TAMPA, FL – He’s been competing in East Bay Raceway Park’s annual Winternationals event for nearly 15 years, but Wednesday night became Travis Varnadore’s first career trip to Victory Lane in the historic event.
Piloting a car with a 16-year-old frame, Varnadore wheeled his DIRTcar UMP Modified around the bottom of the 1/3-mile oval with veteran skill, taking the lead from two-time Winternationals finale winner Kevin “Buzzy” Adams before the halfway point and driving away from the field to seal the victory.
“It feels really good,” Varnadore said. “This has been a long time coming.”
Travis, the 31-year-old from Dover, FL, is a nephew to track co-owner and promoter Al Varnadore, who joined in the post-race Victory Lane celebrations with the rest of the Varnadore family, friends and crew.
“It’s great to have all of our friends and family here watching, being local,” Varnadore said. “All of our sponsors, they’re friends and family. Every one of them are here tonight, working on the car.
“It means a lot, not just to me, but it means a lot to them. I’m glad I got it done for them.”
The car he took to Victory Lane is the same car that was once driven to multiple Winternationals top-fives by brother Maverick Varnadore – a 2007 Harris Race Cars chassis. The crew said the car was well-maintained over the years and still contains all-original framework.
Though the frame had its age, Varnadore didn’t let anyone watching know it, as he turned a second-quick lap in his Qualifying group and later won his Heat Race. He took the green from fourth on the Feature starting grid and wasted little time, advancing to second on Lap 2.
After a couple quick cautions, a hard-charging Buzzy Adams entered the picture, already up 13 positions in the first seven laps after starting 17th. A restart on Lap 9 saw Adams thread the needle in between Varnadore and Tuesday night winner Drake Troutman going into Turn 1, driving by both of them to take the lead out of Turn 2.
“On the first lap, everybody just kinda stopped and they left me a lane,” Adams said. “I’m like, ‘Well, I’m either going to the house, or I’m going to wreck everything. Luckily, I got through and picked a bunch of ‘em off.”
But as soon as Adams made the move for the lead, Varnadore cracked the whip in the bottom lane. He caught Adams in three laps and found the extra grip he needed down low to take the lead on Lap 11.
“The last couple of weeks with the Crates, the top just hasn’t been there the entire race,” Varnadore said. “So, I figured I’d just keep it as low as I could around the bottom. I didn’t think the top was going to stick very long.”
From there, it was smooth sailing for the #205, crossing the finish line with a 1.5-second gap over Adams. Though he was strong in traffic, Varnadore had not forgotten about the competition behind him.
“I figured we were going to have [a yellow] with a couple laps to go, and Buzzy was going to sling it around the outside and catch us for the win,” Varnadore said. “We just got lucky with no late cautions, I guess.”
For the second-straight night, Adams comes home P2. He dropped back to third after starting on the pole of his Heat, which forced him to come through a Last Chance Showdown, but made the incredible comeback to take the Winternationals points lead with two nights left before the top-six in points are locked into the finale on Saturday.
“I didn’t even expect to get the lead when I did, so I didn’t know where to be on the track,” Adams said. “I think by that time, I had my stuff used up. But, I’m happier than hell with second, and we’ll keep working on this thing and try to get better.”
The DIRTcar UMP Modified Winternationals action continues Thursday night with another full racing program. Hot Laps are set for 6pm. If you can’t be at the track, Follow DIRTcar Racing on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for live updates throughout the program.
A Feature 1 (25 Laps): 1. 205-Travis Varnadore; 2. 40-Kevin Adams; 3. 12-Lucas Lee; 4. 99-Blake Brown; 5. 5-Drake Troutman; 6. 33W-Rodney Wing; 7. 54J-Jason Jack; 8. 17-Chris Wilson; 9. 2-Devin Dixon; 10. 20-Brian Skaggs; 11. 25-LJ Grimm; 12. 2J-Troy Johnson; 13. 65-Todd Sherman; 14. 25W-Allen Weisser; 15. 1S-Brian Shaw; 16. 8L-Jimmy Lennex; 17. 25A-Jason Altiers; 18. 4-Mike Learman; 19. 24-Zeke McKenzie; 20. 18C-Miles Cook II; 21. 25N-Tyler Nicely; 22. 145-Kyle Hammer; 23. 85A-Brandon Hutchinson; 24. 3F-Rob Fuqua