SPRING VALLEY, Minn.-In a repeat of opening night at last year’s Featherlite Fall Jamboree, Cade Dillard won the battle but Jason Hughes won the war. This time, however, Dillard was not under the pressure of having to outrun Hughes for the chance at becoming the USMTS national champion, and Hughes needed no late-race heroics to hang on to his crown.
When the night began, Stormy Scott was the only remaining driver within striking distance of Hughes in the USMTS Hunt for the Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental. Scott had to finish first or second and hope Hughes would have trouble in order to claim the title. Scott started eighth on the grid while Hughes took off from the 14th starting spot in Thursday’s 32-car, 40-lap main event at the high-banked Deer Creek Speedway.
Scott was never a factor in the race, finishing sixth while Hughes kept Scott in his sights the entire distance in the caution-free affair to clinch his third straight USMTS national championship and fourth in eight seasons. Meanwhile, the drama at the front of the field was instense for the first half of the race.
Two-time USMTS national champ Rodney Sanders jumped out to the lead when the green flag waved and led the first 14 laps despite constant pressure from Lucas Schott, Dillard and another two-time USMTS titlist, Ryan Gustin. Sanders pulled our to a four-car-length advancte by the fifth lap, but Dillard scooted past Schott for second and then ran down Sanders over the next five laps.
Holding down the middle of a three-wide sandwich between Sanders and Gustin, Dillard drove deep into turn three and slid up in front of Sanders. The three drag-raced to the flagstand with Dillard taking his first lead of the race. “I ran Rodney down and tried to eide there for a while and not get too crazy,” Daillrd said. “I seen Ryan down there at one point so I knew I had to make a move.”
Two laps later, thick lapped traffic became a regular occurrence as Dillard and Gustin put some distance between themselves and Sanders. With Dillard gliding through the center of the turns, Gustin powered around the high side as he hounded Dillard around the 3/8-mile oval.
Gustin pulled even with Dillard down the back-stretch on lap 26, and then executed a daring slide-job entering turn three that almost collected the leader, but Dillard crossed back underneath Gustin at the excit of turn four to keep his lead. The flurry of action seemed to light a fire under Dillard because he found another gear at that point and pulled away from Gustin, eventually winning by more than three seconds to score his third USMTS win at ‘The Creek’ in his last six starts here.
“It got pretty hairy in lapped traffic,” Dillard added. “It kind of started cleaning off there at the end and I knew if I just hit my marks I figured we’d be able to pull it off.” “It was Dillard’s ninth victory of the season and raised his career win total to 18 overall for the 2014 USMTS Rookie of the Year. With an additional bonus from Red Tail Tackle, his efforts paid off to the tune of $6,000.
Gustin, Schott and Sanders were the next three to cross the finish line while Brady Gerdes held off Scott for the fifth spot. Zack VanderBeek, Hughes, Dereck Ramirez and ‘Big Daddy’ Joe Duvall completed the top ten.
In the final points standings, Hughes bested Scott by 38 points (2094 to 2056). Dillard finished third with 1969 markers, followed by Ramirez (1903), Gustin (1899), VanderBeek (1868), Jake Timm (1847), R.C. Whitwell (1790), Travis Saurer (1774) and Ricky Thornton Jr. (1697). Thursday night also featured a special Non-Qualifiers Race for the top 24 drivers not advancing to the “A” Main. After starting tenth, Bobby Malchus of Red Oak, Texas, took the win followed by Brad Waits, Chris Henigan, Manuel Williams and Mickey Lassiter.
The 19th Annual Featherlite Fall Jamboree continues Friday and Saturday. Fans will witness a complete program both nights, with $6,000 going to the Modified winner Friday while Saturday’s winner will pocket $11,000. B-Mods will battle for $1,500 to win Friday and $1,700 to win Saturday. The Bear Creek Lutheran Church will be serving breakfast on site Friday and Saturday morning from 8-11 a.m. The annual Club Car Jamboree Open golf scramble will tee off at 10 a.m. at the Willow Creek Golf Course in Rochester.
The pit gate opens at 3 p.m., driver sign-in begins at 4, grandstand gates open at 5 and the first heat race hits the Deer Creek Speedway at 7 p.m. The top 15 in heat race passing points are locked into “A” Main each night with the top 8 redrawing for the first eight starting positions. An additional 15 drivers will advance from the “B” Mains.
The Dweebs will be rocking the Deer Creek Speedway party tent Friday night under the big top immediately following the final race of the night. Ticket prices for spectators are $25 Friday and $30 Saturday. Kids ages 12 and under are $10 per night.
For fans unable to attend in person, all three nights of the 19th Annual Featherlite Fall Jamboree will be broadcast live at www.RacinDirt.com. The Deer Creek Speedway is a high-banked 3/8-mile clay oval which sits on 60 acres with one of America’s most popular state-of-the-art racing complexes and an adjoining campground. The track is located 11.3 miles south of I-90 at exit 209 on on US 63 (0.7 mile north of SR 16). The physical address for mapping is 25262 US Hwy 63, Spring Valley, MN 55975. For more information, call (507) 754-6107 or check out www.deercreekspeedway.com online.
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