NASCAR Veteran Bags $5,000 and Short Track Dirt Racing’s Most Unique Trophy
BARBERVILLE, Fla. – Feb. 18, 2013 – Ken Schrader charged from 10th to victory in the Gator Championship, denying Austin Dillon by a nose at the checkered flag Monday night during the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park.
Schrader swept into the lead midway through the 30-lap, $5,000-to-win showcase for DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, but had his hands full with Dillon charging off the final corner to the finish.
“Austin was right there at the end and I kind of started babying it the last three or four laps there because I didn’t want to pop the front end on the cushion,” said Schrader, of Concord, N.C. “He (Dillon) said his motor went sour and that allowed him to run the bottom a little better, but yeah we’ll take it.”
Justin Allgaier, who grew up racing on dirt before moving into the NASCAR Nationwide Series, led the first 12 laps of the main event, relinquishing the lead to Dale Mathison of Clearwater, Minn., on lap 13 and 14. Allgaier reclaimed the lead on the 15th circuit before Schrader made his move one lap later and held on over the remaining 14 laps for the victory.
“I was pretty concerned there when we drew a 10 to start, especially with that quality field of cars out there,” said Schrader, who finished second in his qualifying race on Sunday night. “The pass (Sunday) night was only going to be worth so much and the win tonight was going to be worth quite a bit more!”
Schrader was challenged throughout those final 14 laps. Dillon charged from his 14-place starting spot to pull even with Schrader exiting turn four on the final lap, prompting fans in the packed grandstand to rise, only to see Dillon fall just shy of the wily NASCAR veteran at the line.
“We started off a little rough out here,” said Dillon, who competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. “So many cars, the invert, it makes it tough. The guys have been working all week to get us the speed we needed and we knew we had the fastest car, just needed to get up front and have that starting position. The track was great tonight, it was really racy. We love to be out here doing this but man that was close! If I had to lose to anybody I’d want it to be Kenny Schrader because he’s one of my heroes out here. I just hope next year we can come back and get that gator.”
Dillon and Allgaier, who will both compete at Daytona International Speedway later in the week claimed podium spots with Schrader.
“Anytime you can come to Volusia and see the amount of cars that come here, all the competition, just to be able to make the feature was our goal here this week,” Allgaier said. “All my guys we had one goal in mind and that was to finish every race and do the best we could. This was only my sixth time in a modified so I guess that’s pretty good. We’ve had a blast all week and this was a good way for me to come down here and get re-focused. I knew early we had a good car but we needed a little more drive. I can’t thank Bob Pierce enough though because we had a great race car, we just missed it a little bit and when you have 80 great race cars and the best in the country you better be right on.”
Defending Gator Champion Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., started on the pole and fell to as low as seventh before rebounding to finish fourth. Sunday night winner Matt Westfall of Pleasant Hill, Ohio, started seventh and rounded out the top five.
David Mielke of Gladwin, Mich., Dave Wietholder of Liberty, Ill., and Kelly Shryock of Fertile, Iowa claimed Last Chance Showdown victories. Jonathon Taylor of Saltsburg, Penn., claimed the Bulrush Dash victory.
Tuesday night’s racing program will feature the second night of DIRTcar Late Model action as well as Triple 20-lap DIRTcar UMP Modified features allowing each of the participants in the DIRTcar UMP Modified division the opportunity to run a feature event.
Newly-crowned Gator Champion Schrader currently leads UNOH DIRTcar Nationals by Summit points entering the final night of competiton. Home state driver Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., is 13 markers behind Schrader in the overall standings.