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19-Year-Old Spencer Hughes Bags $5,000 Payday in Big Gator Championship Upset Victory

Nick Hoffman Secures 2020 DIRTcar Nationals Championship for Fifth straight title

by Matt Prieur

BARBERVILLE, FL — Feb. 10, 2020 — The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds concluded their week-long battle at the 49th DIRTcar Nationals presented by Bozard Ford with the $5,000-to-win Big Gator Championship, before crowning the 2020 DIRTcar Nationals Champion.  A thrilling last-lap pass for the win by Spencer Hughes, scored the 19-year-old his first-ever Big Gator, while Nick Hoffman took home his fifth straight DIRTcar Nationals championship.

In his #11 B&K Racing / Lethal Chassis machine, Spencer traded the lead with Jason Hughes (no relation) over the final three laps before making the winning final lap pass around the outside lane to take home the biggest win of his career and first-ever victory in the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia.

“I thought that last caution might’ve messed me up. I felt like I had a really good run on him (J. Hughes), and I guess we had just enough. I got by him in lapped traffic and darn near knocked the fence down,” the elated Meridian, MS driver stated while talking to DIRTVision host Dave Rieff on the victory stage after his thrilling victory.

“I knew we were fast, but I didn’t think we’d have enough time to get him on that last restart. He got a little better start than we did, but we were able to get up beside him. I might’ve pinched down a little bit, but I’m pretty sure he would’ve done the same to me,” Hughes continued. “We came here a year ago, and we’ve always wanted a Gator ever since. Now we’re going to strap it to the hood of the Peterbilt on the way home,” he smiled.

Finishing fifth, Nick Hoffman added an unprecedented fifth DIRTcar Nationals Championship to his already staggering resume. The 27-year-old standout, originally from Belleville, IL, came into the 49th DIRTcar Nationals as the four-time defending Gator Champion and 2019 DIRTcar UMP Modified National Champion, as well as two-time and reigning DIRTcar Summit Modified Nationals Champion. The now Mooresville, NC resident leads the DIRTcar Nationals All-Time Feature Wins for the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds with 17.

“We had a really good week. I think I jinxed myself today as we hadn’t used our spare nose all week, and then we whipped it out on the last lap of the whole week. It was very eventful tonight though. Definitely not the way we wanted it to go. Starting 10th, I probably had the best car to win the race but wasn’t able to show it. Then we bit the front end early running into Kyle (Strickler), and then it wasn’t steering like I needed it to, so we just tried to stay out of trouble,” the Mooresville NC resident explained in Victory Lane after climbing from his damaged #2 Fox Shox / Elite Chassis entry.

“I can’t thank everyone enough — our really strong product sponsors. To not have a mechanical failure all week is a true testament to the crew and everybody on this team,” Hoffman continued. “It was my fault 100 percent. The bottom wasn’t quite run in, and the car just went straight, and I drove right into him,” he explained regarding the incident on lap seven when Tyler Nicely slowed and the field behind him checked up. “The track conditions were tough tonight, but you can’t complain about that. It’s got to be different every night, and it’s usually like that all week. We’ll come back again next year and try for six titles,” he smiled.

Going into the Big Gator Championship Feature, Hoffman carried a 16-point advantage over Kyle Strickler. So, Hoffman merely needed to finish fourth or better to secure his fifth consecutive DIRTcar Nationals title. The two started side-by-side in the fifth row, with Strickler at Hoffman’s left elbow.

J. Hughes and S. Hughes started on the front row of the stellar 32-car field and took the green flag from Chief Starter, Dave Farney to start the 30-lap, $5,000-to-win main event for the Modifieds. J. Hughes beat S. Hughes to the first corner to take the early race lead as the rest of the field jockeyed for position behind the two Hughes . J. Hughes built up his lead while the two DIRTcar Nationals title contenders, Hoffman and Strickler, began working their way towards the front.

The biggest turning point of the race came on lap seven when Tyler Nicely suddenly slowed and Strickler, with nowhere to go, slammed into the back end of Nicely’s machine resulting in heavy front-end damage to Strickler’s ride. He was also tagged from behind by Hoffman, who suffered damage to his nose but was able to continue. After a quick pit stop for repairs, Strickler restarted at the rear of the field. The green came out again, but soon afterwards, Strickler steered his mount to pit road again, calling it a night, and handing Hoffman his fifth straight DIRTcar Nationals title.

In the meantime, J. Hughes continued to show the way with S. Hughes not letting J. Hughes, the four-time United States Modified Tour Series (USMTS) Champion, stray too far out in front. As the laps continued to click off, S. Hughes inched closer to the back bumper of the elder Hughes, who made the trip from Westville, OK and was in search of his first career DIRTcar Nationals victory.

S. Hughes overtook J. Hughes with just three laps to go only to lose the lead back to J. Hughes a lap later. With the crowd on their feet, the final caution flew, setting up a final shootout for the $5,000 payday. On the final restart, J. Hughes powered out to the lead, but S. Hughes kept pace and drove around the high side to retake the lead and hang on to score the upset victory and first at Volusia of his career.

Hughes settled for a disappointing runner-up showing, tying his best finish of the week, while reigning 2019 Renegades of Dirt Series Champion Michael Altobelli Jr., who started 14th, recorded his best finish of the week in third, completing the podium. Ryan Cripe completed an impressive week with a fourth-place effort as newly crowned five-time DIRTcar Nationals Champion Hoffman rounded out the top five.

Opening night Feature Winner Michael Long started 17th and worked his way up to sixth over David Stremme as Mike McKinney from 12th, NASCAR Xfinity Series star Justin Allgaier and Will Krup, who started 25th, advanced 15 positions to finish off the final top 10. Curt Spalding, Terry Phillips, former NASCAR driver David Reutimann and Colin Green won the Last Chance Showdowns.

The DIRTcar Late Models make their second and final appearance at Volusia Speedway Park on Tuesday, February 11 on Night #8 of the 49th DIRTcar Nationals before the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series take over starting on Wednesday. February 12. The Super DIRTcar Big Block Modified Series move in tomorrow, Tuesday, February 11, and will race through the rest of the week.


Feature (30 Laps) – 1. 11H-Spencer Hughes [2][$5,000]; 2. 12H-Jason Hughes [1][$2,000]; 3. 95-Michael Altobelli [14][$1,250]; 4. 23-Ryan Cripe [8][$1,000]; 5. 2-Nick Hoffman [10][$800]; 6. 18L-Michael Long [17][$700]; 7. 35-David Stremme [5][$600]; 8. 96M-Mike McKinney [12][$575]; 9. 7JA-Justin Allgaier [3][$550]; 10. K19-Will Krup [25][$525]; 11. 77-Ray Bollinger [16][$500]; 12. 36-Kenny Wallace [13][$500]; 13. 5-Curt Spalding [21][$500]; 14. 3L-Jeff Leka [6][$500]; 15. 75-Terry Phillips [22][$450]; 16. OOD-David Reutimann [23][$425]; 17. 7-Drake Troutman [18][$400]; 18. 7CT-Christian Thomas [20][$375]; 19. 99M-Mike Mullen [28][$350]; 20. 99-Hunt Gossum [11][$300]; 21. 67-Garret Stewart [19][$300]; 22. 7A-Shane Sabraski [26][$300]; 23. 52-Colin Green [24][$300]; 24. 90-Jason Beaulieu [29][$300]; 25. 88-Matt Crafton [30][$300]; 26. 12L-Lucas Lee [15][$300]; 27. 22-Dale Kelley [31][$300]; 28. 8KS-Kyle Strickler [9][$300]; 29. 25-Tyler Nicely [4][]; 30. 45J-Johnny Broking [27][]; 31. 49-Brian Ruhlman [7][-]; 32. 65-Todd Sherman [32][-]; KSE Hard Charger Award: K19-Will Krup[+15]

Qualifying Feature 1 – Friday Night (8 Laps) – Top 10 Transfer – 1. 2-Nick Hoffman [1]; 2. 12H-Jason Hughes [2]; 3. 49-Brian Ruhlman [3]; 4. 3L-Jeff Leka [4]; 5. 11H-Spencer Hughes [5]; 6. 99-Hunt Gossum [6]; 7. 36-Kenny Wallace [7]; 8. 12L-Lucas Lee [8]; 9. 18L-Michael Long [9]; 10. 67-Garret Stewart [10]; 11. 5-Curt Spalding [11]; 12. 11M-Mike McGee [14]; 13. 12-Jason Gross [15]; 14. 22-Dale Kelley [16]; 15. 45J-Johnny Broking [17]; 16. K19-Will Krup [19]; 17. 17TE-Tyler Evans [20]; 18. 1-Brenden Rassel [21]; 19. 17T-Michael Tarlton [22]; 20. 32-Chad Roush [23]; 21. O1-Bryce Nichols [24]; 22. 22T-Tony Anderson [25]; 23. 100-Scott Fritz [26]; 24. OO-Buzzie Reutimann [27]; 25. 19-Chad Bauer [28]; 26. 65-Todd Sherman [30]; 27. 9PG-Percy Gendreau [31]; 28. 11N-Gene Nicholas [33]; 29. 27-William Cevaal [36]; 30. Z06-Larry Mott [38]; 31. 33-TJ Evans [39]

Qualifying Feature 2 – Saturday Night (8 Laps) – Top 10 Transfer – 1. 8KS-Kyle Strickler [1]; 2. 25-Tyler Nicely [2]; 3. 7JA-Justin Allgaier [3]; 4. 23-Ryan Cripe [4]; 5. 35-David Stremme [5]; 6. 96M-Mike McKinney [6]; 7. 95-Michael Altobelli [7]; 8. 77-Ray Bollinger [8]; 9. 7-Drake Troutman [9]; 10. 7CT-Christian Thomas [10]; 11. 7A-Shane Sabraski [11]; 12. 99M-Mike Mullen [12]; 13. 75-Terry Phillips [13]; 14. 52-Colin Green [14]; 15. 24D-Travis Dickson [15]; 16. A1-Gary Bentley [16]; 17. 9-Sheldon Creed [17]; 18. 4UW-Bobby Regot [18]; 19. 5F-Jerry Foster [19]; 20. O7-Curtis King [20]; 21. 97-Mitch Thomas [22]; 22. 8-Steve Stevenson [23]; 23. 90-Jason Beaulieu [29]; 24. 88-Matt Crafton [30]

Last Chance Showdown 1 (8 Laps) – Top 2 Transfer – 1. 5-Curt Spalding [1][-]; 2. K19-Will Krup [4][-]; 3. 11M-Mike McGee [2][$75]; 4. 22-Dale Kelley [3][$75]; 5. 22T-Tony Anderson [7][$75]; 6. 1-Brenden Rassel [5][$75]; 7. 32-Chad Roush [6][$75]; 8. OO-Buzzie Reutimann [8][$75]; 9. 11N-Gene Nicholas [9][$75]

Last Chance Showdown 2 (8 Laps) – 1. 75-Terry Phillips [2][-]; 2. 7A-Shane Sabraski [1][-]; 3. 9-Sheldon Creed [4][$75]; 4. 24D-Travis Dickson [3][$75]; 5. 90-Jason Beaulieu [7][$75]; 6. 5F-Jerry Foster [5][$75]; 7. 19-Chad Bauer [8][$75]; 8. 97-Mitch Thomas [6][$75]

Last Chance Showdown 3 (8 Laps) – 1. OOD-David Reutimann [1][-]; 2. 45J-Johnny Broking [3][-]; 3. 12-Jason Gross [2][$75]; 4. 17TE-Tyler Evans [4][$75]; 5. 17T-Michael Tarlton [5][$75]; 6. O1-Bryce Nichols [6][$75]; 7. 100-Scott Fritz [7][$75]; 8. Z06-Larry Mott [9][$75]; 9. 65-Todd Sherman [8][$75]

Last Chance Showdown 4 (8 Laps) – 1. 52-Colin Green [2][-]; 2. 99M-Mike Mullen [1][-]; 3. 8-Steve Stevenson [6][$75]; 4. 4UW-Bobby Regot [4][$75]; 5. A1-Gary Bentley [3][$75]; 6. O7-Curtis King [5][$75]; 7. 88-Matt Crafton [7][$75]; 8. 33-TJ Evans [9][$75]; 9. 9PG-Percy Gendreau [8][$75]


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