HAUBSTADT, Ind. — In the midst of his victory lane celebration Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway, Kendall Ruble practically had to pinch himself to ensure he wasn’t dreaming.
The 23-year-old had just put the finishing touches on his first AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series triumph, fending off an early attack by Kyle Cummins and a late charge from Chase Stockon to secure the Haubstadt Hustler title and its $10,000 prize.
It was a moment Ruble had worked his entire career for, and he knew to savor it.
“You don’t know what you’re going to feel until it happens, but man … I had to soak it in,” he told Sprint Car & Midget. “That night, the win … everything was such a long time coming, especially at Haubstadt.”
Ruble won his heat, started fourth in the feature and won the 30-lapper, but he admitted his night started off on a sour note that few people may have picked up on at the time.
“We had a pretty good car all night, but in hot laps and the heat race, we were actually down a cylinder,” Ruble explained. “I’m not sure if it was a spark plug or a spark plug wire, but we changed both and it fixed the issues. It’s funny, though, because I think being down on power actually helped us out, believe it or not. Being down that cylinder took us down on horsepower, and that saved us because we had so much more traction. We weren’t spinning our tires or anything through those times, and I think it actually made us go a little bit faster.
“It was easier to control the car at that point, but we got things right by feature time and I just had a good feeling about how things might go for us.”
That positive mojo was evident from the opening lap, when Ruble stormed from fourth to second in less than half a lap before stalking Stockon in the early going.
“I knew my car was good on the bottom and that’s something I’ve stuck to in all the time I’ve been racing at Haubstadt,” said Ruble, who considers himself a Tri-State Speedway regular. “You can be fast by keeping your momentum up on the top there, but if your car is set up to come off the corner well, you can make a lot of time on the bottom. That’s where I felt like we were good all night long.”
Ruble dogged Stockon through slower traffic in the middle stages of the race but struggled to pass cars as well as Stockon could and had to settle back in – making a shock adjustment in the process — before finally making his move with 10 to go.
Ruble pitched his car to the bottom of turns one and two, while Stockon ran wide and just grazed the outside wall, allowing the Vincennes University graduate to blast past and assume command of the race.
After that, the only nervous moment for the young Hoosier came with six to go, when he and Cummins made contact in traffic that led to Cummins spinning from second with Ruble retaining the lead.
“Cummins was really fast on the top, even though he was having a throttle linkage issue, I think,” Ruble noted. “He’d let off the gas and his motor wouldn’t go beyond probably 3,500 RPM. I’m sure that was pretty tough to drive … but we got into more lapped traffic and I got behind a slower car that made a move I wasn’t expecting. It pushed me way up the track and Kyle was right there, showing his nose.
“He got under me going down the back straightaway, before that slower car got in front of him and kind of blocked him off,” Ruble added. “That got him all out of whack and I came around on his outside before we touched a little bit going into three.
“He got the worst end of it, but it was a racing deal, I think.”
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