While many of the drivers in Thursday’s opening event in the Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental came looking to score valuable points in a quest to be the 2015 USMTS National Champion, Jeremy Payne showed up just looking for a win and some good money.
He got both.
After setting the tone early by scoring the most passing points among the 43 heat race competitors, Payne redrew fourth to start the 40-lap feature race and quickly moved into second to challenge early leader Brian Franz.
After stalking the multi-time NCRA champion for 27 laps, Payne finally made the pass for the lead and then fended off another final last-lap effort to get to the checkered flag first and record the 20th win of his career, but first of the 2015 campaign.
“I knew I had a really good car and early I could run with him (Franz) but he kind of got away there,” Payne said. “His car was really good so I was kind of searching around and found a better line in (turns) one and two. I think he pushed one time when I had a good run, I got by him and that’s all she wrote.”
Payne got paid $3,000 for his efforts while Franz wasn’t as fortunate. Post-race technical inspections found the engine setback to be outside of the rulebook and Franz was disqualified, which moved 17th-starting Stormy Scott into the runner-up position.
Fourth-place finisher Ryan McAninch was also disqualified for a similar infraction, dropping him from fourth and jumping Jason Hughes, Rodney Sanders and Brent Larson into third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Sanders’s journey to a top-five finish was a strange and hard-fought one-and one that obviously was not part of the team’s game plan to capture a third straight USMTS National Championship.
On the first lap of Fast Shafts Heat Race #2, Sanders and fellow front-row starter Jon Thompson bumped going into the first corner. By the time they reached turn 3, it was visibly clear that something was broken on Sanders’s right front suspension, and before he could react the tire came off, slid underneath his racecar and catapulted his machine into the air.
He was unhurt in the rollover incident, and the team quickly prepared their back-up car for a last-place start in the second Real Racing Wheels “B” Main where he passed 15 cars en route to a fourth-place finish. He then advanced 16 spots in the “A” Main, and left the 81 Speedway as the points leader in the Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental.
Jesse Sobbing came into the event atop the points standings, but had a night that was about as long as that of Sanders, albeit he kept his MB Customs on all four wheels all night.
After being unable to advance in his heat race, the Rookie of the Year points leader fumbled a transfer spot with two laps to go in his “B” Main, forcing him to take a provisional in the main event. Sobbing climbed as high as tenth in the feature, but suffered engine trouble on the final lap and plummeted to 15th.
Jake Gallardo finished sixth in the “A” Main, with 19th-starting Grant Junghans seventh, Dereck Ramirez eighth, 28th-starting Dan Powers ninth and Tad Davis tenth.
With one down and 14 races to go in The Hunt, Sanders leads Sobbing by five points (177 to 172) with Ramirez in third with 159 markers. The rest of the top 10 spots are Junghans (154), Cade Dillard (134), Zack VanderBeek (130), Casey Arneson (126), Scott (124) and Hughes (119) while Larson, Houston and Duvall are in a three-way tie for tenth with 112 points.
Friday finds the mud-slinging USMTS machines at the Humboldt Speedway in Humboldt, Kan. Gates open at 6 p.m. and racing starts at 8. USRA B-Mods, Stock Cars and Pure Stocks will round out the five-division card.
The Humboldt Speedway is a 1/4-mile semi-banked clay oval located off of US 169 at the Humboldt exit, then 0.1 mile west, then 0.5 mile south, then 0.9 mile east on Georgia Rd. For more information check out www.humboldtspeedway.com.