Tyler Nicely Holds Off Lucas Lee For North Florida Winternationals DIRTcar UMP Victory
Story By: JORDAN DELUCIA / DIRTCAR – LAKE CITY, FL – He won last year’s edition of Winternationals at North Florida Speedway, and now, Tyler Nicely has backed it up with his second win at the venue in two seasons.
The opening round of UMP Modified Florida Speedweeks featured a classic battle between two of DIRTcar’s toughest heavyweights right on the front row. Defending Speedweeks champion Lucas Lee turned the fastest lap of the night in Qualifying and won his Heat Race to claim the pole for the Feature, while 2020 Speedweeks champion Nicely kept up him the whole night with a second-best Qualifying lap and a win in Heat Race #2 to start P2.
The green dropped, and Nicely hammered the throttle out of Turn 4. With Lee still to his inside, the two drag raced down the front stretch and into Turn 1. Nicely edged ahead in the outside lane and sealed the pass out of Turn 2 to take the lead.
“I knew that if Lucas started on the pole, I was going to have to get a really good jump to get to the lead and try and dictate my own race,” Nicely said. “We went harder than most other guys on tires, so I knew once I could get out front, I should be okay.”
From that point forward, it was Nicely’s race to lose. Lee gave it everything he had to catch and pass the leader but was unable to give Nicely a serious challenge. Several caution flags scattered throughout the 25-lap Feature presented Lee with multiple opportunities to attempt a pass, but Nicely came prepared and denied him at every turn.
“I was mainly worried about getting a good restart,” Nicely said. “If you don’t get a good restart and you mess-up in Turn 1, you end up getting behind. It could lose you the race.
“I knew Lucas was going to be tough, and Drake [Troutman] was on the outside of me one restart. I didn’t really know what was going on behind me, but I felt like I had a balanced race car.”
Lee’s perseverance actually paid more dividends than what the box scores show. On a Lap 9 restart, young Pennsylvania racer Drake Troutman muscled his Jerry Foster Racing #5 Longhorn Chassis past Lee to take second. Lee didn’t take that lightly, as he returned the favor the very next restart, though he was still not as comfortable with his car as he had hoped for the first race of the season.
“I could turn well; I just didn’t have any traction when I got back in the gas,” Lee said. “We didn’t get any heat in the motors on the start, so my motor was just at 100, and didn’t fire off well.”
Being the first DIRTcar-sanctioned Modified race of the 2023 season anywhere in the country has its significance, especially being part of a 13-race swing through Florida over 15 days. Nicely’s feeling the momentum already and is looking to carry it on to win his second career UMP Modified Speedweeks title.
“Any time you can get a win is awesome, but for the first race out – all your jitters and that kinda go away when you can just knock one off,” Nicely said. “Hopefully, we can take this momentum into East Bay and even Volusia.”
Lee is aware of the stakes as well. Coming in as the defending Speedweeks champion, who beat Nicely last year by over 100 points, he knows his competition is going to be tough throughout the three-week grind.
“Tyler’s gonna be there every night,” Lee said. “We’ve gotta be better than him. We’ve gotta do what we’re supposed to do early in the night, win the Heat Race, and maybe he doesn’t one night.”
The DIRTcar UMP Modified action continues with the second of two races at North Florida Speedway on Sunday, Jan. 29.
Feature (25 laps) – 1. 25-Tyler Nicely ; 2. 12-Lucas Lee ; 3. 5-Drake Troutman ; 4. 7-Brad DeYoung ; 5. 141-Justin Galbreath ; 6. 24-Zeke McKenzie ; 7. 8-Jimmy Lennex Jr. ; 8. 41-Brad Goff ; 9. 25A-Jason Altiers ; 10. 44-Jeff Parsons ; 11. 57-Fletcher Mason ; 12. 2J-Troy Johnson ; 13. 99-Justin Haley ; 14. 40-Kevin Adams ; 15. 97-Mitch Thomas ; 16. 59-Ronnie Chab ; 17. 3-Josh Sandford ; 18. 25W-Allen Weisser ; 19. 72-Todd Neiheiser ; 20. 4-Mike Learman ; 21. 16C-John Clippinger ; 22. 27-Jason Floyd