SPRING VALLEY, Minn. – Jake O’Neil continued his mastery of the Deer Creek Speedway on Friday with a crowd-pleasing victory on opening night of the 22nd annual Featherlite Fall Jamboree.
“Man , we’ve just been working really, really hard,” O’Neil said. “I just can’t say enough about Jimmy Owens. I get the basic kind of figured out a little bit, and then he gives me a spark every once in a while. I tell you what, whatever we hit on here this things rolling. We don’t have to change too much here as long as the track’s fairly smooth.”
Of the 110 previous USMTS features ran at the Deer Creek Speedway, 23 times the checkered flag waved for one of the three racers on Friday night’s formidable front row. Coming into the night, Terry Phillips had five and Brandon Davis had four while Jason Hughes boasted a series-best 14 wins at Deer Creek.
The 32-car main event field took the green flag three-wide and 10-plus rows deep with Phillips grabbing the lead on the opening lap from polesitter Davis and outside front-row starter Hughes.
While Phillips slowly put space between himself and Hughes, John Doelle got by Davis for third on the third lap and challenged Hughes for second. Meanwhile, there were multiple slide-jobs, cross-overs and four-wide racing happening every lap throughout the field and O’Neil was clawing his way to the front from his 12th starting spot.
While still leading on the 15th lap, Phillips reached the back of the field. This allowed Hughes and the rest of his pursuers to narrow the gap as the lead pack drove inside, outside and in between back-markers in very turn.
Undaunted, Phillips continued to set the pace when Jake Timm smacked the outside wall in turn two while racing inside the top five on lap 22. His car slowed considerably to bring about the race’s first and only yellow flag, allowing the competitors and fans a chance to finally breathe after a heart-stopping first half of the 40-lapper.
When the green light shined again, Phillips pulled away again while Hughes followed in second with O’Neil glued to his rear bumper. In a three-wide race to the flagstand, Davis passed both Hughes and O’Neil while O’Neil passed Hughes for third.
One lap later, O’Neil had second place in his grasp and set his sights on Phillips.
O’Neil caught the leader with 10 laps to go and it was visibly apparent that Phillips’ mount was not handling as well as it did early on. A few passes back and forth between the two resulted in O’Neil seizing control on lap 34 and then speeding away to claim his ninth career victory in the Summit USMTS National Championship fueled by Casey’s.
It was O’Neil’s second straight USMTS triumph at the high-banked three-eighths-mile clay oval located just outside of Spring Valley, Minn. His first win here came just 20 days ago when he drove his No. 0 LG2 by Owens machine to a dominating win in the Labor Day Duel.
“We took last weekend off to make sure this thing was 100% prepared for this weekend. I’ve been wanting to win here for a long time. To get it last time I was super-motivated.
“I knew we had a pretty good car there, it was just being at the right place a the right time, you know. I had a lot more straight-away speed I think with my gear I had. Everybody’s kind of on the same motor package these days.”
After an additional two grand was added to the top spot by Red Tail Tackle, O’Neil’s take-home pay was $7,000.
Davis, who slipped back as far as sixth around the halfway mark, powered past Phillips at the finish line to steal runner-up honors while Hughes held off Rodney Sanders for fourth.
Jake O’Neil, Brandon Davis, Terry Phillips, Jason Hughes, Rodney Sanders, Dustin Sorenson, Tanner Mullens, Zack VanderBeek, Jacob Bleess, Dereck Ramirez, Cory Crapser, Alex Williamson, Lucas Schott, Dustin Hodges, J.D. Auringer, Brooks Strength, Josh Angst, J.T. Wasmund, Brady Gerdes, Tyler Davis, Chase Rudolf, Joe Duvall, Joel Alberts, Calvin Iverson, Ron Ver Beek, Casey Skyberg, John Doelle, Austin Siebert, Kenny Gaddis, Nathan Hagar, Jake Timm, Jason Cummins.