WHEATLAND, Mo. – The ninth annual Jesse Hockett/Daniel McMillin Memorial opened with a bang in Thursday’s Mesilla Valley Transportation preliminary for the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint League.
Zach Daum glided to the race lead on lap 17 and held on for his sixth-career POWRi WAR victory, beating Mitchell Moore to the checkered flag.
Opening with the unique addition of group qualifying, the four flights to open the night saw Garrett Aitken (14.735), Thomas Meseraull (14.521), Chris Windom (14.551) and Riley Kreisel (14.900) top the charts.
In heat race action, the four-car inversion offered several thrilling starts as drivers sliced and diced for position with points on the line. In the end, Aitken, Landon Simon, Windom and Kreisel took heat wins.
A trio of qualifiers spiced it up further with a six-car inversion in play, creating some on-the-edge charges as Meseraull won qualifier one from fifth, Windom won qualifier two from sixth and Daum won qualifier three from fifth.
Setting the stage for the 25-lap preliminary feature, one final twist was thrown into the mix as the top eight in combined points were inverted, slotting Windom and Kreisel on the fourth row with three daunting duos in front of them.
At the drop of the green flag in feature action, Moore took advantage of his pole position and guided his No. 51 entry to the point, while the war for position ensued behind him.
Holding a steady command early on, Moore paced himself while the battle for second brewed between Daum, Schudy and a storming Windom from eighth. Seeing the crossed flags at halfway, Moore’s lead began to shrink as Daum and Windom mounted a run at the No. 51.
Pulling within striking distance, Daum made several peeks to the inside before cashing in off turn two on the 16th circuit, gassing it off exit as he snuck underneath Moore and powering by him down the backstretch.
While Daum focused on his lead, the attention turned to Windom, who after taking second away from Moore ended up biking his No. 5G in turn two, but miraculously saved it and only lost one spot.
Catching the first and only stoppage of the race on lap 24, the field was reset after a top-10 running Terry Richards went wildly flipping in turn three. He was okay, but certainly heated afterwards.
Coming to a green-white-checkered restart, Daum stayed committed to the bottom, while Windom tried to go side-by-side for Moore in pursuit for second.
In the end, neither Moore and Windom could catch Daum, as the Pocahontas, Ill. native drove the No. 5D from fifth-to-first and earned his sixth-career POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint League victory.
Coming on night one of the Jesse Hockett/Daniel McMillin Memorial, Daum’s win mathematically guarantees him a spot in Saturday’s pole shuffle at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Chasing Daum to the finish line and earning a runner-up bid was Moore, who had no more than 12 hours ago put the finishing touches on a freshly-built No. 51 machine.
Rounding out the podium with Daum and Moore was Windom, who capped his stellar night with an eighth-to-third run in the NOS Energy Drink No. 5G.
Kory Schudy crossed fourth and Joe B. Miller was fifth, followed by Aitken, Simon, Korey Weyant, Ty Hulsey and Chris Phillips.
After Thursday’s opening preliminary, Windom (250) leads the points situation ahead of Daum (248), Miller (218), Moore (214) and Aitken (213).
1. 5D-Zach Daum (5); 2. 51-Mitchell Moore (1); 3. 5G-Chris Windom (8); 4. 28-Kory Schudy (2); 5. 31B-Joe B. Miller (12); 6. 32-Garrett Aitken (4); 7. 24-Landon Simon (3); 8. 99-Korey Weyant (17); 9. 24H-Ty Hulsey (11); 10. 6P-Chris Phillips (10); 11. 1-Paul White (9); 12. 30B-Quinton Benson (14); 13. 5$-Danny Smith (19); 14. 00-Thomas Meseraull (6); 15. 2X-Zach Clark (15); 16. 20-Steve Thomas (20); 17. 73-Samuel Wagner (18); 18. 90-Riley Kreisel (7); 19. 18-Terry Richards (13); 20. 42-Warren Johnson (16).
Lap Leader(s): Moore 1-16; Daum 17-25.
Hard Charger(s): Miller (+7)