KENNEDALE, Texas — One of the most entertaining main events of the season took place Friday night at the Kennedale Speedway Park, followed up by one of the biggest celebrations of the year after Zack VanderBeek notched his first United States Modified Touring Series victory since early last September.
A top-to-bottom smooth, slick racing surface allowed drivers to race anywhere they felt good, and the usual suspects were in their comfort zones making the most of their favorite path around the 3/8-mile dirt oval.
The next-to-last feature race in the Summit Racing USMTS Southern Region presented by Production Jars saw Clyde Dunn Jr. take control from the outset with Sybesma Graphics Pole Award winner Cade Dillard glued to his back bumper on the high side.
As the 40-lapper reached the halfway mark, thick lapped traffic played havoc with the leaders and three-time USMTS national champion Jason Hughes took advantage of the situation.
Hughes dispatched David Winslett for fourth on the seventh lap, and then picked off Tyler Wolff for third with 11 laps in the books before darting between both Dunn and Dillard to swipe the lead away on lap 21.
Seventeenth-starting Ryan Gustin followed into the second spot one lap later, and narrowly edged in front of Hughes on lap 29 when the race’s fourth yellow flag waved and sent Hughes back to the point for the restart.
With Hughes was pedaling through the middle of the corners and Gustin churning away on the top, VanderBeek quietly worked his way from his seventh-row starting slot and drove underneath six cars in nine laps to sit third for the restart.
VanderBeek passed Gustin for second after green flag racing resumed, and then bolted ahead of Hughes to lead the 31st lap.
From there it was all ‘The Z-Man’ as the 32-year-old from New Sharon, Iowa, claimed his first win of the season, his first in Kennedale and snapped a 36-race winless streak dating back to Sept. 2, 2016.
Worth $3,000, it was the 37th USMTS win of VanderBeek’s career and gave him sole possession of seventh on the all-time wins list, breaking a tie with Jon Tesch. It was also the first checkered flag for chassis no. 1 by VanderBuilt Race Cars-his debut creation.
Chris Brown, who started right behind VanderBeek in 15th, got around Hughes in the late stages of the race and finished second while Gustin followed his teammate across the finish line in fourth.
R.C. Whitwell was fifth, Dillard held on for sixth, Stormy Scott was seventh, Dereck Ramirez earned an eighth-place check and Wolff fended off Joe Duvall for the ninth position,
The finale for the Summit Racing Equipment USMTS Southern Region presented by Production Jars takes place Saturday at the Lonestar Speedway in Kilgore, Texas, with another main event that will pay $3,000 to win and no less than $250 to take the green flag.
Last year’s runner-up in the national points chase, Dillard, has a series-best five victories this season and is in the driver’s seat to claim the Summit Racing Equipment USMTS Southern Region crown, but several others have plans of their own.
Gustin, a two-time USMTS national champ, sits 26 points behind Dillard in second with Hughes-the one who nipped Dillard by three points to take last year’s title-rides in third place and 43 markers behind the leader.
Brown sits fourth with 1666 points and is the last driver with a mathematical possibility of surpassing Dillard’s total. The rest of the top ten are Scott (1587), VanderBeek (1578), Ramirez (1496), Whitwell (1430), Travis Saurer (1411) and Duvall (1374).
Ranked 11th through 15th, Ricky Thornton Jr., Wolff, Trevor Egbert and Johnny Scott are also locked into ‘The Hunt’ while Adam Kates will replace Billy Vogel as the 15th-place driver tomorrow night if he shows up and Vogel is absent.
The Summit Racing Equipment USMTS Southern Region champion will earn $10,000 while all drivers ranked among the top 15 in points-along with any others with perfect attendance in the region-are locked in for this year’s Hunt for the Casey’s USMTS National Championship powered by S&S Fishing & Rental which carries a $25,000 payoff for the 2017 titlist.
Tomorrow night’s show at the Lonestar Speedway will see the pit gate open at 3 p.m. with grandstands open at 5, hot laps at 6:45 and racing to follow. Limited Mods will be racing for $700 to win and Factory Stocks will race for a $500 top prize. FWD Four-Cylinders will also compete.
This is the first USMTS event at the Lonestar Speedway in six years. The past three scheduled events were rained out, including last year’s race. It’s also going to be the first time the USMTS will compete on the high-banked 1/3-mile oval configuration. It was a big 3/8-mile oval when Johnny Scott and Ryan Gustin got their wins here in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
The Lonestar Speedway is located off I-20 at exit 583, then 0.5 mile north on SR 135, then 1.0 mile east on FM 1252, then 0.5 mile south. For more information, call (903) 986-9731 or go to www.lonestarspeedway.com on the World Wide Web.
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