BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Brian Ruhlman devised a perfect plot and forced Ken Schrader from his preferred line as he engineered a pass in the outside groove with two laps to go for his first win of the 46th annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park on Thursday night.
After passing Schrader, Ruhlman took the checkered flag by over two seconds for his second career Volusia win, extending his point lead in the week long chase for a Big Gator trophy.
Ruhlman started fourth in the 20-lap main event and ran second to the polesitter Schrader until he took advantage of a lap-17 restart. Ruhlman showed the nose of his No.49 to the inside of Schrader’s No.9 several times before the final restart on lap 17, which he revealed was a setup move to make the winning pass.
“Kenny’s a smart racer and he’s one of my heroes,” Ruhlman said. “He was in the rubber and I had to get him out of the rubber to where I could pass him. I kept showing him the nose on the bottom so he would move down to the bottom, then I could roll the top [lane]. To say I shnookered Kenny Schrader is pretty cool.”
Schrader earned his first top-five finish of the week, outdueling Tuesday night winner and second-place starter Jacob Hawkins in the process. Schrader shook off Ruhlman’s initial challenge, but knew he couldn’t hold him off until the checkered flag.
“I knew he was coming,” Schrader said. “We started getting slow off of [turn] two. I got to the bottom to block him, but it didn’t make any difference. He was faster. He was going around.”
Hawkins’ third-place finish was his second of the week on the podium and third straight top-10 result. He held off a trio of late-race challenges from Taylor Cook to earn the third spot.
“Once Brian got by me I knew he was going to be tough to beat,” Hawkins said. “We had a good car, but Schrader got the jump on me on the start. I could maintain with him, but the closer I got, the more it seemed the [dirty] air affected by car.”
Ruhlman’s quick time on Tuesday night and trio of heat race wins have put him at the front of the starting grid all week and have helped produce consistent results. He enters the weekend as the UMP Modified point leader after finishes of first, second and third so far this week, but the driver of the No.49 isn’t looking at the standings.
“We’re just taking it night by night. We’re so proud to have our luck go the way it has,” Ruhlman said. “It’s just me and my girlfriend, Veronica. It’s just a small team here. To hang around with Kenny Wallace, Kenny Schrader and all the people here is just really cool.”
Nick Hoffman set quick time in group time trials for the second straight race with a lap of 18.498 seconds.
Brian Ruhlman, Ken Schrader, Jacob Hawkins, Taylor Cook, Kenny Wallace, Nick Hoffman, Justin Allgaier, Robbie Eilers, Josh Rice, Johnny Broking, Will Krup, Billy Workman Jr., Tony Anderson, Ray Bollinger, Tyler Nicely, Devin Dixon, Tyler Clem, Shon Flanary, Trent Young, Jeff Leka, Todd Neiheiser, Larry Burkins, Chase Collins, David Stremme, Matt Crafton, Gene Nicholas, Blake Spalding, Jeff Mathews.