TAMPA, FL – In a wild race to the checkered flag, Lucas Lee was declared the winner of Friday’s DIRTcar UMP Modified Winternationals Feature event at East Bay Raceway Park after track officials penalized Drake Troutman for jumping the final restart.
Lee, the 2019 Winternationals finale winner from Paris, TN, was the leader for the race’s final restart with two laps remaining. Troutman, the 17-year-old racer from Hyndman, PA, was sitting in the runner-up spot for the restart, and lined up Delaware double-file behind Lee on the outside lane.
The green flag dropped, and the field got on the throttle out of Turn 4. Troutman, who had been running nearly the entire race on the high side, got a big head of steam down the frontstretch and gave Lee a big challenge for the lead as they dove into Turn 1.
The two raced side-by-side for nearly the entire lap, but Troutman’s topside speed out of Turn 4 pushed him past Lee to take the lead as they crossed under the white flag. Troutman abruptly moved down to the low side of the track to defend the lead through Turns 1-2 and made it stick, slightly gapping Lee as they raced down the backstretch toward the checkered flag.
With Troutman cranking the RPMs on the high side and Lee steadily maneuvering the bottom, the two rounded Turn 4 nearly side-by-side and crossed the stripe – Troutman ahead of Lee at the line by .263 seconds.
After the checkered, Troutman began a victory lap around the 1/3-mile oval in celebration of what appeared to be his second win of the week, but was soon informed that he had been docked two positions for jumping the final restart. The penalty, in effect, moved Troutman back to third in the official Feature finish, handing the win over to Lee.
From his perspective, Lee was more concerned with Troutman’s maneuver in Turn 1 after taking the white flag.
“I’m sure he was hanging out there, but that’s what he’s gotta do,” Lee said. “I’m not saying it was right or wrong, but I wasn’t really worried about him doing that so much as I was him chopping the hell out of me in Turns 1 and 2 when he ran the top. Which, that’s racing also.”
Troutman did not share the officials’ view of the restart in question and instead pointed to a possible tire spin for Lee when the field got back on the throttle out of Turn 4.
“You start on the bottom at this place, and you’ll spin [your tires] from one end to the next on the frontstretch and the backstretch, too,” Troutman said. “I figured if I could fan-out and get a run… and [Lee] could probably tell you this, I felt like he probably spun.
“I got a really good run, but it’s one of them deals. [Lee] ran a good race, and congratulations to him. It just wasn’t our night.”
Leading up to the dramatic finish, Lee and Troutman put on another great battle in the final 10 laps.
Polesitter Lee led the first 22 of the 30-lapper before fifth-starting Troutman made up a 3.5-second advantage on him in eight laps, riding the high-side momentum as they worked through lapped traffic.
With several slower cars on the bottom in front of him, Lee managed to escape the bigger clusters, but got hung-up behind Shane Burrows on Lap 23 as Troutman sailed around him for the lead.
“I knew they’d be coming pretty hard,” Lee said. “I was just sticking down there and hoping [the flagman] would [show the move-over flag] and they would get out of the way, but they didn’t.”
“It was on the absolute ragged edge,” Troutman said. “[Lee] got caught up in lapped traffic, and I was just able to keep my momentum rolling up there.”
A caution was thrown later that same lap, restacking the field for the restart. Lee got strong speed as the green came back out and was able to retake the lead from Troutman in Turn 2.
“I knew I’d drive back by him because he picked me in lapped cars,” Lee said. “When my stick guy told me to stay on the bottom, I stayed.”
Lee maintained the top spot until the one final, fateful restart with two-to-go. Despite all that happened in the end, Troutman still found the positive in the situation.
“I love racing with Lucas,” Troutman said. “We always have good races, and we can usually race side-by-side all the time.
“He’ll get over it, I’ll get over it, we’ll move onto tomorrow, and I’m sure we’ll probably be racing side-by-side again tomorrow.”
Thursday night winner Tyler Nicely also benefitted from Troutman’s penalty and was moved from third up to second in the official Feature finish. Troutman was officially scored third, while Devin Dixon and Chris Wilson rounded out the top-five.
With all four preliminary nights now complete, the top-six in overall event points have been locked into Saturday’s 75-lap, $5,000-to-win main event. Those drivers currently sit as follows:
1. Drake Troutman (285)
2. Lucas Lee (260)
3. Tyler Nicely (241)
4. Buzzy Adams (233)
5. Devin Dixon (210)
6. Brian Skaggs (190)
The final night of DIRTcar UMP Modified Winternationals hits the clay of East Bay Raceway Park Saturday, Feb. 4, featuring Heat Races for all non-qualified cars, Last Chance Showdowns and the 75-lap, $5,000-to-win Feature.
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 (30 Laps): 1. 12-Lucas Lee; 2. 25N-Tyler Nicely; 3. 5-Drake Troutman; 4. 2-Devin Dixon; 5. 17-Chris Wilson; 6. 33W-Rodney Wing; 7. 25W-Allen Weisser; 8. 22-Austen Becerra; 9. 25-LJ Grimm; 10. 205-Travis Varnadore; 11. 20-Brian Skaggs; 12. 3F-Rob Fuqua; 13. 16C-John Clippinger; 14. 90-Tim Gay; 15. 40-Kevin Adams; 16. 69B-Bryan Bernhardt; 17. 70B-Shane Burrows; 18. 56-Chris Wilson; 19. 99-Blake Brown; 20. 2J-Troy Johnson; 21. 145-Kyle Hammer; 22. 54J-Jason Jack; 23. 54-Jason Kinney; 24. 130-Chase Allen