The 18 year old Kevin Donahue finally threw the bad luck monkey off his back as the Wildwood Missouri speedster played the patient game and overtook leader Austin Johnson on the 28th lap. This was Donahue’s first O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model feature win and he picked a great night to pull it off with 4000 plus people in attendance for the “Our Town Your Town Night” at the “High-Banks” of the Lebanon I-44 Speedway Saturday Night in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Action.
The feature went caution free and featured 3 different leaders as the final 10 laps kept everyone guessing as to who would win.
Chad Walter grabbed the early lead from his outside front row starting spot as Johnson followed quickly. On lap 3 Johnson shot to the lead as tight racing followed in the pack. As Johnson began to pull away, the action for 2nd place was nip and tuck as Jim Reaves who started 8th on the field, Terry Limberopoulos, Walter, and Payton Lucas swapped spots. On lap 6, Reaves moved into the runner-up spot and was making a charge on Johnson as Limberopoulos followed and Donahue who had fell back as far as 7th was on the move. On lap 10, Limberopoulos moved around Reaves to secure 2nd place while Johnson was still setting the quick pace. By lap 15, the lead was down to a single car length as Limberopoulos had closed the gap and Donahue was coming quickly. For leader Johnson, the Oklahoma charger was hitting his marks perfect while being challenged for the lead. Behind the top trio, a tight battle between Brennon Willard, point leader Kaleb Allison and JC Newell had the crowd watching 2 different battles. On the 27th circuit, Donahue made a quick pass on Limberopoulos to grab 2nd place and quickly closed on leader Johnson while Allison moved around Willard for the 4th place position. Donahue kept his car glued to the middle groove and pulled off the winning pass out of turn 2 with Johnson holding on to his best Pro Late Model finish with the runner-up spot as Limberopoulos, Allison and Willard completed the top 5 with all starters finishing on the lead lap.
“This was a blast and everybody gave and took out there tonight.’ Quoted the winner Donahue. “The car has been fast but just little things have been kicking us so far.” “The 22 car(Johnson) did a great job tonight and I really wasn’t sure if I could make the move stick as he was really quick and Terry and I had a good clean race for position.” Rookie Payton Lucas and JC Newell captured the heat race wins while Newell was fastest in the afternoon practice and Johnson was 2nd quick on the speed charts.
For Budweiser Modified driver Ricky Icenhower, it was a night to redeem from last week’s disappointing ending when a flat tire on the last lap cost him a win. Icenhower started 6th on the grid tonight and was part of a 4 wide battle in the opening 2 laps to overtake early leader Richard Lewis to grab his 2nd win of the season. Lewis was last season’s rookie of the year and grabbed the opening lead with a tight action pack of drivers following. Icenhower quickly moved into 2nd place on the opening circuit and then ran down Lewis to take command on lap 3 while Lewis was staying in close. At the same time a great battle for 3rd included point leader Stephen Counterman, defending champion Tyler Scott, Tim Swearengin and last week’s winner David Bates.
Up front, Icenhower had opened up a 4 car length advantage over Lewis while Scott was having a battle with Counterman lap after lap until the 11th circuit when Scott’s car got a little loose and Swearengin made the move to pick-up a spot. The only caution waved on lap 16 as Scott slowed in turn 1 and came to a halt. Icenhower got a great restart as Swearengin made a pass on Counterman for 3rd place. With “The Ice Man” looking to grab his 2nd win, on lap 20 Lewis began to pick-up the pace and was cutting into Ricky’s lead. Behind the lead duo, the tight pack for 3rd place saw Bates slip up in turn 4 losing a couple of spots. With the white flag displayed, Lewis had cut the gap down to 2 car lengths but Icenhower stayed smooth to grab the win with Lewis, Swearengin, Counterman and Chris Johnson completing the top 5. Lewis and Icenhower won the heats.
For Monster Energy Sportsman point leader Paul Jepson the large crowd also saw the largest field of cars in this class so far this season and the level of competition getting tougher. Jepson had to rally from a side by side battle early with Justin Blake and then had to come from the back of the pack after contact early to take his 4th feature win of the season. Blake jumped to the opening lead with veteran JC Newell close behind. By the 3rd lap, Jepson had closed in on the leader and the duo went door to door. On lap 4, Blake and Jepson made contact as the 2013 Road Warrior Champion had to fight the car hard to keep it off the wall which brought out a caution. This turn of events placed Toby Harden into the number 1 spot with Newell and Aaron Douglas following as both Blake and Jepson went to the rear of the field. On the restart Harden was keeping Newell at bay as Jepson was slicing through the pack. By lap 10, Jepson had moved into 2nd place and was closing up the ground on Harden. After a spirited battle, Jepson made the winning pass on lap 14 as Blake was coming through the field as well. The 2nd and final caution waved on lap 15 when contact between Douglas and Newell sent Douglas spinning and out for the evening. On the restart, Blake moved around Harden but couldn’t close up on Jepson’s lead as Jepson grabs the win with Blake, Harden, Jake Piel and Newell completing the top 5. Blake captured the heat win.
The Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors had another great battle between Carl Harlow and Geoff Ledford while dicing in the final laps for the last 3 weeks keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. Tonight was no exception as Harlow and Ledford battled right down to the wire as the feature was decided on the final lap in turn 4 with Harlow coming out on top this week capturing his 3rd win of the season. Lebanon’s Michael Juergensen taking the opening lead from his pole spot as 5th starting Ledford and Nick Cherry followed. Juergensen would keep the top spot until lap 4 when Ledford took over as point leader Harlow was quick to follow. Caution waved on lap 5 as Tony Johnson spun by himself bunching the field up. Ledford got a great restart as Harlow was trying to keep pace with the leader. While the duo pulled away, Juergensen was busy racing with last week’s winner Les Mallard and Nick Cherry. Up front as the laps ticked off it was Harlow down low and Ledford in the middle lane. On the final lap, Harlow got a run in his familiar low groove going into turn 1. Out of turn 2 he pulled along the side of Ledford as they went door to door. Ledford held a half a car lead as the duo went into turn 4 with Harlow staying down low. Going into turn 4, the leaders touched with both getting sideways, but Harlow kept in the gas as Mallard was closing quickly. Crossing the line was Harlow with a narrow win followed by Ledford, Mallard, Juergensen and Cherry in the top 5 with another great field of Road Warriors was on hand. Juergensen and Harlow captured the heat race wins.
The Coca-Cola Chargers brought their “A” game as the 4th different winner was crowned. 18 year old lady driver Lauren Buhr came from 7th to 1st on the opening lap and withstood several challenges from Ben White in taking her 1st win of the season. On the start of the 12 lap feature, it was 3 wide racing with Amanda Anderson leading the pack. Buhr weaved her way through the corners and backstretch to head the pack at the end of lap 1 with Anderson and White on her bumper followed closely by Larry Hunter and points runner up Jason Walls. Again this week, the feature went caution free as White began his move to the front. By lap 3, last week’s winner Jimmy Poindexter had charged from 11th to 5th as Walls started to slow with Clutch problems. With Buhr staying smooth and White applying pressure the leaders were really keeping things exciting as Hunter and Poindexter were battling for 3rd place. With 2 laps remaining, White made several attempts to grab the top spot, but Buhr was focused and driving smoothly as they headed to the checkered flag with Buhr taking a very popular win followed by White, Poindexter, Hunter and John Hunn. Heat races were won by Hunter and Buhr. Point leader Jordan Nesbitt was a scratch for the feature as contact hard with the turn 4 wall ended his night in his heat race.
Action continues this Saturday night with Coca-Cola Night at the races as area Coca-Cola retailers will be selling special 20 Oz. Coke Products with a I-44 sticker featuring a FREE Grandstand Admission to the races. The Coca-Cola Chargers will be running a special event along with Monster Energy Chase for the Championship Races for the Pro Late Models, Modifieds, Road Warriors and Sportsman with gates opening at 5pm and racing to begin at 7pm.
For more information visit the website at www.i44speedway.net and join the thousands of followers on Facebook that have “liked” our page for up to date information.
A Ft-1)Lauren Buhr-Neosho 2)Ben White-Rolla 3)Jimmy Poindexter-Willard 4)Larry Hunter-Laquey 5)John Hunn-Rolla 6)Japheth Nesbitt-Rolla 7)Amanda Anderson-Lebanon 8)Adam Prine-Springfield 9) Mark Glorfeld-Springfield 10)Jary Hudson-Edgar Springs 11)Jason Walls-St. James DNS-Jordan Nesbitt-Lebanon
1st Ht-1)Hunter 2)Japheth Nesbitt 3)Anderson 4)Hudson 5)Prine 6)Glorfeld
2nd Ht-1)Buhr 2) Walls 3)White 4)Poindexter 5) Hunn 6) Jordan Nesbitt
Keyser manufacturing Road Warriors
A Ft 1) Carl Harlow-Exeter 2) Geoff Ledford-Neosho 3)Les Mallard-fair Grove 4) Michael Juergensen-Lebanon 5) Nick Cherry-Springfield 6) Rick Sharp-fair Grove 7) Gary Barrows-Versailles 8)Tony Johnson-Lebanon 9) Mike Funcannon-Cassville 10)Mike Scott-Rogersville 11)David Jennings-Lebanon
1st Heat- 1)Juergensen 2)Cherry 3) Funcannon 4)Barrows 5)Scott 6) Johnson
2nd ht-1) Harlow 2)Ledford 3) Mallard 4) Sharp 5) Jennings
Monster Energy Sportsman
A ft-1) Paul Jepson-Rolla 2) Justin Blake-Lebanon 3) Toby Harden-Ozark 4) Jake Piel-Webster Grove 5) JC Newell-Decaturville 6) Jimmy Fohn-Eldridge 7) Aaron Douglas-Lebanon 8) Miles DeSelms-Lebanon
Ht-1) Blake 2) Jepson 3) Newell 4) Harden 5) Douglas 6) Piel 7) Fohn 8) DeSelms
A Ft-1) Ricky Icenhower-Fair Grove 2) Richard Lewis-Willard 3) Tim Swearengin-Springfield 4) Steven Counterman-Fair Grove 5) Chris Johnson-Lebanon 6) David Bates-Fair Grove 7) Brian Webster-Richland 8) Davis Strode-Independence 9) Mark Riddle-Springfield 10) Chris Kerperien-Lebanon 11) Tyler Scott-Nixa 12) Brian Lewis-Willard DNS-Terry Taylor-Fair Grove
1st Ht-1) R Lewis 2) Webster 3)Riddle 4) B Lewis 5) Kerperien 6) Johnson
2nd Ht-1) Icenhower 2) Counterman 3) Bates 4) Swearengin 5) Scott 6) Strode
O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Models
A Ft-1)Kevin Donahue-Wildwood 2) Austin Johnson-Inola, Okla. 3) Terry Limberopoulos-Cuba 4) Kaleb Allison-Mexico 5) Brennon Willard-Lebanon 6) JC Newell-Stoutland 7) Kyle Donahue-Wildwood 8) Jim Reaves-Strafford 9) Payton Lucas-Fair Grove 10) Steve Holt-Strafford 11) Chad Walter-Moberly 12) Terry Smith-Belton
1st Ht-1)Lucas 2) Kevin Donahue 3) Limberopoulos 4) Johnson 5) Walter 6) Smith
2nd Ht-1) Newell 2) Holt 3) Willard 4) Kyle Donahue 5) Allison 6) Reaves
– Lebanon I-44 Speedway Release Photo Credit: Austin Miller Photography