Rodney Sanders took a big step toward his goal of winning the USMTS National Championship Friday at the Lakeside Speedway in scoring his second win of the Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental.
Polesitter Shad Badder led the first three laps of the 35-lap main event while Ryan Gustin, who started in the third row, and 11th-starting Rodney Sanders quickly began their marches toward the front.
The event was slowed after a caution on the second lap when the track’s medical had to attend to an emergency in the grandstands. A red flag during the incident paused the race for just over 20 minutes.
Back under green, Gustin pounded the cushion around the high side of the half-mile oval and zoomed past Badder to lead the fourth lap.
Meanwhile, Sanders broke into the top five by the third lap and made his way to second with six laps in the books.
For the next six laps, the duo that wears the last four USMTS crowns battled it out in a thrilling high-speed slugfest.
Sanders shut the door to lead for the first time on lap 13, but Gustin did not fade away. Meanwhile, Badder, Stormy Scott and 2007 USMTS National Champion Jason Krohn tried to keep up with the streaking young guns.
The yellow flag waved on lap 18 for debris just as the leaders had reach the back of the field, and Sanders took advantage of the restart to jump out to a ten-car-length lead one lap later.
Badder slipped by Gustin on the restart, but ‘The Reaper’ raced back into second on lap 20. However, Sanders was running away at this point with nearly a full straight-away cushion over his chasers.
Krohn moved in to claim second on lap 24 and, with four laps to go, Gustin ducked into the infield with mechanical troubles.
Sanders sailed the rest of the way to register his second main event win of ‘The Hunt’ and his 18th of the 2015 campaign. The $3,500 triumph-which included a $500 bonus from Kenny’s Tile-helped the 24-year-old from Happy, Texas, pad his points lead and gave him the 63rd win of his USMTS career-just eight shy of matching Gustin’s mark of 71.
Krohn, making his first USMTS start since February, claimed the runner-up spot while Johnny Scott fended off his brother, Stormy Scott, for second. Badder notched a career-best fifth.
Jesse Sobbing, Philip Houston, Dereck Ramirez, Darron Fuqua and Grant Junghans rounded out the top 10. Junghans, who started third, was the recipient of the lap-2 yellow flag and fought his way past 17 fellow competitors over the final 33 orbits.
The USMTS will award $20,000 to the 2015 National Champion, unless that driver is Sanders. By virtue of his three regional titles this season, a $100,000 paycheck awaits if he can capture his third straight crown.
The gear-grinding goliaths of the USMTS return to the Salina Highbanks Speedway on Saturday for what promises to be yet another classic nail-biter. All military veterans and active duty get in free of charge on ‘Salute to Veterans Night’ presented by Bob Hart Chevrolet.
Jason Hughes was the winner when the USMTS Modifieds made their first appearance at the Salina Highbanks Speedway Aug. 27, 2004. He returned to the track’s winners circle two more times when the USMTS visited in 2013.
Terry Phillips, Stormy Scott, Bryan Rowland and Jeremy Payne have also tasted victory at Salina, while Ryan Gustin has three checkered flags here.
Gates open at 5 p.m., hot laps get going at 6:30 and the first green flag waves at 7 p.m. with the always-exciting sprint cars of the Oil Capital Racing Series (OCRS) also in action, plus 360 Modifieds and Pure Stocks too.
Tickets for adults are $20, kids are $10 and children ages 6 and under get in for free. Discount coupons good for $2 off adult general admission re available on race day at Casey’s General Stores locations in Wagoner and Tahlequah, as well as Siloam Springs on the Arkansas side of the border.
The Salina Highbanks Speedway is located 7 miles east of Pryor on SR 20. For more information, visit the website at www.salinahighbanksspeedway.com or call 918-434-7223.
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 or subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/usmtstv.