By Mark Merrell
(WINSTON, MO) In a, “Thank You,” to race fans, I-35 Speedway owners, Mike, and Kyle Johnson threw open the doors to the 3/8 mile high banked facility for Saturday’s Pro-Ag/Mike Knight Celebration Night At The Races, offering free admission to the grandstands. The fans answered the call in earnest, filling up nearly every inch of real estate in the grandstands. Once again, the drivers thrilled the fans in attendance, putting them on their feet, and smiles to their faces.
Before the feature events, the Little Buddies Power Wheels took the front stretch to compete, having a great time with their loved ones, who guided the young competitors. Next, I-35 Speedway honored the late, Mike Knight. In charge of preparing I-70 Speedway, and Lakeside Speedways previously, Knight also groomed the high banks of I-35 Speedway most recently, before his passing. Knight was remembered with thoughts, a moment of silence, and balloon release, lead by JD Green. The Knight family added to purse for the, E-Mods, setting to amount to $500 for the feature winner.
The Pure Stocks led off the features for the evening. Ron Hill, after breaking his personal best win record the previous week, was looking for his 12th victory of the year, but some other drivers had different ideas for the event. Hill started outside row one. Rylee Fuller began her quest inside row three, with Blaine Yonts outside row two, just behind Hill. Early on, Hill led, with Yonts right on his bumper, along with Fuller. Yonts managed to race by Hill, capturing his second feature victory of the year. Fuller followed suit as well, finishing 2nd, with Hill 3rd, Brandon Dixon 4th, and Rieli Yonts 5th.
The Midwest Outlaw Vintage Races made a special visit to I-35 Speedway, with a familiar face racing to McCarthy Auto Group Winner’s Circle. At the drop of the green flag, Mike Lefholtz took the lead. Racing through the pack was his father, Ron. As the race unfolded, Ron passed his son, taking the top spot, never looking back, to earn his 2nd feature victory this season At I-35 Speedway. Mike Lefholtz finished 2nd, Andy Wiles 3rd, Dennis Fair 4th, and Steve Tanner 5th.
The Sport Compacts were next on the card. Teammates John Willard and David Miller III occupied the front row. The two went after each other, with Miller showing the way early on. Willard made his way by Miller just before the halfway point, and held on for the win, Willard’s 11th of the year to date. Miller finished 2nd, Joseph Mick 3rd, Isaiah Penton 4th, and Nate Castellano 5th.
Twenty-five E-Mods rolled onto the high banked track for their chance at the $500 feature win. Ricky Bobby led early, as well as Bobby Lopez, but the night would belong to another driver. Starting outside row two, current point leader Shaunie Lanning was not to be denied. Racing her way, with Jessie James Mulich just behind her, the pair ran to the front of the field. Lanning, after several caution flag restarts, maintained the front spot, earning a $500 payday, along with her 6th feature win, adding to her points lead in the E-Mod division. Mulich finished 2nd in the feature, Jeremy Curless 3rd, Casey Burnett 4th, and Justin Asher 5th.
The Midwest Limited Late Models have not only been a growing division each week, but an exciting one to watch as well. Bobby Penney, who has been a force to reckon with, started next to Tommy Cordray, who clipped out 11 feature wins so far this year. Just behind the pair was multiple feature winner, Gregg Bandit Lovejoy, and Houston Johnson. Penney ran quickly to the early lead, with Cordray and Truelove in a dogfight. As the race moved into the halfway point, Mike Taylor Jr was in a battle as well, with Eddie Schwope Jr, Paul Glendenning, and Alvie Cristofferson. As the group ran down the backstretch, suddenly, Taylor’s racing machine tumbled violently high into the air. Thankfully, Taylor climbed from his damaged car under his own power. Penney held off the hard charging field behind him, earning his 3rd feature win in a row, and his 5th of the year. Truelove finished 2nd, Cordray 3rd, Schwope 4th, and Christofferson 5th.
Prior to the start of the evening, Out Pace Products USRA B-Mod Driver Patrick Royalty visited with I-35 Track Announcer, Mark Merrell. In a great chat on the PA system for the fans, Royalty was asked about his first visit back to the facility this year, and which track condition he preferred. Royalty, smiled, and said, “Either. Whichever makes my car faster, that works.” Royalty’s words would come to fruition, as the feature event unfolded. Starting from the pole position, Royalty roared down the front stretch into turn one with the lead. Jeff Elder was in close pursuit, along with Chase Galvan, Daniel Harris, Lonnie Hibner, Johnny McGinnis, and Ty Griffith. With Royalty leading the way, everyone behind him faced side-by-side battles around the track, with race cars running three, and four wide. No one could match Royalty’s speed, running mid-line through the corners at both ends of the track, as the dirt evolved into shining mirror of sorts, becoming dry-slick. Royalty held off every challenge, and in his first visit to I-35 Speedway this season, he earned his first feature win at the track as well this year. Galvan finished 2nd, Daniel Harris 3rd, Hibner 4th, and Ty Griffith 5th.
Last week, luck was not with American Racer Tires USRA Stock Car driver, Jeff Dixon. Just after the halfway point, while maintaining the lead, Dixon’s race car was beset by a mechanical issue. Hoping for a different outcome, Dixon began from inside row one next to Willam Dahl for the feature. Dahl raced to the front, leading for several laps, with Dixon challenging Dahl for the lead, and Jason Newman, a close third. Dixon eventually found the speed on the track he was looking for, passing Dahl for the lead, and the eventual victory, Dixon’s 7th of the year. Dahl finished 2nd, and Newman 3rd.
Nineteen USRA A-Mods headed on to the high banked track for their feature. Tyler Hibner started from the pole, next to a very fast Matt Johnson. Paden Phillips and Dennis Elliott were in the second row. As the green flag flew, unleashing the pack of drivers, Johnson shot to the lead heading into turn one. Tyler Hibner, Phillips, Elliott, Clint Lyle, and Lee Hibner were all a mere inches apart, as the field raced with side-by-side battles everywhere the fans looked. The fight became one for 2nd, as Johnson motored away from each driver as they challenged him for the lead. On a late restart, Elliott ran to the high side cushion in turn one. Heading into turn two, contact was made from behind Elliott, sending the back of his car into the air, as he slid off the banking, loosing several positions as the field raced by him. A family fight for 2nd thus began between father and son, with Tyler fending off his father, Lee Hibner. Clint Lyle was just behind the pair, along with Austin Johnson, and Darren Shaw. As the checkered flag flew, Matt Johnson raced into McCarthy Auto Group Winner’s Circle, earning his first feature victory of the season at I-35 Speedway. Tyler Hibner finished 2nd, Lee Hibner 3rd, Clint Lyle 4th, and Austin Johnson 5th. Elliott raced his way back through the field, finishing 11th.
Next week, I-35 Speedway will host the, Bud Wilson Memorial, during Scobee Powerline Night At The Races. The Summit USRA Weekly Racing Series Out Pace Products B-Mods, American Racer Tires Stock Cars, A-Mods, along with the E-Mods, Midwest Limited Late Models, Pure Stocks, and Sport Compacts, with a special visit by the POWRi Midwest Lightning Sprint Cars, will take on the 3/8 mile high banked track in search of McCarthy Auto Group Winner’s Circle.