Kyle Strickler is one of the most accomplished racers in America. The Pennsylvania native has piled up scores of victories in the Modified ranks on dirt tracks all over the country. But over the past year, the 36-year-old has taken his talents to the Super Late Model division on clay surfaces. And the veteran driver is looking to achieve the same type of success in those cars as he has in open-wheel machines.
Don’t think, however, that the ace pilot intends to give up the type of cars that have brought so many accolades. Strickler intends to compete in his Modified during Georgia-Florida SpeedWeeks at North Florida Speedway and Volusia Speedway Park. As a matter of fact, the No. 8 car has already secured two wins when he took the checkered flag on Friday and Saturday nights at North Florida.
Although he won a Late Model feature when he took the Schaeffer’s Oil Iron-Man Late Model Series event at Tazewell Speedway last July 4th, the transition to the new form of racing has proven to be a challenge.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Strickler admitted in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “The Modified stuff is second nature to me. We’re trying to get better in the Late Model. It’s tough to be happy, as competitive as I am, with not winning races. We’re coming to places and not being dominant like we are in the Modified.”
But the driver believes he will eventually reach the higher levels of Late Model racing.
“If I get outrun in the Modified I can usual pinpoint what happened and figure out what we need to do to get better,” he added. “But everybody is so good in the Late Model world. Hopefully there comes a time when we’re getting there. We’re going to keep working on her and get there sooner or later.”
Maintaining the Late Model is different than working on a Modified. Strickler and his crew are working to gain the same level of experience and know-how on the Late Model as they have with the Mod. The Longhorn Chassis racer points out that he is getting plenty of assistance with that task.
“In the Modified we go through our set procedure of stuff that we do, and I’ve been running the Modified stuff so long that I can come in and know exactly what adjustments we need to make,” the current resident of North Carolina said. “With the Late Model stuff I’m trying things and trying to figure out what I like to get the feel that I’m looking for. I’m definitely leaning on a lot of people. I’ve got a lot of good friends who are really smart and are high up in the Late Model world. Every time I go out on the race track I’m usually making an adjustment and trying to learn and seeing what it takes to find what I like and what I don’t like.”
In 2006, Strickler opted to move with his family from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to further develop his racing career. Aside from driving, he worked for such organizations at Rusty Wallace Racing and Robby Gordon Motorsports.
Strickler began racing Late Models last year with Kentucky-based Wells Motorsports under the direction of former World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series regular Eric Wells. However, the distance between the Bluegrass State and North Carolina proved to be difficult for the husband and father.
Rather than driving for someone else, the “Highside Tickler” now owns and operates his own Late Model operation along with his Modified program.
“It’s a lot more stressful owning your own stuff and being in charge of everything,” Strickler declared. “It was an awesome opportunity for me to go and drive for Wells Motorsports. It opened a lot of doors for me and there were a lot of people who stepped up. But it’s tough when you have a wife and two kids who are home in North Carolina. Now I have everything under one roof, my Modified and my Late Model stuff and it makes it a lot easier having a family. Their shop was over five hours away from my house.”
Strickler looks forward to all of the racing he will do over the next three weeks in both types of cars.
“Having everything in one place is definitely key for me right now with where I’m at in my career. I want to keep progressing with this Late Model deal. We’re going to North Florida to run the Modified then run the Modified at Volusia then we’re going to run the Late Model at Volusia as well. We’ve just got to do whatever we’ve got to do to make a dollar and make a living.”
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