The United States Modified Touring Series (USMTS) has been on the road since February and as the calendar turns to August, it’s time for the season to start winding down. But just like the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, the USMTS first resets the field and does a 15-race dash to crown a national champion in the waning days of summer.
The Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by S&S Fishing & Rental will crown the USMTS’ 17th national championship. It begins Thursday, August 6, at 81 Raceway in Wichita, Kansas.
By virtue of the first six months of racing, split into four regions that have already crowned their own separate champion, 39 drivers are eligible to win the Casey’s Cup national title.
The man who enters the Hunt as the prohibitive favorite is defending national champion Rodney Sanders. Sanders won the championship in all three regions he competed full-time in this season – the MSD Central Regional Series, Farm Boy BBQ Sauce Northern Regional Series, and the Double H Bands Southern Regional Series. In total, he’s won 15 USMTS races in 2015, including last weekend’s prestigious World Modified Dirt Track Championship at Deer Creek Speedway (MN).
Of course, much like the NASCAR Chase, the points leader going into the mini-series doesn’t always find the championship. Someone else can get hot or the points leader can walk into some bad luck.
Just don’t count on that happening with Rodney Sanders.
In the sixteen Hunt races last year, Sanders merely won eight times and tacked on four additional runner-up finishes. Zack VanderBeek finished no worse eighth during the entire Hunt and still finished 136 points off the leader.
That’s not to discredit the field of course. It’s just that Sanders has been undeniably the best in the last two seasons. There will be plenty of challengers looking to stun the Dirt Modified world.
Jesse Sobbing actually enters the Hunt on top of the reshuffled standings by virtue of running full-time in all four regions (Sanders skipped part of the Gulf Coast season.) 2015 was his first full season on the tour and he grabbed his first series victory in early May at Randolph County Raceway (MO). Sobbing undoubtedly will have to step his game up to truly challenge for the championship, but if he remains consistent as he has been all season (26 top-tens in 40 starts) there is reason to think a victory or two plus the points cushion he already has on the field might leave him in the thick of the battle.
Dereck Ramirez may be the most interesting storyline in the championship battle. He won his first two races since the end of 2011 on the Gulf Coast swing early in the year and placed in the top-five in seven of the eight Southern races. It was a solid resurgence for a driver who seemed as though he was stuck in the middle echelon of the series – strong enough to contend for a win now and again but mostly being a top-five or top-ten finisher.
The wild card is Stormy Scott. The USMTS stalwart took a break from racing full time in the series this year and has done a little more Dirt Late Model racing instead. Regardless of his limited schedule, the youngster from New Mexico is still in a bit of a rut. After winning 13 races last season, Scott enters this Hunt with just two victories. Brother Johnny Scott hasn’t been much better. He won just one race this season after four triumphs last year.
One driver who likely will not run the Hunt full-time but is an interesting storyline and a true dark horse to grab a win or two is Cory Crapser. Some fresh blood on the tour after dominating B-Mods up in Minnesota for the last few years, Crapser won the final Northern race at Rapid Speedway and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t mix things up a time or two.
USMTS National Hunt Schedule
|6 August 2015||Park City, KS|
|7 August 2015||Humboldt, KS|
|8 August 2015||Wheatland, MO|
|9 August 2015||Monett, MO|
|13 August 2015||Menomonie, WI|
|14 August 2015||Fountain City, WI|
|15 August 2015||Ogilvie, MN|
|21 August 2015||Kansas City, KS|
|22 August 2015||Salina, OK|
|2 September 2015||Webster City, IA|
|3 September 2015||Fairmont, MN|
|4 September 2015||Lansing, MN|
|5 September 2015||Deer Creek, MN|
|6 September 2015||Cresco, IA|
|24 September 2015||Deer Creek, MN|
-By Tim Quievryn, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @thethirdturn
— Photo by Bruce Nuttleman