Brown pressured Gustin even harder with three laps remaining, pulling alongside in the turn and racing side by side down the front-stretch. Again, Gustin secured his line into the first turn and held his advantage while Payne snuck up behind the pair and made it a three-way tussle for the title.
Coming to the checkered flag, Brown again took one final peek underneath Gustin, but the 22-year-old from Marshalltown, Iowa, never flinched and raced to a car-length victory over Brown at the end of the 100-lapper.
“It was just awesome racing with guys like Chris Brown, Terry Phillips, Jeremy Payne side by side,” said Gustin, who appeared physically drained after the race. “Everybody raced each other so clean tonight. It’s just an honor to race with guys like that.”
With the win, Gustin pocketed a cool $10,000 to go along with the king’s crown and cape, and added another feather to his cap by winning one of the USMTS crown jewel events. With two national titles, a win at the World Modified Dirt Track Championship last year and checking the Lecolift Texas Spring Nationals off his bucket list this past February, all that remains for Gustin on the USMTS “grand slam” checklist is the finale of the Featherlite Fall Jamboree.
Brown netted his biggest USMTS paycheck with a $6,000 runner-up finish while Payne filled the final slot on the podium with third place and a $4,000 payday. Phillips held on for fourth and VanderBeek rounded out the top 5 finishers.
Jensen, who started 23rd and restarted from last place after spinning on the first lap, came home in sixth. Hughes worked his way back to a seventh-place finish after his late-race pit stop, fellow Oklahoman Thomas Tillison Jr. earned the eighth spot, 2011 King of America winner Kelly Shryock finished ninth for the second straight year and Purkey completed the top 10.
All 24 starters took home at least a $1,000 for their efforts, and drivers who pre-entered earlier this year got their full entry fee returned on Saturday.