With two of the best DIRTcar UMP Modified drivers in the nation taking the green right next to each other for a 25-lap duel around Tri-City Speedway, the action did not disappoint.
Mike Harrison, the six-time DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion from Highland, IL, and Nick Hoffman, the four-time and reigning champion from Mooresville, NC, took their spots on Row 2 of the starting grid, ready for a battle of St. Louis-area supremacy amidst a field of 23 other competitors trying to derail their train to Victory Lane.
The green dropped, and the chase was on. Polesitter Will Krup took the early lead and held strong through several restarts inside the first five laps, only letting Harrison slip by once to lead Lap 4. Hoffman trailed closely in third, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
But that moment had to wait a tick longer than usual. For the first time in a long time on the Summit Modified trail, Hoffman and his Elite Chassis #2 genuinely could not reel-in the cars ahead of him.
“I could not find a lane to get by Will,” Hoffman said. “I choose to run the middle and he’d slip out to middle and I’d lose all my speed. Finally, we had that red and I just cooled down a little bit.”
While Harrison took the point on Lap 8, Hoffman continued his search for a lane to get by Krup. A red flag was displayed just before halfway, which allowed Hoffman to reset and generate a new plan.
“I knew I could make speed in the middle of the racetrack if I could just get clear of him,” Hoffman said. “He finally left me enough lane down the straightaways that I could roll turns 1-2 on the outside and I could clear him.”
Now with the runner-up spot, Hoffman only had one to catch and pass. Harrison was well over a second ahead, but Hoffman stuck to the low-middle lane, reeled him in quickly and made the pass with five laps left as Harrison slid up the track and brushed the outside wall of Turn 2.
“Throughout that Late Model race [before], it just got so much more technical and got ledged-up where it was hard to run,” Hoffman said of racing the top line. “That was gonna be, really, my only hope and prayer that it got hard enough for [Harrison] to run that he couldn’t make enough speed up there.”
The now 60-time Summit Modified winner was ecstatic in Victory Lane, much more so than after recent wins. An original Belleville, IL-resident, many of Hoffman’s close family and friends were present to see him take down one of DIRTcar’s all-time greats in Mike Harrison, bringing the emotion out of him as he climbed atop the car with son Maddox to celebrate.
“I was more pumped-up to win that race” Hoffman said. “Just straight-up. He had the lead, I did what I needed to do to just drive by him. I was pretty amped-up to win that one.”
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature 25 Laps | 00:22:48.890
1. 2-Nick Hoffman; 2. 24H-Mike Harrison; 3. K9-Will Krup; 4. 05-Dave Wietholder; 5. 12L-Lucas Lee; 6. 14C- Rick Conoyer; 7. 8-Kyle Steffens; 8. 25-Tyler Nicely; 9. 18L-Michael Long; 10. 36-Kenny Wallace; 11. 4T- Jake Trebilcock; 12. 66-Cole Falloway; 13. J82-Treb Jacoby; 14. 6M-Carl McKinney; 15. 11B-Blake Bailey; 16. 73-Mark Rhoades; 17. 59R-Jacob Rexing; 18. 77-Ray Bollinger; 19. 7-Drake Troutman; 20. 5S-Owen Steinkoenig; 21. 19C-Carter Sinkhorn; 22. 6-Chris Stauffer; 23. 816-Travis Raterman; 24. 130- Chase Allen; 25. 82Q-Cole Queathem; 26. (DNS) 1D-Dean Hoffman; 27. (DNS) 4-Mike Learman