Gustin Wins, But Sanders Is Top ‘Hunter’

Ryan Gustin (19) won Friday's USMTS modified race at Deer Creek Speedway, while Rodney Sanders (20) claimed the championship. (USMTS photo)
Ryan Gustin (19) won Friday's USMTS modified race at Deer Creek Speedway, while Rodney Sanders (20) claimed the championship. (USMTS photo)
Ryan Gustin (19) won Friday’s USMTS modified race at Deer Creek Speedway, while Rodney Sanders (20) claimed the championship. (USMTS photo)

SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — Hollywood could not have scripted a better finish in the opening feature at the 15th annual Featherlite Fall Jamboree Friday night, or a more thrilling finish to the Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup.

After a 24-hour delay for rain and time constraints on Thursday night at the Deer Creek Speedway, the season-long battle to become the next USMTS National Champion came down to three drivers slugging it out down to the last corner of the last lap of the last race.

In a 40-lap main event that had more action from front to back than one person’s pair of eyeballs could possibly follow all at once, it was Ryan Gustin getting the win after holding off Rodney Sanders in a side-by-side battle from start to finish.

While Gustin came into the final points race in the Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s Cup already eliminated from the title hunt, he did the next best thing by winning a main event at the Featherlite Fall Jamboree for the first time in his career.

And while Sanders finished second to the two-time defending USMTS National Champion, his effort was enough to capture the 2013 USMTS National Championship-the first of his career and the first for a driver from the State of Texas.

Following the race, ‘The Reaper’ celebrated his feature win as he passed the torch to ‘The Rocket.’

“First off, I have to thank Rodney Sanders. That’s the cleanest anybody could ever drive you, that’s for sure,” Gustin said. “Congratulations to Rodney on his first championship. It’s well deserved.”

Gustin led all but two laps as Sanders was able to sneak underneath to lead laps 19-20. It was the 66th career win for the 22-year-old from Marshalltown, Iowa, and put $3,000 in his pocket.

Coming into the race sitting third in the points standings, Sanders started third in the 40-lapper while points leader Johnny Scott started tenth and second-ranked Jason Hughes began his quest from the 29th spot in the last row of the 30-car field.

As fans kept one eye on the battle for the lead, the other eye went back and forth from watching Scott move forward and Hughes charging through the field.

Two early-race cautions gave an assist to Hughes as he found himself running 19th with just two laps in the books. He was up to 14th by lap seven and ten lap later was already up to sixth and following Scott around the high-banked three-eighths-mile dirt oval.

The 2010 USMTS National Champion was fifth by the time they reached the halfway point in the race, but Hughes was never able to advance further during the last half of the race.

One final yellow flag with six laps to go helped Jeremy Payne roar around the outside of Sanders to grab the runner-up position while Hughes and Scott shadowed Sanders around the low and middle lanes of the racing surface.

Sanders, however, was flawless over the final five circuits, getting back around Payne with four laps to go to finish second and clinch the title while teammate Jason Krohn maneuvered to a third-place finish with a last-lap pass of Payne. Hughes finished fifth and Scott was sixth to close out the closest championship battle in the 15-year history of the United States Modified Touring Series.

The finish:

Ryan Gustin, Rodney Sanders, Jason Krohn, Jeremy Payne, Jason Hughes, Johnny Scott, Matt Dotson, Mike Sorensen, Kelly Shryock, Steve Whiteaker Jr., Stormy Scott, Josh Angst, Joey Jensen, Jon Tesch, Jay Ihrke, Craig Thatcher, Dereck Ramirez, Jason Cummins, Corey Dripps, Steven Bowers Jr., Tommy Myer, Eric Dailey, Brady Gerdes, Tim Setzer, Tommy Weder Jr., Ron Jones, Brandon Jensen, Joe Duvall, Joe Wernecke, Lucas Schott.