DODGE CITY, Kan. – Ryan Gustin proved to be the class of the field by wiring Saturday night’s 35-lap MARS vs. NCRA Border War feature event atop the three-eighths-mile Dodge City Raceway Park clay oval.
While Gustin topped the first Late Model event at DCRP since 2011, Joel Lane scored his first career IMCA Modified feature win with Michael Shenberger and Dan Rogers victorious as well in IMCA Sport Modifieds and Thunder Cars, respectively.
Starting from the front row outside after earning a hard-fought heat race victory over Jesse Stovall and Kyle Berck, Gustin outgunned pole starter Justin Asplin for the lead at the drop of the green and led throughout.
Six-time MARS champion Terry Phillips moved into second from the third starting position at the outset and closed in on Gustin’s rear bumper at the midway point. Gustin slipped away in the ensuing rounds only to have his lead erased when the race’s only caution appeared after 26 laps for a David Deetz spin in turn two.
“I was trying to save my tire there for a little while, I wanted to make sure I had enough to go good at the end,” Gustin explained of the early going.
The two-time USMTS Modified champion had plenty left for the closing rounds, checking out on the restart and opening up a healthy advantage over the final nine circuits to secure his fourth career MARS DIRTcar series win aboard the Mullins-powered Gressel Racing No. 19r Rocket chassis.
Phillips was a distant second to the 23-year-old Gustin at the line, finishing just ahead of fellow Springfield, MO, shoe Jeremy Payne, who wrestled third from Jesse Stovall on the 26th lap.
Bill Leighton, Jr., chased the lead trio to the line in fourth with Missouri’s Stovall rounding out the top five.
Asplin, Gustin and Phillips topped heat race action for the 19-car field.
In IMCA Modified action, Joel Lane took full advantage of his pole starting position to capture his first career Modified feature win.
It wasn’t easy though, as Lane outdueled Kevin Gray for the point in the early rounds and then held off a late charge from Mike Petersilie over the closing rounds to secure the victory.
While Lane cruised out front after breaking free of Gray, Petersilie battled through a pack of contenders before finally taking over second on the 14th round. Petersilie closed in on Lane and was nearly within striking distance as the white flag flew, but the Ulysses, KS, driver held strong on the final round for the victory.
Ryan Heger raced from 14th to claim the show position behind Lane and Petersilie with 13th-starter Randy Wilson and Mike Lunow rounding out the top five.
In IMCA Sport Modified action, Michael Shenberger made it two wins in as many DCRP visits this season by racing into the lead on the 10th round en route to victory lane in the 20-lapper.
While Shenberger gridded the feature field 12th, Austin Walker took the lead from pole starter Andy Barton on the second round and set the early pace as Shenberger worked his way forward.
Shenberger reeled Walker in on the tenth round and pounced on a lead he would never relinquish, ultimately taking the checkered flag ahead of fellow Woodward, OK, shoe and defending track champion Jeff Kaup, who raced from 11th.
Clay Money transferred from “B” Main action for the 27-car Sport Modified field and then charged from 14th to finish third behind Shenberger and Kaup with Walker and Nate Ginest rounding out the top five.
After leading earlier on in the 20-lap Thunder Car feature, Dan Rogers reclaimed the lead for keeps on the12th round and went on to his first DCRP win of the year.
Rogers took the lead away from pole starter Bryan Habiger on the fifth round only to surrender the point to Matt O’Hair two rounds later. Rogers battled back past O’Hair on the 12th round then survived the race’s lone caution with four laps to go to take the win.
O’Hair chased Rogers to the line with Dustin Walker, Will Bauer and Habiger in the top five.