WATERTOWN, S.D. — Six years and one month after topping the United States Modified Touring Series main event at the Casino Speedway, Zack VanderBeek returned to the winners circle here Sunday in the inaugural Sandy Benson Memorial. With a 52-lap feature race on tap for the 12th round of the 2016 Hunt for the USMTS Caseys Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental, a pair of hometown favorites filled the front row for the waving of the green flag.
Polesitter Brent Dutenhoffer grabbed the lead at the start while Morgan Ward whose father, Scott Ward, won the USMTS feature here in 2007 held strong on the outside while Mike Jergens followed Dutenhoffer around the bottom of the bullring. With six laps in the books, Jesse Sobbing gained control of the second spot and then followed Dutenhoffer as the duo drove away from the field.
Meanwhile, drivers swapped positions back and forth throughout the pack with each passing lap. Sobbing moved to the top of the speedway on lap 17 and snagged the lead from Dutenhoffer as they completed the 19th circuit.
Dutenhoffer regained the spot by a nose on lap 20 but Sobbing secured the spot the next time around. Meanwhile, VanderBeek had worked his way up to the leaders from the 11th starting spot and got by Sobbing to lead the 29th lap, but Sobbing again rebounded and took the low line and the lead away on lap 30.
With VanderBeek following in his tire tracks, Sobbing slipped lightly off the bottom groove on lap 36 and VanderBeek used the opportunity to pounce on the leader. When they reached the flagstand with 15 laps to go, VanderBeek was in control and that was the closest anybody got to The Z-Man again.
VanderBeek crossed the finish line buried in lapped traffic to pocket the $3,000 top prize and register the 35th win of his USMTS career one victory shy of Jon Tesch on the all-time wins list. Sobbing held on for his second runner-up effort in as many nights while Cade Dillard and Ricky Thornton Jr. matched VanderBeeks hard-charging effort by passing 10 cars to finish third and fourth, respectively.
Points leader Jason Hughes was fifth, while Rodney Sanders, Dutenhoffer, Stormy Scott, Jergens and Johnny Scott rounded out the top 10. Tesch, a two-time winner at his hometown track, won his heat race and wound up 12th in his first feature race since the 2014 Featherlite Fall Jamboree.
He and VanderBeek are now the only two-time winners of the Casino Speedway event. In the USMTS Caseys Cup points race, Hughes leads Dillard by 32 points (1661 to 1629) heading into a four-race Labor Day Weekend. Sobbing is third with 1598 markers, followed by Sanders (1591), VanderBeek (1541), Johnny Scott (1433), Joe Duvall (1357), Stormy Scott (1317), Dereck Ramirez (1308) and rookie points leader Brock Bauman (1267).
The action picks back up on Thursday, Sept. 1, at the Fairmont Raceway in Fairmont, Minn. To learn more about the United States Modified Touring Series, visit www.usmts.com online or call 515-832-7944. You can also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usmts, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usmts and Instagram at www.instagram.com/usmts or subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/usmtstv.