By MATT PRIEUR
BARBERVILLE, FL — Current DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified points leader Nick Hoffman scored the win on the first of two Gator Qualifier Nights before one of the biggest crowds in DIRTcar Nationals and track history on Night #5 of the 49th DIRTcar Nationals presented by Bozard Ford. The fifth night of competition for the Modified teams began the chase for a coveted starting spot in Monday’s $5,000-to-win Big Gator Championship.
Starting on the pole and staying out front for all 20 laps in the caution-free event, the four-time defending DIRTcar Nationals champion staked his claim for an unprecedented fifth consecutive title. The 27-year-old standout and 2019 champion scored his second feature win of the week and his all-time career-leading 17th DIRTcar Nationals feature triumph.
“Being able to draw the pole and get out early and control the pace was really nice. Not having a caution during the race really helped as well,” said the Mooresville, NC driver in victory lane after his win aboard his potent #2 Fox Shox / Elite Chassis machine. “Didn’t have too many issues with the lapped traffic; that was about the only thing that worried me. I just stuck to my lane and took my time with them and it all worked out tonight.”
By virtue of the redraw, Hoffman and Spencer Hughes started on the front row of the 20-lap Feature, and as the 28-car field dove into the first corner, Hoffman emerged out in front. As Hoffman slowly pulled away from the pack, a battle for second brewed between Jason Hughes and Brian Ruhlman with both slipping past S. Hughes to jump up into the podium. Before long, 2008 DIRTcar UMP Modified National Champion Jeff Leka joined Ruhlman and J. Hughes as the trio waged a war amongst themselves.
All the while, Hoffman continued to put real estate between himself and the rest of the pack. With seven laps to go, J. Hughes finally got past Ruhlman to take over second. But by then, Hoffman had hidden himself in lapped traffic and faced no pressure winning the Feature in front of the huge crowd on hand.
Hughes settled for second for his best finish of the DIRTcar Nationals over Ruhlman, who tied his best finish of the week in third and completed the podium finishers. Leka also scored his best feature finish of the week in fourth, and S. Hughes recorded his best finish of the week by completing the top five.
Fifteen-year-old Hunt Gossum grabbed his best finish of the week as well, in sixth after starting 13th. Kenny Wallace, Lucas Lee, Michael Long and Garret Stewart, who also recorded his best finish of the week in 10th after starting 17th, as the Top 10 have all earned a guaranteed starting spot in Monday’s $5,000-to-win Big Gator Championship.
Earlier in the evening, J. Hughes won his first Fast Qualifier Award of the DIRTcar Nationals with an 18.212 = 98.841mph. Ruhlman, Lee, Hoffman and Hughes won the Heat Races. And Jason Gross and Johnny Broking grabbed the wins in the Last Chance Showdowns.
The second and final Gator Qualifier Night for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds is Sunday, February, as the second half of the driver roster returns to the track after taking the night off. The Gator Qualifiers will determine the guaranteed starters for the $5,000-to-win Big Gator Championship Feature on Monday, February 10. Meanwhile, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series complete the Sprint Week portion of the 49th DIRTcar Nationals with the Sprint Week Finale tomorrow, crowning the first 2020 DIRTcar Nationals Gator Champion.
OFFICIAL RESULTS FROM VOLUSIA SPEEDWAY PARK, FEB 8, 2020
Feature (20 Laps) – 1. 2-Nick Hoffman [$1,000]; 2. 12H-Jason Hughes [$600]; 3. 49-Brian Ruhlman [$400]; 4. 3L-Jeff Leka [$350]; 5. 11H-Spencer Hughes [$300]; 6. 99-Hunt Gossum [$275]; 7. 36-Kenny Wallace [$250]; 8. 12L-Lucas Lee [$225]; 9. 18L-Michael Long [$200]; 10. 67-Garret Stewart [$200]; 11. 5-Curt Spalding [$175]; 12. 21-Taylor Cook [$140]; 13. OOD-David Reutimann [$130]; 14. 11M-Mike McGee [$125]; 15. 12-Jason Gross [$125]; 16. 22-Dale Kelley [$125]; 17. 45J-Johnny Broking [$125]; 18. 1S-Brian Shaw [$125]; 19. K19-Will Krup [$125]; 20. 17TE-Tyler Evans [$125]; 21. 1-Brenden Rassel [$125]; 22. 17T-Michael Tarlton [$125]; 23. 32-Chad Roush [$125]; 24. O1-Bryce Nichols [$125]; 25. 22T-Tony Anderson [$125]; 26. 100-Scott Fritz [$100]; 27. OO-Buzzie Reutimann [$100]; 28. 19-Chad Bauer [$100]; KSE Hard Charger Award: 99-Hunt Gossum[+7]
Qualifying Flight-A – 1. 12H-Jason Hughes, 18.212; 2. 49-Brian Ruhlman, 18.315; 3. 67-Garret Stewart, 18.769; 4. 3L-Jeff Leka, 18.908; 5. 1S-Brian Shaw, 19.053; 6. 99-Hunt Gossum, 19.235; 7. 12-Jason Gross, 19.372; 8. 11N-Gene Nicholas, 19.385; 9. 9PG-Percy Gendreau, 19.503; 10. O1-Bryce Nichols, 19.733
Qualifying Flight-B – 1. 12L-Lucas Lee, 18.687; 2. 17T-Michael Tarlton, 19.113; 3. 31G-Stephen Pedulla, 19.125; 4. 17TE-Tyler Evans, 19.152; 5. 36-Kenny Wallace, 19.26; 6. 32-Chad Roush, 19.929; 7. 14J-John Baker, 20.413; 8. 22-Dale Kelley, 20.548; 9. 40-Shawn Reiss, NT
Qualifying Flight-C – 1. 2-Nick Hoffman, 18.627; 2. 5-Curt Spalding, 18.671; 3. 18L-Michael Long, 18.764; 4. 21-Taylor Cook, 18.858; 5. K19-Will Krup, 18.877; 6. 19-Chad Bauer, 19.199; 7. 45J-Johnny Broking, 19.245; 8. 22T-Tony Anderson, 19.487; 9. OO-Buzzie Reutimann, 19.545; 10. Z06-Larry Mott, 20.165
Qualifying Flight-D – 1. 11H-Spencer Hughes, 18.817; 2. OOD-David Reutimann, 19.104; 3. 1-Brenden Rassel, 19.29; 4. 11M-Mike McGee, 19.396; 5. 100-Scott Fritz, 19.52; 6. 65-Todd Sherman, 19.543; 7. 17-Rob Pitcher, 19.843; 8. 6-Ryan Fowler, 19.92; 9. 27-William Cevaal, 20.984; 10. 33-TJ Evans, NT