BARBERVILLE, Fla. – Fifty-two of the best DIRTcar UMP Modified drivers in the country assembled at Volusia Speedway Park Friday night for the preliminary night of action for the seventh annual Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial.
Twenty names have since punched their ticket into Saturday’s $5,000-to-win main event.
Four 15-lap Showdown features hit the track after two groups of qualifying, locking the top-five finishers into Saturday’s Feature and taking the top-two into the redraw.
NASCAR Xfinity Series star Justin Allgaier, piloting his Federated Auto Parts No. 7 Elite Chassis, led flag-to-flag in the first Showdown feature.
Grabbing the lead into turn one from the outside pole on the opening lap, Allgaier fought off all challengers from behind, including his chassis builder and 2020 DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion Nick Hoffman, for the $500 victory.
Hoffman held on for second, sending both he and Allgaier to the redraw. Also transferring into the feature were Austin Holcombe, David Stremme and Chris Arnold.
“Well, tomorrow’s 50 laps, tonight was only 15,” Allgaier said of his outlook to Saturday. “I’ve got to not make a mistake. There’s a lot of guys tonight that got caught-out by the track conditions in qualifying. The conditions tonight suited my driving style really well. But if it gets slick tomorrow, which I think it will, Nick’s [Hoffman] gonna be incredible. I know it.”
In the second Showdown feature, Devin Dixon ran down Rich Dawson to pick up the victory to earn a spot in Saturday’s main event.
Dawson won the battle into turn one on the opening lap, but Dixon never let him out of sight. A restart five laps in gave Dixon the opportunity he needed to make the move, which he did to Dawson’s inside in turn one after furiously reeling him in lap-by-lap.
“Once we got going there, [Dawson] took off pretty good and then he started fading a little bit the later the race went, and we started getting better. Down there into [turn] one, he jumped the cushion a little bit and I just slid him, and it was on from there,” Dixon said.
From that point forward, Dixon set it on cruise and was never challenged for the lead again as he drove across the stripe, punching his ticket to the redraw with runner-up Dawson. Steve Stevenson, Ryan Ayers and Rich Pratt also transferred to the 50-lap feature.
In the third Showdown feature, it was Tyler Nicely who took top honors piloting a new car.
After laying down the night’s fastest lap in qualifying of 18.740 seconds, worth a $250 cash prize courtesy of the Reutimann family, Nicely grabbed the lead from the pole of the third Showdown feature and never once even thought about giving it up. The Owensboro, Ky., native led every lap en route to the redraw and $500 prize over runner-up Maverick Varnadore.
Even when he proved a green-white-checkered finish could not throw him off of his game, at the end of the day, Nicely was still looking for more speed.
“We weren’t as good as we wanted to be in that feature,” Nicely said. “Just tried to get the car to work well on the bottom and rotating. Tomorrow night will be different, 50 laps. Hopefully the track slows down a lot and we get a good redraw.”
Also transferring into the 50-lap Feature was two-time event winner David Reutimann, Troy Johnson and Seth Geary.
Jeff Mathews, the 2017 Reutimann Memorial feature winner, had absolutely no problem putting himself in position to win it a second time Friday night. Mathews did just that with a flag-to-flag victory in the fourth and final Showdown feature.
Mathews took the lead at the drop of the green and never looked back, leading every lap en route to the $500 victory and a spot in the redraw with runner-up Garrett Stewart.
Even the restarts Mathews faced along the way could not slow his momentum. But he knows Saturday is the big one, and he’ll have to be extra prepared to be there at the end of 50 laps.
“We didn’t really know which direction we wanted to go, if we wanted to be getting tighter or freeing-up, or trying to stay neutral,” Mathews said of his car setup. “I think we made the right call, but tomorrow’s a whole different ball game. We’ve got 50 laps, and I don’t think we’ll have this type of racetrack tomorrow night.”
Justin Haley, Travis Vanadore and Buzzie Reutimann also transferred into the feature. Reutimann, the 79-year-old racing legend from Zephyrhills, Fla., was perhaps the biggest star of the entire show when he was spun sideways about halfway through the race, gathered it back in on the restart and hung on to the fifth and final transfer spot to punch his ticket into the big show.