-After leading all 40 laps of the United States Modified Touring Series feature at the KRA Speedway Wednesday evening, Craig Thatcher was standing in victory lane and breathing a sigh of relief.
The USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental made its maiden voyage to the speedplant located in Willmar, Minn., with a big crowd looking on, and despite the fact that Thatcher crossed the start-finish first every time around, the main event was anything but boring.
The track was slick and smooth with a cushion on the high side being the preferred path around the semi-banked 3/8-mile yellow clay oval. Thatcher used his outside front row starting slot to grab the advantage from polesitter Casey Arneson.
Just one lap into the race, a blown engine puked oil onto the track and several cars were involved in an early-race melee including Brent Larson, Travis Saurer, Brady Gerdes, Eric Pember, Troy Girolamo and two-time defending USMTS National Champion Rodney Sanders.
Sanders, who came into the event as the points leader in the Farm Boy BBQ Sauce Northern Region presented by Day Motor Sports, saw his night end early along with Saurer, Gerdes, Pember and Girolamo while Larson continued from the back of the pack.
From that point forward, Arneson shadowed Thatcher at the front of the field with Jesse Glenz, Dan Ebert and Zack VanderBeek in tow.
As the top side of the speedway began to wear thin, things got even racier throughout the field. With four laps to go, Arneson dove underneath Thatcher and nosed ahead of him as the pair entered turn 3, but Arneson’s momentum carried him around into a spin and the race’s final caution flag waved as the USMTS Rookie of the Year contender’s victory celebration plans were dashed.
Back under green, Thatcher cruised the final four laps to capture his third career USMTS trophy with a three-car-length cushion, and a $3,000 paycheck for the Knapp, Wis., veteran.
Ebert used the final restart to move by Glenz for second and 14th-starting Tim Johnson went by both VanderBeek and Glenz to secure the third spot. Glenz and VanderBeek held on for fourth and fifth.
Lucas Schott garnered the sixth spot while Jesse Sobbing advanced 14 positions during the race to finish seventh. Eighth was Joey Jensen, Danny Bayer was ninth and Don Eischens rounded out the top 10.
Although he completed just two laps and finished 23rd on the final score sheet, Sanders maintained his lead in the Farm Boy BBQ Sauce Northern Region points battle while Ebert narrowed the gap to 35 points (439 to 404) with his third top-5 finish in his first five USMTS starts. Larson is third in the rankings with 379 markers, followed by Vanderbeek (374) and Glenz (368).