Morton rolls to biggest career payday in Battle finale
By: Sam Stoecklin
(Photo by: RacinDirt)
Battle at the Bullring III concluded late Sunday afternoon after a one-day weather delay with Springdale, Arkansas driver J.C. Morton powered to the front for his biggest victory to date behind the wheel of a new PCD Chassis B-Mod.
Morton, who advanced to the starting grid twice before for this event left those disappointing finishes behind, by putting the cap on a dream weekend that set him up for a fourth-place start on the grid of the 50-lap event.
Veteran Stephen Muilenburg of Sparta, Missouri, was one of only two drivers to claim three heat-race victories out of four preliminary heat races, sat on the pole for the event. Muilenburg led the opening laps and sometimes pulled away by over five-car lengths early on over Oklahoman, Brandon Kenney.
On lap eleven, Morton made the pass over Kenney to place himself in the runner-up spot as Muilenburg comfortably held his lead. Third-starting Travis Johnson, the other driver to claim three heat-race wins over the weekend, unfortunately retired early on lap two. The attrition rate was low as only five of the 25 starters were unable to take the checkers.
For the ensuing restart, Muilenburg brought the field back to green as Morton, who knew he had limited opportunities on the tricky track to make a move, quickly shot to the low side and pulled a slider on the leader into turns one and two. The pass was clean and Morton assumed command of the race on lap 24. However, Muilenburg stayed right with Morton never letting him move away by more than five car lengths.
A second caution flagged bunched the field on lap 31 for Cody Lee’s spin as Morton brought the field to green for the restart. Meanwhile, Garfield, Minnesota driver Justin Froemming, climbed his way from tenth on the grid as he came forward to sixth. Former USRA National Champion Andy Bryant found his way into the top five by lap 35 after starting seventh. Last year’s runner-up Cody Smith looked solid early on from eighth to fifth but slipped back in the late stages of the race.
The third and final yellow appeared on lap 39 and as Morton came to the flag for the restart, this time Muilenburg kept the pressure on as the pair darted away from third-running Brandon Kenney, who was glued to the third-place position all long, looked for a way to catch the lead duo.
The final few laps were like a skating rink for the drivers as Morton masterfully piloted his machine off the corners with Muilenburg in tow. In the closing stages Bryant took over the fourth spot from sixth-starting Michael Truscott but ran out of time to advance any further.
As his new team and wife and daughter watched from the pit area, Morton went uncontested the rest of the way and claimed his biggest career win to date. In victory lane, an ecstatic and still in disbelief Morton said, “I have to thank everyone on this team, we put this car together rather quickly, I’m so thankful, it hasn’t sunk in yet!”
Muilenburg capped off a strong weekend in the runner-up position after leading the first 23 circuits. Brandon Kenney stayed in third position the entire race distance to round out the podium. Bryant climbed to fourth while Michael Truscott rounded out the top five. Finishing sixth through tenth were Justin Froemming, Cody Smith, 2015 winner Shawn Strong, Illinois driver Robbie Eilers and Ft. Scott, Kansas veteran Randy Zimmerman.
In preliminary action, where only the top two drivers of 16 cars on the grid transferred to the main event, Robbie Eilers bested Mack Estey in B-Main number one with Don Reid going to victory over David Simpson in B-Main number two. Kansan Dakota Foster claimed the victory in B-Main number three over Mitch Weiss. Cole Searing claimed the win in B-Main number four ahead of twelfth-starting Mike Striegel, while Oklahoma’s Kale Westover beat Cody Lee for the win in B-Main five.
Cars finishing third through sixth came back on the speedway prior to the main event to settle the win for the $1,500-to-win Non-Qualifiers event and it was Scandia, Minnesota’s Jason Vandekamp who claimed the victory as his twin boys cheered him to victory back home on the RacinDirt.com live broadcast. Tommy Richards finished second in the race with early race leader Skyler Smith third. Rounding out the top five were tail-starting Austin Ellis fourth and thirteenth starting Kenney Mayer in fifth position.
NASCAR Modifieds returned to the track for three heat races as part of the afternoon program. Steve Holzkamper drove to the win in the first heat over Cody Schniepp and Jeremy Chambers. Mitch Keeter kept his momentum going with a convincing win from fourth on the grid for heat two ahead of Josh Angst and Dean Wille. The final heat race went to Jessy Willard over Kansans Chase Sigg and Tanner Mullens.
For the 20-lap Modified feature event, Keeter and Minnesota’s Josh Angst led the field to flagman Tony Morgan’s initial green flag. Keeter, who raced his way from tenth to second on night one and the victory on night two, quickly shot out to front with Angst right with him at the front of the field. Keeter kept his momentum and preferred line throughout the twenty-lap race as Angst stayed as close as he could to shoot for the win. Meanwhile, Tanner Mullens began to move forward as the eighth-starting driver made his way to the top five.
With laps quickly ticking off, Keeter maintained the lead in his GRT, Yeoman-powered number 1 car with Angst looming in second. Like Mullens, night two winner Jake Timm also advanced as he moved from ninth to inside the top five as the race wound down. Twelfth-starting Terry Schultz also ran strong as he broke into the top five in the closing laps.
In the end, Keeter was once again prevailed as he collected his second win of the weekend leaving Angst to settle for second. Mullens had a superior run to third while Timm claimed fourth. Terry Schultz rounded out the top five. Tad Davis advanced from twentieth on the grid to finish sixth while Billy Vogel of North Dakota came away in seventh. Finishing eighth through tenth were Cody Schniepp, J.C. Morton, and Steve Holzkamper.
Racing continues at Humboldt Speedway next Saturday as weekly racing begins for NASCAR Whelen Modifieds, B-Mods, Street Stocks, Factory Stocks, and Sport Compacts. Mod-Lites are scheduled to compete in a $1,000-to-win special event. In two weeks, the United States Modified Touring Series kicks into high gear for King of America VII. The “KOA” action begins with a practice session on Wednesday, March 22nd, followed by the Prelude to the king on Thursday, March 23rd. KOA preliminary action begins on Friday, March 24th with the finale on Saturday, March 25th.
Stay tuned to social media and the track website if weather becomes a factor for the event. Weather-related schedule adjustments and event info may be found at www.humboldtspeedway.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thehumboldtspeedway. The speedway is located at 1663 Georgia Road, Humboldt, Kansas. General Track Phone is 620-473-3694 or 620-433-7180. Technical inspection questions may be addressed with Carl Flowers at 785-640-6104.
RacinDirt.com will broadcast all three nights of the King of America available on pay-per-view featuring multiple cameras and announcers, driver interviews, and up-to-the minute results and breaking news from the event. For online viewing information visit www.racindirt.com for complete pay-per-view ordering details.
Battle at the Bullring III Finish
- 18m J.C. Morton
- 39m Stephen Muilenburg
- 21b Brandon Kenney
- 28 Andy Bryant
- 22t Michael Truscott
- 33x Justin Froemming
- 731 Cody Smith
- 14 Shawn Strong
- 3e Robbie Eilers
- 28z Randy Zimmerman
- 22 Brian McGowan
- 5f Dakota Foster
- 35 Grant Southworth
- 65 Kris Jackson
- 23 Mitch Weiss
- 44w Kale Westover
- 37e Mack Estey
- 50c Cody Lee
- 06 Jeremy Nelson
- 70jr David Simpson
- 17x Mike Striegel
- 45 Dustin Thulen
- 10s Cole Searing
- 86j Travis Johnson
- 39r Don Reid