TAMPA, FL – Before this week, Victor Lee had never won a DIRTcar UMP Modified race at East Bay Raceway Park. When his hauler backs out of the pits on Sunday, he’ll leave with two, and the biggest check of the week as a first-time Winternationals champion.
The Kentucky Modified veteran hadn’t been to East Bay to drive a Modified since 2001 and chose 2022 to make his return. But you wouldn’t know it had been 21 years with the way he dominated the final 59 laps of the 75-lap Feature Saturday night, driving away from the field in traffic to bag a $5,000 payday.
“We came down here with high expectations,” Lee said. “Our goal was to win a race, but to win two is even better.”
Coming into Saturday, Lee sat second in event points after a win Thursday night and a third-place Friday, which locked him into the top-six redraw. He pulled the “4” pill and got a good jump when the green flag dropped to settle into second.
Lee, of Danville, KY, stayed patient in the first 15 laps, then cracked the whip to maneuver into the lead on the bottom on Lap 17, getting around both Lucas Lee and Buzzy Adams. That’s where he stayed for the entire race – just as he and the crew drew it up before they went green.
“This thing liked the bottom,” Lee said of his car. “I knew that, so that was my game plan – to go way out and consistently run the bottom, try to hit fast laps, and that’s what we went out for.”
From there on out, it was all The Lincoln Leadfoot. Even with the fuel stop breaking up the action just before halfway, the field behind him was unable to get any sort of bead on him. On two separate occasions, Lee held a 6-plus second lead over the field, consistently hugging the bottom every lap.
Lee ran the bottom almost every lap throughout all four nights of action and produced quality, consistent results – something he said he owes to the crew and their forward thinking.
“We got here early every day to work on our racecar and prepare,” Lee said. “We came prepared, and we tried to stay on top of it.
“All of our guys worked hard. We tried to rest up when we needed to and worked long hours when we needed to do that, so hats off to all my guys. Preparation is what helped us.”
Several caution flags peppered the final 20 laps of the race, making Lee work a bit harder each time. Especially when he came across the stripe to get the two-to-go signal and saw the yellow flag instead, making for an intense green-white-checkered ending. But even that wasn’t enough to break his concentration.
“The last two laps, I knew I had two more laps to hit my marks,” Lee said. “That’s what I set up to do there, so I felt comfortable with it.”
One driver right on his tail for the final restart was the defending Winternationals champion, Buzzy Adams. The Cameron, WI-driver had driven nearly the entire race inside the top-three and prepared to rev it up on the top side once more and steal the win on the final lap, as he did in 2021, but was unable to get the jump he needed with his choice of tire.
“I knew Victor, [Seth] Geary, and the 70 [Shane] Burrows all had a hard right-rear on,” Adams said. “We’ve never been able to get a hard to fire here, so I always run on a medium. Which is good for 10 laps, and then it just gets slimy. It’s a gamble. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.”
For the fifth time since 2012, Adams had to settle for second. However, with the week he had – struggles in his Heat Races, a Last Chance Showdown transfer-in, getting caught-up in wrecks – he’ll take a runner-up.
“I was beating myself up all week mentally because I kept screwing up, so this helps,” Adams said. “It’s second, but against 60 other Modifieds, I’ll take it.”
Crossing the line third was local racer Seth Geary. The Bradenton, FL-driver was coming off a win in the final prelim show Friday night and was able to push that momentum on even further for a podium in the biggest race of the week.
After missing the transfer by two in his Heat, Geary was forced to get in via Last Chance Showdown #2. He won it, and was placed 20th on the Feature starting grid. It took him 74 of the 75 laps to reach the podium, but he showed it can pay to play the waiting game.
“I was just biding my time, being patient,” Geary said. “Avoided a couple spins in front of me – one right across my nose.”
After his Victory Lane celebration, Lee returned to the pits and reflected on some news made public by the Summit Racing Equipment American Modified Series Friday night, regarding the recent passing of series owner Dewayne Ragland.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Dewayne Ragland and his family,” Lee said. “I’ve been thinking about him and his family all day, and I want to let his family know they’re in our thoughts and prayers.”
The chase for the DIRTcar UMP Modified Speedweeks championship continues next Friday-Sunday, Feb. 4-6, with three more rounds of racing at North Florida Speedway in Lake City, FL. Keep an eye on all DIRTcar racing social media channels for all the latest content and updates.
1. Victor Lee 4
2. Kevin Adams 40
3. Seth Geary 7G
4. Travis Varnadore 205
Plant City, Fl.
5. Alan Weisser 1
6. Devin Dixon 33D
7. Bryan Bernhardt 69B
8. Bradley Jameson 757
Royal Center, In.
9. Dale Kelley 22K
Plant City, Fl.
10. Shane Burrows 70B
11. Aaron Branham 38B
Clay City, Ky.
12. Chase Holland 45
13. Tyler Nicely 25
14. David Pollen 88
15. Brandon Hutchinson 85A
Hi Hat, Ky.
16. Chris Wilson 17
17. Dawson Cook 242x
18. Lucas Lee 12L
19. Brian Skaggs 20
20. Brian Shaw 1s
21. Tyler Clem 14
22. Corey Bevard 8c
23. Drake Troutman 7
24. Seth Daniels 21s
25. Patrick Passanise 333