Overcoming an earlier heat race incident in the evening, Stoutland’s JC Newell took control from leader Terry Limberopoulos on the 9th lap and then survived a late race caution to grab his 3rd Lebanon I-44 Speedway O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model win of the season as the Monster Energy Championship Title Chase gets tighter in all NASCAR Whelen All American Series classes.
The start of the 30 lap O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model feature saw Limberopoulos and Peyton Lucas bring the field to the green with Limberopoulos taking the early lead while Lucas and Jimmy Vanzandt battling it out bumper to bumper action behind. With a quick pace throughout the field, Limberopoulos would open a four car length advantage over the fast moving Lucas. The 1st caution waved on lap 5 as veteran Kansas City driver Joe Ross who was debuting a new car spun to slow-up the pace as Kevin Donahue retired to the pits. On the restart, Newell shot around Vanzandt and then Lucas to move into 2nd place as Lucas got a tad bit high in the turn losing several spots.
While Newell started to closed the gap on Limberopoulos, Kyle Donahue quickly shot to 3rd placed and point leader Kaleb Allison was quietly moving through the field. After a spirited side by side battle, Newell would pass Limberopoulos to secure the lead while Donahue was bringing Allison with him to challenge for 2nd place. With the tight race for 2nd place going on, Newell would pull away to a 12 car length lead as those three fought it out behind him. Directly behind that 3 car battle was a 5 car pack racing for the 5th spot involving Vanzandt, Austin Johnson, Joe Ross, Payton Lucas and last week’s winner Steve Holt recovering from an earlier set back.
On lap 16, Kyle Donahue, the 14 year old Wildwood, Mo. rookie NASCAR State points leader, moved into the runner-up spot while trying to gain ground on the flying Newell while track and state point leader Allison gathered-up third place 1 lap later. A late race caution on lap 25 as Steve Holt got loose out of turn two bunched the field-up with Newell, Donahue, Allison, Limberopoulos and Vanzandt ready to restart. Newell wasted no time in getting on the gas quickly as Donahue and Allison kept the tight battle for second place honors. Newell would go unchallenged to take his 3rd win of the season while the tight race for 2nd found Donahue, Allison, Limberopoulos and Van Zandt completing the top 5. Lucas and Newell captured the heat race wins.
“The crew won this feature tonight” quoted the former Monster Energy Sportsman Champion and 2nd year Pro Late Model driver. “The fast dash tonight reached out and did some damage to almost everyone. Even though we won the heat, there was a lot of work that had to be done to get the car like it was in practice. We think we still have a chance at the point title, Kaleb is steady week in and week out, but we are going to give it a shot.”
For Budweiser Modified driver Ricky Icenhower, a charge in the caution free 25 lap feature from 12th to 1st brought him his 5th win of the season and second straight after taking the lead from Joe Bunkers on lap 8. The start of the “Ground Pounders” feature saw Bunkers grab the opening lead with David Strode following closely. With Bunkers driving a great race and opening the lead up as Strode and Richard Lewis went bumper to bumper in the early stages. By lap 4, “The Iceman” had wheeled his number 7 to fifth place and was trying to melt the competition. Up front Bunkers was still setting a fast pace as Lewis found Icenhower on his back bumper while they attempted to gain on the leader. On the 6th circuit, Icenhower moved around Lewis and closed-up quickly on Bunkers. Behind the leaders, a pack including track point runner-up Tim Swearengin, David Bates, Roderick Icenhower, and point leader Stephen Counterman were swapping spots. After applying pressure on lap 8, Icenhower shot to the inside of Bunkers to take over the number 1 spot. Swearengin broke away from the battle in the pack and shot to 2nd place on lap 9 leaving the 3rd place battle up for grabs. Out in clean air, Ricky would never look back in taking the win as Swearengin, Richard Lewis, Roderick Icenhower and Counterman completed the top 5. Qualifying heats went to David Strode and Roderick Icenhower as Swearengin slowly closes in on point leader Counterman.
” After the way the car worked last week, we never touched it this week in the shop and the gang and crew worked on Roderick’s to get it better. We struggled in practice and the heat race also, so we made small adjustments after each. I think they hit it right as this thing drove great. With the quality of drivers each week in this class we have to get up on the wheel and tonight the 10 car (Joe Bunkers) really ran good early. I was wondering if we could get him the way he started out.”
A new face in the winner’s circle for the Monster Energy Sportsman saw last season’s Road Warrior Champion Justin Blake hold off repeated challenges from point leader Paul Jepsen to grab his 1st win of the season and become the 3rd different winner in the class. Blake, who has been close to a victory in the last couple of week’s jumped out to the opening lead as Jepsen closed up quickly. With Blake driving a near perfect race Jepsen was working the low groove lap after lap while Jimmy Fohn and JC Newell ran hard together for 3rd spot. Caution waved on lap 11 for a single car spin by rookie Mike Bartig in his #27 Super Truck. On the restart, Blake pulled away to a 5 car length lead as Jepsen again began to close ground. Lap after lap the duo raced, It would be lap 18 that would decide the final outcome as Jepsen was trying to get the top spot, he would spin to keep from hitting Blake in turn 4 bringing out the yellow. Blake brought the field back to Green and opened up the advantage taking the win with Fohn, Jepsen, Newell, and Bartig followed. Blake also took the qualifying heat race win.
The Keyser Manufacturing Road Warrior feature saw plenty of side by side action as Neosho’s Geoff Ledford grabbed the lead early and survived a mid-race caution with point leader Carl Harlow on his bumper and grabbed his 3rd feature win of the season with a strong performance. The field took the green with Lebanon’s Tony Johnson grabbing the opening lead with Ledford and Nick Cherry close behind. Caution waved as Zack Morgan spun while making his 1st start of the season. On the restart, Ledford wasted no time in taking the lead from Johnson as Harlow moved quickly into 3rd spot. Those passes would be voided as Nick Cherry broke a hub and spun in turn 4 ending his night early. On the restart, again Ledford shot around Johnson as Steve Shaw went to the high groove and shot to 3rd spot. With side by side racing behind him, Ledford opened the lead as Johnson and Shaw went to battle. On lap 4, point leader Harlow moved up the leader board into 3rd spot and then moved around Johnson into the runner-up spot while Ledford was pulling away. A lap 8 caution for a single car spin bunched the field together as Ledford made the near perfect restart pulling away from Harlow while Shaw, Les Mallard and Rick Sharp all battled. At the finish, Ledford went untouched with Harlow, Shaw, Mallard and Sharp completing the top 5. Sharp and Ledford captured the heat race wins for the evening.
The Coca-Cola Charger feature found a new winner taking home a victory as rookie John Huhn took the lead on lap 2 from Japheth Nisbett and held off constant challenges from point leader and defending champion Jimmy Poindexter to become the 6th different winner this season. Japheth Nesbitt grabbed the opening lead with Huhn close on his inside. On the 2nd lap, Huhn moved to the lead as Ben White moved up to challenge. The only caution waved on lap 3 as Nisbett and White got together and White went to the pits with a flat tire. On the restart, runner-up in track points Jason Walls fell off the pace with problems and out of the action as Poindexter and Lauren Buhr followed. This 3 car battle lasted the remaining 9 laps as Huhn kept Poindexter at bay while they moved back and forth for the top spot. Heading to the white flag, Poindexter shot to the low side trying to make the pass, but Huhn held on to get his 1st NASCAR win. Poindexter, White, Jordan Nisbett and Walls would officially complete the top 5 as Buhr had issues in tech. Huhn made it a clean sweep by capturing the heat race.
Action continues next Saturday Night Aug. 16th as the O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Models are set to run a special Wheels For Warriors 50 lap feature along with a complete Monster Energy Championship Points event that includes the Budweiser Modifieds, Monster Energy Sportsman, Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors and Coca-Cola Chargers. Earlier that same afternoon the AUSA Wheels For Warriors Bike Rally and Car Show will take place at 11am. Race gates open at 5pm with Racing action to start at 7pm.
For more information visit the website at www.i44speedway.net and like our Facebook page for up dated information.
– I-44 Speedway Press Release
Photo Credit: I-44 Speedway