Las Cruces, N.M. -- One week ago today, Jake O'Neil led all 40 laps en route to his career-first win with the United States Modified Touring Series and on Saturday night he repeated the feat with a wire-to-wire win at the Southern New Mexico Speedway during the second night of the Rancho Milagro Short Track Shootout.
While the other 25 feature racer starters swapped positions back and forth the entire 40-lap distance, O'Neil was checked out.
A caution with four laps remaining gave his pursuers some brief false hope as the 26-year-old from Tucson pulled away on the restart to put a second USMTS trophy in his case.
"I felt really good," O'Neil said of his effort. "I knew the track was probably up top. Early on I tried the bottom over here (turn one) a little bit and it seemed pretty good but then I got lapped traffic there and kind of messed up. I was waiting to get past there and I messed up there. I just had to cool down a little bit and slow down to go faster."
Since returning to action after a four-week layoff, the last four events for the USMTS have seen O'Neil garner two wins, a third and a runner-up finish which he recorded Friday night after starting 14th in his #0 LG2 by Owens machine.
"Jimmy Owens has been a big supporter of mine," O'Neil added. "He's taught me a lot the last few years, more so about race preparation than anything. We just have a really good program here; a really good hot rod."
Las Cruces native Johnny Scott, who won last Friday's race in Arizona, clawed his way from 13th to finish behind O'Neil at the checkered flag while defending USRA Modified track champion Bumper Jones claimed third after a furious scramble followed the lap-35 yellow flag.
Terry Phillips was fourth at the flagstand and 24 hours after his victory on his home track, Stormy Scott backed it up with a fifth-place result after starting 18th on the field.
Former USRA Modified national champion Jake Gallardo was sixth, Dereck Ramirez passed seven cars on his way to a seventh-place finish, Fito Gallardo earned an eighth-place paycheck, Rodney Sanders nabbed ninth and last year's Grant Junghans USMTS Rookie of the Year, R.C. Whitwell, completed the top ten.
Fifty-five USMTS drivers strapped in to compete in Saturday's program.
The Rancho Milagro Short Track Shootout continues Sunday with Anthony Sosa Roofing Late Models, Hacienda Carpet & Tile X-Mods, Casa Nissan Legends Cars and Sun Valley Hardware USRA Stock Cars joining the program for a third straight night.
Gates open at 3 p.m. with racing at 5 p.m. General admission is $15 or a family pack is just $35. Kids ages 10 and under get in free. Pit passes are $40.
For those unable to be there in person, every lap of every race in every division will be broadcast live on RacinDirt.com.
The Southern New Mexico Speedway is a high-banked 3/8-mile clay oval 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 and Instagram at www.instagram.com/usmts or subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/usmtstv. Keep up to speed with everything USMTS by joining our email list at www.usmts.com/subscribe.
-USMTS Press Release
-Photo credit: James Adams, Jr.