2024 Lucas Oil Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway

Drake Troutman In Position For Firecracker 100 Success At Lernerville

Drake Troutman In Position For Firecracker 100 Success At Lernerville

Drake Troutman won Friday's Firecracker 100 semifeature at Lernerville Speedway on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

Jun 22, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Drake Troutman’s raw emotion Friday in Lernerville Speedway victory lane told the story of the Firecracker 100 prelim.

It didn’t matter to the 19-year-old that his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory came under a split-field format. He was victorious on the national level and on the weekend of one of Dirt Late Model racing's richest events. And that feat is what he and his late father, D.J. — who died August 2021 at 39 years old from Covid-19 complications — envisioned together.

“Just everything that happened with my dad and stuff, it’s something I’ve always dreamt of doing,” Troutman of Hyndman, Pa., said regarding victory that put him on the pole of Saturday’s first heat race. “That was like mine and his goal. Even though it’s a split-feature night, it’s obviously really neat. Just really happy we can capitalize on that.”

Although Troutman’s victory snaps a 58-race winless stretch dating back to last October when he also won at Lernerville on the Jay's Automotive United Late Model Series, the prelim victory shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Troutman “definitely feels like we’re headed in the right direction,” a feeling that’s only grown more certain after Thursday’s third-place finish behind Jonathan Davenport and Chub Frank. And then, of course, Friday’s prelim win in which he led 20 of 25 laps.

“We did a lot of work to this thing this week,” Troutman said. “We’re trying to pinpoint more problems before we have them. Just learned a lot so far this year about maintenance stuff and how to do the right things. Everything just clicked for us tonight. We might go out tomorrow night and absolutely suck, I have no idea.

“We’re going to wake up in the morning and do what we’ve been doing the last couple of nights. And hopefully have a good, solid run here in the big show tomorrow.”

Troutman’s endured his share of growing pains vying for Lucas Oil Series Rookie of the Year while traversing the nation with the sport’s best. In 44 total features in his 2024 season overall, he’s finished 20th or worse 17 times, many of the poor finishes stemming from mechanical failure.

Some races sting him more than others, like Jan. 9 at Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park’s Wild West Shootout where he started from the pole with Bobby Pierce lined up to his outside. He ended that race ninth and quite frustrated.

In a pair of features at Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway on April 12 with the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series and May 10 with the Lucas Oil Series, he started inside the top-five only to backslide outside the top-10. And just two weeks ago June 7 at Clinton County Speedway in Mill Hall, Pa., he led all but two laps but allowed Tyler Emory to slip by exiting the final corner.

The growing pains haven’t troubled Troutman as much as it may appear (“It’s not even that,” he emphasized regarding the aforementioned struggles).

Even when results are wayward, Troutman’s learned something new every time he’s at the racetrack. And he’s done his best to apply what he’s learned when the next race rolls around.

“When you get around these touring guys, you learn so much by just being around them,” Troutman said. “You learn to do things a little differently. We have really good Longhorn Chassis and here’s to hoping we can keep it going.”

The 4/10-mile Lernerville oval seems to bring the best out of Troutman’s gung-ho driving style, which enlightens the teenager.

“It’s not like I have a whole lot of experience around here,” Troutman said. “It’s definitely really neat. It’s not like it’s my home track. It’s not like we’re expecting to run good here. It’s really cool. As I said, everything has clicked so far this weekend.”

Troutman hasn’t been intimidated by the high-risk, high-reward racing on the treacherous cushion.

On Thursday, the cushion soiled semifeatures for second-running Devin Moran (flat right-rear tire) and Gregg Satterlee (vibration from a mud-packed wheel). And Friday it bit Mason Zeigler when he slipped off the top of turns one and two while battling with Troutman in the lead battle as well as Michael Norris, who wrecked out of second when misjudging his turn-one entry on the seventh lap.

If anything, the cushion the way it was played right into Troutman’s wheelhouse. He could also make speed around the bottom, too, which is likely crucial come Saturday’s 100-lap, $50,000-to-win finale.

“We could rotate really good tonight. Like, rotate around the cushion,” Troutman said. “We could rotate around that bottom. I could hit the moisture coming up off. I think the biggest thing was not being too tight tonight. We just rotated really well. I think we need to snug up tomorrow night. It’s going to be slicker. As I said, I think we’re headed in the right direction for sure. We’ll just see what we have.”

As Troutman reflected on his meaningful victory Friday, he didn’t know yet that he’d start Saturday’s first heat race from the pole. In other words, he outperformed Ricky Thornton Jr. (polesitter of the second heat) and Jonathan Davenport (polesitter of the third heat) to have a clear shot at the Firecracker 100 pole.

Troutman keeps telling himself “it’s just another race” while acknowledging “we’re going to go out there with a little bit of confidence for a change.”

“It’s my first time, I feel, that we’ve had any momentum at all this year,” Troutman said. “We’re going to go into this deal and work our asses off tomorrow and see what happens. Time will tell.”

Troutman’s never contested a 100-lap Dirt Late Model feature, so Saturday’s century-long grind — should he start from the pole or not — will be his tallest order yet. Like he’s done all year, he’s ready to face whatever challenges stand in his way.

“I usually struggle in long races, just me being younger and not having much experience,” Troutman said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to have a good run tomorrow night. Obviously super happy about this, but tomorrow is a new day and we’ll get after it again.”