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Gustin gets best of Hughes in USMTS lidlifter at Royal Purple Raceway
posted: Feb 18, 2011 11:01:05
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BAYTOWN, Texas -- The USMTS Casey’s General Stores National Tour powered by Swan Energy kicked off the 2011 season Thursday with the first of three nights at the Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas.

A field of 72 cars and drivers checked in to do battle in the Inaugural Texas Spring Nationals at the 3/8-mile clay oval located just east of Houston.

Twenty-year-old Ryan Gustin was the winningest driver during the 2010 season but it was Jason Hughes who took home the title of USMTS National Champion. The duo was at it again in Thursday’s lidlifter with Gustin getting the best of his 36-year-old counterpart.

Gustin, who picked up a win one week ago during Speedweeks in Florida, drew the pole position for the start of the 35-lap “A” Main while Hughes drew the eighth spot out of the eight drivers in the redraw.

A quick yellow flag came out before the first lap could be completed, but the field went caution-free the rest of the distance with Gustin leading the charge.

Heavy lapped traffic with less than 10 laps to go hindered the progress of ‘The Reaper’ and allowed Hughes to close in on his rear bumper.

With five laps to go, Hughes darted to the low side of the racing surface and nosed ahead of Gustin at the flagstand.

Undeterred, Gustin fought back three laps later to regain the lead for good and beat the defending USMTS National Champion to the finish line by two car-lengths.

Gustin’s 25th career USMTS triumph was worth $2,000 to the Marshalltown, Iowa, phenom and positioned him as the points leader in the Southeast Region.

Hughes, from Watts, Okla., earned the runner-up paycheck while Chris Brown of Spring held off fellow Texan John O Whittington of Vidor for the third spot.

Fertile, Iowa’s Kelly Shryock was running third in his heat race when a spin put him to the rear of the field and eventually into a Real Racing Wheels “B” Main, which he won.

In the main event, the nine-time USMTS National Champion clawed his way from 16th on the starting grid to finish fifth and earned the Mesilla Valley Transportation Hard Charger Award.

Dereck Ramirez, Jason Krohn, Randy Timms, Rodney Sanders and Bumper Jones rounded out the top-10 finishers.

In Limited Modified action, Sean Jones of Mansfield came from the 12th starting spot to take the win and $500 top prize. Shane Hebert of Lafayette, La., finished second, followed by Corey Babbitt of Channelview, Howard Willis of Dayton and Randy Timms of Wheatland, Okla.

The Inaugural Texas Spring Nationals continues this weekend with $2,000 to win Friday and the winner of Saturday’s main event pocketing $3,000.

USRA Western Flyer HotMods (Limited Mods) will also be running for $700 to win Friday and $1,000 to win Saturday.

On Friday, the pit gate opens at 3 p.m., grandstands open at 5 and racing begins at 6:30. On Saturday, pit gates open at 3 p.m., grandstands open at 4 and the first heat race hits the track at 5:30.

The Royal Purple Raceway is located just east of Houston on I-10 to exit 799, then 2.5 miles south on SH 99 (Grand Parkway), then 0.3 mile west on FM 565.

For more information, call the track office at 281-383-7223 or visit www.royalpurpleraceway.com online.

To learn more about the United States Modified Touring Series, visit www.usmts.com online or call 515-832-7944. You can also follow the USMTS on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.