DONNELLSON, Iowa – Kaley Gharst is certainly no stranger to victory lane with the Sprint Invaders.
The all-time leading feature winner with the series notched his 22nd triumph Friday at Lee County Speedway. Though it was his sixth win with the series at Donnellson, it was his first with the series since a 2012 triumph at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa. The win was also his first with the Sprint Invaders in Nick Breuer’s No. 78 machine.
The 25-lap main event started roughly. While Tanner Gebhardt spun, collecting Randy Martin and Daniel Bergquist, front-runner Sawyer Phillips spun into the infield in turn one. Phillips retired, while the rest restarted.
Once green, John Schulz, who holds five wins of his own in Donnellson, led early over Carson McCarl and Gharst. Two laps in, Dustin Selvage, who was running fifth, tipped over. He walked away, but was done for the night. Gharst worked on McCarl for the second spot after the restart and gained the spot on the fifth lap.
The leaders approached lapped traffic on the tenth circuit, and that’s when Gharst made his winning move. In turn four, Schulz went low to lap a car, and Gharst stayed on the cushion, carrying his momentum into the lead. Young Riley Goodno spun after the pass, bringing another caution.
Gharst led Schulz, McCarl, Gennetten and Jamie Ball back to green. Gennetten, who won both his heat, and the Shake-up Dash, worked on McCarl before taking third on lap 12. Gharst was back in lapped traffic and cruising on lap 17. With a straightaway and a pair of lapped cars between he and Schulz, it was all erased with a final caution for a spun Cody Wehrle with seven to go.
Gharst was able to hold off a quick challenge from Schulz and then pull away to the win, with Schulz, Gennetten, McCarl and Ball maintaining their top five positions.
“It feels good,” said Gharst in victory lane. “It’s been quite awhile since we won with the Invaders. We feel like we had a couple we could have won this year. We ended up with DNF’s. It’s good to get one here for Nick. He’s been working hard. They had a really good race track for the feature. It was a little narrow in the heat, but they reworked it and got it real racy. We were a little loose about halfway through. I knew I was blistering the tires. I didn’t like those restarts. I saw a car there (Schulz) underneath me. I was really good in three and four, but not as well in one and two. I knew if I beat him to three, I’d be alright.”
“We were good early,” said Schulz, who leads the series points race. “As the race went on, we got a little snug. If I had it to do over, maybe I should have stayed up top and made Kaley pass me on the bottom. When it all turned out, he was just better than we were. We were a second place car. We were good, but he was just better. Looking back, it probably worked out the way it should. He was just a little better. It was a good way to start the weekend.”
Kaley Gharst, John Schulz, Ayrton Gennetten, Carson McCarl, Jamie Ball, Evan Martin, Paul Nienhiser, Chris Martin, Tanner Gebhardt, Brayden Gaylord, Randy Martin, Riley Goodno, Harold Pohren, Josh Higday, Colton Fisher, Daniel Bergquist, Justin Buchholz, Cody Wehrle, Dustin Selvage, Sawyer Phillips.