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USMTS Opener @ Cotton Bowl Speedway, 2/9-11/17


USMTS Opener @ Cotton Bowl Speedway, 2/9-11/17

By JM Hallas

Cotton Bowl Speedway, Paige, TX.,(Feb 10th, 2017) Over the past two nights "Team Hughes" has taken the early stranglehold on the USMTS season. Thursday night saw the newest member of the team, Ryan Gustin take home the checkers going wire to wire. Friday night was a different story with Jason Hughes, coming out the B-main and starting sixteenth, blasting his way through the field to grab the lead just after halfway. Once out front Hughes, running a line of his own in the middle, checked out on the rest of the field.

In the Limited Modifieds it was Johnny Torres taking the Thursday night feature win over a stout field of entrees. Friday it was veteran Lawrence Mikulencak getting past JJ Jennings then going on to score the victory. In CBS Stock Cars Danny Bennett took home the hardware in Friday nights feature.

USMTS saved the best for last in the 50-lap, $4,000 to win main event. On the third different track surface of the weekend there more twists and turns than a zumba class on steroids. With a dozen laps to go the race was still up for grabs between about ten different drivers. Ten laps to go and four wide for the lead, no problem. One last charge in the final laps, yep we had that. Post race extra curricular activities, why not. It was under a full moon after all.

Brown Bags Big Bucks in USMTS Finale

Springs Chris Brown found his way back to the Winners Circle, but it was a thriller to the finish. Brown hung around the top five throughout the 50-lapper saving his stuff till the end. That gambit paid off when Thursdays winner, Ryan Gustin who started mid-pack blasted by only to suffer a flat setting up a last sprint to the end.

It was four wide for the lead on a restart when, then leader, Johnny Scott had problems and slowed. This left Brown, Friday nights winner, Jason Hughes and Dereck Ramirez, who led the majority of the race, door to door to door. Brown emerged out front but got one last challenge by Hughes before taking the checkers.

As the 24-car USMTS main roared to life it was Ramirez first into turn 1 pursued by Johnny Scott, Billy Vogel, Brown and Thomas Tillison jr. in the top five. Tillison challenged Brown for fourth with Stormy Scott taking a peek three wide. Brown held off Tillison and took third from Vogel while S. Scott got around the outside of Tillison for fifth.

In the pack 'Team Hughes' was moving forward with Hughes and Gustin up to seventh and eighth. As S. Scott got by Vogel for fourth, Hughes went past both Tillison and Vogel for fifth. With Tillison and Vogel now side by side, Gustin was forced to try the high side. Unable to get by on top, Gustin threw a slider on the two pick up sixth.

Joining Tillison and Vogel were Rodney Sanders, Cade Dillard and Ricky Thornton jr. making in it five-some. Gustin caught his boss going side by side on lap 21. At halfway it was Ramirez, J. Scott and Brown with a gap back to S. Scott and Gustin in the top five with the lead trio coming up on traffic.

Gustin then picked off fourth from S. Scott with the battle for the lead beginning to heat up. Lap 28 J. Scott was along side Ramirez for the lead using the high side. J. Scott went to the bottom on lap 30 looking for a way by with the top three now nose to tail. This gave Gustin the opportunity to run down the leaders on lap 32.

As Brown was trying to get under J. Scott he was trying to go under Ramirez as well. J. Scott was finally able to make the pass and get the point on lap 34 with Brown following him through for second. This left J. Scott trying to fend off Gustin for third. Just as Gustin made the pass he slowed dramatically and stopped with a flat for the races first caution on lap 39.

Things were about to really heat up on the restart.

On green Ramirez got second back from Brown with Dillard and Thornton wheel to wheel for fifth. J. Scott, Brown, Ramirez and Hughes were four wide coming off turn 2 for the lead. J. Scott slowed in turn 4 and missed getting run over with the caution back out. This put Ramirez back out front with Brown and Hughes side by side on the restart for second.

Lap 41 saw the Brown/Hughes/Ramirez trio go three wide for the lead with Brown snagging the top spot on lap 42 and Hughes tagging along to second. Behind this Dillard, Thornton and Zack VanderBeek, who was making a late charge, were three wide for fourth. With five to go Brown was inching out from Hughes with a gap to Ramirez, Thornton, Dillard and VanderBeek scrapping for third.

Just when Brown may have thought he was in the clear, never count out Hughes. Hughes made one last push with two to go getting the nose inside Brown off turn 4. But Brown held him the final circuit for the win in the Ralos Lube & Auto, McNorton Dewatering, Lone Star Hydro Maintenance, CBR Shocks, Performance Graphix, Integra Shocks, Day Motorsports, Fast Shafts, Durham Race Engine powered, Mars Race Car.

"It was an awesome race," replied Brown. "To have the top three of Johnny, Dereck and myself mixing it up there at the end. I saw Gustin taking a peek a couple times and possibly more there in the mix, it had to be a great show for the fans. They hit it out of the park with the race track tonight, it was awesome."

"I was afraid of using up my tires. I was shearing the car a lot. Transitioning back from a Late Model to a Modified with the brake floater, you can fix a lot of issues. But you can create a lot of other issues too. I was just trying to get my timing right to help get the car through the corners. That's crucial. That was more or less my concern, that it was shearing so much I was building the wrong tire temperature."

"On that final restart I could obviously tell that Jason had a good car too. I wasn't sure where to go. There was part of me that said Dereck will probably go to the bottom, so I wanted to take the top so I could get a run. I hated giving Jason the bottom. Someone down there can control where the other person exits. I was definitely concerned about that. It was a hell of a race, on a hell of a race track."

"We didn't really do anything different than normal for the extra laps tonight. We've been constantly tweaking on it all weekend. Little by little we kept making ground and it paid off."

"We're not going to be able to run the full series with them. We will try to run the entire southern series and maybe something in our business will turn around. We may try to make some TOMS races too."

USMTS Modifieds

21 Chris Brown, 12 Jason Hughes, 20rt Ricky Thornton jr, 4r Dereck Ramirez, 33z Zack VanderBeek, 97 Cade Dillard, 2s Stormy Scott, 91s(20) Rodney Sanders, 4w Tyler Wolff, 91 Joe Duvall, 91w RC Whitwell, 85 Thomas Tillison jr., 717 GW Egbert IV, 6x Kyle Pleasant, 89c Steve Whiteaker jr., 71 Philip Houston, 34 Mickey Lassiter, 4v Billy Vogel, 1s Travis Saurer, 78 Trevor Egbert, 1st Johnny Scott, 19r Ryan Gustin, 715 JP Dowell, 12L Cody Leonard

USMTS Modified B-mains(Top 5 to A-main)

USMTS B-1; 71 Philip Houston, 4w Tyler Wolff, 91w RC Whitwell, 78 Trevor Egbert, 12L Cody Leonard, 9 Kevin Rutherford, 24 Sean Jones, 64 Jay Sale, 4m Bobby Malchus, 78 Corey Weir, 18z Zane Devilbiss, 141 Rob Sanderson, 26 Austin Huskey, 1 Eddie Ingram

USMTS B-2; 20rt Ricky Thornton jr., 91s(20) Rodney Sanders, 6x Kyle Pleasant, 34 Mickey Lassiter, 715 JP Dowell, j41 Monte Bolton, 717 GW Egbert IV, 65x Carlos Ahamada jr., 23 Logan Robertson, 33f Jardin Fuller, 89c Steve Whiteaker jr., 137 Bill Pittaway, 48 Chris Swenson---dns

USMTS Heats(Top 12 in passing points to A-main)

Heat 1; 85t Thomas Tillison jr., 91 Joe Duvall, 65x Carlos Ahumada jr., 26 Austin Huskey, 24 Sean Jones, 78w Corey Weir, 33f Jardin Fuller, 89c Steve Whiteaker jr

Heat 2; 2s Stormy Scott, 19r Ryan Gustin, 71 Philip Houston, 6x Kyle Pleasant, 715 JP Dowell, 91s(20) Rodney Sanders, 9 Kevin Rutherford, 4m Bobby Malchus

Heat 3; 21 Chris Brown, 33z Zack VanderBeek, 1s Travis Saurer, j41 Monte Bolton, 12L Cody Leonard, 23 Logan Robertson, 78 Trevor Egbert, 137 Bill Pittaway

Heat 4; 4v Billy Vogel, 4r Dereck Ramirez, 34 Mickey Lassiter, 4w Tyler Wolff, 1 Eddie Ingram, 141 Rob Sanderson, 48 Chris Swenson

Heat 5; 1st Johnny Scott, 97 Cade Dillard, 12 Jason Hughes, 91w RC Whitwell, 20rt Ricky Thornton jr., 717 GW Egbert IV, 64 Jay Sale, 18z Zane Devilbiss

Tucker Tallies Limited Modified Main

Gabe Tucker(Carbon) took a page out of the Jason Hughes racing playbook starting well back in the pack and methodically working his way to the front. Just before halfway Tucker had made his way up into a four-car battle for sixth. A late caution rebunched the pack and Tucker capitalized on the opportunity first dispatching Thursdays winner, Johnny Torres. Tucker then went outside the leader, Don Painter getting the top spot with two to go and holding on for the hard earned win.

As the 25-lap, 26-car field rolled to green last nights winner Lawrence Mikulencak grabbed the early lead trailed by Ross McCartney, Dustin Butcher, Broc Bowen and Stacy Tyler. In the pack several cars stacked up and turned left into the infield for a yellow. Once back to green Butcher got past McCartney for second leaving him beside Tyler with Bowen, Painter and Mickey Helms three wide for fifth.

Painter got Bowen and McCartney for fourth with Helms coming along to fifth. This left McCartney three wide with Torres and Brian Rye. Helms then picked off Tyler for fourth with Bowen trailing to fifth. Derek Scott had trouble on lap 10 to bring out the first yellow. Back to green Painter grabbed second from Butcher and was looking inside L. Mikulencak for the lead.

As the lead fight heated up, Torres, Bowen, Tyler and Tucker were four abreast for sixth. At halfway it was L. Mikulencak holding off Painter with Butcher, Torres and Helms now the top five. Painter finally got the nose inside L. Mikulencak and wrestled the lead away on lap 16. Torres got around Butcher for third with Tucker able to get by Helms for fourth.

Torres continued to march forward taking second from L. Mikulencak on lap 18 just before a lap 19 caution for Tyler who found the back stretch wall. L. Mikulencak slipped high on the restart and fell back to sixth while Tucker jumped up into third. Lap 20 saw Marcus Mikulencak, Cory Williams and Thomas Bennett tangle in turn 1 for a caution and set up a five lap dash to the finish.

On green Painter got away, Torres and Tucker stayed side by side for second with Butcher and Helms along side each other and L. Mikulencak looking to go three wide. Tucker got the spot from Torres and was now looking up top on Painter for the lead with Butcher and L. Mikulencak at it for fourth.

Painter and Tucker were side by side for the lead on lap 22 and Torres looking on. Tucker was able to get the top spot on lap 23 with Torres now challenging for second. Tucker in the Braka Operating, Fast Signs, Dirt Defender, Swenson Racing Shocks, KSE powered, Hughes by 89 Motorsports crept ahead taking the victory.

"I can't believe I started seventeenth, and won," exclaimed Tucker who is normally pretty low key. "I think my head is still going around out on track. We gambled tonight. After last night we loaded up and said that we've got to throw something at this car. We've had good finishes this weekend but just couldn't seal the deal. We threw something at it, and it worked."

"We finished second and fourth and started seventeenth tonight and the car went forward. I couldn't be more pleased with it. I wasn't trying to imitate Jason(Hughes) from last night. That guy is amazing. His car control is phenomenal. I'm nowhere close to Jason Hughes."

"We're just trying to listen to the racecar. We were struggling with the car and couldn't figure out what it was wanting. We had a different race track tonight so maybe it came to the car. We have to race on the same track as everyone else. My hats off to the track prep making it a little more racy. We just watched the race track."

"I just took what I could get out there. I'd look for an opening and if we could get in there without tearing up our car, or someone else's car, then I'd try to fill the gap. We went top, bottom, middle and the car worked. It was very forgiving tonight."

"I thought we were pretty good on the last restart, but I know those guys have a lot more laps here than I do. I needed to step it up. It was our time to shine."

Limited Modifieds

95 Gabe Tucker, 66 Johnny Torres, 19d Don Painter, 90k Dustin Butcher, 87 Lawrence Mikulencak, 174 Mickey Helms, 12 Cody Leonard, 42k Ross McCartney, 21b Brandon Kenny, 8c Will Carter, 17s James Skinner, 37 Jeffrey Abbey, 58c Hunter Flanagan, ok Thomas Bennett, 03 Marcus Mikulencak, 777 James Hanusch, 24 Robby Minten, 55 Rusty Head,, 184 Brian Rye, 21t Taylor Florio, 511 Cory Williams, 84t Stacy Tyler, 21 Derek Scott jr., 56 Broc Bowen, 25x Heath Stewart, 63 Shane Hoefling

Limited Modifieds B-main(Top 6 to A-main)

01 Derek Scott jr., 21t Taylor Florio, 184 Brian Rye, 55 Rusty Head, 25x Heath Stewart, ok Thomas Bennett, 84 Douglas Wiggins, 55g Gerald Henderson, 42w JR Watts, r1 James Kemp, 43 Jeremy Petty, 26 JJ Jennings 11t Tom Grothues, 28 Scott Talley---dns, r3w Rick Wolfe---dns,, c3 Chris Birmingham---dns

Limited Modified Heats(Top 5 to A-main)

Heat 1; 90k Dustin Butcher, 66 Johnny Torres, 87 Lawrence Mikulencak, 12 Cody Leonard, 95 Gabe Tucker, 184 Brian Rye, 55g Gerald Henderson, 42w JR Watts, 25x Heath Stewart

Heat 2; 24r Robby Minten, 10d Don Painter, 58c Hunter Flanagan, 17s James Skinner, 03 Marcus Mikulencak, r1 James Kemp, 28 Scott Talley, r3w Rick Wolfe---bf, 11t Tom Grothues---dns

Heat 3; 63 Shane Hoefling, 174 Mickey Helms, 37 Jeffrey Abbey, 21b Brandon Kenny, 511 Cpry Williams, 21t Taylor Florio, 43 Jeremy Petty, 55 Rusty Head, 26 JJ Jennings---dntg

Heat 4; 56 Broc Bowen, 84t Stacy Tyler, 42k Ross McCartney, 8c Will Carter, 777 James; Hanusch, 01 Derek Scott jr., ok Thomas Bennett, 84 Douglas Wiggins, c3 Chris Birmingham

The initial 15-lap CBS Stock Car feature saw Bryan Mayeux lead the first lap followed by Danny Bennett, Jason Dismuke and Kurt Ellis with Andrew Bennett stopping on the back stretch. On the restart D. Bennett and Mayeux stayed door to door with D. Bennett getting the lead on lap 2. As D. Bennett crept away, A. Bennett moved up to third. D. Bennett continued to stretch his lead on his way to the checkers.

CBS Stock Cars

r4j Danny Bennett, 0* Bryan Mayeux, 00 Andrew Bennett 77 Jason Dismuke, 21 Kurt Ellis, 14 George King---dns,

CBS Stock Car Heat

Heat 1; 00 Andrew Bennett, r4j Andrew Bennett, 0* Bryan Mayeux, 77 Jason Dismuke, 21 Kurt Ellis, 14 George King

USMTS action continues its Texas swing by traveling a few hours south to Goliads Shady Oaks Speedway for another three-day event, Feb. 16-18th.

You can follow the USMTS on their website or on facebook.

Cotton Bowl Speedway racing continues Saturday nights with opening night on March 4 featuring the regular track classes and a visit by former NASCAR driver, Ken Schrader. For more info visit the tracks website or their facebook page