California kid Ethan Dotson runner-up, Strickler back in a Modified runs third
It was only his second start of the season at Farmer City Raceway, but that never hindered Michael Long and his drive to Victory Lane Friday night
The veteran pilot from Fowler, IL, bested a DIRTcar UMP Modified field loaded with talent to win $3,000 in the track’s final weekly event of the season and the first of a three-day Labor Day Weekend swing in Illinois. With names like Ethan Dotson, Mike Harrison, Kyle Strickler and more in the field, Long topped them all in dominant fashion, leading all 30 laps en route to his fourth DIRTcar Feature win of the season.
“We’re always right there with them guys, it’s just sometimes, those long races are something we’ve been lacking in a bit,” Long said. “But our whole program is good right now – from Time Trials to Feature, I hardly do anything on it the whole night.”
Long qualified fifth-fastest out of 24 cars in attendance and won Heat Race #2, setting him on the outside pole for the Feature starting grid. He got the jump on polesitter Ethan Dotson on the opening lap, using the middle-top grooves’ momentum to his advantage.
“I could tell Turns 3-4 were going to be good on the top with the way it looked after that Late Model race,” Long said. “I had 1-2 on the bottom earlier in the race pretty good, then floating out across the middle.”
“Once we hit lapped traffic, they were all around the bottom, and the top cleaned-up pretty good in 1-2. I could roll up there and not have to bang on the cushion.”
Long led largely unchallenged for most of the race, though was forced to defend on relentless pressure from Dotson behind him. With less than five laps-to-go, Long was held up a bit by some slower traffic, giving Dotson an opportunity to pounce.
Though he came close and nearly pulled even, Dotson was unable to make the move. Long held strong on the top and brought the car back around to victory, nearly a full second ahead.
“I saw [Dotson’s] nose there a few times,” Long said. “One time with about five or six-to-go, he must’ve dove it in there and I saw him in 3-4.
“I was kinda playing it cautious around the lapped cars. I caught myself pushing going into Turn 1 a couple times. Then in the last few laps, I got back up on the wheel and was able to pull back away a couple car lengths.”
Dotson, the 23-year-old west coast Dirt Modified sensation from Bakersfield, CA, took the Longhorn Chassis UMP Modified house car across the stripe P2 in only his first start at the 1/4-mile bullring.
“It’s super different, super fun, and I like how it has two different corners,” Dotson said. “Awesome place; hopefully we can be back.”
Though he came up one spot short in the end on Friday, Dotson will be back to try it again Friday night in Fairbury Speedway’s FALS Supernationals for a shot at $10,000.
“The car was really good, the driver just made too many mistakes,” Dotson said. “We for sure had a car to win and I just blew it a couple times. Whenever I’d get close, I’d make a mistake. I’ll work on me and hopefully we can do better tomorrow night.”
Kyle Strickler brought out his Longhorn UMP Modified Friday night for the first time since April and had a great showing, crossing the stripe in third. It’s a content feeling for him, knowing he can bring the car out of the box after being dormant for a few months and contend with his fellow heavy hitters. One of which is four-time national champion Nick Hoffman, who is currently in the hospital recovering from a serious traffic accident early Friday morning.
“I wanted to come out here and race against him because I feel like he and I raise each other’s competitiveness and make the Modified a lot better and stronger,” Strickler said of longtime fellow competitor Hoffman. “I hate that he’s not here and hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”
Strickler started fifth on the grid and had to work to pass Mike Harrison, using several lanes to make up ground and get around the seven-time DIRTcar national champion.
“It was funny because Harrison and I are usually ripping the top and we were both fighting for the bottom tonight,” Strickler said. “Ethan’s been really good. It’s great for us to come out here and be competitive.”
The DIRTcar UMP Modified Labor Day Weekend swing continues with the FALS Supernationals at Fairbury Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 3. Tickets are available at the gates. Hot Laps are scheduled for a 6pm start time, Qualifying at 7.
A Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 18L-Michael Long; 2. 00-Ethan Dotson; 3. 8-Kyle Strickler; 4. 24H-Mike Harrison; 5. 22-Josh Harris; 6. 66-Cole Falloway; 7. 12-Lucas Lee; 8. 35-David Stremme; 9. 25W-Allen Weisser; 10. 43-Jared Thomas; 11. 14-Caden McWhorter; 12. 777-Trevor Neville; 13. 21S-Kenny Shaw; 14. 35X-Ethan Weber; 15. 150-Collin Alexander; 16. (DNF) 22X-Will Bennett; 17. (DNF) 242-Brandon Bollinger; 18. (DNF) 37-Lance Evans; 19. (DNF) 21-Denny Schwartz; 20. (DNF) 37L-Michael Ledford; 21. (DNF) 96M-Mike McKinney
B Feature 1 (10 Laps): 1. 37-Lance Evans; 2. 150-Collin Alexander; 3. 21S-Kenny Shaw
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 00-Ethan Dotson; 2. 24H-Mike Harrison; 3. 35-David Stremme; 4. 12-Lucas Lee; 5. 777-Trevor Neville; 6. 43-Jared Thomas; 7. 150-Collin Alexander
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 18L-Michael Long; 2. 8-Kyle Strickler; 3. 37L-Michael Ledford; 4. 66-Cole Falloway; 5. 25W-Allen Weisser; 6. 242-Brandon Bollinger; 7. 37-Lance Evans; 8. (DNF) 97G-Jason Crose
Heat 3 (8 Laps): 1. 21-Denny Schwartz; 2. 14-Caden McWhorter; 3. 22-Josh Harris; 4. 35X-Ethan Weber; 5. 22X-Will Bennett; 6. 96M-Mike McKinney; 7. 21S-Kenny Shaw; 8. 18-Trey Davenport
Qualifying 1 (2 Laps): 1. 00-Ethan Dotson, 00:13.695; 2. 8-Kyle Strickler, 00:13.704; 3. 21-Denny Schwartz, 00:13.748; 4. 24H-Mike Harrison, 00:13.776; 5. 18L-Michael Long, 00:13.836; 6. 35X-Ethan Weber, 00:13.838; 7. 35-David Stremme, 00:13.917; 8. 66-Cole Falloway, 00:13.947; 9. 14-Caden McWhorter, 00:14.008; 10. 43-Jared Thomas, 00:14.017; 11. 37L-Michael Ledford, 00:14.065; 12. 21S-Kenny Shaw, 00:14.066; 13. 12-Lucas Lee, 00:14.085; 14. 25W-Allen Weisser, 00:14.098; 15. 96M-Mike McKinney, 00:14.098; 16. 777-Trevor Neville, 00:14.137; 17. 242-Brandon Bollinger, 00:14.156; 18. 22-Josh Harris, 00:14.157; 19. 150-Collin Alexander, 00:14.183; 20. 37-Lance Evans, 00:14.255; 21. 22X-Will Bennett, 00:14.371; 22. 12X-Wyatt Harms, 00:14.465; 23. 97G-Jason Crose, 00:15.576; 24. 18-Trey Davenport, 00:15.616