SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — Two days after his 39th birthday, Jason Hughes’ 116th career USMTS victory Saturday night at the Deer Creek Speedway was his biggest ever.
For completing the 100-lap distance faster than the other drivers in the field, he was rewarded with $20,000 and the champion’s trophy at the third annual World Modified Dirt Track Championship presented by Bauer Built Tire and Hanson Tire Service.
Since winning Wednesday’s main event qualifier, Hughes had two days to relax, watch the other preliminary events and strategize how he would handle the extended race distance, fuel mileage, changing track conditions and 30 fellow racers representing the world’s Best of the Best in dirt modified racing.
The one thing he didn’t factor in was rain, but even Mother Nature wasn’t able to throw a wrench into his plans.
Saturday night’s main event on the high-banked three-eighths-mile clay oval launched with a three-wide start that saw Jason Krohn squirt out from the middle of the front row to take command right away.
The 2007 USMTS national champion took to the high side of the racing surface and set a blistering pace while Terry Phillips, Stormy Scott and Lucas Schott tried to keep pace. By lap 10, however, Krohn’s advantage was ten car lengths while Hughes made his way up to third.
Krohn encountered lapped cars soon thereafter and contact with slower traffic nearly ended his run. Instead, he continued to scream around the topside of the track with the bent and twisted sheet metal on the right side of his body not appearing to slow him down.
With 18 laps in the books, a light rain began to fall just as the yellow flag appeared for Keith Foss’ spun machine. This gave Krohn a clear track in front of him but also put Hughes on his rear bumper for the restart.
Back under green, the drivers tip-toed around the slippery surface for a couple of laps before the track began to dry off but another caution three laps later put the remaining 79 laps in question as sprinkles continued to dot the racing surface.
Luckily, the wet stuff subsided and the on-track action got back underway with Krohn and Hughes waging a fierce battle for the lead. While Hughes was able to show Krohn the nose of his mount, Krohn was able to shut him down and keep the top spot at the flagstand.
Another caution briefly slowed the pace with 28 laps complete. This time Hughes was finally able to inch ahead of Krohn and secured the lead as they wrapped up the 30th circuit.