KOKOMO, Ind. – Friday night’s debut for the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals at Kokomo Speedway had a little bit of everything in it.
There were some new faces in victory lane, as well as some quite familiar ones, and there were plenty of satisfied race fans by the end of the four preliminary Showdown Features as part of the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series’ Hoosier Dirt Shootout.
After the giant field of 64 Summit Modifieds completed their Hot Lap/Qualifying sessions, topped by Jeff Leka and Derek Losh, four preliminary Showdown Features were spawned to lock in the first sixteen cars for Saturday night’s $5,000-to-win main event.
With the way Zeke McKenzie was driving the cushion and throwing slide jobs for the lead around Kokomo Speedway, it looked as though he had won every UMP Modified race ever held at Kokomo.
But it was the heart of a competitor and some abundant driving talent that got McKenzie his first feature win in Summit Modifieds competition on Friday night, and the emotions were already sinking in as he pulled his Vanquish Race Cars No. 24 into Victory Lane.
“This is the best of the best in this Summit Modifieds deal,” a very happy McKenzie told pit reporter Mike Norris in Victory Lane. “We’ve been traveling through the whole series and haven’t missed a race. It’s great to be here.”
As the only Summit Modified driver on the roster this year attempting to start every show on the schedule, McKenzie’s experience behind the wheel shined bright throughout the entire 20-lap contest. He put the pressure on polesitter Jeff Leka in the early going and made the pass on him for the lead after a big run on the bottom out of turn two.
McKenzie held the top spot through a few restarts before having to deal with the wrath of Tyler Nicely, who dealt McKenzie a slider of his own on a lap-nine restart.
McKenzie came right back at him in turns three and four and got underneath Nicely’s No. 25, clearing him as they came back around and exited turn two.
Nicely kept digging down low over the remaining laps and stayed right with McKenzie, but it was not enough to catch the native Indianan as he crossed the stripe first to score one of the proudest moments of his career.
“I’m just … flabbergasted,” he said. “It’s great to be here at home and get one in front of all these great people. We went from almost flipping at LaSalle to winning, I can’t believe it.”
If there were a single 20-lap stretch of racing to describe Nick Hoffman’s Summit Modified season so far, it was his dominating victory in Showdown Feature No. 2.
The two-time and defending tour champion put a hurting on his competition Friday night, leading flag-to-flag for the fourth time in four races and the $500 preliminary feature prize.
Truth be told, Hoffman was untouchable, despite runner-up David Stremme and Adam Stricker’s best efforts to catch him.
Nobody was able to get close enough to attempt a pass, as Hoffman ran away with it and a spot in the ever-important redraw for Saturday night’s finale.
“I was just kinda hanging on, it felt a little loose there at the end, but this thing’s pretty good. Just to be able to momentum around here right through the middle like that,” Hoffman said in victory lane. “Happy to be here; I’ve never been here before, but I’ve watched a lot of open-wheel races here and it was a hell of a place.”
Much like the winner before him, Derek Losh dominated Showdown No. 3, running away from Danny Schwartz and Nick Allen in lapped traffic to collect $500 and a spot in Saturday’s redraw.
Simply put, there was no catching Losh’s No. 21. He rode the cushion with skill and maintained the gap he opened up earlier in the race through lapped traffic, pulling away as the laps clicked off.
Come the checkered flag, Losh had roughly a 10-car-length advantage over runner-up Schwartz in a feature that went caution-free.
Losh has been terrific on the Indiana bullrings this season, with several wins already at Gas City I-69 Speedway, Lincoln Park Speedway, and even one at Kokomo on July 3.
“Every chance we get to come to Kokomo, we eat it up. This place is so badass,” Losh said in victory lane.
Mike McKinney and Mike Harrison took to the topside of the fast quarter-mile and engaged in an exciting chase through lapped traffic throughout most of the fourth feature, ending with McKinney in victory lane and a spot for both of them in Saturday’s redraw.
“I knew when I saw me and [Harrison] in the same lineup, it was gonna be a hell of a show,” McKinney said in victory lane. “There’s only one place to be when he’s behind you, and that’s up on the fence, putting on a show.”
McKinney took the early lead from Curt Spalding and opened up a gap that Harrison was able to limit through the later stages of the race, chasing him down for several laps under green with plenty of slower cars to maneuver through.
A caution flag with two laps remaining stacked up the field and gave Harrison one final shot at McKinney, but Harrison bounced his No. 24 hard off the cushion/wall once more, scrubbing off enough momentum to allow McKinney the room he needed to take the win.
Feature #1 (20 laps): 1. 24-Zeke McKenzie ; 2. 25-Tyler Nicely ; 3. 3L-Jeff Leka ; 4. 10-Bradley Jameson ; 5. 34J-Jordan Wever ; 6. 93W-Brayden Watson ; 7. 3W-Dylan Woodling ; 8. 80-Cole Sink ; 9. B75-Brayden Berry ; 10. 83-Kasey Schrock ; 11. 49-Darek Snyder ; 12. 21B-Braxton Strait ; 13. 15W-Owen Wells ; 14. 53-Bobby Stremme ; 15. 9N-Todd Nelson ; 16. 21C-Kenny Carlson 
Feature #2 (20 laps): 1. 7-Nick Hoffman ; 2. 35-David Stremme ; 3. 68-Adam Stricker ; 4. T9-Ryan Thomas ; 5. 34W-James Walters ; 6. 114-Clayton Bryant ; 7. O-Garrett Jameson ; 8. 463-Daniel Sanchez ; 9. 1S-Brian Shaw ; 10. 9-Ken Schrader ; 11. 77-Andy Bishop ; 12. 27C-Justin Cundiff ; 13. 21R-Richie Shirey ; 14. 83J-James Weintraut ; 15. 45-Kyle Hammer ; 16. 2X-Deaven Bolton 
Feature #3 (20 laps): 1. 21-Derek Losh ; 2. 21D-Danny Schwartz ; 3. 21A-Nick Allen ; 4. K19-Will Krup ; 5. 22-Josh Harris ; 6. 8K-Levi Kissinger ; 7. 17N-Dillon Nusbaum ; 8. 65-Todd Sherman ; 9. 7D-Brad DeYoung ; 10. 24D-Travis Dickson ; 11. 4G-Bill Griffith ; 12. 24SH-Steven Hogue ; 13. 1W-Larry Witt ; 14. 11-Roger Cavness ; 15. E85-Jesse Strange ; 16. 44-Andy Sherley 
Feature #4 (20 laps): 1. 96M-Mike McKinney ; 2. 24H-Mike Harrison ; 3. 5-Curt Spalding ; 4. 47-Collin Thirlby ; 5. 10L-Nathon Loney ; 6. 63-Dustin King ; 7. 7L-Mark Lamont ; 8. 22T-Tony Anderson ; 9. 327-Dustin Bruce ; 10. T5X-Bub Roberts ; 11. 35C-Craig Christian ; 12. 23-Luke Hubbell ; 13. 9PG-Percy Gendreau ; 14. 144-Austin Selig ; 15. 15-Chris Smith ; 16. P1-Tim Prince