LAS CRUCES, N.M.—After four years of searching for his first win, Philip Houston found paydirt at the 21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson on Saturday night, but not until after he had to hang on through nine cautions and a red flag at the Southern New Mexico Speedway.
Houston, who won a USRA Modified main event here a little more than four months ago in the 15th Annual Fall Nationals, dominated his heat race earlier in the program and then paced the last 38 laps of Saturday’s 40-lap main event to notch his career-first USMTS victory.
“This is what we’ve been working for,” an elated Houston said in victory lane. “We’ve waited a long time to get ourselves one of these. They don’t come easy at all.”
Coming from the fifth spot on the 27-car grid, the 38-year-old from Odessa, Texas, slipped under Fito Gallardo on the first lap after the green flag waved, and then passed Jake Gallardo for the lead one lap later.
Despite comfortably maintaining the top spot for the rest of the race, Houston’s win was nearly an hour in the making after nine yellows and one red flag for Royal Jones’s roll-over with 18 laps to go kept the field close behind.
“All the cautions were killing me,” Houston said. “Then the rain started to come and I pushed up in (turn) one and I thought ‘Oh no, here we go.’”
Cade Dillard climbed from his 13th starting spot to take second with just 16 laps in the books, but despite the multiple restarts he was unable to mount a serious challenge to Houston and settled for the runner-up paycheck for the second night in a row.
Houston had been a model of consistency through the first nine events of the season as the only driver with top-10 finishes in all nine races. His win on Saturday was his tenth top-10 of the season and worth $3,000.
Coming from the 18th, Austin Arneson challenged Dillard late in the race and finished third, while Fito Gallardo came home in fourth after rebounding from an early-race mishap that sent him to the rear of the field.
Making just his second USMTS start, Toby Herring backed up a strong heat race performance with a fifth-place finish while Daniel Hilsabeck, Jesse Sobbing, Donavon Flores, Neal Flowers and Alex Stanford rounded out the top 10.
Hilsabeck was impressive on the super-fast track in the main event. He started 22nd and was up to sixth near the halfway point of the race when he was involved in one of the cautions. He charged back through the field to regain sixth at the finish line.
With his third-place finish and some tough luck for Dereck Ramirez in the feature, Arneson regained the top ranking in the points standings for the MVT Gulf Coast Border Region presented by Day Motor Sports.
With just one race remaining, Arneson clings to a 28-point lead over Ramirez (859 to 831), while Jason Hughes sits third with 797. Once Arneson takes the green flag on Sunday, only Ramirez will be mathematically within striking distance of the regional title.
Houston is fourth in points with 786 markers, followed by Dillard (765), Sobbing (763), Zack VanderBeek (690), Jake Gallardo (678), Casey Arneson (645) and Hilsabeck (645).
The 21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson continues on Sunday with $4,000 set aside for the winner of the 50-lap finale. Street Stocks, Limited X-Mods and Mini-Sprints will also be in action.
Gates open at 1 p.m. with hot laps at 3 p.m. and racing to follow. Grandstand admission is $15 while kids ages 10 and under get in for free. Pit passes are $40.
For those unable to attend in person, the finale of the 21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson will be carried live via pay-per-view. Visit www.SpeedShift.tv for ordering information and don’t miss a single lap of the unforgettable action.
The Southern New Mexico Speedway is located 11 miles west of Las Cruces at the Southern New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Take exit 132, go left and take the frontage road south of I-10 heading west. For more information call 575-524-7913 or 505-524-7913 or visit www.snmspeedway.com online. You can also check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SouthernNewMexicoSpeedway and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SNMSpeedway.
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: USMTS.com
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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 2 of 3
Southern New Mexico Speedway, Las Cruces, N.M.
Saturday, March 7, 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 (40 laps):
1. (5) 71 Philip Houston, Odessa, Texas, MBCustom/PPE, 40, $3000.
2. (13) 97 Cade Dillard, Robeline, La., LG2/Geddes, 40, $1700.
3. (18) 10 Austin Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D., GRT/Durham, 40, $1200.
4. (4) G17 Fito Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/AOS, 40, $1000.
5. (3) 117 Toby Herring (R), Hobbs, N.M., TRE/Geddes, 40, $800.
6. (22) 22d Daniel Hilsabeck, Adel, Iowa, Hilsabeck/Mullins, 40, $700.
7. (23) 99 Jesse Sobbing (R), Malvern, Iowa, MBCustom/Sput’s, 40, $600.
8. (7) 07 Donavon Flores (R), Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/Dynamic, 40, $550.
9. (26) 85 Neal Flowers (R), Hobbs, N.M., GRT/Centex, 40, $500.
10. (27) 98 Alex Stanford (R), Chowchilla, Calif., PCD/Tim’s, 40, $450.
11. (12) 44 Christy Georges-Barnett, El Paso, Texas, GRT/Barnett, 40, $400.
12. (6) 65 Carlos Ahumada Jr., Canutillo, Texas, LG2/BMS, 40, $275.
13. (21) 28 Tom Georges, El Paso, Texas, AOS/TNT, 40, $350.
14. (15) 96 Dusty Riggs, Hatch, N.M., Shaw/JRM, 40, $275.
15. (17) 5 Shane Sprinkle, Andrews, Texas, MBCustom/PPE, 40, $325.
16. (20) 3t Todd Harper, Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/Dynamic, 40, $275.
17. (9) 0 Chris Sims (R), Las Cruces, N.M., DirtWorks/RAM, 39, $325.
18. (14) 4r Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., LG2/Cornett, 36, $400.
19. (10) 99 Terry Tipton (R), Duncan, Ariz., Shaw/Keith, 35, $325.
20. (16) 111 Bumper Jones, Mesilla Park, N.M., GRT/Sput’s, 35, $325.
21. (2) J7 Jay Rosales (R), Las Cruces, N.M., Ballistic/Montoya, 35, $325.
22. (25) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa, LG2/Sput’s, 26, $400.
23. (11) 131 Royal Jones, Las Cruces, N.M., GRT/Klein, 22, $325.
24. (24) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla., Hughes/Mullins, 15, $400.
25. (1) J17 Jake Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/AOS, 8, $400.
26. (19) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, Hughes/Mullins, 2, $325.
27. (8) 2 Grant Junghans, Manhattan, Kan., MBCustom/Sput’s, 1, $325.
DNS – M16 Rocko Gallardo, Fair Acres, N.M., GRC/AOS, 0, $200.