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FARLEY — It took until 3 a.m. to become official, but Mooresville, N.C., driver Kyle Strickler added 50,000 reasons why his fellow competitors in Iowa would rather he stay out east.
A two-time IMCA Super Nationals champion, Strickler is no stranger to winning the biggest races in Iowa — or across the country. The inaugural Modified Super Weekend was no different. The “High Side Tickler” led all 50 laps of the main event Saturday night at Farley Speedway from the outside pole starting position.
Despite all the big races he’s won and the big checks he’s brought home, he allowed himself to steal a moment of awe before the race was even over.
“Going down the back stretch it hit me, ‘This isn’t just a regular Saturday night race. This is $50,000 to win so don’t spin out,’” Strickler said. “This is going to take a bit to sink in. It’s crazy to think about how much money we just won.”
Strickler led every lap, but the win certainly wasn’t stress-free.
The 50-lap main event had a halftime break and a handful of cautions, and he was dealing with a handful of the best dirt racers in the country throwing everything they had at him on restarts, trying to pounce before he found the moisture and took off again.
Brookfield, Mo., native (who races out of West Union in the summer) Hunter Marriott ($20,000) ended up second, while Las Cruces, N.M., native Johnny Scott ($8,000) was third, Oxford’s Chris Simpson ($5,000) was fourth and Beatrice, Neb.’s Jordan Grabouski ($4,500) — a two-time IMCA national champion — was fifth.
While waiting into the wee hours for the tech officials to completely tear down Strickler’s IMCA-type Crate engine, Marriott and Scott did a little bench racing. Marriott believed he was a little faster than Strickler at the very end, but Strickler was a little smoother. Scott put a pair of slide jobs on Strickler with less than five to go, briefly taking the lead in Turns 1 and 2 on two occasions.
Scott said he knew he was “going to have to make something happen and that was my only chance.”
On a night where the track surface developed a few holes and ruts that had to be navigated, it made the show the top three put on all the more impressive.
“I was trying to be as calm as you could possibly be with Johnny slicing and dicing, and didn’t want to hook a rut and knock a tire off a bead or something,” Strickler said. “Good racers know how to protect against it or what to do when you do it. Slide jobs are a part of racing. It makes it exciting for the fans. He was doing what you want to do. He was sliding me clean and I could come off the top and cross him over.
“It worked out great. Once we got a few laps there, we were good.”
Being able to race that hard and that clean is an ideal scenario for the racers, even if fans would’ve loved to see the drama of someone moving someone else out of the way on the final lap.
With $50,000 on the line, some hurt feelings weren’t an unreasonable expectation headed into the event. But whether it was in conversations around Victory Lane right after the race or around the tech barn, the guys involved at the end could only shrug their shoulders at the notion.
Strickler, Marriott, Scott and Grabouski have raced against each other for high stakes wins many times, and will again somewhere down the line. Strickler even called Marriott “like a little brother to me,” and said he watched him grow up racing.
Marriott taking $20,000 for second was his biggest career payday, and while he was obviously disappointed not to take the top prize, he took solace in the speed he had and the fun everyone had racing each other clean.
“When you get around these guys, it’s always going to be good racing,” Marriott said. “You have to have respect out here for these guys because you race them a lot during the year. It wouldn’t have surprised me if it happened, but I also didn’t figure it would.”
It was Strickler’s first race in Iowa this year on his new Longhorn Chassis, having raced more on the east coast and in the south, following mostly UMP races.
Iowa has been a successful place for him, though, and this weekend firmly stamped his reputation as one of the best Modified drivers in the nation. Winning the way he did and holding off who he held off will make the long ride back to North Carolina feel much shorter — even if he had to be up until nearly sunrise to make it official.
“For the first time out in Iowa with a brand-new racecar, winning the biggest paying race I’ve ever won — so much goes into this and you can’t make mistakes,” Strickler said. “Winning SuperNationals is a totally different deal. It’s so many cars; it’s a weeklong event. This deal was an enormous amount of money on the line. The great thing is once we got down to the end, we have such awesome racecar drivers and talented racecar drivers that we could put on a show and not tear everybody’s stuff up for $50,000.”
BOUMEESTER TAKES $20,000 BY A BUMPER
While the Modifieds put on a show late in their main event for the top prize Saturday night, the best main event was the $20,000-to-win Sport Mod feature.
For the final five laps of the race, Waseca, Minn., driver Jared Boumeester and Boone’s Jake McBirnie raced side-by-side for the win — and if they made any contact, it was only slight. With Boumeester on the inside and McBirnie on the outside, the pair came across the line just about as close as two cars possibly could be.
The margin of victory, according to track officials, was 0.017 seconds. In less time than it takes to blink your eyes, Boumeester edged McBirnie for the $20,000 payday.
“There were a few times every couple laps I could get such a drive off down by that guard rail, and the last couple laps it worked perfect,” Boumeester said through a wide grin in Victory Lane. “I was shot. My arms were getting weak, but we kept on the wheel and got it done.
“It was so close. Where that flag stand is, usually they’re further down the straightaway. Usually coming off the top there’s more momentum. If the flag stand had been 20 feet further down, (McBirnie) would’ve had it.”
When the pair crossed the line, few at Farley Speedway knew who won the race. Depending on where you were sitting or standing, that’s who appeared to have won. Crews for both teams celebrated initially.
McBirnie, who still took home $8,000 for second — was understandably upset right after the finish of the race, but it was about the circumstances and mistakes he felt he made over the final few laps. Losing by inches stays with a racecar driver for a long time.
After taking a few minutes to calm down, McBirnie credited Boumeester with racing him clean over those final laps.
“That’s (so) tough,” McBirnie said. “It’s not going to go away until I come back here next year. I think I had the fastest car here. There’s no doubt in my mind I thought I was faster than him. Whoever got through the holes better was going to be the winner and he got through holes better in the last corner. That’s all that mattered.”
Boumeester won ahead of McBirnie, New London, Mo., driver Brandon Lennox ($5,000), Sherrill’s Tyler Soppe ($3,000) — after starting 14th — and Beatrice, Neb., driver Lance Borgman ($2,500).
If either of Saturday’s winners could be considered an underdog, it was Boumeester, who races at Fairmont (Minn.) Raceway and Hancock County Speedway in Britt weekly. He said Saturday night he’s come a long way in his racing career, but especially in the last few years.
A win like Saturday’s is intensely gratifying because of the photo finish, but for 20,000 other reasons as well. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do yet with that money, but a move to Modified is a good possibility, he said.
“I’m just in shock and it’s just a dream come true to have a perfect weekend,” Boumeester said. “You go to some of these specials, you have your bad days and get wrecked. It just came together.
“We get by with what we’ve got. We run used tires and make it work. We’ve done a lot of homework over the last few years. It pays off.”
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