PRYOR CREEK, Okla. – Rodney Sanders had 93 United States Modified Touring Series victories under his belt coming into the seventh annual ARMI Salute To Our Veterans presented by Bryke Racing, but none at Salina Highbanks Speedway.
That changed Saturday night as the 29-year-old from Happy, Texas, notched his first triumph at the high-banked three-eighths-mile clay oval in Pryor Creek, Okla., and 94th of his USMTS career with a dominating performance.
Sanders had the worst draw of the 34 entries, but charged from ninth on the grid to second at the checkered flag in eight laps during his heat.
Another unfortunate selection saw Sanders draw the seventh starting spot for the 35-lap main event with multiple heavy-hitters taking the green flag in front of him.
He fell back to eighth by the end of the first lap while pole-sitter Hunter Marriott took off and set a furious pace up front, but Sanders disposed of Willie Gammill on lap two and screamed past both Jason Hughes and Jake O’Neil one lap later to move up to fifth.
Meanwhile, up front, Marriott was working to hold back the challenges from Dereck Ramirez who was hoping to improve on his back-to-back runner-up finishes the previous two nights.
Sanders got around Chad Wheeler for the fourth position with six laps in the books, and then worked his way around Tyler Wolff for third on lap 10 and began to reel in the lead duo.
With Sanders closing the gap, Ramirez got by Marriott to grab the lead with 19 complete and Sanders followed into second the next time around.
By lap 22, Sanders was all over the rear bumper of Ramirez and powered ahead to lead the 23rd lap. With the yellow flag remaining holstered for the entire feature race, Sanders disappeared over the final 13 circuits and rolled to a $3,000 payday plus an additional $100 for earning the FK Rod Ends Hard Charger Award.
For most dirt modified racers, finishing second in a USMTS main event is the second-best feeling in the sport. But for Ramirez, it may feel like a cruel joke. Saturday’s second-place effort was the sixth bridesmaid in his last eight starts.
Marriott held on for third with Wolff and Ryan Gustin completing the top five.
Rodney Sanders, Dereck Ramirez, Hunter Marriott, Tyler Wolff, Ryan Gustin, Jason Hughes, Jake O’Neil, Terry Phillips, Mitch Keeter, Chad Wheeler, Willie Gammill, Adam Kates, Joe Duvall, Jared Russell, Travis Saurer, Lance Mari, Gene Nicholas, Cody Jolly, Greg Skaggs, Jimmy Ray, George Martin, John Yeoman, Brian Williams, Mike Striegel, Jonathon Beyer.