BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Kyle Strickler’s heart sank when he looked left with five laps to go.
In his 11th World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model start – chasing his first World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Volusia Speedway Park – Strickler had led all 35 laps to that point, holding off Ross Bailes.
However, this time, it wasn’t Bailes. It was legendary late model racer Scott Bloomquist challenging him for the lead.
“I saw the No. 0 (car of Bloomquist) down there and I’m like, ‘Oh, hell. This is not the right time here,” Strickler said with a chuckle.”
Bloomquist had 33 series wins and 227 series starts to Strickler’s zero series wins and 10 starts. Determination outweighed the stats as Strickler drove like a veteran in the closing laps, blocking Bloomquist’s low line.
Strickler’s ability to not crack under pressure led him to his first World of Outlaws victory and the $10,000 payday during the final night of the Sunshine Nationals on Saturday at Volusia Speedway Park.
“I call Scott my dad,” said Strickler as he tried to formulate words while grasping what just happened. “I know there’s nothing like having the best in the business breathing down your neck for your first Outlaw win.
“Man, that’s awesome. That’s a Cinderella story right there to be able to hold him off for my first win. Man, this thing, it was good tonight.”
Along with having to hold off Bloomquist for the victory, Strickler was tested throughout the 40-lap feature.
From the pole, Strickler launched ahead of the field into turn one, but rookie-of-the-year contender Bailes had the better run off of turn two and snuck underneath Strickler down the backstretch. Bailes had the advantage going into turn three until Strickler kept his foot in the throttle and powered his way around the outside of Bailes and cleared him for the lead. In the same lap, Bloomquist went from fourth to third and began his march to the leaders.
Throughout the 40 laps, Strickler, Bailes and Bloomquist looked as though they were connected by rubber bands. One would pull away and then the other would close back in.
While they argued over the top three spots throughout the majority of the Feature, Canada’s Ricky Weiss was quietly maneuvering his way up through the field for the second race in a row. During the season-opening race on Thursday, Weiss went from 23rd to seventh in his self-build Sniper Chassis. He wrecked that car Friday night before the rain came and had to use his old Team Zero chassis for Saturday’s event. There was no speed lost as Weiss went from 15th to fourth by lap 29.
On a late restart with six laps to go, due to a caution – the fourth of the night – for rookie Ryan Gustin slowing with an issue, Strickler, Bailes, Bloomquist and Weiss were brought nose to tail for the final time of the night. When the green flag hit the crisp air for the restart, Strickler launched ahead of the field and was followed by Bloomquist, who got by Bailes for second.
Bailes and Wiess faded on the restart, however, Weiss made his way back to fourth while Bailes struggled and had to settle for a 12th-place finish.
The main battle was down to Strickler and Bloomquist. Only Strickler didn’t know that until five laps to go. Upon his entrance into turn one, he spotted the last car he wanted to see creeping alongside him.
Not letting that hinder his mentality, he denied Bloomquist his strength of running the bottom in turn one by blocking the lane.
His tactics were enough to keep Bloomquist at bay.
“The only thing I might have considered doing different is, instead of trying to make (turns) three and four work in the middle, I probably should’ve stayed up their ass in (turns) three and four and stay on them and maybe get it done in (turns) one and two,” said Bloomquist.
Weiss finished third.
Strickler won at Volusia eight times in a modified but winning with the World of Outlaws holds a special meaning as he turns his attention more toward late model racing in 2021.
“We’ve, obviously, won all over the country with the modifieds, but trying to do this full-time now and Late Model racing is exploding right now, and to be able to run these tours and win these big races is huge for me and our team,” Strickler said. “This (Longhorn chassis) car is owned by myself and a lot of great sponsors that have been with me forever. It’s awesome to bring this car out and get a win with it.”
Feature (40 Laps) – 1. 8-Kyle Strickler [$10,000]; 2. O-Scott Bloomquist [$6,000]; 3. 29V-Darrell Lanigan [$3,500]; 4. 7-Ricky Weiss [$2,800]; 5. 20-Jimmy Owens [$2,500]; 6. 14JR-John Baker [$2,300]; 7. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$2,200]; 8. 385-Mark Whitener [$2,100]; 9. 17M-Dale McDowell [$2,050]; 10. 40B-Kyle Bronson [$2,000]; 11. 99B-Boom Briggs [$1,600]; 12. 58-Ross Bailes [$1,400]; 13. 28-Dennis Erb [$1,200]; 14. 6JR-Parker Martin [$1,100]; 15. 7R-Ross Robinson [$1,050]; 16. 6-Blake Spencer [$110]; 17. 16-Tyler Bruening [$1,000]; 18. OE-Rick Eckert [$1,000]; 19. 18-Chase Junghans [$1,000]; 20. 19R-Ryan Gustin [$1,000]; 21. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,000]; 22. 12-Ashton Winger [$1,000]; 23. 56-Tony Jackson [$1,000]; 24. B1-Brent Larson [$1,000]; 25. OS-Ryan Scott [$110]; 26. 54-David Breazeale [$1,000]; KSE Hard Charger Award: 7-Ricky Weiss[+11]