GOLIAD, Texas—The United States Modified Touring Series kicked off its 18th season Thursday at the Shady Oaks Speedway in Goliad, Texas, with another fierce battle ending with a near photo-finish.

 

Rodney Sanders and Jason Hughes have captured the last three USMTS national championships, and the pair slugged it out in last year’s Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup with Hughes scoring his second title in dramatic fashion.

 

graphic mobile app 2016-1Although they haven’t slugged it out for more than three months, Thursday’s 30-lap feature race wound up looking like a replay of last year’s highlight reel between the two.

 

The front row of the main event saw geographical opposites Casey Arneson of Fargo, N.D., and Steve Whiteaker Jr. of Corpus Christi, Texas, lead the 25-car field to the green. Arneson slid up in front of Whiteaker as they drove into the first turn, but Whiteaker crossed underneath Arneson to gain control of the race on lap 1.

 

The next time around the 3/8-mile dirt oval, Austin Arneson tucked in behind his brother and followed in Whiteaker’s tire tracks for the next dozen laps while Sanders, who started eighth, Cade Dillard and 12th-starting Hughes were on the charge and chasing the lead pack.

 

Dillard slipped underneath Sanders on lap 15, but Sanders returned the favor one lap later and then briefly raced three-wide with the Arneson brothers for second before securing the second spot with 18 laps complete.

 

The yellow flag made its first appearance of the 2016 campaign on lap 19 when Casey Arneson tagged the yoke tire on the inside of turn 4 and brought his strong run to an end early.

 

When the green flag returned, Whiteaker, Sanders and Austin Arneson powered through turn 2 side by side, but a tangle deep in the pack negated the start.

 

Whiteaker, who claimed last year’s season opener here, kept his advantage on the next start but Sanders was too strong and powered past the local favorite to lead the 22nd circuit.

 

Three laps later, Austin Arneson made contact with Whiteaker and Ryan Gustin, who had clawed his way into the top five from the eighth row, was forced to take evasive action and steer over the embankment to avoid a collision.

 

Both Whiteaker and Arneson found themselves at the rear of the field for the start of the final five-lap dash to the checkered flag while Gustin suffered damage from the maneuver and retired to the pit area.

 

Sanders nailed the restart and got a big jump on Dillard and Hughes, who found a fast line around the top of the racing surface to facilitate his late-race charge.

 

Hughes blew past Dillard with two laps to go and quickly pulled up to Sanders’s rear bumper as the duo raced to the white flag.

 

Sanders maintained the lead through the first corner while Hughes stayed tucked in behind as they raced down the back-stretch for the final time. With Sanders rolling around the inside, Hughes took the high line through the final set of turns and closed quickly on Sanders as they raced to the flagstand.

 

Crossing the finish line virtually side by side, Sanders was able to nip Hughes by a nose to claim the first USMTS checkered flag of the season and the $2,000 paycheck that accompanied it.

 

“The track was really good tonight,” said Sanders, who got the win in his first-ever visit to the Shady Oaks Speedway. “It’s a pretty tight track, but it races really well. At some tracks we go to we try to compare notes from like tracks, but we were in our own little world here.”

 

Hughes settled for second but he and crew chief Steve Karver appeared pleased with the result after struggling in their heat race.

 

Dillard held on for third while Joe Duvall made a late charge to claim the fourth spot ahead of Ben Kates. Tyler Wolff, Philip Houston, Zack VanderBeek, Brock Bauman and Jesse Sobbing rounded out the top ten in the season’s first points race in the Production Jars Southern Region presented by Day Motor Sports.

 

Friday night racing starts at 7:30 p.m. with drivers in the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental racing for $3,000 to win, Limited Mods going for $500 to win and Mod Lites racing for $300 to win. Grandstands are $20 for 13 and older with 12 and under free and pit passes $40.

 

On Saturday, the first heat race takes the green flag at 6 p.m. with USMTS Modifieds paying $4,000 to win, Limited Mods paying $650 to win, Mod Lites $400 to win and $400 to win for the Pure Stocks. Grandstand tickets are $20 for 13 and older with 12 and under free and pit passes $40.

 

For race fans unable to make the trip to the race track, point your browser to www.racindirt.com/livevideo to order the live broadcast covering every lap of every lap and more. New subscribers will also get a free month of RacinDirt.com’s On Demand video coverage and exclusive online content.

 

The Shady Oaks Speedway is located 4.0 miles north of Goliad on US 183, then 3.0 miles east on FM 622. To learn more, check out www.shadyoakspeedway.com, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ShadyOaksSpeedway and follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ShadyOaksGoliad.

 

USMTS Winter Speedweeks resumes at the Heart O’ Texas Speedway near Waco, Texas, Feb. 18-20. From there, it’s on to the Ark-La-Tex Speedway in Vivian, La., Feb. 25-27, and then wraps up at the Southern Oklahoma Speedway in Ardmore, Okla., March 3-5.

 

Each show will pay $2,000, $3,000 and $4,000 to win, respectively, and will comprise the first dozen events in the Production Jars Southern Region presented by Day Motor Sports. RacinDirt.com will carry the action live from all four events.

 

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.

 

-USMTS Press Release. Photo credit: Carey Akin

 

OFFICIAL RESULTS
United States Modified Touring Series
USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental – Production Jars Southern Region presented by Day Motor Sports
Shady Oaks Speedway, Goliad, Texas
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016

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.

MSD HEAT RACE #1 (8 laps):
1. (2) 97 Cade Dillard, Robeline, La.
2. (5) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas.
3. (7) 10 Austin Arneson, Fargo, N.D.
4. (4) 12d Scott Drake, Joplin, Mo.
5. (8) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa.
6. (3) 15h Sam Hafertepe Jr. (R), Rockwall, Texas.
7. (1) 4 Billy Vogel (R), West Fargo, N.D.
8. (6) 21t Lance Town, Wellsville, Kan.

FAST SHAFTS HEAT RACE #2 (8 laps):
1. (3) 2 Casey Arneson, Fargo, N.D.
2. (5) 89c Steve Whiteaker Jr., Corpus Christi, Texas.
3. (1) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.
4. (7) 99 Jesse Sobbing, Malvern, Iowa.
5. (4) 4m Bobby Malchus, Red Oak, Texas.
6. (6) 49jr Jake Timm, Winona, Minn.
7. (2) 38 Ronnie Gould III, Seminole, Okla.
8. (8) 4w Tyler Wolff (R), Fayetteville, Ark.

EDELBROCK HEAT RACE #3 (8 laps):
1. (3) 23k Ben Kates, Tonganoxie, Kan.
2. (7) 6 Brock Bauman, Eureka, Ill.
3. (4) 4 Cody Bauman, Eureka, Ill.
4. (6) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla.
5. (5) 35g Barry Gifford (R), Ponca City, Okla.
6. (1) 49 Chadd Howell (R), Waurika, Okla.
7. (2) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa.

PBM PERFORMANCE PRODUCTS HEAT RACE #4 (8 laps):
1. (1) 71 Philip Houston, Odessa, Texas.
2. (3) 12 Cody Leonard, Sinton, Texas.
3. (2) 137 William Pittaway, Corpus Christi, Texas.
4. (6) 303 Chase Jupe (R), Waco, Texas.
5. (4) 29 Jamie Campbell, Adkins, Texas.
6. (5) 8 Steve Miller, Rosanky, Texas.
7. (7) 34 Mickey Lassiter (R), Piedmont, Okla.

REAL RACING WHEELS “B” MAIN #1 (10 laps, top 6 advance):
1. (8) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa.
2. (6) 49 Chadd Howell (R), Waurika, Okla.
3. (7) 4 Billy Vogel (R), West Fargo, N.D.
4. (3) 12d Scott Drake, Joplin, Mo.
5. (9) 21t Lance Town, Wellsville, Kan.
6. (5) 15h Sam Hafertepe Jr. (R), Rockwall, Texas.
7. (4) 35g Barry Gifford (R), Ponca City, Okla., Shaw/Yeoman, $80.
8. (1) 137 William Pittaway, Corpus Christi, Texas, Shaw/KSE, $60.
9. (2) 303 Chase Jupe (R), Waco, Texas.

REAL RACING WHEELS “B” MAIN #2 (10 laps, top 6 advance):
1. (1) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla.
2. (2) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa.
3. (9) 4w Tyler Wolff (R), Fayetteville, Ark.
4. (5) 49jr Jake Timm, Winona, Minn.
5. (3) 4m Bobby Malchus, Red Oak, Texas.
6. (6) 8 Steve Miller, Rosanky, Texas.
7. (7) 38 Ronnie Gould III, Seminole, Okla., MBCustom/Mullins, $80.
8. (4) 29 Jamie Campbell, Adkins, Texas., DirtWorks/Mission, $60.
9. (8) 34 Mickey Lassiter (R), Piedmont, Okla., GRT/Sput’s, $80.

PRODUCTION JARS “A” MAIN (30 laps):
1. (8) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, MBCustom/Geddes, 30, $2000.
2. (12) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla., Hughes/Mullins, 30, $1500.
3. (7) 97 Cade Dillard, Robeline, La., MBCustom/Geddes, 30, $1000.
4. (14) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla., MBCustom/Wornhor, 30, $800.
5. (4) 23k Ben Kates, Tonganoxie, Kan., LG2/Speedway, 30, $700.
6. (18) 4w Tyler Wolff (R), Fayetteville, Ark., MBCustom/Hatfield, 30, $650.
7. (3) 71 Philip Houston, Odessa, Texas, MBCustom/Geddes, 30, $600.
8. (13) 33z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa, LG2/Sput’s, 30, $550.
9. (5) 6 Brock Bauman, Eureka, Ill., GRT/Mullins, 30, $500.
10. (11) 99 Jesse Sobbing, Malvern, Iowa, Harris/Yancy’s, 30, $450.
11. (19) 12d Scott Drake, Joplin, Mo., MBCustom/GMPP, 30, $425.
12. (15) 49 Chadd Howell (R), Waurika, Okla., GRT/Geddes, 30, $400.
13. (20) 49jr Jake Timm, Winona, Minn., LG2/BuckBuilt, 30, $375.
14. (22) 4m Bobby Malchus, Red Oak, Texas, Rocket/LRE, 30, $350.
15. (2) 89c Steve Whiteaker Jr., Corpus Christi, Texas, GRT/Durham, 30, $325.
16. (17) 4 Billy Vogel (R), West Fargo, N.D., LG2/Durham, 30, $300.
17. (9) 12 Cody Leonard, Sinton, Texas, Harris/Wells, 30, $200.
18. (21) 21t Lance Town, Wellsville, Kan., Phoenix/Driskell, 30, $300.
19. (23) 15h Sam Hafertepe Jr. (R), Rockwall, Texas, Kraft/Wells, 30, $300.
20. (6) 10 Austin Arneson, Fargo, N.D., GRT/Durham, 30, $300.
21. (16) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, Hughes/Mullins, 25, $300.
22. (24) 8 Steve Miller, Rosanky, Texas, Rocket/TRD, 25, $300.
23. (1) 2 Casey Arneson, Fargo, N.D., GRT/Durham, 19, $300.
24. (25) 303 Chase Jupe (R), Waco, Texas, GRT/Mullins, 12, $300.
25. (10) 4 Cody Bauman, Eureka, Ill., GRT/Mullins, 8, $300.

Sanders Nips Hughes in Photo Finish at USMTS Opener