Kyle Strickler Clinches First Career DIRTcar Nationals UMP Modified Championship
Story By: JORDAN DELUCIA / DIRTCAR – BARBERVILLE, FL – With three wins and no finishes outside the top-five in each of the five races he started at Volusia Speedway Park during the 52nd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Kyle Strickler clinched his first career Big Gator trophy as points champion of the UMP Modified division.
Strickler, the 39-year-old Modified/Late Model racer from Mooresville, NC, is the proud owner of three Big Gator trophies in his cabinet, but none were awarded for DIRTcar Nationals points championships. He garnered the golden, life-size figures by way of three career Gator Championship Feature wins (2018, 2019, 2023). By Friday night, he had still yet to win one on overall event points, awarded for Feature finishes throughout the week.
As of Saturday night, that has all changed. Holding onto a five-point lead in the final night of competition, a heavy rain shower descended over the track, canceling the night’s events and cementing the points standings as they were to start the night – with Strickler on top.
Diving into the history books, it’s Strickler and Melanie Motorsports’ first DIRTcar Nationals points championship as a driver-team duo. Car owners Charlie and Melanie Donaldson are one of Strickler’s longest supporters, having been there for him since he moved to North Carolina over 15 years ago.
“It’s awesome for us to get our first points gator together,” Strickler said “We’ve won a lot of big races together, and it’s awesome for me to finally accomplish that points deal. I’ve never really been a great points racer. Trying to put a whole week together with the format being a little different, it definitely changed things up.
“It definitely means a lot.”
Strickler came into the 2023 DIRTcar Nationals with nine Feature wins in the event and is leaving with 12. With wins on Monday, Wednesday and Friday night, plus finishes of second (Tuesday) and fifth (Thursday, run on Friday), it was, statistically, one of Strickler’s best weeks at Volusia.
“I think a lot of that is just preparation and having great people behind you, and Late Model racing,” Strickler said. “Late Model racing will make you grow up and become way more of a professional race team than what you could get away with for so many years with the Modified stuff.
“I think I’m a little smarter as far as mentally running a race, and how I operate. I’m not just on the gas and hammer-down all the time and tearing stuff up.”
Most importantly to him, he’s having fun. So often does Strickler talk about his enjoyment in the seat of the 800-horse, open-wheel cars – a lot of which was had by him and the crew this week.
“I still love driving the Modified,” Strickler said. “It’s just a blast to be able to come out here and hang out with all my Modified buddies, and be able to be successful and win as many races as we did. It definitely means a lot to me.”