It wasn’t the first time Craig Ronk had been on the podium in the USAC 600 Open division this season, but it was Eric Saunders’ first trip to Victory Lane. Saunders had led 11 laps before Ronk closed the gap after a late caution and got past the 349 of Saunders on lap 13. Two laps later, Ronk would see the checkered flag first with Saunders second and Randy Shilling third.
Saunders, who is paralyzed from the chest down, was pretty emotional on the podium and thanked his sponsors, fans and family for helping him get to this point and for helping him after his tumble in his car last week.
Ronk said Saunders was going to be tough to beat.
“He pulled away for a while, but then I was able to close the gap and pass him,” stated Ronk.
It didn’t take long for John Rhoads to find clean air in the Thunder Stock 15-lap feature. He started on the outside pole and by the time the laps started to tick off, he was at the front of the pack. Bryce Shidler, who sits in the top three in points, had some tough luck as he tangled with another car during the race and came up with a right front flat tire which ended his night. Eric Brown held his own through the race and ended up second after starting fourth. Jason Atkinson finished third.
“I’m feeling a lot better this week,” commented John Rhoads. He was suffering from the flu last week and won the feature. “I saw Paul was on the inside and was I worried, but we were able to pass him and get it done.”
The USAC r600w race was caution free and pole-sitter Nick Katrakis led the first seven laps when Nicholas Schaefer passed him for the lead. Schaefer had started from the fourth position and found the waving checkered flag just ahead of Nick Katrakis. Points leader Garrett Saunders had started last and moved up to the third spot to take the last place on the podium.
“It was a really good run,” said Schaefer. “I want to thank everyone who helps me every week. I had some engine problems last week and I got some new rear wheels for this week.”