By Mark Merrell
(Winston, Missouri) McCarthy Auto Group Championship Night At The Races was a thrilling one, as drivers competed for the final time of the 2019 season, and to track championships, with one driver racing her way into I-35 Speedway history.
The E-Mods points title was a given on the final night of the 2019 racing season, as driver Shaunie Lanning had amassed a 217 point lead. The outcome of the night’s feature, however, was certainly up for grabs. Casey Burnett started inside row one next to John Ross, while Zach Boyd and Shaunie Lanning resided just behind them. Ross was in the third in the title chase behind Leroy Morrison, with a mere 78 points separating the two. The eighteen car field roared to life heading into turn one. Boyd spun in turn one, setting up the restart. This also resulted in Morrison, second in points, moving up to the second row next to Lanning. When the race resumed, the battle for the front become one between Burnett and Ross. Another driver, Emma Martin, was racing her way through the field as well, along with Kit Bailey, who started outside row nine. As the checkered flag flew, Burnett raced by, grasping his third feature win of the year At I-35 Speedway. Ross finished 2nd, Emma Martin 3rd, Lanning 4th. Kit Bailey drove a amazing race as well, finishing 5th. Morrison finished 7th, but kept his second place position in the point standings. The history books of I-35 Speedway added a new, and important chapter, as Shaunie Lanning became the first woman to earn a points championship at the high banked facility. In addition, in doing so, she added herself to the short, but hopefully growing list of female drivers earning track championships in the Kansas City area, who’s names include Jenny White, Blythe Deckman, and Jacobee Deckman. One hopes that this list is exponentially increased in the near future, following Lanning’s inspiration.
Pure Stock driver Ron ‘Monkey Man’ Hill also came into the evening with enough points to win the championship, his second in as many years. Hill had his mascot riding next to him all year, a three foot tall stuffed animal. Hill and his team took his, ‘passenger’ from his race car before the night began. It was awarded during intermission to arguably, one of his most enthusiastic fans. With tears streaming down her face, she accepted her new friend, to the delight of the fans. Hill started outside row one next to Jimmy James Smith. Rylee Fuller, second in points, started inside row six, with Blaine Yonts just in front of Fuller in row five. Fuller, just 51 points in front of Blaine, was hoping to add some distance between her and Blaine, while he was looking to close in on Fuller. Smith showed the way early. Hill, who announced recently that he was moving to another division next year, was desperately trying to capture his 15 feature victory of the year At I-35 Speedway. Smith spun in turn one, handing the lead to Hill, and bringing out the caution flag. Cody Ohrenburg took over second, and Brandon Dixon, third. Fuller and Blaine Yonts were driving next to each other, just behind the lead pack, as Kasey Ayers was closing in. As the field raced down the backstretch, several cars made contact. The right side of Fuller’s car drove up onto the retaining wall, getting airborne for a second, but landing on all for tires, as it slowed to a stop. Jerry Richards car went sailing off the backstretch, catching air underneath, coming to a rest on it’s tires. Thankfully, both drivers walked away from the incident.
As the race resumed, smoke began coming out of Hill’s car, as it ran up front. Brandon Dixon got by Ohrenburg for second. The smoke steadily increased from Hill. Eventually, Hill pulled to the infield. A quick burst of flame under the car quickly went out. Hill, frustrated, climbed from the car. Dixon held on for the win, his second feature victory of the season At I-35 Speedway. Albert Curtis finished 2nd, Ayers 3rd, Rieli Yonts 4th, and Blaine Yonts 5th. Fuller was credited with 10th, finishing 2nd in the points standings, with Blaine Yonts 3rd.
In the Midwest Limited Late Model division, Tommy Cordray was 101 points in front of Gregg Truelove for the championship. The pair began their feature next to each other on the front row, with Cordray starting on the pole. Cordray shot to the lead, with Truelove inches away on his back bumper. Soon, Paul Glendenning was racing up behind Truelove. As the field ran through turn one, Truelove spun, handing second to Glendenning. Cordray continued to lead as the race resumed. Truelove sliced and diced his way back up through the field, but the night, and the championship would belong to Cordray, winning his twelfth feature of the year, and become the first driver to win in the inaugural year of the Midwest Limited Late Models at I-35 Speedway, adding yet another chapter to the track’s racing history.
Glendenning finished 2nd, Eddie Schwope Jr, 3rd, Truelove 4th, and Houston Johnson 5th.
The Sport Compacts division rolled off next. Driver John Willard had earned enough points to garner the track championship. Willard went to his backup car for the night, after finding problems with his new primary car during the week. Willard started outside row one next to Richard McCaulley. Last year’s track champion, David Miller III, 124 points behind Willard, started inside row three. McCaulley led early, but Willard pulled off a beautifully timed slide-job racing out of turn four, taking the lead by mere inches.
Miller was in a three wide battle just behind the front pair, racing with Alvin Cooney, and Will Guthrie. Willard continued to lead, with Miller soon challenging McCaulley for second. Miller made the pass, setting sail for Willard, but it was not to be. Willard earned his fourteenth feature of the year, and the championship as well.
The Out-Pace Products USRA B-Mods came into the night with Chase Galvan 250 points ahead of Tyler Cadwallader. Daniel Harris started on the pole next to Ethan Isaacs. Galvan began the feature inside row two with Chad Fuller to his right. Cadwallader began deep in the field, outside row eight. As the race began, Harris was challenged for the lead by Isaacs several times, but to no avail. Doug Keller was carving up the field. Galvan was also very fast, going to the inside line on Isaacs, battling for second. Cadwallader was also a driver on the move, slicing his way toward the front of the field. However, the night would prove to be a great one for Harris, running the low side apron, earning his second feature win of the year at I-35 Speedway. Keller finished 2nd, Isaacs 3rd, Cadwallader 4th, and Dakota Girard 5th. The track championship was Galvan’s second, thus earning back-to-back Titles at I-35 Speedway.
Last year, Jeff Dixon was the track champion in the American Racer Tires USRA Stock Car division At I-35 Speedway. This year, Dixon raced to seven feature victories, along with consistently finishing in the top five, week after week. The sum of his efforts all year, resulted in another championship title At I-35 Speedway. The feature was at hand, with Dixon starting inside row one, next to Steve Herrick. Andy Jones, and Tim Shields began on the second row. Dixon took the lead. Herrick went to the high side on Dixon, with Shields a mere inches from Dixon’s back bumper. The field raced into turn one, as Shields went inside Dixon, and Herrick to the outside, creating a three-wide battle for the lead. Remarkably, the trio remained in that formation as the circled the high banked track, with no one giving an inch. The crowd was mesmerized in awe, witnessing the epic battle. Shields raced low out of turns one and two, finding some traction, getting by Dixon for the lead. Herrick eventually followed as well, passing Dixon for second. Shields held on for the feature win, his second in a row. Herrick was 2nd, Dixon 3rd, Andy Jones 4th, and Kacey Shields 5th.
The final race of the year featured the USRA Modifieds. Dennis Elliott was last year’s track champion, also finishing in third place USRA National points as well. History sometimes repeats itself, and the 2019 season seemed to be doing just that. Elliott was eighty points in the lead for the track title, while also residing in third nationally in the USRA standings, in a tight race with Jason Cummins, Josh Angst, and Max Eddie Thomas. Just behind Elliott for the track championship battle, brothers Houston and Austin Johnson were a mere 26 points apart. Houston held the slight advantage, and was hoping to keep his brother in the rear view mirror. Elliott started inside row one, next to Lee Hibner. Austin Johnson lined up inside row six, and Houston outside row seven.
Elliott and Hibner raced next to each other as the race began. Elliott moved to a significant lead, with Lee Hibner second, challenged by Tyler Davis, Paden Phillips, with Tyler Hibner closing in along with Zach Sanders. During a late caution flag restart, Tyler Hibner went over the turn two banking, sending him to the back of the field. Paden Phillips moved up to second, and was soon right on the back bumper of Elliott, with the pair racing near the apron of the track. During a restart, Austin Johnson was collected in an incident on the front stretch, ending his night, and his bid to pass his brother Houston for second in the points chase. As the laps were winding down, Phillips went low again inside turn one, as Elliott drifted high. Phillips shot by Elliott racing out of turn two for the lead. Elliott tried numerous attempts to get by Phillips, who protected the low side. Phillips held off the hard charging Elliott for the win, the third feature victory of the year At I-35 Speedway. Elliott finished 2nd, Lee Hibner 3rd, Zach Sanders 4th, and Tyler Davis 5th. Remarkably, Tyler Hibner raced back through the field to finish 6th. Houston Johnson was 7th, and Austin Johnson was credited with 12th.
I-35 Speedway will host it’s 2019 banquet, honoring the perspective champions, including drivers finishing in the top eight in the USRA A-Mods, Out-Pace Product B-Mods, top five in the USRA American Racer Tires Stock Cars, top ten in E-Mods, top eight in the Midwest Limited Late Models, Pure Stocks, and top five in Sport Compacts. The track will also be inducting several persons into the I-35 Hall Of Fame. The ceremonies will take place, Saturday, November 2nd, at the A. V. Spilman Center, in Jamesport, Missouri. The social hour will began at 5, dinner at 6, with the awards at 7. Tickets are $25 each, and are available for purchase through I-35 Speedway.
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