2024 Appalachian Mountain LM Speedweek at Clinton County Speedway

Last-Lap Loss Tough To Swallow As Drake Troutman's Skid Continues

Last-Lap Loss Tough To Swallow As Drake Troutman's Skid Continues

Drake Troutman's winless skid continues when he lost on a last-lap pass in June 7's Appalachian Mountain Speedweek opener at Clinton County Speedway.

Jun 8, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Drake Troutman sat perched on his driver’s side door Friday night with his legs still dangled in the cockpit and crossed arms laid across the roof of his No. 7 Longhorn Chassis as he stared into the distance of Clinton County Speedway’s pits.

Nobody said a word to the clearly dejected 19-year-old until a bystander approached him asking why he still sat there motionless well after the night’s racing action had been over.

“Just meditating,” the 19-year-old said slowly as he processed a his last-corner defeat to Tyler Emory in the Appalachian Mountain Speedweek opener at the third-mile oval.

Troutman led 32 of 35 laps and had been on the doorstep of snapping a more-than 40-race winless streak in a Dirt Late Model. Plus he’s never recalled losing a race on the last corner, much less the last lap. So, losing the $5,000 winner’s check stung from many directions.

“That’s a tough one to swallow. Racing deal. S--- happens,” Troutman said. “We’ll get our stuff ready and go again tomorrow.”

Losing the race on the final corner clearly left Troutman stunned, but he wasn’t entirely stupefied. Even leading most of the way, he “honestly didn’t feel that great” and had rather been “surprised (his car) held on for that long.” He couldn’t quite solve the slick racing surface in which he bounced from the top groove to the bottom groove all night searching for what could suit him. 

Unfortunately, protecting the bottom through turns three and four opened the door for Emory to power around his outside to steal the victory at the checkers.

“I don’t know if it was me or everyone, but I didn’t have the traction I needed to drive off the turns,” Troutman said. “I felt like I got into the entry and center, but I couldn’t leave how I needed to. It’s definitely frustrating. It’s a tough deal.

“I’m happy to have a solid run, of course. There’s a lot of really good cars here. Definitely not a terrible night. It’s just aggravating to lose something like that on the last lap; what I could’ve done different to make sure we won that thing. It’s part of racing.”

Troutman also respects Emory’s rising status and doesn’t take Friday’s loss in the waning moments as an embarrassment though he “kind of messed up going into one” on the final lap and knew he was in trouble when he “heard Tyler on the outside” entering the final corner.

“Hats off to Tyler. That was an impressive move,” Troutman said. “With something like that, it’s one and a half-dozen (odds of working). But you need to do something like that for it to pay off, even if you (risk losing) a couple spots. It worked out for him tonight. Congrats to him. He’s been good the last couple of years. Definitely not a terrible person to run second to.”

Tyler Emory's last-corner pass of Drake Troutman for June 7's win at Clinton County Speedway. (Jason Walls/wrtspeedwerx.com)

What Troutman also processed is his lap-24 contact with Dylan Yoder in the fierce, midrace battle for the lead. Yoder led laps 22 and 23 amid a slider-swapping exchange, but on the 24th circuit, Troutman punched his race car through a tight window exiting turn two, clipping Yoder and there cutting down his left-rear tire.

“It was a racing deal, kind of. I didn’t try to get into him,” Troutman said. “We got into lapped traffic and I felt like he was cutting down a little bit. It’s so slick on that bottom, I felt like I was sliding up. I feel like we met in the middle. We got together on the straightaway right before that. I felt like he was trying to get to the bottom and I was still spinning up top. He’s pissed off at me. “But I don’t know. Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a dirty racer. I definitely didn’t do it on purpose. … Just hard racing. Honestly he probably would’ve won it, but it’s part of it.”

The Hyndman, Pa., youngster hasn’t yet carried over his 2023 season in which he was one of five Breakout Drivers of the Year in DirtonDirt.com's postseason awards. That’s mainly because he’s plunged into Dirt Late Model racing’s deep end this season, electing to make a run for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Year.

Currently 15th in the overall standings and second in the rookie race — 65 points behind Clay Harris — with two top-10s in 16 features he’s qualified for, Troutman’s endured his share of growing pains now touring with the sport’s best. But let Friday’s race be more of an encouragement than discouragement.

This race last year, Troutman led the opening nine laps before fading outside the top-five and eventually blowing a right-rear tire. While this time last year he already had a pair of victories, he hadn’t been this seasoned nor as battle-tested.

“I definitely feel like we’re ahead of where we were last year,” Troutman said. “I think we led the first 10? And then fell back to fourth or fifth. Heck, the track wasn’t that slick (last year) like tonight. I definitely feel like we’re making gains. We just need to keep getting a little better.”

If there’s any consolation for Troutman, it’s that he didn’t notch his three biggest 2023 victories until midseason: July 9’s $10,000 top prize at Ohio’s Brushcreek Motorsports Complex, July 25’s $10,000 big check at Davenport (Iowa) Speedway on the MARS Championship Series, and Oct. 13’s ULMS victory at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.

One of these days he’d love to be at Eldora Speedway’s six-figure Dream in Rossburg, Ohio, battling it out for the sport’s richest prize. But for now, he’ll take up the opportunity to race Jim Bernheisel’s miniseries and use races closer to him as building blocks of confidence for when he goes back out on the road.

Troutman will race Saturday at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway and Sunday at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway before regrouping for next weekend’s Lucas Oil Series event at Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain Speedway. Depending how he feels, he may make the eight-hour, overnight drive to race June 16’s miniseries finale at BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Pa.

He wants to find his mojo again that badly.

“A couple years ago, we couldn’t even get (the car) in the trailer,” Troutman said. “Just have to look back at that and move onto tomorrow. Every day is a new day.”