SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — In the highly-competitive sport of dirt modified racing, Rodney Sanders earned the title of King of America just four short months ago and now the 24-year-old from Happy, Texas, is the King of the World.
Saturday night at the Deer Creek Speedway, Sanders rocketed into the lead on lap 10, and rolled in victory lane 90 laps later as the winner of the fourth annual World Modified Dirt Track Championship presented by Red Tail Tackle.
Not only did he pad his checkbook to the tune of $20,000 for his efforts, he also extended his United States Modified Touring Series win streak to eight-the second-most in the 16-year history of the USMTS, three short of Kelly Shryock’s mark of 11 in a row.
While Sanders was already locked in to Saturday night’s 100-lapper by virtue of his “A” Main win on Thursday, Craig Thatcher wired the field in the make-up “A” Main that was rain-delayed from Friday night and sat on the pole for the championship race.
The multi-time Wissota national champion grabbed the early lead with Brent Larson and Sanders following closely behind. A great three-car battle ensued with Larson snaring the top spot from Thatcher with seven laps complete, but Sanders disposed of Larson three laps later and took control.
Larson kept Sanders within striking distance until Brandon Davis claimed the second spot with 30 laps in the books. Jason Hughes followed into third on lap 37, and then the race’s first caution occurred one lap later when Jason Schlangen’s drive shaft wound up in the middle of turn two.
Under caution, Larson ducked into the pits and was forced to restart at the tail of the field, leaving Davis Hughes, VanderBeek and Thatcher in the top five.
Back under Green, Hughes scooted around Davis and set his sights on Sanders while Terry Phillips passed Thatcher to move into the top five.
While Sanders and Hughes broke away from the pack over the next 20 laps, Phillips worked his way into the third spot and slowly closed the gap between himself and the lead duo.
With the leaders slicing and dicing through heavy lapped traffic, the race’s second and final yellow flag waved with 14 laps to go when Larson again had mechanical woes and slowed at the top of turn one.
Hughes applied pressure to Sanders after the restart, and got underneath the defending USMTS national champion briefly on lap 94, but Sanders seemed able to find yet another gear and never saw the nose of Hughes’s machine again.
While Sanders claimed his second crown jewel event of the year-he pocketed $15,000 for winning the King of America IV in March at the Humboldt (Kan.) Speedway-it was also his 16th win of the 2014 campaign and 35th of his USMTS career.
Hughes, who won last year’s WMDTC, had to settle for the runner-up finish with Phillips hanging on for a third-place finish.
Jason Krohn, who started 18th after advancing from the “B” Main, finished fourth and earned the National Fleet Graphics Hard Charger Award.
Davis was fifth, VanderBeek wound up sixth, Thatcher took seventh, Jordan Grabouski finished in the eighth spot, Stormy Scott was ninth and Austin Siebert finished where he started in 10th.
Rodney Sanders, Jason Hughes, Terry Phillips, Jason Krohn, Brandon Davis, Zack VanderBeek, Craig Thatcher, Jordan Grabouski, Stormy Scott, Austin Siebert, Brad Dierks, Lucas Schott, Joey Jensen, Brent Larson, Kelly Shryock, Keith Foss, Thomas Tillison Jr., Eric Pember, Johnny Scott, Jeremy Houle, Dereck Ramirez, Tommy Myer, Jason Miller, Bob Gierke, Jason Cummins, Jason Schlangen, Jon Tesch.