The Inside Dirt: 2018 Volume 4
By: Chris Stepan
(Photo by: RacinDirt.com)
The two weekend, five event USMTS swing across the desert Southwest has come to an end and as the tour heads back into the central time zone for events this coming weekend, Jake O’Neil sits atop the Hunt for the Casey’s Cup National Point Standings for the first time in his racing career. Jake is the only driver to pick up multiple victories on the western swing, leading all 40-laps at the Canyon Speedway Park in his home state of Arizona during the first weekend of the swing and again, leading wire to wire on the second night of the triple header at the Southern New Mexico Speedway in Las Cruces, NM this past Saturday night as well.
O’Neil’s story is one that is a bit different from many of the road warriors because Jake runs his family owned equipment and scrape and scrounge for every dollar that they can find to assist their team in getting up and down the road week after week. The quality runs that Jake has been putting together these past few weeks are just the shot in the arm, and the checkbook, that the team needs to continue to pursue their chase for the championship and the $50,000 check that comes along with it.
Zack VanderBeek, along with Johnny and Stormy Scott each picked up wins during the last two weekends as well, continuing the white hot start to 2018 for team VanderBuilt. Zack has said all along that he wanted to get the ‘right group of guys’ in his cars for the 2018 season and boy has he. New Mexico veteran Royal Jones debuted one this past weekend as well, so I would not expect to see this group slowing down any time soon.
Shout out to New Mexico racer Bumper Jones on his runs this past weekend. Bumper has had a solid career, but took a few years off from racing regularly recently, only to come back onto the scene in 2017 and win the track championship at his home track in Las Cruces, over what I consider one of the strongest weekly fields of USRA Modifieds in the country, which consists of Fito and Jake Gallardo, Royal Jones, Jimmy Ray, Christy Barnett and drivers such as Philip Houston, Zane DevilBiss, Logan Robertson etx who stop in on any given night. Bumper ran in the top ten all three nights during the Short Track Shootout, including a pair of top three finishes to round out the weekend.
Terry Phillips finally showed the speed we are accustomed to seeing out of the Springfield, Missouri racer this past weekend. TP has been known to run up front when the big money is on the line in Las Cruces over the years and got right back to his ways this past weekend, posting 3rd and 4th place runs on the weekend in his new GRT.
One final note from this past weekend – A couple young guys are starting to turn some heads as the season rolls along that should be noted. Shamrock, Texas 19 year old racer Logan Robertson topped 55 entrants and was the highest driver in passing points on the second night of the tripleheader and made all three events, posting 16th, 17th and 23rd place finishes on the weekend and El Paso, Texas 21-year old Carlos Ahumada Jr. is also quietly having a great start to 2018, following the USMTS series for the first time in his career, posting 14th, 16th and 19th place finishes on the weekend as well. Keep an eye out for these two young guns as the year progresses along.
This weekend coming up will see the USMTS travelers head to several tracks that many of the drivers have not been to as the West Texas Speedway in Lubbock, TX will host only its second ever USMTS event and the Enid Speedway hasn’t hosted a USMTS series event in over a decade, so it shall be interesting to see who gets up to speed quickly during the 3-night swing.
Now that you have The Inside Dirt on the western swing, we will be back with more details after the events in Texas and Oklahoma this upcoming weekend.