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Modified Ace Kyle Strickler Now Selling His Dominant Race Car

Kyle Strickler, the High Side Tickler, said he was spending so much time modifying Modified chassis from other manufacturers that he decided he'd be better off having his own chassis built to his specific specs.

Kyle Strickler, the High Side Tickler, said he was spending so much time modifying chassis from other manufacturers that he decided he’d be better off having his own chassis built to his specs. (Photo courtesy Gene Lefler, On the Cushion Photos)

Kyle Strickler is one of the very few Dirt Modified drivers who has managed to successfully make driving a full-time career.

Of course, in a class where the typical winner’s purse is right at $1,000, you’ve got to win an awful lot to make it work. Strickler is one of the few people who has both the skills behind the wheel and the chassis and suspension know-how to win consistently. For example, last year the driver nicknamed “The High Side Tickler” raced over 50 events and won half the time. That’s an incredible winning percentage, especially when you consider he regularly travels all over the Southeastern and Midwestern United States and faces off against racers to run the same track week after week and have dialed in their setups for that facility.

To help supplement the income from racing purses, Strickler and his small crew also hang bodies for other modified racers and consult with drivers looking to improve their performance. And now Strickler is expanding his operation again and has begun building chassis and complete cars for other racers.

When we visited the High Side Race Cars shop, Strickler and his two-man crew were hard at work finishing a car for their first customer.

When we visited the High Side Race Cars shop, Strickler and his two-man crew were hard at work finishing a car for their first customer.

“I had been using chassis from other builders, but we were making so many changes to get them where I wanted them, it just made sense to start having our own built to my specifications,” he says of the genesis of the company now known at High Side Race Cars.

“The first version was OK, but not as good as I wanted. I knew it could be better. After Speedweeks this year in Florida, we came home and went back to work refining the design. We spent a solid week going over the front end of the car. I called on some NASCAR buddies (Strickler is based out of Mooresville, NC, commonly known as “Race City, USA”), and my sponsors at JRI Shocks also pitched in with their expertise and we really hit on something.

“With the knowledge we gained, we redid the car and went back to the track. Now it turns better than any Modified car I’ve ever driven and it still has good forward traction,” he says. “I’m really happy with it now. I’ve gotten a lot of wins with it, including six in a row right after we broke it out after Florida, and I think other racers can use it to win a lot of races, too.” At last count, we heard Stickler had 10 victories in just 13 races and over $25,000 in winnings since updating the car.

Strickler 07 Strickler 10 Strickler 08

Strickler 04Strickler won’t say exactly how he’s setting up the front end of the car, other than to say it is entirely legal and doesn’t require exotic components. But he does say that part of the car’s willingness to turn does come from the aerodynamics created by the body design. And we believe it. Strickler is one of the few dirt track racers with extensive wind tunnel experience. Most of it comes from working on Dirt Late Model bodies because those racers have budgets a little larger than the typical Modified operation, but he says much of what he’s learned translates directly over to Modifieds.

For example, you will notice that Stickler builds his own noses rather than rivet up a molded plastic piece. “With the plastic pieces those rounded edges cause you to lose surface area,” he explains. “That’s OK with a Late Model because the nose is so wide you have no trouble making downforce in the front. But with a Modified we are extremely limited with the frontal area of the car so you can’t give anything up.”

The upper control arms are fabricated in-house. The slugs are a NASCAR trick that makes suspension adjustments quicker, easier and more accurate than shims.

The upper control arms are fabricated in-house. The slugs are a NASCAR trick that makes suspension adjustments quicker, easier and more accurate than shims.

When we stopped by the High Side Race Cars shops, Strickler and his two man crew of Austin Bloom and Sean Lestina were hard at work finishing their first car for owner and driver Carlos Jaramillo. Stickler says no matter how successful they are on the track, he has no plan to start a production-line operation.

“I want to keep a small customer base so that I can communicate regularly with anyone running one of my cars,” he says. “In fact, my customers are encouraged to call every Monday win or lose. That way we can go over their setup, what worked for them and what didn’t. Different drivers want different things, and I want to be able to help every one find the setup that works for their driving style and the track conditions.”

Strickler understands that many racers aren’t willing to start from scratch with a new car. If they are already racing Modifieds, most will want to reuse as many components off their old cars as possible. So even though he won’t sell a bare chassis, he’s put together three trim packages that he figures will satisfy most racers.

Stickler understands that most Modified racers won't have their own surface plate, so he's developed his setups  so you can use leveling blocks like this to set your ride heights.

Stickler understands that most Modified racers won’t have their own surface plate, so he’s developed his setups so you can use leveling blocks like this to set your ride heights.

Stage 1 will be the most basic and cheapest way to get into a new High Side race car. It will include a powder-coated chassis, interior aluminum and decking, the front suspension and the rear suspension (not including shocks and springs). Strickler says it only the important stuff you can’t do without to copy the setups he has found work best with this new chassis.

Stage 2 is basically your standard roller including a full body. It will be practically complete except for gauges, wiring and plumbing.  The suspension will be complete with springs but shocks won’t be included.

Finally, if you prefer to let Strickler handle all the detail work, he can build a complete car to your racing series’ specs right down to bolting in your racing seat. High Side Race Cars builds their own upper control arms and fabricates their own bodies, but most of the major components are sourced from well-known race parts manufacturers and suppliers so finding spares will be easy. These include JRI Shocks, BSB Race Parts, Tom Cat Performance, Afco Racing and FK Rod Ends.

Strickler 07 Strickler 06

 

“I race in all different types of series, so we have the experience to put together a car capable of winning, no matter if you race an open class or IMCA rules,” he says. “We don’t plan to slap together a cookie-cutter car and send you out there to do the best you can with it. The cars I’m selling are exactly like the ones I’m racing. There are no secrets, if you are a High Side customer you have complete access to my setup book. In fact, the setup sheets I send with a new car are photocopied right out of my book.

“With this new business it’s more important to me that my customers do well than I do well.”

Strickler says experienced drivers will notice not only that the car turns exceptionally well and likes to drive off the corners, but also that it is quite stable. Even though they don’t have as much tire as a Late Model dirt car, Strickler says the key to speed with a Modified is to keep it settled and drive it through the turns rather than reared up with the left front hanging in the air.

We’re anxious to see how well this new chassis from High Side Race Cars fares once they are in the hands of other drivers, and we’ll keep you informed of their progress. Stickler has an amazing knack for claiming checkered flags; now the test becomes whether he can help others do the same.

 

To get a measure of Strickler's success on the race track, you need only take a look at the rows of trophies that line practically every wall of his race shop.

To get a measure of Strickler’s success on the race track, you need only take a look at the rows of trophies that line practically every wall of his race shop.

Source

High Side Race Cars

(704) 464-8888

High Side Race Cars

 


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