HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Dereck Ramirez earned his first United States Modified Touring Series victory of the year in the tour’s maiden voyage to the Kansas State Fairgrounds Friday evening.
Rodney Sanders jumped out to an early lead in the inaugural USMTS Salt City Assault main event, with Ramirez close behind. Sanders slowly stretched out his advantage over the field and reached lapped traffic by lap 10.
Coming out of turn four to finish off the first half of the 30-lap race, Sanders slowed and pulled to the top of the racing surface with a flat right rear tire, leaving Ramirez as the pacesetter when the green flag returned.
“I raced him there early and kind of put a little pressure on him, but when he got out there I thought ‘I’m just gonna let him go,” Ramirez said. “He was setting a really fast pace. I didn’t want to push mine that hard.
“I knew it was a tire but I didn’t know if he broke something to initially cause that. I knew at that point I need to back ‘er down a little bit.
Despite his slower but smoother approach, Ramirez was still able to distance himself from his pursuers over the final half of the race until Hunter Marriott tracked him down and applied heavy pressure over the final 10 laps or so.
Marriott got to his bumper on multiple occasions, but was never able to mount a serious threat for the position and Ramirez cruised ahead to his sixth career USMTS victory and first since a victory at the Rapid Speedway in Rock Rapids, Iowa, on Aug. 25, 2017.
“I kind of took it easy after that last yellow, and then with about five or six to go I thought ‘Well I’d better turn it up.’ It’s wasn’t really chattering very much more than it was earlier so I thought I could make it.
“This place has got such a big wall that you always hear an echo. and you’re always like ‘Man, I hope somebody’s not out there on the top’ because it was kind of black up there too, but we made it work and this is awesome.”
Not only was it the first visit by the USMTS to the home of the famed Hutch Nationals, but it was the first time the Woodward, Okla., racer had ever stepped foot on the property in his 32 years.
“I live three hours from here and never even seen this place,” Ramirez said. “It’s an awesome place.”
While Ramirez went home with the $3,000 winner’s share of the prize money, Marriott continued his impressive string of efforts in the 2019 campaign with a runner-up result.
“The track raced really narrow and we could gain on him there in (turns) one and two,” Marriott recalled. “I thought something might happen but he’s a good enough driver that he held his line good. Hats off to him on getting the win.
“(The track) is definitely big, I’ve never been on a place like this but we didn’t have a bad night. I’m glad to be here.”
Jake O’Neil added another strong run with a third-place finish, holding off Cody Schniepp who came from the 12th starting spot to register his second top-five finish in as many nights in his home state. Darron Fuqua rebounded from an early-race spin to claim the fifth position.
Dereck Ramirez, Hunter Marriott, Jake O’Neil, Cody Schniepp, Darron Fuqua, Austin Siebert, Rodney Sanders, Jake Nightingale, Adam Kates, Jon Herring, Tyler Wolff, Dan Powers, Mike Striegel, Scott Green, Gene Nicholas, Tyler Davis, Chad Wheeler, Zack VanderBeek, Josh Lanterman, Ryan Gustin, Joe Duvall, Terry Phillips, Bryce Schniepp, Tanner Mullens, Nathan Hagar.