LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Tenth-starting Fito Gallardo tracked down race-long leader Dylan Smith with 10 laps to go and went on to win his career first USMTS main event Thursday on opening night of the 20th Annual Winter Meltdown at the Southern New Mexico Speedway.
Despite four yellow flags that slowed the pace of the race, polesitter Smith held the lead for the first 25 laps and turned back the challenges from several top guns, including Johnny Scott, four-time Winter Meltdown winner Terry Phillips and reigning USMTS national champion Rodney Sanders.
Gallardo, however, was able to do what his peers could not accomplish before him and snuck by Smith following the race’s final caution period on lap 24 and then drove away to seal the victory at his hometown racetrack.
The win was worth $2,000 to Gallardo, whose son, Jake Gallardo, came 10 laps short of winning his first USMTS main event just five days ago at the El Paso Speedway Park.
Although Smith came up short in his quest for a win against the Best of the Best, his third career start in a USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by Swan Energy event netted a runner-up paycheck.
While trying to overtake Smith on lap 7, Phillips slipped over the embankment and found himself in 17th by the time he regained his momentum.
But the three-time defending Winter Meltdown champ clawed his way back for a third-place finish ahead of Jake Gallardo and teammate Jordan Grabouski, who turned a last-row starting spot in the second Real Racing Wheels “B” Main into a fifth-place finish in the “A” Main.
Jake O’Neil, MVT Gulf Coast Border Region points leader Stormy Scott, Dereck Ramirez, Sanders and Adam Penn rounded out the top 10.