URBANA, Mo. -- The United States Modified Touring Series invaded the Dallas County Speedway in Urbana, Mo., for the first time Thursday for the inaugural Bullring Bash presented by Hooker Harness, and a record crowd was on hand to witness Ryan Gustin beat Dereck Ramirez to the finish line by a whisker.
"That was one heck of a race," Gustin said in victory lane. "I thought he (Ramirez) took it away from us, but we gave each other a lane and always race each other clean."
The win was the 100th of Gustin's USMTS career.
"I wasn't sure we were going to get number 100 this year or not," Gustin said after posting his first top-ten finish since the Silver Dollar Nationals nearly one month ago. "It's a milestone, man, and it feels good. Looking forward to tomorrow."
The winner-along with everybody else who competed in the wild 40-lap main event on the tiny, slightly-banked quarter-mile-never had a moment to rest as action was constant from the front of the field back.
From the pole position, Terry Phillips took charge at the drop of the green flag and ran the low line while Gustin churned the loose clay lining the long way around the track.
The lead duo found the back of the pack by lap 12 and Gustin was able to squeak by to lead for the first time on lap 18 just before a caution flag waved and let everybody catch their breath.
Phillips continued to challenge Gustin for the lead for the next 10 laps until the two made contact in turn 4 and Phillips wound up smacking a yuke tire neat the exit of the corner.
Another yellow flag waved as Phillips saw his night come to an end, and on the restart Marriott followed Gustin but Ramirez stuck his nose underneath and claimed the second position.
The final 10 laps were intense as Gustin and Ramirez raced wheel-to-wheel lap after lap while four more cautions slowed the pace.
The final caution waved with three laps to go, and Ramirez edged in front of Gustin at the flagstand to lead lap 38 and again the next time around as they drag-raced beneath USMTS flagman Ryne Staley's white flag.
The pair exited the final corner door to door as they raced to the checkered. Despite sending a shower of sparks off of the front-stretch concrete wall, Gustin nipped Ramirez by less than five one-hundredths of a second.
"This is a small deal, it's elbows up," Gustin added. "It doesn't matter what you do to your car, you just have to get up on the wheel at these small little places and get after it."
The win was worth $2,500 to the 28-year-old from Marshalltown, Iowa.
For Ramirez, it was his fifth runner-up finish in seven races during the Casey's Hunt for the USMTS National Championship while Marriott, Rodney Sanders and Dean Wille completed the top five.
Jake O'Neil, Jason Pursley, Terry Schultz, Stephen Muilenburg and hometown favorite Colson Kirk rounded out the top 10.
Thursday's event was made possible by 54 Buildings & More, Oak Star Bank, Hermitage Lumber, Loehr Construction, Robert Sawyer Agency, Big Surf Waterpark, Krystal's Hair Studio, Eagle Machine, D & D Welding & Fabrication, St. Clair County State Bank, Scotty's Signs & Wraps and Citizens Memorial Heatlhcare.
On Friday, the USMTS invades the Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon, Mo., in an event presented by PEM Racing Gears & Drivetrain.
In the one previous visit here by the series in 2009, UMP Modified standout Mike Harrison was the winner.
Gates will open at 4 p.m., hot laps begin at 6:30 and racing gets underway at 7:30. Tickets are $18 for adults or just $15 for seniors 55+ and military. Youth (6-15) $5. Kids 5 and under are free. Family packs are $30. Pit passes are $35.
Two-time USMTS National Champion Ryan Gustin will meet and greet fans at the Casey's located at 224 W. 4th St. in Eldon, Mo., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. While you're there, get yourself a slice of delicious Casey's pizza, meet the 'The Reaper' and see his No. 19R Spike Hardcore Energy USMTS Modified.
The Lake Ozark Speedway is a semi-banked 1/3-mile clay oval located at south of Eldon on US 54, then 0.1 mile east on SR, then 0.5 mile north on Twiggy Ln. (frontage road). For more information, check out lakeozarkspeedway.net.
The four-night, 96-hour grind wraps up Saturday at the Salina Highbanks Speedway in Pryor Creek, Okla., for the 7th Annual Salute to Veterans presented by Bryke Racing.
To connect with the United States Modified Touring Series, visit usmts.com. You can also like us on Facebook, visit us on Instagram, follow us on Twitter, connect with us on LinkedIn and watch us on YouTube. Keep up to speed, get it first and subscribe to USMTS e-News.
CASEY'S GENERAL STORES "A" MAIN (40 laps):
1. (4) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, Hughes/TriStar, 40, $2500.
2. (8) 4r Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., Hughes/Cornett, 40, $1500.
3. (6) 62 Hunter Marriott (R), Brookfield, Mo., Rage/KSE, 40, $1000.
4. (10) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, MBCustoms/Hatfield, 40, $800.
5. (12) 68m Dean Willie, Warrensburg, Mo., Hughes/ChevPerf, 40, $500.
6. (19) 0 Jake O'Neil, Tucson, Ariz., LG2/Cornett, 40, $600.
7. (9) 38c Jason Pursley, Hermitage, Mo., GRT/Midstate, 40, $350.
8. (2) 90 Terry Schultz, Sedalia, Mo., Hughes/Mullins, 40, $300.
9. (3) 33 Stephen Muilenburg, Sparta, Mo., TRE/Eagle, 40, $275.
10. (7) 5 Colson Kirk (R), Urbana, Mo., Hughes/Dickens, 40, $250.
11. (20) 21x Travis Saurer, Elizabeth, Minn., MBCustoms/ChevPerf, 40, $375.
12. (5) 17 Mike Striegel (R), Wheatland, Mo., GRT/Driskell, 40, $350.
13. (11) 73 Mickey Burrell, Fair Grove, Mo., Shaw/BMS, 40, $200.
14. (15) 73 Mark Simon (R), Buffalo, Mo., Shaw/Eagle, 40, $200.
15. (14) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla., MBCustoms/ChevPerf, 40, $275.
16. (23) 8c Chris Clark, Jackson, Wyo., GRT/Cornett, 40, $250.
17. (21) 9 Jimmy Ray, Las Cruces, N.M., AOS/AOS, 40, $250.
18. (18) 91x Greg Skaggs, Broken Arrow, Okla., Rage/ChevPerf, 35, $200.
19. (1) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., GRT/Durham, 29, $250.
20. (24) 23 Adam Kates, Tonganoxie, Kan., LG2/Speedway, 29, $250.
21. (16) 19sb Lance Mari, Imperial, Calif., MRT/Yeoman, 26, $250.
22. (17) 16 Austin Siebert, Grandview, Mo., MBCustoms/Durham, 26, $250.
23. (22) 31 Ed Griggs (R), Pleasant Hill, Mo., DirtWorks/ChevPerf, 26, $200.
24. (13) 4w Tyler Wolff, Fayetteville, Ark., MBCustoms/Hill, 25, $250.
-USMTS Press Release & Photo