By Mark Merrell
(Winston, MO) The final two weeks of the 2019 racing season at I-35 Speedway are looming large in the windshields for drivers. Points battles in several divisions are becoming tighter, as teams race for a final trip to victory lane for the year.
In the Pure Stocks, it’s a three driver fight between Ron Hill, Rylee Fuller, and Blaine Yonts for the championship. Hill came into the night with the points lead. Fuller is 114 points behind Hill, and Yonts in third, 160 out of the top spot. Hill lined up for the feature inside row two, with Fuller just behind him in the third row, with Yonts outside row four. Jimmy James Smith raced with Hill in the early stages of the feature for the lead. Hill stated in the post race interview that he was trying to be patient, while waiting for the right opportunity to get by Smith, with a blazing fast Kasey Ayres near the front pack, along with Smith and Hill. Conrad Kaufman was racing his way to the front along with Brandon Dixon. Hill eventually grabbed the top spot, pulling three car-lengths on the field. Hill stayed up front, capturing his fourteenth win of the year At I-35 Speedway. Smith finished second, Kaufman third, Ayers fourth, and Dixon fifth. Fuller raced to a sixth place finish, with DJ Barnes seventh, and Yonts eighth.
The Sport Compacts championship has come down to two drivers, John Willard, and teammate David Miller III. Willard had amassed a dozen wins coming into the night, and a points lead of 119 over Miller. The pair lined up for the feature on the front row, with Willard on the inside. As the green flag flew, Willard and Miller raced away from the field, with Frank Reed in close pursuit. Joseph Mick went to the high side cushion in turn three, but unfortunately went over the steep banking, coming to a dramatic stop. Mick was uninjured in the incident, but the race was halted for a brief time to make repairs to the safety barrier where Mick had made contact. As the race resumed, Willard ran to the front spot, and never looked back, earning his thirteenth feature win of the year at I-35 Speedway. Miller was second, Frank Reed third, Christian Pease fourth, and Jason Teel fifth.
In the E-Mods, Shaunie Lanning came to I-35 Speedway for the night with a 200 point lead in front of Leroy Morrison, with John Ross in third, 284 points away from Lanning. Last week, The race was all Jessie ‘James’ Mulich, as he led a majority of the feature for the victory. A few other drivers would come into the mix for this week’s feature. Casey Burnett started from inside row one next to Charlie Browne, with Lanning inside row two along side with Mulich. Morrison began outside row seven, with Ross outside row ten. Burnett ran to the lead, with Browne just inches away. Mulich, Chris Dishong, and Lanning were racing toward the front as the field roared down the front stretch. Justin Asher, who starting inside row five, began threading his way through the high speed traffic jam toward the lead. Ross and Morrison were also fighting to get to the front, in hopes of catching Burnett. As the laps clicked away, Asher has passed everyone in front of him, except for the leader, Burnett. The pair raced in an epic battle for the lead, lap after lap, running next to each other. Several times the lead changed hands, as the crowd watched in amazement. As the checkered flag flew, Asher raced by for the win, as Burnett finished a close second, with Mulich third, Lanning fourth, and Chris Dishong fifth. John Ross, starting last outside row ten, drove a great race, finishing eighth. Morrison finished eleventh.
The Midwest Limited Late Models have come down to two drivers for the championship, Tommy Cordray, and Gregg Truelove. Cordray began the night in front of Truelove by 106 points. The other drivers were hoping to race to McCarthy Auto Group Winner’s Circle as well. Truelove wasted no time running from inside row one to the lead, with Houston Johnson right next to him. Cordray began inside row two, next to last week’s feature winner, Paul Glendenning. Cordray had his work cut out for him, racing Johnson and Glendenning for second, while trying not to let the leader, Truelove drive away with the win. Just behind the top four, Sterling Perkins had found his way from inside row four to the front group. Truelove was challenged for the lead several times by Cordray, but the effort was to no avail, with Truelove earning his fourth feature win of the year at I-35 Speedway. Cordray finished second, Glendenning third, Perkins fourth, and Johnson fifth.
A field of twenty-two Out-Pace Products USRA B-Mods lined up for their feature, with Shadren Turner, and Chad Clancy on the front row. Turner was lighting fast, running to the lead as the field raced in to the first turn, with Clancy just behind Turner, in second. Just behind the top pair, were Josh Sink, Nic Hanes, Ethan Isaacs, Doug Keller, Chase Galvan, and Luke Phillips. The battles were relentless and numerous all through the field. The fans watched in awe. Turner was doing everything he could to keep Clancy in second. Clancy hounded Turner, eventually finding his way to the lead as the laps wound down. Clancy managed to hold off Turner for the win, with Turner a close second, Hanes third, Sink fourth, and Keller fifth.
The American Racer Tires USRA Stock Cars took on the high banked I-35 Speedway next. Tim Shields started inside row one, and ran to the lead quickly by the end of the first lap, with Thomas Ground, and Brad Derry just behind him. Keith Simmons, starting inside row five, was a man on a mission. It seems no matter were Simmons begins a feature event, you can count on him running inside the top five by the end of the race. Last year’s track champion, Jeff Dixon was in the middle of the group, trying to race his way to the front. Shields, however, kept his foot to the floor, setting a blistering pace, earning the victory in a mere six minutes, as the feature went green to checkered flag. Ground was second, Simmons third, Derry fourth, and Jeff Dixon fifth.
For a driver, starting on the front row of a eighteen car feature is a dream come true. The night would prove to be a nightmare instead. Austin Johnson and Dustin Miller began the feature on row one, with Chad Lyle and Lee Hibner just behind them. Johnson and Miller ran to the front, with Johnson showing the way. Miller went to the high side cushion, but seemed to lose momentum as several cars raced past him, including Lyle, Lee Hibner, and Matt Johnson. Steven Bowers was also making his way through the field very quickly, with Paden Phillips, Tyler Grooms, and Ed Noll. Lyle eventually raced to the lead, with Bowers, and Matt Johnson in close pursuit. Johnson spun inside turn three, bringing out the caution flag. Lyle stayed up front for the remainder of the feature, taking the win. Matt Johnson passed Bowers before the checkered flag flew, earning him a second place finish, and Bowers third. Ed Noll finished fourth, and Paden Phillips fifth.
Next Saturday, The 2019 Racing Season Will Wrap Up At I-35 Speedway, With McCarthy Auto Group Championship Night At The Races, Featuring The Summit USRA Weekly Racing Series USRA Modifieds, American Racer Tires USRA Stock Cars, Out-Pace Products USRA B-Mods, As Well As The MIdwest Limited Late Models, E-Mods, Pure Stocks, And Sport Compacts.