By Kevin Kovac
BARBERVILLE , FL – Feb. 6, 2007 – The Hermanator had some fun in the dirt Tuesday night at Volusia Speedway Park .
NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series veteran Kenny Wallace shined on opening night of the 36th annual DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Mopar Speedshop, scoring a flag-to-flag triumph in the 20-lap UMP DIRTcar Racing Modified feature.
Wallace, 43, drove his own distinctive No. 36 Modified, which sports a paint scheme honoring his beloved St. Louis Cardinals baseball club. He plans to enter the seven remaining UMP Modified events of the DIRTcar Nationals (nightly through Feb. 13) unless his Nextel Cup and Busch Series commitments at Daytona International Speedway alter his schedule.
“It’s so much fun racing on dirt,” the always energetic Wallace said in Victory Lane . “With the Cup and Busch Series, the cars are so fast, there’s not much you can do. You’re just along for the ride. But on dirt, you gotta drive it, and that’s fun.”
Wallace, who expects to make nearly two dozen Modified and more than 15 dirt Late Model starts in between his NASCAR racing in 2007, took a congratulatory cell-phone call during the post-race ceremonies from fellow NASCAR standout and Missouri native Kenny Schrader. Schrader was also racing on dirt on Tuesday night, competing on the other side of the state in the Dirt Late Model Winternationals at East Bay Raceway.
“He’s racing with the Late Models,” Wallace said of his buddy Schrader. “I’m here winning with the Modifieds.”
The victory was Wallace’s first ever in UMP Modified competition at Volusia Speedway Park , but he had previously experienced the glory of a checkered flag at the half-mile, D-shaped oval. He won a NASCAR Busch Series 200 at the track in 1991, when the speedway was paved.
Wallace, whose heat-race win earned him a front-row starting spot for the feature, was never seriously challenged. He crossed the finish line ahead of Oconto Falls , Wis. ’s Julie McDermid, whose second-place run was her career-best in DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified action.
McDermid, who celebrated her 25th birthday on Feb. 4, is using the UMP Modified events in Florida to make her return to the driver’s seat. She was sidelined for much of the 2006 season after suffering a back injury and subsequently undergoing surgery.
Brian Strand of Bemidji , Minn. , finished third, followed by Steve Arpin of Fort Frances , Ont., and Brad Waits of Zumbrota, Minn.
Forty-nine cars were entered in the first of eight consecutive nights of UMP Modified racing during the DIRTcar Nationals.
UMP DIRTcar Racing Modified Feature Finish (20 laps):
1. Kenny Wallace
2. Julie McDermid
3. Brian Strand
4. Steve Arpin
5. Brad Waits
6. Tom Seets Sr.
7. Lee Hobbs
8. Ray Walsh
9. Vance Wilson
10. Joey Kramer
11. Jeff Mathews
12. Joe Duvall
13. David McWilliams
14. Todd Ferber
15. Adam Pearson
16. Ron Barker
17. Gabe Menser
18. J.E. Stadler
19. Chad Evans
20. Mike Spatola
21. Mark Dotson
22. Benji Lacrosse
23. Roger Moser
24. Brad Miller
DNQ: Shane Williams, Billy Palmer, Ed Lenhardt, Steve Johnson, Shon Flanery, Charlie McNichol, David Ostrander, Blake Jetvig, Aaron Ogle, Kevin Adams, Brett Chilsom, Vic Vandergrift, Kevin Huff, Don Kiger, Mike Lewis, Scotty Kincaid, Bruce Bellard, Darrel Herbert, Dennis Richards, Bruce Takach, Jerry Muenster, Phil Sturm, Gary Clark, Jake Hawkens, Mike Phillips