LAS CRUCES, NM - Defending USMTS National Champion Rodney Sanders found the new shape and surface of the Southern New Mexico Speedway to his liking Friday night, and drove away from the field to capture the opening round of the 21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson.

“It is awesome,” Sanders said about the new clay surface and widened corners at the facility. “The track is smooth and slick from top to bottom, so I think they did a great job on it. I’m looking forward to the next couple of nights.”

Sanders, 25, was looking forward to the checkered flag Friday night when the yellow flag waved as he was motoring through the final turns, erasing a huge advantage for the Happy, Texas, superstar and setting up a green-white-checkered finish.

“I felt like I was a sitting duck out there; I felt like I was way too loose out there tonight, but I guess we were good enough” he said. “I saw Cade (Dillard) on the board, and he’s a good racer, and (Terry) Phillips too so I really didn’t know what was going to happen there.”

What happened was Sanders got a smooth restart, fended off Dillard’s peek underneath in the first corner, and then sailed away to a $2,000 payday and his 47th career United States Modified Touring Series main event win.

Dillard collected runner-up honors in his 2014 ride after destroying a new car two weeks ago in Baytown, Texas.

 “I was telling ‘Unit’ (Grant Snider, Sanders’s crew chief) that we consistently run second, so maybe I’ll start considering that a win,” Dillard exclaimed following the race. “We’ve got a lot of second places—especially a lot of them to Rodney.”

Meanwhile, Phillips steered his back-up car the long way around the high-banked 1/3-mile clay oval to a third-place finish.

“It’s coming around, we just haven’t raced it much,” Phillips said. “We had to give it a little TLC this week over at Royal’s (Jones) shop. Every car needs a little something different, and this car here has been through the ringer, but not too bad of a run so we’re on the right track.”

Dereck Ramirez finished fourth and moved into the top spot in the points for the MVT Gulf Coast Border Region.

Jason Hughes was fifth, Ryan ‘The Reaper’ Gustin passed a dozen drivers en route to a sixth-place finish, Fito Gallardo wound up seventh, Casey Arneson was eighth ahead of his brother, Austin Arneson, who claimed the ninth spot and now trails Ramirez by seven points with two races left to decide the regional championship.

Philip Houston, who earned the AFCO Pole Award during heat race action, rounded out the top 10 finishers.

The 21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson continues on Saturday and Sunday, with $3,000 going to Saturday night’s winner and $4,000 set aside for the winner of Sunday’s finale.

Street Stocks, Limited X-Mods and Mini-Sprints will also be in action both days. Gates open at 3 p.m. on Saturday with the first heat race going green at 6. On Sunday, gates will open at 1 p.m. with hot laps at 3 and racing to follow.

Grandstand admission is $12 on Saturday and $15 on Sunday while kids ages 10 and under get in for free both days. Pit passes are $40 each night.

For those unable to attend this weekend’s clash in person, all three nights 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 at the 21st Annual Winter Meltdown presented by Barnett Harley-Davidson.

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.comonline 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.

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OFFICIAL RESULTS
United States Modified Touring Series
USMTS Casey’s Cup Series 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
Southern New Mexico Speedway, Las Cruces, N.M.
Friday, March 6, 2015

Showing finishing position, starting position in parentheses, car number, driver, hometown, chassis/engine builder, laps completed and money won. The top 14 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.

MSD HEAT RACE #1 (8 laps):
1. (1) 97 Cade Dillard, Robeline, La.
2. (2) J17 Jake Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M.
3. (7) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.
4. (3) 23k Ben Kates (R), Tonganoxie, Kan.
5. (5) 99 Jesse Sobbing (R), Malvern, Iowa.
6. (4) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa.
7. (6) 9 Jimmy Ray, Las Cruces, N.M.
8. (9) 12d Nick DeCarlo (R), Martinez, Calif.
9. (8) 111 Bumper Jones, Mesilla Park, N.M.

DOUBLE H BANDS HEAT RACE #2 (8 laps):
1. (6) 71 Philip Houston, Odessa, Texas.
2. (2) 2j Blake Jegtvig, Hawley, Minn.
3. (1) 07 Donavon Flores (R), Las Cruces, N.M.
4. (5) 131 Royal Jones, Las Cruces, N.M.
5. (8) 6c Caleb Stone (R), Lovington, N.M.
6. (7) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa.
7. (3) 7d Austin Theiss (R), Hockley, Texas.
8. (4) 202 Robbie Chiles (R), Hooper, Colo.
9. (9) M16 Rocko Gallardo (R), Fair Acres, N.M.

EDELBROCK HEAT RACE #3 (8 laps):
1. (2) 2 Casey Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D.
2. (9) G17 Fito Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M.
3. (3) 44 Christy Georges-Barnett, El Paso, Texas.
4. (4) 22d Daniel Hilsabeck, Adel, Iowa.
5. (5) 10 Austin Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D.
6. (7) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla.
7. (1) 98 Alex Stanford (R), Chowchilla, Calif.
8. (6) 57 Richie Davis (R), Springerville, Ariz.
9. (8) 0 Chris Sims (R), Las Cruces, N.M.

PBM PERFORMANCE PRODUCTS HEAT RACE #4 (8 laps):
1. (1) 4r Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla.
2. (4) 2 Grant Junghans, Manhattan, Kan.
3. (8) 5 Shane Sprinkle, Andrews, Texas.
4. (6) 65 Dustin Smith (R), Las Cruces, N.M.
5. (3) 65 Carlos Ahumada Jr., Canutillo, Texas.
6. (2) 123 Logan Robertson (R), Shamrock, Texas.
7. (7) 1j Jared Perez, Las Cruces, N.M.
8. (9) 19 Donavon Ooley, El Paso, Texas.
9. (5) 30 James Newton (R), Carlsbad, N.M.

BORDER INTERNATIONAL HEAT RACE #5 (8 laps):
1. (3) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.
2. (1) 1st Johnny Scott, Las Cruces, N.M.
3. (9) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas.
4. (5) 117 Toby Herring (R), Hobbs, N.M.
5. (6) 99 Terry Tipton (R), Duncan, Ariz.
6. (2) 38 Ronnie Gould III (R), Seminole, Okla.
7. (7) J7 Jay Rosales (R), Las Cruces, N.M.
8. (4) 28 Tom Georges, El Paso, Texas.
9. (8) 85 Neal Flowers (R), Hobbs, N.M.

REAL RACING WHEELS “B” MAIN #1 (15 laps, top 5 advance):
1. (2) 131 Royal Jones, Las Cruces, N.M.
2. (4) 22d Daniel Hilsabeck, Adel, Iowa.
3. (1) 44 Christy Georges-Barnett, El Paso, Texas.
4. (7) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla.
5. (5) 99 Jesse Sobbing (R), Malvern, Iowa.
6. (9) 9 Jimmy Ray, Las Cruces, N.M., AOS/AOS, $80.
7. (14) 111 Bumper Jones, Mesilla Park, N.M., GRT/Sput’s, $80.
8. (10) 98 Alex Stanford (R), Chowchilla, Calif., PCD/Tim’s, $80.
9. (11) J7 Jay Rosales (R), Las Cruces, N.M., Ballistic/Montoya, $80.
10. (13) 57 Richie Davis (R), Springerville, Ariz., Shaw/Klein, $80.
11. (16) 85 Neal Flowers (R), Hobbs, N.M., GRT/Centex, $80.
12. (6) 65 Carlos Ahumada Jr., Canutillo, Texas, LG2/BMS, $60.
13. (3) 6c Caleb Stone (R), Lovington, N.M., Emerson/Emerson, $80.
14. (15) 0 Chris Sims (R), Las Cruces, N.M., DirtWorks/RAM, $80.
15. (8) 123 Logan Robertson (R), Shamrock, Texas, Hughes/PPE, $80.
16. (12) 19 Donavon Ooley, El Paso, Texas, AOS/AOS, $60.

REAL RACING WHEELS “B” MAIN #2 (15 laps, top 5 advance):
1. (5) 10 Austin Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D.
2. (6) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa.
3. (7) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa.
4. (3) 23k Ben Kates (R), Tonganoxie, Kan.
5. (4) 99 Terry Tipton (R), Duncan, Ariz.
6. (2) 117 Toby Herring (R), Hobbs, N.M.
7. (8) 38 Ronnie Gould III (R), Seminole, Okla.
8. (9) 7d Austin Theiss (R), Hockley, Texas.
9. (1) 65 Dustin Smith (R), Las Cruces, N.M., GRT/AOS, $80.
10. (13) 28 Tom Georges, El Paso, Texas, AOS/TNT, $80.
11. (14) M16 Rocko Gallardo (R), Fair Acres, N.M., GRC/AOS, $80.
12. (12) 202 Robbie Chiles (R), Hooper, Colo., GRT/Chiles, $80.
13. (11) 12d Nick DeCarlo (R), Martinez, Calif., Baxter/Reynolds, $80.
14. (10) 1J Jared Perez, Las Cruces, N.M., Hughes/Robinson, $60.
15. (15) 30 James Newton (R), Carlsbad, N.M., Allen/BigJohn’s, $80.

MESILLA VALLEY TRANSPORTATION “A” MAIN (30 laps):
1. (2) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, MBCustom/Geddes, $2000.
2. (3) 97 Cade Dillard, Robeline, La., LG2/Geddes, $1500.
3. (5) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., GRT/Durham, $1000.
4. (6) 4r Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., LG2/Cornett, $800.
5. (10) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla., Hughes/Mullins, $700.
6. (18) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, Hughes/Mullins, $600.
7. (8) G17 Fito Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/Dynamic, $550.
8. (1) 2 Casey Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D., GRT/Durham, $500.
9. (16) 10 Austin Arneson (R), Fargo, N.D., GRT/Durham, $450.
10. (7) 71 Philip Houston, Odessa, Texas, MBCustom/PPE, $400.
11. (9) 2 Grant Junghans, Manhattan, Kan., MBCustom/Sput’s, $400.
12. (13) 1st Johnny Scott, Las Cruces, N.M., Hughes/Mullins, $325.
13. (11) J17 Jake Gallardo, Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/AOS, $400.
14. (4) 5 Shane Sprinkle, Andrews, Texas, MBCustom/PPE, $275.
15. (20) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa, LG2/Sput’s, $400.
16. (17) 22d Daniel Hilsabeck, Adel, Iowa, Hilsabeck/Mullins, $275.
17. (23) 99 Jesse Sobbing (R), Malvern, Iowa, MBCustom/Sput’s, $400.
18. (15) 131 Royal Jones, Las Cruces, N.M., GRT/Klein, $275.
19. (19) 44 Christy Georges-Barnett, El Paso, Texas, GRT/Barnett, $275.
20. (22) 23k Ben Kates (R), Tonganoxie, Kan., Harris/Mullins, $275.
21. (24) 99 Terry Tipton (R), Duncan, Ariz., Shaw/Keith, $275.
22. (21) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla., MBCustom/Mullins, $275.
23. (25) 7d Austin Theiss (R), Hockley, Texas, MBCustom/Mullins, $275.
24. (26) 38 Ronnie Gould III (R), Seminole, Okla., Hughes/Mullins, $275.
25. (12) 2j Blake Jegtvig, Hawley, Minn., MBCustom/Sturdy, $275.
26. (27) 117 Toby Herring (R), Hobbs, N.M., TRE/Geddes, $275.
27. (14) 07 Donavon Flores (R), Las Cruces, N.M., LG2/Dynamic, $275.

(R) = Rookie of the Year contender.

Lap Leaders: C. Arneson 1, Sanders 2-30.
Total Laps Led: Sanders 29, C. Arneson 1.
Margin of Victory: 0.813 second.
Provisional Starters: Theiss, Gould, Herring (track).
Sybesma Graphics Pole Award: Houston.
Hard Charger: Gustin (started 18th, finished 6th).
Entries: 45.
Next Race: Saturday-Sunday, March 7-8, Southern New Mexico Speedway, Las Cruces, N.M.
MVT Gulf Coast Border Region Points: Ramirez 775, A. Arneson 768, Hughes 747, Sobbing 685, Houston 683, Dillard 670, VanderBeek 638, J. Gallardo 628, C. Arneson 600, Kates 594.
Rookie of the Year Points: A. Arneson 768, Sobbing 685, C. Arneson 600, Kates 594, Theiss 523.
COMP Cams Engine Builder of the Year Points: Durham 69, Mullins 67, Cornett 66, Geddes 60, Sput’s 59.
Manufacturers Championship Points: GRT 78, LG2 77, MBCustom 73, Hughes 70, Harris 43.

Story & Photo: USMTS PR

New Shape, New Surface, No Problem for Sanders in NM