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Hughes marches to victory in USMTS debut at Valley Speedway
posted: Apr 21, 2011 4:53:31
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GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. -- What started off as a wet, cold and seemingly doomed weekend of racing was saved on Sunday with a spectacular night of action as the USMTS Casey’s General Stores National Tour powered by Swan Energy visited the Valley Speedway for the first time in the series’ 13-year history.

Originally scheduled for Friday, heavy rain and chilly temperatures forced officials to postpone the event until Sunday while Saturday’s show at the Central Missouri Speedway was cut short after hot laps when the track surface was unable to be worked into safe racing condition.

Sunday’s main event saw a talent-laden 24-car field take the green for the 40-lapper, with Chase Junghans jumping out to the early lead over fellow front row starter Kelly Shryock.

Shryock hounded Junghans for the first three laps, finally making the pass for the lead on during the fourth orbit of the high-banked 1/3-mile bullring.

Meanwhile, Ryan Gustin charged into fourth on lap 5 after starting 11th in the field. Eight laps later, “The Reaper” wrestled the lead away from the nine-time USMTS National Champion just before the race’s first caution slowed the pace.

Dustin Boney also got by Shryock just before the yellow flag waved, but suffered a flat tire one lap after the restart to bring out another yellow and was forced to rejoin the race at the back of the pack following the caution.

With 14 laps in the books, it became evident that Gustin was about to have some company as defending USMTS National Champion Jason Hughes sat fourth after starting 15th on the grid.

Using an extreme high line entering turn 1, Hughes powered around the outside of Gustin on lap 17 to claim the top spot and then moved back down to the low side of the racing surface in front of Gustin.

Unable to threaten Hughes for the top spot, Gustin moved his mount to the top of the racetrack in search of a faster line but despite four more cautions which kept the field on his tail, Hughes went unchallenged the rest of the distance to record his fourth victory of the season in the Schwab’s Tinker Shop Mo-Kan Region.

Rodney Sanders snuck into the runner-up spot while Gustin slipped in behind Sanders and ahead of Jon Tesch to hold on for a third-place finish.

Bryan Rowland rounded out the top five finishers and Boney rebounded from his earlier misfortune to take home a sixth-place paycheck. Seventh through tenth, respectively, went to Chris Spieker, Rick Beebe, Terry Schultz and Junghans.

The USMTS Casey’s General Stores National Tour powered by Swan Energy will be back in action with a four-race swing beginning Thursday, April 28, at the Tri-State Speedway in Pocola, Okla. The Outlaw Motor Speedway near Muskogee, Okla., hosts the series on Friday, April 29, followed by a return to the West Siloam Speedway in West Siloam Springs, Okla., on Saturday, April 30. The weekend wraps up on Sunday, May 1, at the Monett Speedway in Monett, Mo.

Each event will pay $2,000 to win and a minimum $250 to start. A stout field of cars and drives are expected as the first three days will award points in both the Schwab’s Tinker Shop Mo-Kan Region and newly-formed Southwest Region.

Sunday’s event will be a Mo-Kan region race that will culminate with the regional points champion being crowned, as well as another batch of drivers qualified for this year’s Hunt for the USMTS Casey’s General Stores National Championship powered by Swan Energy.