Twenty-one years ago, Victor Lee left East Bay Raceway Park for the final time after piloting a DIRTcar UMP Modified, not knowing when he’d next compete in the division at the historic Winternationals event. Thursday night brought the return of The Lincoln Leadfoot to Victory Lane for his first career Feature win in the event.
He’s visited the Clay by the Bay several times since his last event start in 2001, either driving or working for a Late Model team, but had never made a trip to Victory Lane with a Modified. A Winternationals trophy was something he’d been searching for his entire career, and now he’s finally got one.
“It’s definitely been on my bucket list,” Lee said of the significance of his win. “When you come down here, you’re racing guys from all over the country.”
The names, the faces, the times and the tech may have changed in Lee’s East Bay absence, but Lee’s desire to win at this event never faded. He’s come a long way since his rookie season in 2000, and finally cashed-in on sticking it out through all the defeats.
“Twenty-one years ago, I was doing well,” Lee said lightheartedly. “I don’t know if I made but maybe one show. I think I won a Strawberry Dash or something… but we’ve definitely struggled here.”
To do it, Lee had to drive a patient race. Lots of beating, banging and bumping was happening all around him through all 30 laps, and it started right in the first stanza.
A multi-car pileup erupted on a Lap 5 restart after outside polesitter Steve Stevenson appeared to not have fired by the orange cone in Turn 4, stacking up several cars behind him including Lucas Lee, Drake Troutman, Bryan Bernhardt and more. Victor Lee escaped with minor body damage, and Lucas Lee was given his spot back in the running order before the restart.
“I got hit from behind, and [Stevenson] went, and I was trying not to hit him,” Lucas said. “When my wheel got on his, it was pretty much over.”
Through the next 21 laps, it was all Lucas Lee out front. Multiple times, Tyler Nicely, Drake Troutman, and eventually Victor Lee, put the pressure on him from behind, but to no avail. Lucas was great on the bottom, until trouble bit him.
Getting into Turn 3 with four laps remaining, Lucas appeared to push excessively up the track and out of the preferred bottom lane, opening the door wide open for Victor to zoom on by.
“I think in that wreck on the restart, when I got hit in the rear pushing Steve [Stevenson], something bent on the right-front,” Lucas said. “I was kinda tight after that point, pretty bad.
“I knew I couldn’t [miss the bottom] two laps in-a-row,” Lucas said. “I did it probably two out of three laps, and I knew it was wide open for [Victor].”
Victor grabbed the lead and led the final three circuits back around to the checkers to claim the $1,500 check, Lucas in second and Allen Weisser third.
Weisser, the UMP Modified/Late Model veteran from Peoria, IL, ended up with one of the wildest stories at the end of the night. Rolling into the pits just in time for tech inspection and driver’s meeting, he took a blank #1w out of a Last Chance event and into the Feature, then climbed 18 positions from 21st after getting into an early wreck to finish on the podium.
“I just kept plucking away at the bottom,” Weisser said of his charge through the field. “I kept trying to go up top a few times, and it really just wanted to push the front-end real bad, so I had to move down to the bottom.”
He also provided one of the most unique stories on how his ride came together. Weisser normally pilots his own #25W around the bullrings of Illinois, but couldn’t pass up another offer earlier this week to go have some fun in Florida.
“Kevin Weaver gave me a call and asked if I wanted to race for somebody, so I gave him a call,” Wessier said. “Not knowing the guy, I drove down to his shop, put this car together and came here.”
Defending Winternationals champion Buzzy Adams had another solid points night, driving from 13th to finish sixth. Meanwhile, more misfortune struck Tyler Nicely, as he looped it in front of the field like he did on Wednesday night while running second late in the race. He finished 20th.
The UMP Modified Winternationals action continues Friday night, Jan. 28, with another 30-lap, $1,500-to-win showdown. Keep it locked to DIRTcar Racing on social media for all the latest updates and content.
DIRTcar Series PR