BAYTOWN, Texas – It took Zack VanderBeek nearly a year and a half to get back to victory lane, but once he found his way he seems content to stay there for a while.
After extinguishing a 175-race drought Friday night, the 29-year-old from New Sharon, Iowa, backed up the effort with his second triumph in as many nights as he captured the feature win Saturday night to close out the seventh annual Lecolift Texas Winter Nationals presented by 4s Motorsports and the 2014 USMTS campaign.
Rain earlier in the program delayed the start of the feature. Bryan Rowland of Woodward, Okla., took control at the start of the 40-lap Allgayer, Inc., “A” Main and set a strong pace for the first quarter of the contest.
The pace wasn’t quick enough, however, as nine-time USMTS national champion Kelly Shryock motored from his ninth starting position to take the lead on lap 12. Shryock remained in control until VanderBeek reeled him in, taking charge on lap 30 and then pacing the remaining ten laps to take an eight-car-length victory.
Only a next-to-last lap pass by Clyde Dunn Jr. in Thursday night’s opener at the Royal Purple Raceway kept VanderBeek from mirroring Jeremy Payne’s feat of a complete weekend sweep last year. With his runner-up finish Thursday and back-to-back wins Friday and Saturday, VanderBeek’s weekend loot totaled $8,500.
Saturday’s win was the 23rd of his USMTS career, tying him with Al Hejna for seventh on the all-time list. It was his fifth win at the Baytown, Texas, oval-all of them coming during the season-ending Texas Winter Nationals.
Shryock and Rowland held on to finish second and third in Saturday night’s finale, while Ricky Thornton Jr. and Steve Whiteaker Jr. completed the top five. Dunn, Brent Larson, Chris Brown, Tracy Denby Jr. and Cody Smith were sixth through tenth, respectively.