028[5]; 10. 28B-Jason Brookover, 00:18.154[10]; 11. 82-Gary Dillon, 00:18.188[17]; 12. 5-Jonathan Taylor, 00:18.427[12]; 13. E85-Jesse Strange, 00:18.816[2]; 14. 57M-Fletcher Mason, 00:18.967[18]; 15. 07K-Curtis King, 00:19.031[8]; 16. 88-Nicholas Byrd, 00:19.406[19]; 17. 187-Tyler Wiles, 00:19.974[6]; 18. N8-Nathan Huffingham, 00:19.974[4]; 19. 11W-James Whittredge, 00:19.974[13]




 

Feature #3 – Tyler Nicely

In Monday’s only caution-free Feature, Tyler Nicely showed he’ll be every bit as difficult to beat at DIRTcar Nationals as he was one year ago.

 

Nicely, the reigning DIRTcar UMP Modified national points champion from Owensboro, KY, won three Features during the week at Volusia last year and continued that precedence with a flag-to-flag victory to begin the week.

 

“This is a brand-new car, so any time you can bring a new car out first race and win, it feels good,” Nicely said. “Car feels really good until we get into dirty air with lapped traffic, so we’ll work on that a little bit tonight and just get ready for tomorrow.”

 

Though he went largely unchallenged, Nicely was able to collect some notes for things to work on during the week.

 

“Whenever we get to lapped traffic, I kinda slowed down to their pace,” Nicely said. “Saturday for the big race, you’re not going to be able to do that. We’ll work on that a little bit.”

 

His eighth career gator trophy moves him up the ranks on the all-time DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified wins list, now tied for fifth with 2009 Big Gator points champion Jared Landers.

 

Feature 3 (20 Laps): 1. 25-Tyler Nicely[2]; 2. 12L-Lucas Lee[4]; 3. 21CZ-Cole Czarneski[1]; 4. 19-Dustin Sorensen[5]; 5. 13-Charlie Mefford[6]; 6. 18K-Brandon Kinzer[7]; 7. 9-Ken Schrader[3]; 8. 114-Jordan Koehler[8]; 9. 88C-Matt Crafton[9]; 10. 6-Ryan Ayers[11]; 11. 72-Todd Neiheiser[12]; 12. 4-Mike Learman[10]; 13. 26-Ryan Gierke[15]; 14. 0S-Glenn Styres[14]; 15. 3D-Makayla Tyrrell[17]; 16. 4UW-Bobby Regot[16]; 17. 0-Dylan Murray[19]; 18. 59-Doug Stine[18]; 19. 27G-Jason Garver[13]

 

Qualifying Group 3 (3 Laps): 1. 21CZ-Cole Czarneski, 00:17.617[5]; 2. 25-Tyler Nicely, 00:17.668[3]; 3. 9-Ken Schrader, 00:17.807[1]; 4. 12L-Lucas Lee, 00:17.838[6]; 5. 19-Dustin Sorensen, 00:17.871[17]; 6. 13-Charlie Mefford, 00:17.890[19]; 7. 18K-Brandon Kinzer, 00:17.948[14]; 8. 114-Jordan Koehler, 00:18.004[12]; 9. 88C-Matt Crafton, 00:18.070[4]; 10. 4-Mike Learman, 00:18.256[9]; 11. 6-Ryan Ayers, 00:18.280[10]; 12. 72-Todd Neiheiser, 00:18.325[13]; 13. 27G-Jason Garver, 00:18.355[8]; 14. 0S-Glenn Styres, 00:18.430[2]; 15. 26-Ryan Gierke, 00:18.522[11]; 16. 4UW-Bobby Regot, 00:18.821[18]; 17. 3D-Makayla Tyrrell, 00:18.971[16]; 18. 59-Doug Stine, 00:19.648[15]; 19. 0-Dylan Murray, 00:20.532[7]

 



Feature #4 – Tim Ward

Coming from sixth on the grid, Iowa driver Tim Ward won his first career gator trophy from the furthest back on the starting grid of any driver.

 

After a quick caution flag on Lap 5, Ward restarted from the fourth position and executed one of the biggest moves of the night, ripping the top side of the half-mile oval and jumping from fourth to the lead in a single lap.

 

“I had a bad initial start, luckily a yellow came out at the beginning,” Ward said. “I ended up starting sixth and got to fourth on the restart and was able to kinda start on the outside. I just blasted in there around the leader and took off and was able to kinda momentum around the track. It worked out.”

 

From there, Ward held the lead through traffic and even through a green-white-checkered finish at the end to secure his first-ever DIRTcar Nationals win.

 

“This deal is so tough,” Ward said. “We were here last year and it was tough just to run top-five, let alone a gator. We’re super excited, and we’ve worked really hard this week-and-a-half getting two cars ready.”

 

Feature 4 (20 Laps): 1. 4TW-Tim Ward[6]; 2. 95-Michael Altobelli[1]; 3. 2T-Ty Norder[4]; 4. 1-Randy Giroux[10]; 5. 07-Eric Moon[8]; 6. 463-Daniel Sanchez[13]; 7. 21-Scott Ladner[5]; 8. 3-Josh Sanford[7]; 9. 54-Zachary Hawk[12]; 10. 11M-Michael McGee[16]; 11. 32-Chad Roush[15]; 12. 77C-Jason Cox[19]; 13. 33-Kenny Mihalik[18]; 14. 18-Miles Beaulieu[17]; 15. 4S-Craig Shaw[11]; 16. 12M-John McClure[14]; 17. 05-Dave Wietholder[2]; 18. 21C-Drew Charlson[3]; 19. M20-Mike Potosky[9]

 

Qualifying Group 4 (3 Laps): 1. 95-Michael Altobelli, 00:17.764[17]; 2. 05-Dave Wietholder, 00:17.974[10]; 3. 21C-Drew Charlson, 00:17.976[3]; 4. 2T-Ty Norder, 00:18.020[2]; 5. 21-Scott Ladner, 00:18.122[13]; 6. 4TW-Tim Ward, 00:18.162[6]; 7. 3-Josh Sanford, 00:18.177[19]; 8. 07-Eric Moon, 00:18.251[8]; 9. M20-Mike Potosky, 00:18.325[15]; 10. 1-Randy Giroux, 00:18.335[9]; 11. 4S-Craig Shaw, 00:18.441[12]; 12. 54-Zachary Hawk, 00:18.457[11]; 13. 463-Daniel Sanchez, 00:18.512[7]; 14. 12M-John McClure, 00:18.539[5]; 15. 32-Chad Roush, 00:18.721[18]; 16. 11M-Michael McGee, 00:18.871[14]; 17. 18-Miles Beaulieu, 00:18.956[16]; 18. 33-Kenny Mihalik, 00:19.076[4]; 19. 77C-Jason Cox, 00:19.638[1]

 



Feature #5 – David Stremme

Gator trophies are earned, not given out, and David Stremme was forced to work for his fifth one Monday night.

 

After jumping out to the early lead, Stremme held the top spot into the final laps of Feature #5 but had Iowa racer Tom Berry Jr. reeling him in. With three laps-to-go, Berry looked to the outside of Stremme and pried the spot from his grasp at the start/finish line, but Stremme wouldn’t lie down. He threw a slidejob in Turns 1-2 as Berry jumped the cushion, took the spot back and led the final two laps.

 

“I was just too conservative; I ran around that bottom too long and I should’ve just been up in the middle and the top,” Stremme said. “My car’s really good, I’m happy with it, we can work on some stuff.”

 

Feature 5 (20 Laps): 1. 35-David Stremme[1]; 2. 11X-Tom Berry Jr[2]; 3. 18L-Michael Long[5]; 4. 10Y-Trent Young[6]; 5. 7T-Evan Taylor[9]; 6. 96M-Mike McKinney[4]; 7. 99G-Mark Grosvenor[10]; 8. 21B-Hunter Breland[8]; 9. 2J-Troy Johnson[11]; 10. 01-Brayden Weller[17]; 11. 00B-Buzzie Reutimann[15]; 12. 17-Rob Pitcher[13]; 13. 90-Jason Beaulieu[3]; 14. 99-Cole Hilton[14]; 15. 7H-TJ DeHaven[7]; 16. 8-Dave Pinkerton[12]; 17. 99W-Wade Olmsted[18]; 18. 11-Jesse Rupe[19]; 19. 2G-Troy Girolamo[16]

 

Qualifying Group 5 (3 Laps): 1. 35-David Stremme, 00:17.650[7]; 2. 11X-Tom Berry Jr, 00:17.775[8]; 3. 90-Jason Beaulieu, 00:17.793[9]; 4. 96M-Mike McKinney, 00:17.838[11]; 5. 18L-Michael Long, 00:17.912[19]; 6. 10Y-Trent Young, 00:18.048[16]; 7. 7H-TJ DeHaven, 00:18.099[2]; 8. 21B-Hunter Breland, 00:18.123[18]; 9. 7T-Evan Taylor, 00:18.161[17]; 10. 99G-Mark Grosvenor, 00:18.217[14]; 11. 2J-Troy Johnson, 00:18.231[10]; 12. 8-Dave Pinkerton, 00:18.483[1]; 13. 17-Rob Pitcher, 00:18.486[4]; 14. 99-Cole Hilton, 00:18.526[15]; 15. 00B-Buzzie Reutimann, 00:18.559[12]; 16. 2G-Troy Girolamo, 00:18.962[13]; 17. 01-Brayden Weller, 00:19.563[3]; 18. 99W-Wade Olmsted, 00:19.805[6]; 19. 11-Jesse Rupe, 00:19.805[5]




 

Feature #6 – Will Krup

With the defending DIRTcar Nationals champion of the UMP Modified division breathing down his neck the entire race, Will Krup never once broke his concentration in pursuit of victory.

 

Krup, of Mt. Carmel, IL, led all but the first lap but did not have an easy time with Kyle Strickler on his rear bumper. Through multiple restarts, Krup was able to keep Strickler at bay, using the caution flags to his advantage in getting out of lapped traffic – especially after Strickler nearly passed him on the inside going into Turn 1 on Lap 13.

 

“I could see him coming – the stick guy told me,” Krup said. “I couldn’t mess up too bad there.”

 

After the race’s final restart on Lap 15, Strickler reeled Krup in once more but was unable to get close enough to make a move.

 

“I just tried to hit my marks; honestly, I wasn’t feeling too comfortable up there,” Krup said. “I felt like the racetrack kinda went that way, and I just had the line to protect.”

 

Feature 6 (20 Laps): 1. K9-Will Krup[2]; 2. 8S-Kyle Strickler[3]; 3. 6ST-Joseph Thomas[12]; 4. 23Z-Austin Self[9]; 5. 16C-John Clippinger[4]; 6. 09-Michael Leach[1]; 7. 11N-Gene Nicholas[13]; 8. 6B-Dave Baldwin[16]; 9. 17C-Coleman Evans[5]; 10. 90H-Raymond Kable[11]; 11. 4K-Jason Kinney[10]; 12. 40-Ronald Wadforth[8]; 13. 3F-Rob Fuqua[15]; 14. 58F-Donnie Farlling[7]; 15. 55-Alyssa Rowe[14]; 16. 89W-Rick Weitekamp[17]; 17. 7-Justin Allgaier[6]; 18. 77D-George Dixon[18]

 

Qualifying Group 6 (3 Laps): 1. 09-Michael Leach, 00:17.720[12]; 2. K9-Will Krup, 00:17.760[7]; 3. 8S-Kyle Strickler, 00:17.878[1]; 4. 16C-John Clippinger, 00:18.181[4]; 5. 17C-Coleman Evans, 00:18.187[18]; 6. 7-Justin Allgaier, 00:18.230[9]; 7. 58F-Donnie Farlling, 00:18.311[11]; 8. 40-Ronald Wadforth, 00:18.358[2]; 9. 23Z-Austin Self, 00:18.415[10]; 10. 4K-Jason Kinney, 00:18.453[13]; 11. 90H-Raymond Kable, 00:18.470[6]; 12. 6ST-Joseph Thomas, 00:18.769[14]; 13. 11N-Gene Nicholas, 00:18.897[15]; 14. 55-Alyssa Rowe, 00:18.984[16]; 15. 3F-Rob Fuqua, 00:19.004[5]; 16. 6B-Dave Baldwin, 00:19.065[8]; 17. 89W-Rick Weitekamp, 00:19.860[3]; 18. 77D-George Dixon, 00:19.860[17]

 

UP NEXT

 

DIRTcar UMP Modified racing at Volusia Speedway Park continues Tuesday night, Feb. 6, with another six-pack of Features, also on the card with a night of practice for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.

 

Tickets and information are available at DIRTcarNationals.com. If you can’t be at the track, stream every lap live on DIRTVision.

 

Story - DIRTcar

Photo credit – Tyler Carr

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