LINCOLN, Ill. — A total of 115 DIRTcar racers filled the Lincoln Speedway pit area Friday night for night one of the DIRTcar Fall Nationals — the new stage for DIRTcar Racing’s year-end points championship event.
With two major points battles still left to be decided heading into the weekend, one of those gaps is now even tighter and the other remains the closest national points championship battle out of all nine divisions under the DIRTcar banner.
Coming into the weekend, just four points separated leader Terry Reed Jr. from Lance Evans in the national standings as they prepared for the final two races of the DIRTcar points season. The first was a stop to Lincoln Friday night before the season finale in Charleston on Saturday, and the quarter-mile, black-dirt banks did not disappoint.
Polesitter Jeremy Nichols jetted out to the early lead at the drop of the green and played a terrific game of defense throughout the 20-lap Feature, holding off the likes of Bobby Bieler and Robert Cottom for the flag-to-flag Feature win.
Coming from the eighth starting spot, Reed slipped way back in the running order early, registering his third lap in the 16th position. But he stayed smooth, avoided trouble and drove it all the way back up to a top-five finish. Although not in as exciting fashion as Reed, Evans did have a solid sixth-place finish.
In terms of the national points standings, this race had no impact on Reed and Evans. The best 20 feature finishes for each driver are counted toward the overall Stock Car standings, and their finishes on Friday were not valuable enough to be kept in the mix. Therefore, Reed still leads (1403) Evans (1399) buy just four points. They’ll each have one last chance to gain some points on Saturday night at Charleston Speedway’s Street Stock Fall Nationals.
The DIRTcar Pro Modified division will see a band-new, first-time national champion at the conclusion of Saturday night’s Feature. Deece Schwartz is now trailing Billy Knebel by just 13 points as they head into their final points race of the season.
Trey Harris took the lead and ran away with it at the drop of the green, opening the door for a Schwartz-Knebel battle up front for the runner-up spot. And battle they did, going three-wide with Dave Armstrong for the spot just past the halfway mark.
Schwartz found some speed at the right time and used it to pull away from the other two shortly after, winning the battle for position and four additional championship points toward the standings. Knebel held on for a top-five as Harris went on to collect the checkers – his sixth in DIRTcar Pro Modified competition this year.
Both drivers will come back to Lincoln on Saturday to settle their championship chase once and for all.
For a while, it seemed as though 15-year-old dirt racing sensation Hunt Gossum was going to be the star of the show, driving around UMP Modified veteran Jeff Leka in the early going with a big move to his outside to take the top spot. Until he made some contact with the outside wall.
Leka had been leading the field around for the first 10 laps when Gossum pulled the trigger to his outside and grabbed the race lead. Three laps later, Gossum had gotten too high on the cushion and scrubbed the outside wall hard, slowing him considerably before pulling off on the backstretch. A very tough break for the young gun from Mayfield, KY.
Leka inherited the lead back and drove away with it over the next six laps until a caution for debris was displayed with 5 laps remaining. During that caution, Leka experienced mechanical issues of his own and took it to the infield to retire the race with suspension damage.
Right in Leka’s tracks to pick up the pieces was none other than the 18-time DIRTcar UMP Modified winner in 2020, Mike McKinney. The Magic Man inherited the lead and led the remaining five laps back to the checkers to collect his 19th division win of the year.
Dakota Ewing was the victor of the DIRTcar Pro Late Model Feature Friday night after a very back-and-forth battle with his competition all throughout the race.
Ewing grabbed the lead on Lap 1 and was quicky challenged by teammate Jose Parga, who swiped the lead away as the field completed Lap 2. Parga led until the next caution, when Aaron Heck busted out some speed on the low side after the restart and drove underneath to claim the top spot.
Heck’s lead didn’t last very long, though, as he spun it sideways going down the frontstretch and backed it into the Turn 1 wall, causing heavy quarter-panel damage. He tagged the tail and made a great comeback to sixth before the checkered flew.
Back out front, Ewing had inherited the lead back and was immediately challenged by 2020 DIRTcar Pro Late Model national champion Torin Mettille for the spot. Mettille had the spot for three laps but Ewing took it back in a great push on the middle-top side. Ewing then went on to defend his lead through a green-white-checkered finish, which he did to collect his fifth DIRTcar Pro Late Model win of the season.