Nick Hoffman has made a habit of thrilling fans with last lap passes this season and on Friday evening at Deer Creek Speedway Ryan Gustin took a page from his playbook.

During the first race of the NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models – ran Friday evening after being postponed on Thursday – Gustin threw a “Hail Mary” slide job at Hoffman in the final corner and held a 0.009 second lead at the finish line to score his second win of the season.

The victory – the seventh of Gustin’s World of Outlaws career – came after a mixed bag of results since his first victory of the season in May.

“Anytime you’re standing up here in Victory Lane it makes you feel good,” Gustin said. “I love this place. It’s probably one of the places I have more laps than anyone. It feels good.”

Gustin started the 30-lap Feature fourth, with Shannon Babb next to him, 2022 Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. directly in front of him and Tyler Stevens, making his Series debut, on the pole.

When the race commenced, Stevens pulled away from the field while Babb moved up to second and Gustin fell to fifth. The field didn’t get much time to stretch their legs as a caution brought them back together on Lap 3.

All eyes turned to Nick Hoffman when the race restarted as the NOS Energy Drink No. 9 ripped around the top of Deer Creek Speedway, stealing third on Lap 5 and then second a lap later. Stevens’ healthy lead was spoiled in three laps with Hoffman on hyperdrive in the middle lane.

Ryan Gustin wins at Deer Creek Speedway
Ryan Gustin celebrates his first World of Outlaws win at Deer Creek Speedway / Emily Schwanke Photo

Knowing Hoffman had arrived, Stevens tried to make his car wide, switching lanes each corner. But when they got to Turn 3 on Lap 10, Hoffman dove under Stevens, propelling his car a few yards ahead of Stevens before sliding in front of him by the exit of the turn – a foreshadowing moment for the end of the race.

Once Hoffman finally found clean air, he gapped the field by over a second in less than two laps.

Behind him, a war was being waged for second through fifth. Gustin, Bobby Pierce and Shannon Babb looked like synchronized dancers running three-wide down the straights and sliding each other in the corners with precise rotations.

Gustin emerged the victor, pulling ahead of the two and passing Stevens for second on Lap 25. Pierce followed him through, getting by Stevens for third on the same lap.

They appeared to be out of time to catch Hoffman until two late-race cautions. One on Lap 26 brought the field back together and the last on Lap 28 set the stage for a photo finish.

With two laps to settle the fight, Pierce tried to end it in the first corner on the restart, diving under the front two, pulling even with Hoffman. But Hoffman and Gustin had the better momentum up top and drove back by him.

“It was a good racetrack for being a day race,” Pierce said. “They gave us something to race on and move around on. It was a fun race. I got to third there, got us in good position. I couldn’t go any further than that. I kind of stalled out at the end of the race.”

Once Pierce was no longer a threat, Gustin was able to put all his focus on Hoffman. With two laps to go, he was 0.7 seconds back. With one to go, 0.3 seconds back. He closed to Hoffman’s bumper down the backstretch and plotted the same move Hoffman used to take the lead earlier in the race.

Gustin stayed in the throttle upon entry, steering to the bottom of the track, launching his car ahead of Hoffman’s and giving himself enough room to slid up the track in front of him. Predicting the move, Hoffman cut underneath the No. 19R in the middle of the corner, leading to their drag race to the line.

“He got that top line rolling pretty well there,” Hoffman said. “Woulda, coulda, shoulda, if there was no caution, we’d probably win the race. But he was just better than I was at the end. He was able to slide me in (Turns) three and four. I was actually surprised I got back to him at the line. I had a run and dipped back down the hill. I heard him coming. I expected a slider coming, so I kind of crossed up and made sure I had a run. But it wasn’t quite big enough.”

It wasn’t big enough by 0.09 seconds as that’s all Gustin needed to edge him for the win.

“It was a heck of a race,” Gustin said. “Anytime you get to race with them guys is really fun… All in all, it was really fun. Obviously, a good race with Nick. He’s a clean racer. When you’re out there throwing sliders and bouncing off the fence, it’s always entertaining. I’m sure the fans loved it.”

The victory also places Gustin as one of the top points earners for the event, which will lock the top-16 points earners between Friday’s two Features into Saturday’s $50,000-to-win finale.

And while Hoffman didn’t get the win, his second-place finish has him currently tied with Brandon Sheppard, who finished 17th, for the Series championship points lead.

Dirt King Simulator Hottest Hot Lap: Tyler Bruening
Simpson Quick Time Award: Ryan Gustin
Heat Race Winners: Ryan Gustin, Dennis Erb Jr., Shannon Babb, Tyler Stevens
Last Chance Showdown Winner: Billy Moyer Sr.
Bilstein Pole Award: Tyler Stevens
Fox Factory Hard Charger: Tyler Erb

UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models return to action on Friday, July 5, at Deer Creek Speedway for Friday’s originally scheduled portion of the NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50. Tickets are available at the track.

If you can’t make it to Deer Creek Speedway, you can watch every lap live on DIRTVision.

CASE Late Mode Feature (30 Laps): 1. 19R-Ryan Gustin[4]; 2. 9-Nick Hoffman[6]; 3. 32-Bobby Pierce[5]; 4. 28-Dennis Erb Jr[2]; 5. 25-Chad Simpson[12]; 6. 18-Shannon Babb[3]; 7. 16-Tyler Bruening[8]; 8. 1-Tyler Erb[20]; 9. 2-Tyler Stevens[1]; 10. B1-Brent Larson[16]; 11. 49-Jake Timm[9]; 12. 97-Cade Dillard[11]; 13. 3S-Brian Shirley[18]; 14. 55C-Chad Mahder[13]; 15. 18C-Chase Junghans[10]; 16. 40B-Kyle Bronson[14]; 17. B5-Brandon Sheppard[7]; 18. 21-Billy Moyer Sr[17]; 19. 22*-Max McLaughlin[23]; 20. 76-Blair Nothdurft[19]; 21. 97JR-Cody Overton[21]; 22. 20TC-Tristan Chamberlain[24]; 23. 19-Dustin Sorensen[15]; 24. 29-Keith Hammett[22]

Deer Creek Speedway Night 1 podium
Nick Hoffman (left), Ryan Gustin (middle) and Bobby Pierce (right) / Emily Schwanke Photo