Monday, June 18, 2018
The Inside Dirt: 2018 Volume 7
By: Chris Stepan
(Photo by: Tyler Rinken)
The richest race that the United States Modified Touring Series competitors run all season long was held this past weekend as the annual Masters at the Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wisconsin paid out $40,000 to Rodney Sanders on Saturday night at the conclusion of the whirlwind weekend.
The weekend officially kicked off Thursday night with a complete $2,500 to win USMTS program, which was by far the race of the year so far in 2018. Stormy Scott patiently rode around the bottom lap after lap on his way to a thrilling victory. Jake Timm, Jake O’Neil, Casey Arneson, Terry Phillips and Scott put on an outstanding show for the lead over the second half of the race, with Scott getting to Cedar Lake victory lane for the first time ever.
It should be noted that AJ Diemel looked to be on his way to his first career USMTS win on Thursday night but the axle cap came off and axles became dislodged, ending his night as he was driving off out front.
Friday’s qualifying events were outstanding with several surprise heat race winners including rookie Grant Southworth, who drove past Jake O’Neil for the victory and Randy Klein, who held off charging Lucas Schott for his heat win.
When all was said and done Dereck Ramirez topped the passing points charts and put his #4r onto the pole for the dash, which he easily won, solidifying his pole position for the 70-lapper on Saturday.
Early morning heavy rains soaked the facility but the show went on, albeit with a different track condition that the previous two nights. After some wild last chance races, the 26 car feature field was set and after Cedar Lake’s legendary lights out driver introductions, the field rumbled to the green with their 3-wide start. Outside front row starter Rodney Sanders hopped to the lead up on the cushion and rode there all event long to race to the biggest payday of his career, but not without holding off some furious challenges from Ramirez and eventual second place finisher Cade Dillard throughout the 11-caution event. To say Rodney was worn out and extremely happy in victory lane would be an understatement. The grueling heat and long race, along with the fact that he rode the cushion for 70 laps, was tough on the Texan, but the outcome and the career-best payday made it all worth it.
A quick shout out is necessary for local driver Jason VandeKamp, who entered the event with his WISSOTA/Nascar legal Dominator Chassis and ended up second in overall passing points and ran second in the pole dash, putting his #16 on the middle of the front row for the main event. VandeKamp is a self-funded, ‘low buck’ team so the aspiration of just making the feature was the team’s goal heading into the weekend, so to be sitting on the front row for it, was almost unreal. The fact that he ran inside the top ten for the first half of the race, then had to pit for fuel and charged back up to a 12th place finish made the weekend a huge success.
Another tip of the cap to Adam Hensel, who also pitted for fuel mid race and came back through the field to a 9th place finish. The Les Duellman Racing #44 also had a great run.
Several cars ended up on their lids on Saturday night, including Californian Lance Mari, who got tagged by another car and flopped his #19sb over. He was uninjured and the car didn’t look like it sustained too much damage.
The other flip was much more violent. Contact between defending champion Ryan Gustin and Ricky Thornton Jr. in turn four, transferred into more contact in turn one, which lead Thornton to hit the cushion just right and sent him into a series of violent flips down the backstretch. Thankfully he climbed out of his Jet Mod uninjured. The car, on the other hand, didn’t look great as the towed it off.
One final congrats to Rodney Sanders as his early season struggles sure have turned into a great mid part of the season and the $40,000 payday sure will help the team get up and down the road.
That’s The Inside Dirt from the Masters. Until next time…
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