ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa – With less than eight laps to go in the main event Friday night at Rapid Speedway, an unusual turn of events paved the way for Terry Phillips to collect his fourth Casey’s General Stores USMTS National Championship victory of the year.
From the outside of the front row, Ryan Gustin took charge at the drop of the green flag. A two-time winner of the USMTS Rapid Rumble presented by Wrisco, Gustin set a torrid pace for the first half of the race while Phillips pressured him the whole way.
The only other driver with two career wins at the three-eighths-mile clay oval in the Northwest corner of Iowa, Rodney Sanders raced by Phillips just shy of halfway in the 40-lapper, and disposed of Gustin on the 22nd lap.
The race’s second caution occurred with 30 laps complete when Jake O’Neil, who was running fourth and looking to back up his win on Thursday night in Webster City, spun into the infield at the exit of turn four.
The yellow flag slowed the pace and wiped out a sizable advantage for Sanders, but Gustin had been reeling in Sanders since finding new life tip-toeing around the high side of the turns.
When the green flag returned, Phillips tried to stay with Sanders on the low side while Gustin made a bold challenge around the top. One lap later, Sanders and Gustin were door to door racing down the back-stretch when the exit of turn four swallowed its next victims.
Gunning to regain the lead he lost ten lap earlier, Gustin drove hard into the third turn and slipped over the banking in turn four. Meanwhile, as he tried to settle himself and power back onto the racing surface, Sanders spun into the infield in the same spot O’Neil had two lap earlier.
As the lead duo performed synchronized spinning, the center of the racetrack parted like the red sea and Phiillips’ familiar red No. 75 came shooting out of the cloud of dust as he became the new leader.
Gustin regained control but Sanders stopped on the front-stretch to bring about the final yellow flag of the contest.
Phillips nailed a flawless restart and was able to keep Gustin behind him until he streaked beneath the checkered flag with his 29th career USMTS triumph and a $3,000 paycheck for his efforts.
Gustin was denied his 101st series win and settled for second place while Dereck Ramirez finished third.
Hometown favorite Don Gerritsen Jr. raced from tenth on the starting grid and collected a career-best fourth-place finish with the nation’s elite modified tour and Hunter Marriott rounded out the top five after starting 12th.
Terry Phillips, Ryan Gustin, Dereck Ramirez, Don Gerritsen Jr., Hunter Marriott, Lance Mari, Jon Tesch, Adam Kates, Rodney Sanders, Travis Saurer, Daniel Hilsabeck, Duke Erickson, Kyle Brown, Miah Christensen, Dustin Kruse, Jake O’Neil, Jimmy Ray, Justin Remus.