Brennon Willard found himself in the right spot at the right time by being patient as leaders Kyle Donahue and point leader Kaleb Allison got together while battling for the lead on lap 71. Willard then held off rookie driver Jake Cole to capture the Salute to 75 presented by Sportsland Pick-Up Covers before the capacity crowd Thursday Night at the “High-Banks” of the Lebanon I-44 Speedway in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Action. The event was tailored to honor the Springfield Legend Larry Phillips on his birthday.
Action got underway as former Phillip’s student and NASCAR star Ken Schrader set fast time touring the 3/8ths mile oval at a time of 14.599 while Willard was 2nd quick of the 17 qualifiers. Schrader suffered ignition problems in his heat race forcing him to the rear of the starting grid.
The 75 lap feature started with Chad Walter jumping to the early lead with Payton Lucas and Austin Johnson following. With the field tight and packed, the 1st caution waved on lap 6 as Lucas spun around in turn 2 right in front of the field after contact with Johnson. Both drivers would go to the rear of the field. Walters would now find 14 year old speedster Kyle Donahue on his bumper as point leader Kaleb Allison had charged from 9th to 3rd.
On the restart, Donahue would get a run on Walter and make a pass for the lead only to see it erased as front runners Terry Limberopoulos and Jim Reaves went around. The next time the field took the green Allison shot by Donahue for 2nd place and gave chase to the leader Walters while Willard who started 8th moved into 3rd place. On lap 10, Allison made the pass to take the top spot as Willard followed through and JC Newell had now cracked into the top 3. Out in front, Allison, the Missouri NASCAR State point leader had opened up a 10 car length lead and was making it look to easy while positions behind the leader were swapping around.
Caution waved again on lap 21 as Steve Holt slowed in turn 4 with a flat tire bunching the pack together. Previous week’s winner Kevin Donahue who started 13th had now moved his way into the top 5 while Jimmy Van Zandt was working hard to get to the front runners along with 11th starter Brian Woods.
Once again the field took the green and Allison shot to the lead as Willard had some help getting loose and dropped back 4 positions. Caution waved again on lap 24 as Vanzandt ended-up in the wrong direction in turn 4 after close racing action. His night ended with a broken Rack and Pinion. On the restart, Newell went for the lead as he and Allison went hard into turn 3. The leader went around bringing out the caution as both drivers went to the rear.
This gave Kyle Donahue the lead with older Brother Kevin Donahue, Willard, early leader Walters, Jake Cole and a fast moving Terry Smith following. The Donahue team got a quick jump and the brothers went to battle as the field went into a green flag run. Fast paced action for the next 12 laps as all eyes were on the battle up front along with Allison making a charge from the rear by picking off cars each lap. Fast qualifier Schrader brought out a caution on lap 36 as he ducked into the pits along with Payton Lucas. Both made repairs and returned to the rear.
Allison had charged back into 4th place by lap 37 as the track stayed green for several laps. With Kyle Donahue holding off Kevin Donahue, Allison had moved around Willard on lap 40 and began to give chase as Newell recovered to follow. With laps times speeding up, lapped traffic was starting to play a small factor.
Caution waved on lap 65 as Kevin Donahue got too deep in turn 2 and spun around and Newell had nowhere to go to miss the spin. On the restart it was Kyle Donahue followed by Allison, Willard, Cole, and a fast moving Austin Johnson was making his way back through the pack. Allison placed pressure on Donahue as the youngsters were determined to place their name on the Phillips Salute to 75 trophy. Side by side they went on lap 68 as neither driver was letting off while Willard was about 6 car lengths behind. On lap 70 with the leaders door to door, it was going down the backstretch were the fireworks would happen as smoke was in the air as they touched. Allison went spinning in turn 3 as Donahue slowed just and the caution waved. Both leaders were sent to the rear for being involved in the incident that caused the caution.
Willard found himself in the top spot with Jake Cole who was making his O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model debut riding in 2nd with Johnson, Kevin Donahue and Newell in the top 5. On the restart, Willard kept focused for the short run and shot ahead by 5 cars in the lead. Willard grabbed his 2nd win of the season with Cole smoothly finishing behind followed by Johnson, a fast moving Allison and Newell in the top 5. 12 drivers finished on the lead lap with some great runs for several not around at the finish.
“Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.” quoted Willard. “We had a good car overall, but Kaleb and Kyle had strong cars for the long green runs. When Kaleb closed in on the lead, I thought it might be best to be just a bit behind them. Looks like that might have been the best call of the night as this field of cars was so close together tonight. To win this Salute to 75 means a lot to me. I grew-up watching Larry win a lot of races here at I-44. I want to thank this incredible crowd for coming out tonight, the drivers and the Speedway really appreciates it.” Austin Johnson and Kevin Donahue won the heats.
Another new winner in the Budweiser Modifieds saw 3 time and defending champion Tyler Scott take the lead on lap 11 after a 5 lap side by side battle with leader Brian Webster. Brian Lewis brought the field to the green and lead lap 1 as Webster shot to the top spot on lap 2 with the “Nixa Nightmare” following. Webster was smooth on the middle lanes as Scott kept the pressure on early. Behind the lead duo, Lebanon’s Chris Johnson had his own battle with Terry Taylor, David Bates, and Tim Swearengin all dicing back and forth. After Scott took the lead, Webster shot to the low side for 3 laps keeping the leader honest. Scott pulled away with a 5 car length advantage in becoming the 5th different winner this season. Following Scott and Webster to the finish were Johnson, Bates, and Taylor. Tyler Scott and terry Taylor won the heats.
For the Coca-Cola Chargers, point leader Ben White broke his winless streak in becoming the 5th different winner in 8 features and added to the close lead he had going into the action. White took the lead on lap 7 from John Hunn after a spirited battle. Rookie Adam Prine took the opening lead on lap 1 with Hunn grabbing the lead on lap 2. Early season point leader Jordan Nesbitt grabbed the lead the following lap, but following a race caution, lost power on lap 4 moving Hunn back into the front spot with White putting on pressure. Joining the front duo, defending champion Jimmy Poindexter jumped in and made it a 3 car battle while previous winner Lauren Buhr and Larry Hunter were coming quickly. After White made the pass for the lead, Hunn and Poindexter were staying close. Things got even tighter on lap 9 as Hunter and Buhr made contact bringing out the yellow and both went to the rear of the field.
White got a strong jump on the restart, but in the closing 2 laps, both Hunn and Poindexter closed ground quickly. On the final lap, White kept his line smooth on track to capture the win and gained several points as Buhr and Jason Walls along with Nesbitt were on the trailers early. Following White to the stripe were Hunn, Poindexter, Lebanon’s Amanda Anderson and rookie Adam Prine, both with their best career finishes. Heat race winners were Larry Hunter and Lauren Buhr.
The Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors came in strong numbers tonight as Mike Scott jumped to the opening lead only to see the yellow fly quickly. Mike Funcannon, Riley Sharp and Geoff Ledford had gotten together in turn 4. Both Ledford and Sharp had to retire for the night. On the restart, Scott a former track champion took control with Rick Sharp and Nick Cherry following. On lap 2, Les Mallard moved into the chase and pressured Scott while point leader Carl Harlow wasted no time in moving from 12th to 3rd. By lap 5, Mallard moved around the leader Scott as Harlow followed with Scott fending off Sharp for 3rd. For the next 5 laps, Mallard and Harlow treated the crowd to great door to door racing until lap 8 when Harlow took the lead. For Harlow, it was a matter of keeping Mallard behind him as Mallard kept the pressure on the entire distance. Scott had Michael Juergensen putting on pressure for the remainder of the feature as well. Up front Harlow took his 4th win of the season with Mallard, Scott, Juergensen and Nick Cherry following. Mike Scott and Carl Harlow took the heat race wins.
The Monster Energy Sportsman class grew leaps and bounds during the last two weeks but with last week’s rainout the crowd didn’t get to see that growth until Saturday night. The largest field of drivers this season in the class featured great racing action as point leader Paul Jepsen dueled wheel to wheel with Toby Harden for 4 straight laps and then took command to capture his 5th win of the season. The feature had 4 different leaders as Aaron Douglas grabbed the opening lead for 3 laps, until Jake Piel made a pass for the lead with Toby Harden close behind. Harden shot to the lead on lap 6 as Jepsen tucked in behind him. From there it was a classic battle with Jepsen and Harden racing hard and clean as the crowd held their breath on a lap with a 5 wide pass in turn two. Jepsen later made the winning pass out of that same turn 2 as Harden stayed close behind for 5 more laps. Following Jepsen to the finish was Harden, Piel, a fast moving Ronnie Hartford and JC Newell.
The Speedway will be taking a week break for the Laclede County Fair and be back into action on July 19th as the Budweiser Modifieds will compete in a special 50 lap distance feature along with a full Monster Energy Championship Chase for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Models, Monster Energy Sportsman, Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors and Coca-Cola Chargers with racing to start at 7PM.
For more information visit the website at www.i44speedway.net and follow us on Facebook for up to minute information.
Track PR – Many stories also contributed by Ronnie Williams – Photo Courtesy of Austin Miller Photography
“Salute to 75” presented By Sportsland Pick-Up Covers
COCA-COLA CHARGER – FEATURE
|1||9||44||Benjamin White||Rolla , Mo||100.00|
|2||7||15||John Hunn||Rolla , Mo||96.00|
|3||8||5||Jimmy Poindexter||Willard , Mo||92.00|
|4||3||7||Amanda Anderson||Lebanon , Mo||88.00|
|5||1||28||Adam Prine||Springfield, Mo||84.00|
|6||4||74||Larry Hunter||Laquey , Mo||80.00|
|8||2||40||Mark Glorfeld||Springfield , Mo||72.00|
|9||11||11||Lauren Buhr||Neosho, Mo-||68.00|
|10||6||51||Japheth Nisbett||Rolla, Mo.||64.00|
|11||10||95||Jordan Nisbett||Lebanon , Mo||60.00|
|12||5||10||Jason Walls||St. James, Mo||56.00|
|CHARGER – HEAT 2|
|2||3||5||Jimmy Poindexter||Willard , Mo||20.00|
|3||5||95||Jordan Nisbett||Lebanon , Mo||15.00|
|4||4||44||Benjamin White||Rolla , Mo||10.00|
|5||2||15||John Hunn||Rolla , Mo||8.00|
|CHARGER – HEAT 1|
|1||4||74||Larry Hunter||Laquey , Mo||25.00|
|2||5||10||Jason Walls||St. James, Mo||20.00|
|4||3||7||Amanda Anderson||Lebanon , Mo||10.00|
|5||2||40||Mark Glorfeld||Springfield , Mo||8.00|
KEYSER MENUFACTURING ROAD WARRIOR – FEATURE
|1||13||7||Carl Harlow||Exeter , Mo||100.00|
|2||9||21||Leslie Mallard||Fair Grove, Mo||96.00|
|3||2||33||Mike Scott||Rogersville, Mo –||92.00|
|4||8||00||Michael Juergensen||Lebanon , Mo||88.00|
|5||7||27||Nick Cherry||Springfield, Mo||84.00|
|6||5||1||Gary Barrows||Versailles , Mo||80.00|
|7||3||0||Anthony Johnson||Lebanon , Mo||76.00|
|8||4||38||Mike Funcannon||Cassville , Mo||72.00|
|9||11||2||Chris Shetler||Lebanon , Mo||68.00|
|10||6||5||Rick Sharp||Fair Grove, Mo.||64.00|
|11||10||45||Geoffrey Ledford||Neosho , Mo||60.00|
|12||12||99||Riley Sharp||Fair Grove, Mo||56.00|
|13||1||30||David Jennings||Springfield , Mo||0.00||DNS|
|ROAD WARRIOR – HEAT 2|
|1||6||7||Carl Harlow||Exeter , Mo||25.00|
|2||5||45||Geoffrey Ledford||Neosho , Mo||20.00|
|3||4||21||Leslie Mallard||Fair Grove, Mo||15.00|
|4||3||00||Michael Juergensen||Lebanon , Mo||10.00|
|6||7||99||Riley Sharp||Fair Grove, Mo||6.00|
|ROAD WARRIOR – HEAT 1|
|2||3||0||Anthony Johnson||Lebanon , Mo||20.00|
|3||4||38||Mike Funcannon||Cassville , Mo||15.00|
|4||5||1||Gary Barrows||Versailles , Mo||10.00|
|5||1||30||David Jennings||Springfield , Mo||8.00|
|6||7||2||Chris Shetler||Lebanon , Mo||6.00|
MONSTER ENERGY SPORTSMAN – FEATURE
|1||7||44||Paul Jepsen||Rolla , Mo||100.00|
|2||6||1||Toby Harden||Ozark, Mo.-||96.00|
|3||3||76||Jake Piel||Webster Grove, Mo.||92.00|
|4||9||97||Ron Hartford||Raytown, Mo.||88.00|
|5||4||84||James Newell||Decaturville , Mo||84.00|
|6||5||15||Justin Blake||Lebanon , Mo||80.00|
|7||1||66||Miles Deselms||Lebanon, Mo.||76.00|
|8||2||7||Aaron Douglas||Lebanon , Mo||72.00||DNF|
|9||8||48||Jimmy Fohn||Eldridge , Mo||68.00||DNF|
|SPORTSMAN – HEAT|
|1||8||44||Paul Jepsen||Rolla , Mo||25.00|
|3||3||7||Aaron Douglas||Lebanon , Mo||15.00|
|5||6||15||Robert Blake||Lebanon , Mo||8.00|
|6||5||84||James Newell||Decaturville , Mo||6.00|
|9||2||48||Jimmy Fohn||Eldridge , Mo||5.00||DNF|
|10||10||21||Randall Besser||Branson , Mo||0.00|
BUDWEISER MODIFIED – FEATURE
|1||4||57||Tyler Scott||Nixa, Mo.||100.00|
|2||3||19||Brian Webster||Richland, Mo||96.00|
|3||5||00||Chris Johnson||Lebanon , Mo||92.00|
|4||8||91||David Bates||Fair Grove, Mo||88.00|
|5||6||66||Terry Taylor||Fair Grove, Mo||84.00|
|6||10||14||Tim Swearengin||Springfield, Mo.||80.00|
|7||9||6||Richard Lewis||Willard , Mo||76.00|
|8||7||25||Stephen Counterman||Fair Grove, Mo||72.00|
|9||11||16||Robert Baltzell||Ozark , Mo||68.00|
|10||1||9||Brian Lewis||Willard , Mo||64.00|
|11||2||0||Christopher Kerperien||Lebanon Mo||60.00|
|MODIFIED – HEAT 2|
|1||1||66||Terry Taylor||Fair Grove, Mo||25.00|
|2||2||25||Stephen Counterman||Fair Grove, Mo||20.00|
|3||3||91||David Bates||Fair Grove, Mo||15.00||DNF|
|5||4||6||Richard Lewis||Willard , Mo||8.00||DNF|
|MODIFIED – HEAT 1|
|2||5||00||Christopher Johnson||Lebanon , Mo||20.00|
|4||2||0||Christopher Kerperien||Flint, Mi, Mo||10.00|
|5||1||9||Brian Lewis||Willard , Mo||8.00|
|6||6||16||Robert Baltzell||Ozark , Mo||6.00|
|O’REILLY AUTO PARTS PRO LATE MODEL – FEATURE|
|1||8||3||Brennon Willard||Sleeper , Mo||100.00|
|2||14||36||Jake Cole||Kansas City, Mo.||96.00|
|3||3||22||Austin Johnson||Inola , Ok||92.00|
|4||9||47||Kaleb Allison||Mexico, Mo.-||88.00|
|5||10||15||JC Newell||Stoutland , Mo||84.00|
|6||13||7||Kevin Donahue||Wildwood , Mo||80.00|
|7||7||07||Terry Limberopoulos||Cuba, Mo||76.00|
|8||6||2||Kyle Donahue||Wildwood , Mo||72.00|
|9||5||18||Jim Reaves||Strafford , Mo||68.00|
|10||1||23||Chad Walter||Moberly, Mo.||64.00|
|11||2||26||Payton Lucas||Fair Grove, Mo||60.00|
|12||17||52||Ken Scharder||Concord, N.C.||56.00|
|13||15||42||Cole Rouse||Fort Smith, Ar||52.00||DNF|
|14||12||67||Jimmy Vanzandt||Fair Grove, Mo||48.00||DNF|
|15||11||66||Brian Woods||Leawood , Ks||44.00||DNF|
|16||16||98||Terry Smith||Belton , Mo||40.00||DNF|
|17||4||35||Steve Holt||Strafford , Mo||36.00||DNF|
|PRO LATE MODEL – HEAT 2|
|1||5||22||Austin Johnson||Inola , Ok||25.00|
|3||1||18||Jim Reaves||Strafford , Mo||15.00|
|4||4||3||Brennon Willard||Sleeper , Mo||10.00|
|5||2||07||Terry Limberopoulos||Cuba, Mo||8.00|
|6||6||26||Payton Lucas||Fair Grove, Mo||6.00|
|8||7||66||Brian Woods||Leawood , Ks||5.00||DNF|
|PRO LATE MODEL – HEAT 1|
|1||2||7||Kevin Donahue||Wildwood , Mo||25.00|
|2||5||35||Steve Holt||Strafford , Mo||20.00|
|3||3||15||JC Newell||Stoutland , Mo||15.00|
|4||1||2||Kyle Donahue||Wildwood , Mo||10.00|
|5||7||67||Jimmy Vanzandt||Fair Grove, Mo||8.00|
|7||9||42||Cole Rouse||Fort Smith, Ar||5.00|
|8||8||98||Terry Smith||Belton , Mo||5.00||DNF|