If there was any question as to whether or not Rodney Sanders is currently the best dirt modified driver in the world, Saturday’s performance at the 5th Annual World Modified Dirt Track Championship presented by Red Tail Tackle should settle the issue.
Sanders, who already owns nearly every coveted trophy the sport awards its champions, just keeps adding more hardware to his collection and placed a second WMDTC globe on his shelf with a dominating performance in Saturday’s two-part, 80-lap finale at the Deer Creek Speedway.
With second- and third-place finishes in Thursday and Friday’s preliminary features, the 25-year-old phenom from Happy, Texas, earned the pole position and led the field to the green flag Saturday night.
A former track champion at the high-banked 3/8-mile clay oval in Spring Valley, Minn., Brandon Davis of Medford, Minn., led the first lap of the first segment from the outside of the front row with Terry Phillips and Sanders giving chase.
Sanders quickly disposed of Phillips and then powered past Davis to lead the eighth of 30 laps. He never trailed again and cashed $5,000 for his efforts.
In between the two halves, crew members for all 30 main event starters were given the opportunity to make any changes they could within a ten-minute window.
When the horn sounded to resume racing, Sanders led the pack to the start of the 50-lap second-round battle.
Three cautions midway through the race kept his chasers within striking distance, including Jason Hughes who captured the 2013 World Championship as well as Friday night’s preliminary feature.
Hughes stalked Sanders for the last 20 laps, but Sanders would not be denied the $15,000 top prize, bringing his total take to more than $20,000.
“I just concentrated on keeping the car up front and running straight laps and keeping my tire under me,” an elated Sanders said in victory lane. “We just had a great car and I can’t thank everyone that helps me out enough. This is awesome.
“I caught lapped traffic and was kind of looking to see where they were running but they were all over the place so I really didn’t know where I needed to go, so I was just trying to keep my momentum up. I never saw anybody but I heard them a little bit. I was just trying to do what I was doing and not slip up.”
While Sanders claimed his second WMDTC title in a row, it was also the second straight year that Hughes was the second driver to cross beneath the checkered flag here.
“Didn’t quite have enough for the 20 car, but hats off to them; they did a hell of a job this weekend,” said Hughes, who finished third behind Sanders and Davis in the first segment. “They’ve had a great year-couple of years-so they worked hard and earned it.
“We’re not too happy with second,” Hughes said, smiling. “It’s the first loser. I seen the back of his car a couple times last weekend, and we need to get up there and get the win. We’ll get him some time or another.”
Phillips, a former Featherlite Fall Jamboree winner here, registered a third-place finish for the third time in five World Modified Dirt Track Championship main events.
“It just wasn’t quite enough to get to the front,” said the son of legendary racer Larry Phillips. “We had a third-place car. We’ve got a little homework to do, haven’t raced my mod much, so I guess we have to get on the ball.
“We’ve got a pretty good piece here and we’re pretty consistent being up front, so we just have to get that little edge that they got.”
Phillips won Thursday’s preliminary feature, and the Springfield, Mo., veteran has never finished lower than ninth in five WMDTC championship races.
Another past Jamboree champion, Joey Jensen of Harris, Minn., ran ninth in the first segment and found the high side to his liking in the second segment as he climbed from ninth at the start to finish in the fourth spot.
“It started to clean off on the top up there and you could get some good bite off the end,” said Jensen, who blew an engine Thursday and has been using a powerplant borrowed from fellow racer Bob Gierke for the remainder of the weekend. “It’s a testament to these guys here that put the car underneath me.
“I want to thank all the fans for coming out and supporting this deal. If it wasn’t for you guys we wouldn’t have this.”
Rounding out the top five, New Sharon, Iowa’s Zack VanderBeek closed out a consistently fast month of July on a high note.
“We had a good car all week, really, we just had some circumstances that didn’t go our way and kind of set us back a little bit but the car was good,” VanderBeek said. “It’s just a pleasure to run with guys that race so clean. We’ll keep plugging away here, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to catch that 20 car.”
Sixth went to the winner of the inaugural World Modified Dirt Track Championship in 2011, Brad Waits, and he did not disappoint the fans this time either.
Opting to skip the first two nights of qualifying, Waits paid his entry fee on Saturday and started dead last in the second 15-lap Last Chance Race where he finished second to advance to the “C” Main.
From the 16th starting spot, he won the “C” Main and then finished seventh in the “B” Main to earn a spot in the “A” Main where he started 19th and climbed to eighth by the end of the first 30-lap segment.
After battling among the top five for most of the second 50-lap segment, the racer from nearby Rochester, Minn., settled for sixth at the finish.
Bobby Malchus of Red Oak, Texas, who came up just a little short in Thursday’s preliminary feature behind Phillips, raced to a seventh-place finish ahead of Davis, who slipped to eighth at the finish.
Craig Thatcher of Knapp, Wis., was ninth and Brad Dierks of Clarence, Iowa, finished in the tenth position.
Sanders now has his sights set on another possible payday when the United States Modified Touring Series kicks off the 2015 Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental on Thursday, Aug. 6, at the 81 Speedway in Park City, Kan.
More than 30 drivers are “in the hunt” for a $20,000 reward to win the points title, but Sanders, by virtue of his three USMTS regional points titles this season, stands to earn a record $100,000 if he can capture his third straight USMTS National Championship.
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 atwww.twitter.com/usmts or subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/usmtstv.