LAS CRUCES, N.M.—Ryan Gustin was in the right place at the right time Sunday afternoon at the Southern New Mexico Speedway, and found himself in victory lane at the end of the 50-lap USMTS main event.
Coming into the weekend, the 24-year-old from Marshalltown, Iowa, had won 69 United States Modified Touring Series feature races, but never tasted victory at the high-banked 1/3-mile clay oval in Las Cruces, N.M.
But his efforts Sunday earned him his 70th career USMTS win, a $4,000 paycheck and the title of champion at the 21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson.
“We’ve had a really good car, but we’ve had bad draws. That’s really all there is to it,” Gustin said following his second win in six starts this season. “It’s pretty tough out here.”
Saturday night’s winner, Philip Houston, garnered the pole position for the start of the race but it was hometown favorite Jake Gallardo who got the best start and took the lead at the drop of the green flag.
Gustin started the main event from the inside of the fourth row, but quickly moved to the high side of the racing surface when he got the chance.
With the field in front of him hugging the bottom groove, Gustin methodically picked off cars until he got by Gallardo with seven laps in the books.
From there, the two-time USMTS National Champion pulled away to a huge lead, but midway through the race Gallardo and ninth-starting Zack VanderBeek began to narrow the gap between themselves and the leader.
“It was good and slick for about twenty laps,” Gustin recalled. “I could see Jake Gallardo’s nose down there. He was coming, he was inching away at it, and the lapped car I was behind started driving away so I said ‘You’d better get down’ and it just played in our favor tonight.”
‘The Reaper’ pulled to the low side and sailed away to the win from there, taking the checkered flag with nearly five seconds to spare.
Gallardo held onto to second until lap 32 when VanderBeek and Daniel Hilsabeck got by when Gallardo slid up ever so slightly in the corner.
Behind the top four, Jesse Sobbing recorded his ninth top-10 in eleven starts with a fifth-place finish while Bumper Jones, Grant Junghans, Alex Stanford, Tom Georges and Terry Phillips rounded out the top-10 at the finish line.
Rookie of the Year points leader Austin Arneson came into Sunday’s program holding a 28-point lead over Dereck Ramirez in the points standings for the MVT Gulf Coast Border Region presented by Day Motor Sports.
Ramirez started directly in front of Arneson in the feature, but the battle for the regional crown had an early climax when Ramirez suffered front-end damage on lap 3 and dropped out of the race.
Arneson finished 13th to win the regional points title and the accompanying $5,000.
“I knew I had to hang around him, and I knew if he didn’t get too far ahead and I didn’t get too far back we’d have the points deal,” a smiling Arneson said following the race. “I don’t know what happened to Dereck; I just saw him go into the infield there. It sucks because everybody kind of wants a close finish for the deal, but we’re happy to get it and we’ll just go from here.”
In the final MVT Gulf Coast Border Region standings, Arneson bested Ramirez by 44 markers, and is now the sole competitor with the opportunity to walk away from the season-ending USMTS awards banquet $150,000 richer.
All he has to do now is win three more regions en route to winning the Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental and becoming the 2015 USMTS National Championship.
Third through tenth in the final regional rankings were Sobbing, Houston, Cade Dillard, Jason Hughes, VanderBeek, Gallardo, Hilsabeck and Grant Junghans.
With the first of four regional battles in the books, the series now heads to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas for the first three events in the Double H Bands Southern Region presented by Day Motor Sports.
Next week’s tripleheader kicks off on Thursday, March 12, at the Superbowl Speedway in Greenville.
From there, the tireless USMTS touring titans return to the RPM Speedway in Crandall on Friday, March 13, after a one-year hiatus.
The weekend wraps up on Saturday, March 14, at the Lonestar Speedway in Kilgore for the first time on the wide, high-banked 1/3-mile oval configuration (it was the former 3/8-mile configuration when Gustin won the last USMTS race there on March 26, 2011).
To learn more about the United States Modified Touring Series, visit www.usmts.com online or call 515-832-7944. You can also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usmts, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usmts or subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/usmtstv.
-USMTS Press Release. Photo Credit: Donald Iverson/USMTS photo
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United States Modified Touring Series
USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental – MVT Gulf Coast Border Region presented by Day Motor Sports
21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson – Night 3 of 3
Southern New Mexico Speedway, Las Cruces, N.M.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Showing finishing position, starting position in parentheses, car number, driver, hometown, chassis/engine builder, laps completed and money won. The top 12 drivers in passing points accumulated in the heat races were locked into the “A” Main, with the top 8 re-drawing for starting positions 1-8.
MESILLA VALLEY TRANSPORTATION “A” MAIN (50 laps):
1. (7) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, Hughes/Mullins, 50, $4000.
2. (9) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa, LG2/Sput’s, 50, $2700.
3. (14) 22d Daniel Hilsabeck, Adel, Iowa, Hilsabeck/Mullins, 50, $1800.
4. (2) J17 Jake Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/AOS, 50, $1200.
5. (3) 99 Jesse Sobbing (R), Malvern, Iowa, MBCustom/Sput’s, 50, $900.
6. (5) 111 Bumper Jones, Mesilla Park, N.M., GRT/Sput’s, 50, $800.
7. (4) 2 Grant Junghans, Manhattan, Kan., MBCustom/Sput’s, 50, $700.
8. (18) 98 Alex Stanford (R), Chowchilla, Calif., PCD/Tim’s, 50, $600.
9. (11) 28 Tom Georges, El Paso, Texas, AOS/TNT, 50, $550.
10. (8) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., GRT/Durham, 50, $500.
11. (17) 2j Blake Jegtvig, Hawley, Minn., MBCustom/Sturdy, 50, $450.
12. (19) 5 Shane Sprinkle, Andrews, Texas, MBCustom/PPE, 50, $425.
13. (12) 10 Austin Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D., GRT/Durham, 50, $400.
14. (15) 1st Johnny Scott, Las Cruces, N.M., Hughes/Mullins, 50, $375.
15. (25) 2 Casey Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D., GRT/Durham, 50, $400.
16. (22) 12 Nick DeCarlo (R), Martinez, Calif., Baxter/Reynolds, 50, $350.
17. (20) 44 Christy Georges-Barnett, El Paso, Texas, GRT/Barnett, 50, $350.
18. (24) 131 Royal Jones, Las Cruces, N.M., GRT/Dynamic, 50, $350.
19. (23) J7 Jay Rosales (R), Las Cruces, N.M., Ballistic/Montoya, 49, $350.
20. (21) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla., MBCustom/Mullins, 46, $350.
21. (1) 71 Philip Houston, Odessa, Texas, MBCustom/PPE, 29, $400.
22. (6) 97 Cade Dillard, Robeline, La., LG2/Geddes, 23, $400.
23. (26) 23k Ben Kates (R), Tonganoxie, Kan., GRT/Mullins, 21, $350.
24. (16) 85 Neal Flowers (R), Hobbs, N.M., GRT/Centex, 13, $350.
25. (13) G17 Fito Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/AOS, 12, $350.
26. (27) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, MBCustom/Geddes, 10, $350.
27. (10) 4r Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., LG2/Cornett, 3, $400.