Schrader Nips Dillon For Gator Championship
BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Ken Schrader charged from 10th to victory in the Gator Championship, denying Austin Dillon by a nose at the checkered flag Monday night during the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park.
Schrader swept into the lead midway through the 30-lap, $5,000-to-win showcase for DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, but had his hands full with Dillon charging off the final corner to the finish.
“Austin was right there at the end and I kind of started babying it the last three or four laps there because I didn’t want to pop the front end on the cushion,” said Schrader. “He (Dillon) said his motor went sour and that allowed him to run the bottom a little better, but yeah we’ll take it.”
Justin Allgaier, who grew up racing on dirt before moving into the NASCAR Nationwide Series, led the first 12 laps of the event, relinquishing the lead to Dale Mathison on lap 13 and 14. Allgaier reclaimed the lead on the 15th circuit before Schrader made his move one lap later and held on over the remaining 14 laps for the victory.
“I was pretty concerned there when we drew a 10 to start, especially with that quality field of cars out there,” said Schrader, who finished second in his qualifying race on Sunday night. “The pass (Sunday) night was only going to be worth so much and the win tonight was going to be worth quite a bit more.”
Schrader was challenged throughout those final 14 laps. Dillon charged from his 14-place starting spot to pull even with Schrader exiting turn four on the final lap, prompting fans in the packed grandstand to rise, only to see Dillon fall just shy of the wily NASCAR veteran at the line.
“We started off a little rough out here,” said Dillon, who competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. “So many cars, the invert, it makes it tough. The guys have been working all week to get us the speed we needed and we knew we had the fastest car, just needed to get up front and have that starting position. The track was great tonight, it was really racy. We love to be out here doing this but man that was close. If I had to lose to anybody I’d want it to be Kenny Schrader because he’s one of my heroes out here. I just hope next year we can come back and get that gator.”
Defending Gator Champion Nick Hoffman started on the pole and fell to as low as seventh before rebounding to finish fourth. Sunday night winner Matt Westfall started seventh and rounded out the top five.
Schrader leads UNOH DIRTcar Nationals by Summit points entering the final night of competiton. Home state driver Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., is 13 markers behind Schrader.
Ken Schrader, Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Nick Hoffman, Matt Westfall, Bryce Jewell, Kenny Wallace, Kyle Bronson, Brian Ruhlman, Brian Shaw, Jeff Mathews, Todd Sherman, Kody Weisner, Ty Dillon, Kelly Shryock, Richard Michael Jr., Collin Thirlby, Dave Wietholder, Jacob Poel, Jeff Babcock, Jason Beaulieu, Matt Cooper, Jake Griffin, Tyler Nicely, Dale Mathison, Wendell Wallace, David Mielke, Rodney Sanders, Bart Hartman, Danny Swartz.