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Strickler in like a lion
Takes $10K top prize in County Line season opener




If Kyle Strickler’s season ends the way it began Saturday, March 22, at County Line Raceway, the Mooresville driver will fulfill stated ambition following his $10,000 payday for winning the Renegades of Dirt Modified Tour season debut.

Strickler, who placed fifth in the Open-Wheel Modified division points race at County Line last year, seized the largest payout in tour history by outrunning fellow Mooresville resident Nick Hoffman in the 40-lap main event.

Strickler assured after the race: "We are hoping to win the tour points this year so this is definitely a good start.”

Before that, Walker Arthur of Forest, Va., made track history by winning the first FASTRAK Racing Series event held at the three-eighths-mile, clay oval. Arthur, nicknamed "The Bull,” claimed the $3,000 winner’s purse in FASTRAK Crate Late Models 30-lap season debut.

Strickler’s win capped a sizzling start to the 26th season of racing at County Line, which saw a pair of 25-lap appetizer races Friday, March 21, prior to the full course dinner of racing Saturday night. Fifty total cars from 11 states, with North Carolina and Ohio tied with 13 each, were part of the RoD battle.

County Line Modified regular Russell Erwin of Beaverdam, Va., started the final night’s proceedings by establishing the top qualifying time with a lap time of 15.914 seconds. Erwin drew a 3 for the five-heat race lineup invert as Hank Edwards of Hope Mills took the first heat, followed by Hoffman in No. 2, rookie Chris Arnold in No. 3, Strickler in No. 4 and Ryan Ayers of Concord in No. 5. The heat race draw saw Hoffman take the nose with Strickler on the outside, followed by Ayers, Arnold and Edwards.

Two ‘B-main’ races served as the prelude with Patrick Lyon and Matt Emmerling picking up the wins. That set the stage for the Races of States, a 20-lap event with drivers from eight states competing for the $750 prize. Chris Meadows of Crab Orchard, W.Va., outran Greg Brown but opted to start in the ‘A-main’ event rather than take the payout.

But that was Strickler’s nearly from the green flag as he seized the lead from Hoffman on the opening lap and slowly built a lead. Meanwhile, behind Hoffman a fierce battle was being waged with NASCAR driver David Stremme of South Bend, Ind., and 15-year-old Tyler Evans of Mineral Wells, W.Va., picking up spots from both sides of the field.

On lap No. 30, Arnold, who was in fifth, got caught up by Edwards and brought out the third caution flag of the night. Strickler stayed ahead of Hoffman, who in turn, was trying to fend off Erwin, as the throng, sometimes three wide, continued to fight through the dust for valuable positions.

Stremme, who started 20th, had surged up to the ninth spot before a final caution appeared for a car too slow to get to the pits, leaving the crowd with a three-lap shootout to the finish.

Strickler deflated any potential drama as the powered into turn 1 and put a gap between his No. 8 car and the No. 2 of Hoffman. Strickler cruised past the checkered flag, followed by Hoffman, Erwin, Ayers and Rich Michael Jr. to round out the top five.

"I can’t thank my crew enough, these guys work super hard to get us where we are,” Strickler gushed afterward. "I also want to thank my entire family — my dad, my girlfriend, my daughter. …Wow this is just awesome! You picture yourself having a shot at winning it and when you actually you do, it’s just so surreal and amazing.”

FASTRAK Crate Late Models

The FASTRAK inaugural Mid-Atlantic Pro Late Model Nationals brought the self-proclaimed "Nation’s First, Premier and Most Prestigious Pro Late Model Series” to County Line for the first time.

But it was hardly the first time on the Stagecoach Road clay oval for Arthur, who set a track qualifying lap record there Nov. 10, 2012, with a 14.160 run prior to the ULTIMATE Super Late Model race at the season-ending fourth annual Race for the Kids. Walker claimed the $10,000 prize that night and was looking for another trip to County Line Victory Lane on Saturday.

He had to get around Dale Timms in the pole position but took care of that on turn 2 of the first lap. After a pair of double-file restarts following yellow flags, Arthur began to put some distance between his car and that of Timms. However, five more cautions, including one that ended the night of 2013 County Line Late Model points king Christian Joyner, kept Timms within striking distance.

But Arthur would not be denied his $3,000 payday, cruising to the finish line ahead of Timms, Daniel Baggerly, David Smith and Corey Gordon to round out the top five.

POINTS OPENER APRIL 5

County Line will hold its first points races of 2014 on Saturday, April 5, with all five regular divisions — Super Stock Four-Cylinder, Pure Stock V-8, Pure Stock Four-Cylinder, Thunder & Lightning and Late Model — in action.

The annual CLR car show will start the day’s proceedings.
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