It’s been a great start to Kyle Strickler’s second full-time season in a Late Model.
After signing on to the full-time roster with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series, earning his first two Outlaw Feature wins and topping the points standings after the first five races, The Highside Tickler now finds himself in the hunt of his first Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series championship with only one race left.
The battle will be settled in the season finale this Saturday night, Feb. 27, at Modoc Raceway. Twenty-five points is all that separates the two in the standings, leaving plenty room for Strickler to make up the gap and go for the $15,000 top prize.
All he has to do is finish enough spots ahead of current points leader Chris Madden – the South Carolina racing veteran, four-time Xtreme DIRTcar Feature winner and defending Series champion.
That task is easier said than done, but Strickler’s up for the challenge.
“We’re gonna go for the win. It still pays $8,000 for second in points. So, we’ll go [to Modoc] and try to win the race. The points will take care of themselves,” Strickler said.
Strickler beat Madden by one spot last Saturday at Lake View Motor Speedway, bringing him to within 15 points of the points lead. But his third-place run Sunday at Cherokee Speedway brought the deficit back to 25 after Madden scored his second victory of the season by leading every lap of the Feature.
“Chris – he’s been doing this and coming to Cherokee for so long, that if you put him on the front row, he’s gonna be really hard to beat,” Strickler said.
Strickler will need a Feature win with Madden finishing seventh or worse to overtake him in the standings and clinch his first Xtreme DIRTcar championship. If he doesn’t win, Madden will need to finish even further down the running order for Strickler to make up the difference in points.
Strickler’s maintained a solid gap in points over third-place Daulton Wilson throughout the Series, one which widened to 35 after Wilson placed 17th at Cherokee after blowing a tire while running third. Like many other drivers, Strickler prefers to focus on his driving rather than points-watching, but it’s still in the back of his mind.
“[At Lake View and Cherokee], I was kinda playing the points game some. Especially with the racing conditions and the track conditions, you had to put yourself in a good position,” he said.
A longtime driver of Longhorn Chassis in the DIRTcar UMP Modified ranks, Strickler credits a lot of his success with the Late Model as of late to the switch he and the PCC Motorsports team recently made to a Longhorn.
“The car switch was huge for me, confidence-wise and for my team,” he said. “We know what we’re doing when it comes to the Longhorn cars. I just have so much confidence to drive them and I can make moves on the racetrack that I wouldn’t think about making in the Rocket [Chassis], just because I didn’t feel comfortable in it.”
To be contending for a championship so early on in the year goes to show just how well Strickler and his new team have meshed in the opening races of the racing season. The big Drydene oil barrel champion’s trophy would just be icing on the cake.
“The car’s fast, and that’s the important thing. When we have a fast racecar and the guys are doing their job, nothing’s falling off of it, I’m happy at the end of the day,” Strickler said.
Catch the epic season finale for the Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series from Modoc Raceway this Saturday night at the track or LIVE on DIRTVision!