Column By: TREVOR GAVIN / RPW – CONCORD, NC – Making the field is an accomplishment within itself at the World Short Track Championships at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and two drivers with ties to the capital district racing scene were able to do that this year.
Daniel Sanchez from Averill Park, NY locked in Friday night to the UMP Modified feature and Rick Duzlak from Pittsfield, MA raced his way in to the Street Stock feature from his last chance qualifier.
Duzlak started 2nd in his LCQ and quickly took the lead. After a couple laps the 84 of Brett Cooper slipped by, dropping Duzlak to the final transfer spot. Duzlak held steady and put on one of the most entertaining battles of the day fending off Tim McBride and his 20T car. With about three to go McBride started to real in Duzlak and when they crossed the stripe with two to go McBride was to Duzlak’s bumper. McBride threw everything he had at Duzlak, going low in turns one and two, staying on Duzlak’s bumper in three and four coming to the white flag. Duzlak drove a text book race, holding his line, doing what he could to keep his machine on the best line for the best lap times. It came down to the last turn on the last lap and Duzlak held strong and took home second place and the final transfer spot in to the 20 lap main event. Both drivers raced each other clean which was not a common place over the weekend.
“I was happy to make the show” Duzlak said. “It is not easy coming down here and going against these guys who run these cars every week” he added. 37 total cars attempted to qualify for only 26 original starting spots, one car was added via a provisional.
Duzlak luck didn’t continue in to the feature. Having to start in the back on a track that was starting to get dusty as the green dropped. He was able to recover from a lap 4 spin but later in the race got in to an accident and suffered heavy damage to the front end of the car.
“It’s not too bad actually, especially when you look around the pits and see some of these cars that are completely destroyed” he added post-race. The feature was shortened from 20 to 15 laps due to all the accidents.
“The car just needs a front bumper and a new radiator and some body work, it could have been worse” Duzlak said being ever the optimist.
When all was said and done Duzlak was scored 24th in the feature. The announcers on the dirtvision did have some high praise for the weekly Pro Stock competitor. They admired his ability to just jump in a car with limited experience and out perform some of the weekly racers in the class and also add that the car he was in was “the oldest in the class” and had been around for awhile so given all those variables it was an impressive run for the Lebanon Valley regular.
Daniel Sanchez was luckier in qualifying on Friday night, he locked in to the feature with a third place finish in UMP Modified Heat #1. He missed the redraw by one position and lined up ninth for the 20 lap feature.
26 cars took the green flag and this race was all Kyle Strickler who led every lap from the outside pole on the redraw. Sanchez got a lot of experience battling with some of the nation’s best UMP drivers as he was right in the thick of the battle for the top ten.
“The car got tight pretty early and I had to just fight it from there” Sanchez said post-race.
Several restarts throughout the feature where a true test for the second year UMP driver who was doing everything he could to climb through the field. Sanchez crossed the line 12th when all was said and done.
“I did everything I could out there but these guys are good” he added. “It was a 30 lap race and we completely went through a set of tires. These are about to go over in that Hoosier tire recycle bin” Sanchez said with a laugh.
Due to his strong qualifying effort and support of the DIRTcar weekly racing at Limaland Motorsports Park, Sanchez was invited to be a part of the All-Star Invitational for the UMP Modifieds. The young driver took all he learned in the feature and put it to work in the Invitational.
Sanchez was lined up 15th of the 20 cars scheduled to start the 20-lap event. After a couple early cautions in the first 3 laps, Sanchez broke in to the top ten with 16 laps to go. From there, Sanchez was meticulous with his drive to the front, chipping away at the cars a head of him little by little. Cautions continued to fall, and Sanchez sat seventh with 15 to go.
That position was key because with 14 laps to go, the 5T of Jonathan Taylor and 43 of RJ Otto both start to spin just behind the rear bumper of Sanchez 463. The 83 Brian Clegg got the worse of it as he slid in to the 5T of Taylor and got spun around in air, landing on the 11 of Troy Loomis.
Once the race restarted with 14 laps to go, it went caution free from there. Sanchez got past the 71D Dan Davies to climb to sixth one lap after the restart and kept charging. Sanchez started to battle with Ty Rhoades in the 12R for the fifth position. Sanchez drove the high line with Rhodes tucked tight to the bottom of the speedway. Sanchez powered off the cushion in turn four and took fifth from Rhodes with 12 to go. He would hold strong from there. Sanchez crossed the line in fifth when the checkered flag fell. A great showing for the Averill Park native who has a lot to look forward to in 2021. The team is planning on heading to Florida in February for the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida. That event is schedule to begin on February 2nd, 2021.