Saturday, May 26, 2012
Hartford Hauls the Mail All the Way to Victory Lane at I-44 Speedway
by Jordan Kuehne
LEBANON, Mo. -- With United States Super Truck series traveling from across the Midwest for Saturday’s ‘Budweiser 50’ at Lebanon I-44 Speedway, Show-Me State native Ron Hartford wanted to defend his home turf. Defend it he did, as the Raytown, Missouri hotshoe fended off a late race challenge from JJ Sonneveldt en route to the winner’s circle on a muggy Memorial Day Saturday at Missouri’s only asphalt oval track.
The weekly racing program didn’t disappoint as Matt Wallace overcame numerous challenges and scored his first career win in the O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models after original victor Brian Brown was disqualified during post-race inspection for a left side weight violation. Aaron Douglas nipped Rick Sharp at the line for the trophy in the Hardee’s Sportsman main event, while Nick Cherry collected his first career Coca-Cola Chargers feature victory in emotional fashion. Steve Shaw fended off Dustin Reeves on the way to a second consecutive win in the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors.
Ron Hartford hustled to the early edge in the opening 30-lap segment of the United States Super Trucks Memorial Day special, the ‘Budweiser 50.’ Hartford crept away to a ten truck length edge over second place Eric Caudell as the USST visited Lebanon I-44 Speedway for the first time in a decade.
Heat race winner JJ Sonneveldt tracked down and overtook Caudell for the bridesmaid’s position with 14 laps in the books as Hartford’s lead quickly evaporated. A caution flew with 14 laps remaining in the opening segment for a two-truck incident on the backstretch allowing the field to bunch back up as Sonneveldt eyed the top spot. Hartford escaped Sonneveldt’s clutches on the restart and held on for the opening segment win. With the unique format, Hartford rolled the die to invert the field a maximum six spots for the final 20-lap segment.
When racing got underway in the final 20-lap segment, Eric Caudell jumped back to the top spot as Sonneveldt and Hartford made quick work of the field. After a brief caution with 17 circuits remaining, Hartford hurried to the top spot as Sonneveldt broke into second a few laps later. From there, it was a game of cat-and-mouse as Sonneveldt did his best to track down the leader and erase Hartford’s eight car length advantage.
Sonneveldt caught the break he needed when Jason Isabell soared into the outside retaining wall of turn four and brought out the caution with four laps to go. When the restart came, Sonneveldt couldn’t take advantage of it as Hartford slipped away and collected the win in his home state.
“It’s awesome grabbing this win here,” said a happy Hartford afterwards. “I think JJ was sleeping on that last restart because I just rolled away at the end there.”
Sonneveldt settled for a runner-up finish while series president Eric Caudell came home third. Randy Price finished fourth and Ryan Lynch rounded out the top five in fifth.
A wild start marked the beginning of the 30-lap O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models main event as Brian Brown burst into the top spot and broke away from the 14 car field. Brian Woods settled into the second position as points leader Mike Slone, Jr. surged through the field and up to third. The caution flew with 23 laps remaining for an incident involving Dale Roper Jr. and Steve Holt in turn two, briefly pausing proceedings.
Racing was underway for only one lap before Ken Dickinson sent Tucker Cory for a ride in the turn four ‘Calamity Corner’ and an unfortunate Joe Ross had nowhere to go, sliding into Cory’s idle machine. When the green flag waved, Slone wasted no time maneuvering past Woods for second as Matt Wallace followed suit, moving up to third. As the field shook itself out around the halfway mark, Dickinson brought out a third caution after making contact with Terry Smith and got out of his machine to voice his displeasure as his car became mired in the infield.
After a lengthy delay, Brown paced the field back to green and Slone looked high and low for a route around him but he got loose with eight laps to go, making a miraculous save and dropping to fourth as Matt Wallace inherited the runner-up spot. With last weekend’s feature winner, Blake Sanford, in tow, Brown held his line on the bottom of the 3/8th-mile asphalt oval. Despite a hungry Wallace’s last gasp effort on the final lap, Brown held on to cross the finish line first.
Brown would be disqualified during post-race inspection for non-compliant left side bias, handing young Matt Wallace his first career win. The Concord, North Carolina driver took over for older sister Chrissy after she reigned victorious and notched the 2011 I-44 Late Model championship.
Slone ended up second and padded his points lead in the process while Sanford followed up his feature win with a top three in third. Jim Vanzandt finally cracked the top five with a fourth place result while Brian Woods finished in the fifth position.
In similar fashion to last weekend’s 20-lap Hardee’s Sportsman headliner, J.C. Newell nabbed the top spot in the early stages but his lead was erased by an early caution with 12 laps remaining. A heated tussle with Rick Sharp dropped Newell back to third as Sharp and Aaron Douglas grabbed the top two spots.
Douglas dove to the bottom and eyed the top spot as Sharp did his best to fend him off over the final ten laps. While those two dueled for the lead, points leader Lil’ J.C. Newell sat back in third and waited to pounce. With three drivers under a blanket for the lead, Douglas emerged with the lead with three laps remaining and managed to hold on for a hard fought victory over Sharp. The win was Douglas’ second feature win of the season.
“That was intense,” said Douglas as his car emitted fluids from the radiator in victory lane. “It was hard to get by everyone out there but somehow I got it done.”
Sharp settled for the bridesmaid’s position while Lil’ J.C. Newell scored another podium effort in third. The elder J.C. Newell and Darin Owens finished off the top five in fourth and fifth respectively.
Riley Sharp rolled to the early lead in the 12-lap Hoosier Tire Road Warriors feature as last weekend’s feature winner, Steve Shaw, and points leader Dustin Reeves began to pick off car after car and work their way to the front.
Reeves’ quest for a fourth feature win was held up by Mike Funcannon’s machine as the front four cars rode around under a blanket. In a wild series of events, Steve Shaw shot into the top spot after Reeves got into the side of Funcannon, relegating Reeves to third and Funcannon to fifth.
Reeves rocketed back to the front after his mishap, blowing past Sharp for the runner-up spot as the white flag waved. He would simply run out of time, however, as Steve Shaw collected his second feature win in two weeks.
“It worked out just as I planned,” said Shaw in the winner’s circle about the late-race move that netted him a win. “It was fun to see that happen.”
Reeves extended his points lead after ending up second as Riley Sharp made a strong debut with a third place finish. Gary Ball held on for fourth as Mike Funcannon got shuffled back to fifth after his late race tussle with Reeves.
Nick Cherry led the field to the green flag in the 12-lap Coca-Cola Chargers main event. With the laps ticking off, heat race winner Paul Jepson began to challenge Cherry for the top spot, peeking to the inside and riding the leader’s back bumper.
Despite Jepson’s best efforts, Cherry held on for a hard fought wire-to-wire victory. The win was Cherry’s first in any division and the driver celebrated as such.
“This is such a great feeling for me,” said an emotional Cherry in victory lane. “The foundation of this operation is my dad and I’m so glad he’s here to see this.”
Jepson came home in second while Richard Lewis landed in third. A pair of Poindexters, Jesse and Jimmy, completed the top five in fourth and fifth respectively.
Racing action returns to Lebanon I-44 Speedway next Saturday night as another exciting “Kickin’ Asphalt” program awaits race fans. A special treat is in store as the Pro National Baby Grand cars make the first of their two visits to Missouri’s only asphalt oval in 2012. Gates open at 5 pm with the first green flag waving at 7:30.
For more information on Lebanon I-44 Speedway, visit the facility’s website at www.i44speedway.net or visit the track’s Facebook page online.
LEBANON I-44 SPEEDWAY RACE RESULTS: SATURDAY, MAY 26, 2012
USST SUPER TRUCKS
1. # 69 Sonneveldt
2. # 42 Greven
3. # 7 Caudell
4. # 40 Ingram
5. # 16 Isabell
1. # 97 Hartford
2. # 11 Price
3. # 22 Lynch
4. # 31 Minor
1. # 97 Ron Hartford Raytown, MO
2. # 69 JJ Sonneveldt Platte City, MO
3. # 7 Eric Caudell Piedmont, OK
4. # 11 Randy Price Independence, MO
5. # 22 Ryan Lynch New Boston, TX
6. # 42 Daulton Greven Bolivar, MO
7. # 16 Jason Isabell Independence, MO
8. # 31 Ted Minor Weatherford, TX
9. # 40 Bobby Ingram OK
1. # 6 Wallace
2. # 02 Brown
3. # 66 Woods
4. # 21 Dickinson
5. #10 Roper
6. #98 Smith
7. # 5 Sanford
1. # 77 Slone
2. # 9 Cory
3. # 27 Ross
4. # 20 Fullerton
5. # 35 Holt
6. # 67 Vanzandt
7. # 3 Willard
1. # 6 Matt Wallace Concord, NC
2. # 77 Mike Slone Rolla
3. # 5 Blake Sanford St. Charles
4. # 67 Jim Vanzandt Springfield
5. # 66 Brian Woods Leawood, KS
6. # 98 Terry Smith Belton
7. # 3 Brennon Willard Sleeper
8. # 20 Austin Fullerton Chelsea, OK
9. # 21 Ken Dickinson Lebanon
10. # 9 Tucker Cory Quincy, IL
11. # 27 Joe Ross Kansas City, MO
12. # 10 Dale Roper Jr Fair Grove
13. # 35 Steve Holt Strafford
DQ # 02 Brian Brown Springfield
1. # 15 Newell
2. # 25 Owens
3. # 63 Higdon
4. # 36 Higdon
1. # 7 Douglas
2. # 10 Roper
3. # 84 Newell
4. # 42 Greven
1. # 7 Aaron Douglas Lebanon
2. # 10 Rick Sharp Fair Grove
3. # 15 Lil JC Newell Stoutland
4. # 84 JC Newell Decaturville
5. # 25 Darin Owens Springfield
6. # 36 Jon Higdon Strafford
7. # 63 Chuck Higdon Strafford
DNS. # 42 Daulton Greven Bolivar
1. # 35 Ball
2. # 07 Lowrance
3. # 90 Shaw
DNS # 21 Sharp
1. # 6 Reeves
2. # 38 Funcannon
3. # 7 Jones
1. # 90 Steve Shaw Rogersville
2. # 6 Dustin Reeves Camdenton
3. # 21 Riley Sharp Republic
4. # 35 Gary Ball Lebanon
5. # 38 Mike Funcannon Cassville
6. # 07 Adam Lowrance Lebanon
7. # 7 Shawn Jones Belle
DNS # 00 Michael Juergensen Lebanon
1. # 44 Jepsen
2. # 7 Poindexter
3. # 5 Poindexter
4. # 1 Page
5. # 30 Taylor
1. # 27 Cherry
2. # 34 Jones
3. # 6 Lewis
4. # 42 Nisbett
5. # 11 Buhr
1. # 27 Nick Cherry Springfield
2. # 44 Paul Jepsen Rolla
3. # 6 Richard Lewis Willard
4. # 7 Jessie Poindexter Willard
5. # 5 Jimmy Poindexter Willard
6. # 1 Amanda Page Republic
7. # 30 Billy Taylor Willard
8. # 11 Lauren Buhr Neosho
9. # 42 Jordan Nisbett Lebanon
10. # 34 Caston Jones Belle