WEBSTER CITY, Iowa — Hamilton County Speedway hosted the 13th Annual USMTS Casey’s Clash presented by AmericInn on Thursday night and Jake O’Neil made himself at home in victory lane for the third time this season.
Hunter Marriott garnered the Sybesma Graphics Pole Award and led early on before giving way to Dereck Ramirez, who came from the sixth starting spot to the front in three laps.
Ramirez built a sizeable lead but a trio of early cautions slowed the pace-the most notable of which happened when Ryan Gustin’s Spike Hardcore Energy mount erupted in a puff of smoke while battling for the top spot.
After Gustin’s charge was extinguished, Marriot and O’Neil chased the leader while Lance Mari, Terry Phillips, Rodney Sanders and Zack VanderBeek were close behind.
While Ramirez ran through the middle of the corners, O’Neil searched for a faster line around the high side of the historic half-mile while VanderBeek was sneaking around the shortest way around the track with Marriott and Sanders still within striking distance.
With 21 of 35 laps in the books, Ramirez dove into the first turn somewhat lower than he had been, which opened the door for O’Neil and VanderBeek. Suddenly, Ramirez had O’Neil to his right and VanderBeek to his left as the three exited turn two.
The attempted three-wide drag race down the back-stretch failed miserably. O’Neil bounced off the outside concrete wall and into the right side of Ramirez’s race car, and then Ramirez clipped the front end of VanderBeek’s VanderBuilt chassis.
The incident, which had all of the makings of a major melee, left Ramirez spinning to a stop and the waving of the yellow flag for the fifth and final time.
“I just hate it,” O’Neil said. “I think it was a racing deal. I just had a really good run to the outside. He didn’t come all the way up to the top so I thought maybe he was just leaving a lane up there. I was all the way to his door and got stuck in the marbles up there and bounced off the fence, and then bounced off of him. I tried keeping it off of him.”
The restart with 14 laps remaining had O’Neil setting the pace while Ramirez was relegated to the back of the pack.
As the laps wound down, O’Neil continued to lead while Sanders chipped away at his advantage and closed to within a car length as the two took the white flag, but Sanders got above the cushion and clobbered the concrete wall in turn one allowing O’Neil to cruise to a $2,500 payday.
Sanders held on for second with Phillips getting by VanderBeek in the closing laps to grab the third spot while Dustin Sorensen came from tenth to finish fifth.
Jake O’Neil, Rodney Sanders, Terry Phillips, Zack VanderBeek, Dustin Sorensen, Hunter Marriott, Kyle Brown, Mark Elliott, Al Hejna, Lance Mari, Dereck Ramirez, Adam Kates, Travis Saurer, Ron Ver Beek, Duke Erickson, Ben Nading, Jimmy Ray, Chase Ellingson, Daniel Hilsabeck, Ryan Gustin, Josh Cain.