LEBANON, Mo. – Brennon Willard found himself in the right spot at the right time on Friday at Lebanon I-44 Speedway.
By being patient as leaders Kyle Donahue and point leader Kaleb Allison got together while battling for the lead on lap 71, Willard made his night memorable. Willard held off rookie Jake Cole to capture the Salute to 75 presented by Sportsland Pick-Up Covers. The event was tailored to honor the Springfield Legend Larry Phillips on his birthday.
Action got underway as former Phillip’s student and NASCAR star Ken Schrader set fast time touring the 3/8-mile oval at a time of 14.599 while Willard was second quick of the 17 qualifiers. Schrader suffered ignition problems in his heat race forcing him to the rear of the starting grid.
The 75 lap feature started with Chad Walter jumping to the early lead with Payton Lucas and Austin Johnson following. With the field tight and packed, the 1st caution waved on lap 6 as Lucas spun around in turn 2 right in front of the field after contact with Johnson. Both drivers would go to the rear of the field. Walters would now find 14 year old speedster Kyle Donahue on his bumper as point leader Kaleb Allison had charged from 9th to 3rd.
On the restart, Donahue would get a run on Walter and make a pass for the lead only to see it erased as front runners Terry Limberopoulos and Jim Reaves went around.
Willard found himself in the top spot with Jake Cole who was making his O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model debut riding in second.
On the restart, Willard kept focused for the short run. Willard grabbed his 2nd win of the season with Cole smoothly finishing behind followed by Johnson, a fast moving Allison and Newell in the top five. Twelve drivers finished on the lead lap.
“Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.” said Willard. “We had a good car overall, but Kaleb and Kyle had strong cars for the long green runs. When Kaleb closed in on the lead, I thought it might be best to be just a bit behind them. Looks like that might have been the best call of the night as this field of cars was so close together tonight. To win this Salute to 75 means a lot to me. I grew up watching Larry win a lot of races here at I-44.”