Following a rain out on Friday evening in the season-opening Sunshine Nationals event, the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series closed out what ended up being a two-race weekend on Saturday night at Volusia Speedway Park. At the end of the second feature of the weekend at the Barberville, FL facility, it was Kyle Strickler who collected the winner’s trophy and all the accolades that accompany victory in a race shown live by DirtVision.com. The Mooresville, NC driver held off one of the sport’s great legends to earn a paycheck worth $10,000 for his efforts.
Kyle Strickler set the pace in Group A qualifying with a lap of 16.018 seconds around the half-mile clay oval to out pace Scott Bloomquist, John Baker, Tyler Bruening, and Tony Jackson Jr.
Rookie Parker Martin was quickest in Group B time-trials by posting a mark of 16.315 seconds to top Ross Bailes, Darrell Lanigan, Mark Whitener, and Dennis Erb Jr.
Kyle Strickler grabbed the win in the first heat race of the night ahead of Jimmy Owens, John Baker, and Ross Robinson while Scott Bloomquist took the second preliminary over Tyler Bruening, Kyle Bronson, and Ricky Weiss.
It was young Parker Martin who was victorious in the third heat beating out Darrell Lanigan, Brandon Sheppard, and Dennis Erb Jr. then Ross Bailes took the fourth and final heat race of the evening by outrunning David Breazeale, Mark Whitener, and Chase Junghans.
Dale McDowell and Brent Larson were the winners of the two Last Chance Showdown races used to set the remainder of the starting lineup for the main event.
The WoO Late Models redraw established the first four rows of the starting grid for the main feature as Kyle Strickler, Ross Bailes, Parker Martin, Scott Bloomquist, David Breazeale, Darrell Lanigan, Jimmy Owens, and Tyler Bruening.
At the start of the 40-lap affair it was Strickler who took the early lead over Bailes, Bloomquist, Martin, and Breazeale. On the second circuit, it was Breazeale who moved forward as he took fourth from Martin.
By lap 5, the top-3 of Strickler, Bailes and Bloomquist ran in tight formation as they pulled away from the pack.
Bailes made a move for the lead in turns one and two on lap 10 as he slid by the early leader. However, Strickler returned the favor by crossing over and retaking the lead going into turn three.
A lap 18 yellow flag for the slowing car of Breazeale bunched the field.
On the ensuing restart, Baker and Martin exchanged the fourth spot while Strickler, Bailes, and Bloomquist drove away.
A lap 23 caution was shown to the field when Brent Larson, Cade Dillard, Ashton Winger, and Tony Jackson Jr. were involved in a big crash on the front stretch. All drivers appeared to be uninjured but the cars were heavily damaged.
On that restart, Bloomquist moved in to challenge Bailes for second until another yellow flag was displayed two laps later for the slowing car of Boom Briggs.
When green flag racing resumed, Bloomquist and Bailes fought over the runner-up position for multiple laps while all the while keeping Strickler in their sights. Weiss moved into the top-5 on lap 27 then he took fourth away from Martin one lap later.
A lap 34 caution for the slowing car of Ryan Gustin set up a thrilling dash to the finish.
Bloomquist took second from Bailes then went after Strickler for the race lead. On lap 37, the two cars went side-by-side with Bloomquist briefly edging ahead on the inside then Strickler surging back to the lead on the top side.
Strickler ultimately held off the Hall of Fame member in the run to the checkered flag to earn his first WoO Late Models victory.
“There’s nothing like the best in the business breathing down your throat there at the end to get my first Outlaw win,” Strickler said in his post-race interview. “I could do a little bit better job than him on the top but he was better than me on the bottom. I knew I had to go down there to protect to try to stop him. That’s awesome, that’s a Cinderella story right there to hold him off for my first win. This thing was good tonight.”
Strickler, who will drive a Rocket Chassis for PCC Motorsports full-time on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series later this year, was in his own Longhorn Chassis in these WoO Late Models races.
“I was nervous on the restarts,” Strickler admitted. “On Thursday, the restarts went to the bottom there at the end but I was just trying to keep up on that top to make sure they didn’t get by me into one. Once I calmed down and started trying to drive the race car the way it should be driven, I got the fear of it being tight and shoving up over the top out of my head. This is my Longhorn and it’s awesome to get a win.”
Feature Finish: 1. Kyle Strickler, 2. Scott Bloomquist, 3. Darrell Lanigan, 4. Ricky Weiss, 5. Jimmy Owens, 6. John Baker, 7. Brandon Sheppard, 8. Mark Whitener, 9. Dale McDowell, 10. Kyle Bronson, 11. Boom Briggs, 12. Ross Bailes, 13. Dennis Erb Jr., 14. Parker Martin, 15. Ross Robinson, 16. Blake Spencer, 17. Tyler Bruening, 18. Rick Eckert, 19. Chase Junghans, 20. Ryan Gustin, 21. Cade Dillard, 22. Ashton Winger, 23. Tony Jackson Jr., 24. Brent Larson, 25. Ryan Scott, 26. David Breazeale
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