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TICKETS PUNCHED: McKenzie, Neiheiser, Dotson, Winger Win Reutimann Memorial Showdowns at Volusia
Fifty-lap, $7,000-to-win finale goes green Saturday night on DIRTVision
BARBERVILLE, FL – Nov. 18, 2022 – In a field 54 cars deep, 20 of the best DIRTcar UMP Modified drivers at Volusia Speedway Park are now locked into Saturday night’s main event – the ninth annual Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial.
Four individual, 15-lap Showdown Features hit the track Friday night after a round of Qualifying laps, locking the top-five finishers into the Feature and taking the top-two to the redraw on Saturday.
A matured track record was broken and four different home states went to Victory Lane, setting the stage for a redraw, Last Chance Showdown and 50-lap, $7,000-to-win Feature Saturday night – shown live on DIRTVision.
Showdown Feature #1
He’s been a count-on driver for February’s DIRTcar Nationals roster. But this fall, Zeke McKenzie decided to make the trip southward once more from his home in Warsaw, IN, for his first appearance in the Reutimann Memorial, and it’s already paid dividends.
McKenzie made the most of his quick Qualifying lap, topping all of Group A and going on to dominate Showdown Feature #1 by leading all 15 laps to cash-in on the $500 bonus.
“I’m just so happy for the opportunity,” McKenzie said. “John Carpenter gave me the opportunity to drive his car in the last few weeks, and we work really well together.”
He wheeled the Minnesota team-owned car to Volusia Victory Lane for the first time in his career after getting the jump on the start, never once faltering on the restarts. He held off a hungry Brandon Kinzer in the final laps to bag the victory and a spot in Saturday’s redraw.
Showdown Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 24-Zeke McKenzie; 2. 18X-Brandon Kinzer; 3. 33M-Jeff Mathews; 4. 2J-Troy Johnson; 5. 6B-Dave Baldwin; 6. 117-Clinton Gillen; 7. (DNF) 97-Mitch Thomas; 8. (DNF) 54-Jason Jack; 9. (DNF) 33-Kenny Mihalik; 10. (DNF) 17-Patrick Vareika; 11. (DNF) 4M-Tim Monroe; 12. (DNF) 34-Rob Giffen; 13. (DNF) 12-Robert Gast; 14. (DNS) 57P-Zach Permann
Showdown Feature #2
Todd Neiheiser did something all 53 of his opponents could not Friday night – represent the home state of Florida in Victory Lane.
Neiheiser, the UMP Modified veteran racer from Panama City, FL, bagged his first career Showdown Feature victory leading flag-to-flag, ripping the high side around the half-mile oval and fending off pressure from Nevin Gainey behind him in the final laps.
“It was pretty easy,” Neiheiser said. “I went around the high side. I was going to stay up there because it looked pretty good.”
Gainey started fourth and fell back to sixth in the early going but climbed his way back to second in only six laps. He spent remainder of the race chasing down Neiheiser but was unable to get the momentum necessary on the bottom to make the pass and settled for second, punching his ticket into Saturday’s redraw with Neiheiser.
Showdown Feature 2 (15 Laps): 1. 72-Todd Neiheiser; 2. 17G-Nevin Gainey; 3. 205-Travis Varnadore; 4. 09-Michael Leach; 5. 24B-Dillon Buhr; 6. 00B-Buzzie Reutimann; 7. 2A-Matt Altiers; 8. 23B-Ethan Boomsma; 9. 11Z-Zane Oedewaldt; 10. (DNF) 3S-Josh Sanford; 11. (DNF) 60-Jim Manka; 12. (DNS) 27G-Jason Garver; 13. (DNS) 7G-Seth Geary
Showdown Feature #3 – Ethan Dotson
Ethan Dotson turned several heads across the DIRTcar UMP Modified world this year and may have turned a few more Friday night, breaking an 11-year-old track record in Qualifying and going on to a 4.5-second victory in the third Showdown Feature.
The first-year UMP Modified talent from Bakersfield, CA, had never turned a single lap around the half-mile facility before practice on Thursday night. His second laps around on Friday night proved to be the fastest turned in a UMP Modified in track history, smashing Clint Bowyer’s previous record from 2011 by almost a half-second at 17.031.
“Breaking the track record is pretty cool, I’ve never done that before,” Dotson said. “Crate racing my whole life, you don’t get a lot of chances to have a track record. That was cool to be able to do that, especially at this place – holds a lot of Mod races.”
Armed with a starting spot inside Row 1 for his Showdown, Dotson took off in a hurry, opening up a near six-second advantage on second-place Chris Arnold before the race’s first caution just past halfway. That did not rattle the 23-year-old, however, as he took off again on the restart and towed out to a 4.5-second gap on Arnold before the checkered flag, punching his ticket into Saturday’s redraw.
“The redraw is what it is – if you can’t win from the first few rows, you probably weren’t good enough to win anyway,” Dotson said. “I think if we just go, and draw second row honestly, and are able to keep a good pace with them, and not wreck in lapped traffic, I think we’ve got a good shot at it.”
Showdown Feature 3 (15 Laps): 1. 00-Ethan Dotson; 2. 99A-Chris Arnold; 3. 51-Dalton Lanich; 4. 00D-David Reutimann; 5. 64-Austin Sanders; 6. 2-Joshua Kunstbeck; 7. 18-Eric Moon; 8. Z06-Garret Stewart; 9. 99R-Ryan Rackley; 10. 2C-Ronnie Chance; 11. 29C-Joey Cotterman; 12. 27-Jason Floyd; 13. 3-Tony Campbell; 14. (DNF) 11P-Charlie Phillips
Showdown Feature #4 – Ashton Winger
Not many dirt track racers in the country can say they’ve won in their first competitive start in a UMP Modified, but Ashton Winger now can.
The 22-year-old Super Late Model regular from Senoia, GA, recently teamed up with Florida racing veteran and former Reutimann Memorial winner Jeff Mathews and decided to give the Modified a try for the occasion. His debut went well, Qualifying sixth-fast in his group and driving from third to the win in the final Showdown Feature to stake his claim into the big show Saturday.
“These cars are a ton of fun to drive, and there’s a lot of awesome people that have come by and helped me,” Winger said. “Jeff’s done an awesome job. I’ve got my cousin Will here, Wyatt, Bob’s been working his ass off. Nick [Hoffman] has come down and been a big help.”
NASCAR Cup Series regular Justin Haley jumped out to the early lead with Devin Dixon and Winger in tow before breaking a distributor on Lap 2, cutting the power to his Elite Chassis No. 99 as he slowed to a stop and brought out the caution. This led to a mad dash into Turn 1 on the ensuing restart between Winger and Dixon.
“I was kinda focused on racing Devin, and I actually felt like we were pretty even, and then I looked up and saw Justin broke,” Winger said. “We had that restart, and I think Devin just made a mistake getting into Turn 1 – I don’t think I was a whole lot better than him.”
Dixon appeared to bobble slightly on the high side, which opened the door just enough for Winger to slip by with the lead on the bottom. It was the move that made him $500 richer and a first-time winner in a DIRTcar UMP Modified, as he led every lap the rest of the way.
Showdown Feature 4 (15 Laps): 1. 33W-Ashton Winger; 2. 2D-Devin Dixon; 3. 15-Hunter Gustafson; 4. 25-Jason Altiers; 5. J82-Treb Jacoby; 6. 14-Mavrick Varnadore; 7. M41-Steve Maisel; 8. 57-Fletcher Mason; 9. 80-Paul Shead; 10. (DNF) 3D-Makayla Tyrrell; 11. (DNF) 8-Trevor Senterfitt; 12. (DNF) 99-Justin Haley; 13. (DNS) 222-Cory Hupp