BAYTOWN, Texas – After rain thwarted efforts to launch the 2013 season for the United States Modified Touring Series on Thursday, all systems were go Friday night at the Royal Purple Raceway located just outside of Houston.
Following a dominating performance in his heat race, 2010 USMTS national champion Jason Hughes blasted off from his inside third row starting spot to lead the first lap of the 35-lap main event at the 4th Annual USMTS Texas Spring Nationals powered by Lecolift.
Against a tough field of competitors and maneuvering his way around a rough racetrack, Hughes waded through six cautions and he set the pace for the first 27 laps before mechanical failure ended his bid for a series-best seventh win at the former Houston Raceway Park.
Continuing his early season success, 11th-startng Rodney Sanders inherited the lead for the restart and out-raced the field for the final eight laps to score his second win in Baytown, Texas, and eleventh career USMTS victory.
“Definitely rough conditions out there tonight, and we were a bit too tight but we just took what we could get,” Sanders said in victory lane. “I think Jason Hughes had a good car and he had a chance to win it but I think he had some kind of trouble. We’ll take it.”
In addition to getting the first win of the year, Sanders also became the first driver to cash in on the new “Big Dog Buy-In” promotion. By paying an additional $100 when he signed in, ‘The Rocket’ pocketed an additional $2,000 for his efforts and brought his total take-home pay to $5,000 a day’s work.
Defending event champion Johnny Scott tolled to a second-place finish, holding off Zack VanderBeek by a nose at the finish line.
VanderBeek made it into the main event by passing three cars on the final lap of his Real Racing Wheels “B” Main to garner the fourth and final transfer spot. He proceeded to pass 22 cars in the Swan Energy “A” Main to take the first Mesilla Valley Hard Charger Award of the 2013 campaign.
Defending USMTS national champion Ryan Gustin wound up fourth after battling from 18th on the starting grid while polesitter Randy Timms held on for fifth driving a GRT Chassis he picked up from Terry Phillips just a couple of weeks ago.