Mullens Matters In USMTS Thriller At Lucas Oil Speedway

Photo by Todd Boyd

The last two times Tanner Mullens strapped on a helmet he didn’t have to pass a single car to pick up a pair of victories, but Wednesday’s effort at the Lucas Oil Speedway was a different kind of monster with the Summit USMTS National Championship fueled by Casey’s in town.

As he did in his back-to-back USRA Modifieds wins in the Sunflower State on Saturday at the 81 Speedway and Sunday at the Humboldt Speedway, Mullens drew the pole for the post-pandemic inserted event at the “Diamond of Dirt Tracks” in Wheatland, Missouri, but his career-first USMTS victory was far from wire to wire.

Sharing the front row with Dereck Ramirez, Mullens squirted into the lead as the field entered the first turn and held the point through a flurry of caution flags throughout the first seven laps.

Once they settled in, the green flag continued to wave above the flagstand until the end of the 40-lap affair. With Ramirez and Gustin chasing him, Mullens didn’t falter through the first 15 orbits.

Pounding the high side of the racing surface, Gustin—driving a backup car out of the Ramirez Motorsport stable—got by Ramirez and then reeled in Mullens, eventually taking the lead on lap 16.

Mullens joined Gustin at the top side of the 3/8-mile clay oval and followed him for four laps until opportunity knocked when Gustin bobbled in turn four and Mullens was able to cross underneath to regain the top spot on lap 20.

At that point, the 27-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, pulled away from Gustin who was now dealing with 13th-starting Terry Phillips of nearby Springfield. Phillips, who won the USRA Modified feature here five nights ago, shot past Gustin and quickly evaporated the cushion Mullens had built.

With 24 laps in the books, Phillips passed Mullens in turn one but Mullens returned serve in the next corner and held on to lead the 24th circuit but it was brief as Phillips sealed the deal the next time around to lead lap 25.

Undaunted, Mullens powered back into the lead one lap later and set the pace for three more laps before giving way to Phillips once again with 29 laps down.

Phillips increased his advantage as the leaders danced in and out of lapped traffic. It appeared he was en route to his 31st USMTS triumph when his familiar red No. 75 slowed considerably halfway down the backstretch with just four laps to go.

When they returned to the front stretch, Phillips coasted into the infield while Mullens recaptured the lead as he passed underneath the flagstand to complete lap 37. He never trailed again.

“We’ve been close a few times,” Mullens said. “To finally get one feels pretty good. I just can’t thank all my sponsors enough.

“I think he had us there,” the Mullens said of Phillips. “We just held on to the end. It was getting pretty rough down there, so I don’t know if he broke something or what it was. We’re just glad to be up here on the front straightaway.”

In claiming his first USMTS victory, Mullens pocketed $2,500 as the series now heads to the 81 Speedway on Thursday and Humboldt Speedway on Friday—the scenes of Mullens’ previous two wins.

As he has become accustomed to over the last year or so, Ramirez settled for yet another runner-up paycheck while Gustin edged Dustin Sorensen for third. Dustin Hodges was fifth while Daron Fuqua, Rodney Sanders, Calvin Iverson, Jason Hughes and Jared Russell completed the top 10.

Forty-three Modifieds were on hand in a program that included the first visit of the American Racer USRA Stock Cars to Lucas Oil Speedway.

The special program came about as the USMTS looks to make up for lost events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The series returns to Lucas Oil Speedway Aug. 8 for the 11th annual USMTS Slick Mist Show-Me Shootout presented by Foley Equipment.

The Wheatland event kicked off a four-race swing for the USMTS with stops Thursday at 81 Speedway, Friday at Humboldt and Saturday at Tri-State Speedway in Pocola, Okla.

The Summit USMTS National Championship fueled by Casey’s treks to the 81 Speedway in Park City, Kansas, tomorrow night for the 9th Annual Park City Sunflower State Showdown presented by Murphy Equipment.

USRA B Mods and Auto Tech Service Street Stocks are also on the card with pits opening at 4 p.m. and grandstands at 5:30. Hot laps begin at 7 and racing gets underway at 7:30.

The 81 Speedway is located north of Wichita on I-135 to exit 16, then 0.7 miles west on 77th St. (7700 N Broadway St, Park City, KS 67219). For more information call (316) 755-1781 or visit race81speedway.com.

Currently, the 2020 schedule for the Summit USMTS National Championship fueled by Casey’s is highlighted by 43 nights of racing at 28 unique dirt ovals for the 22nd season of competition for the world’s Best of the Best in dirt modified racing. To connect with the USMTS check out USMTS.com.

OFFICIAL RESULTS: United States Modified Touring Series. Wednesday Night Madness
Lucas Oil Speedway, Wheatland, Missouri. Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Showing finishing position, starting position in parentheses, car number, driver, hometown, chassis/engine builder, laps completed and money won. The top 12 in heat race passing points advance to the Casey’s “A” Main.

SIMPSON PERFORMANCE PRODUCTS HEAT RACE #1 (8 laps): 1. (3) 4RG Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, 2. (5) 22H Dustin Hodges, Centralia, Mo., 3. (9) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, 4. (2) 9 Ken Schrader, Dittmer, Mo., 5. (4) 51G Lucas Gibbs, Udall, Kan., 6. (6) 55D Michael Dotson, Lathrop, Mo., 7. (7) 62 Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo., 8. (8) 85D Mark Dotson, Cameron, Mo., 9. (1) 134 Robert Heydenreich, Bolivar, Mo.

FAST SHAFTS HEAT RACE #2 (8 laps): 1. (2) 33Z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa, 2. (4) 19 Dustin Sorensen, Rochester, Minn., 3. (5) 6 Casey Skyberg, Rapid City, S.D., 4. (8) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla., 5. (9) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla., 6. (7) 16 Austin Siebert, Grandview, Mo., 7. (6) 21 Jacob Bleess, Chatfield, Minn., 8. (3) 11N Gene Nicholas, Lowell, Ark., 9. (1) 00 Cody Jolly, Jasper, Mo.

EDELBROCK HEAT RACE #3 (8 laps): 1. (2) 02 Tanner Mullens, Wichita, Kan., 2. (1) 27X Calvin Iverson, Eleva, Wis., 3. (5) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., 4. (4) 4R Jared Russell, Wagoner, Okla., 5. (3) 68 Dean Wille, Warrensburg, Mo., 6. (8) 9 Kevin Rutherford, Flower Mound, Texas, 7. (6) 0 Jake O’Neil, Tucson, Ariz., 8. (9) 444 Brooks Strength, Raymond, Miss., 9. (7) 38 Jason Pursley, Hermitage, Mo.

MSD PERFORMANCE HEAT RACE #4 (8 laps): 1. (1) 16S Chad Lyle, Oak Grove, Mo., 2. (3) 23 Adam Kates, Tonganoxie, Kan., 3. (4) 7F Daniel Franklin, Berryville, Ark., 4. (8) 4W Tyler Wolff, Fayetteville, Ark., 5. (7) 65 Kris Jackson, Lebanon, Mo., 6. (5) 90 Terry Schultz, Sedalia, Mo., 7. (6) 96J Jaxon Saathoff, Beatrice, Neb., 8. (2) 7 Shayne Bailey, Lathrop, Mo.

VP RACING FUELS HEAT RACE #5 (8 laps): 1. (3) 4R Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., 2. (1) 65 Tyler Davis, Haysville, Kan., 3. (4) 21 Ryan Middaugh, Fulton, Mo., 4. (7) 87 Darron Fuqua, Mayetta, Kan., 5. (2) 24 Donnie Fellers, Wheatland, Mo., 6. (8) 55 Nathan Hagar, Adair, Okla., 7. (6) 292 Kyle Thompson, Joplin, Mo., 8. (5) 8 Dillon McCowan, Urbana, Mo.

REAL RACING WHEELS “B” MAIN #1 (15 laps, top 6 advances): 1. (1) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., 2. (8) 55 Nathan Hagar, Adair, Okla., 3. (2) 4W Tyler Wolff, Fayetteville, Ark., 4. (3) 21M Ryan Middaugh, Fulton, Mo., 5. (4) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla., 6. (5) 4R Jared Russell, Wagoner, Okla., 7. (12) 292 Kyle Thompson, Joplin, Mo., 8. (9) 55D Michael Dotson, Lathrop, Mo., 9. (11) 0 Jake O’Neil, Tucson, Ariz., 10. (14) 7 Shayne Bailey, Lathrop, Mo., 11. (7) 24 Donnie Fellers, Wheatland, Mo., 12. (10) 62 Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo., 13. (13) 85D Mark Dotson, Cameron, Mo., 14. (16) 38 Jason Pursley, Hermitage, Mo., 15. (15) 134 Robert Heydenreich, Bolivar, Mo., 16. (6) 51G Lucas Gibbs, Udall, Kan.

REAL RACING WHEELS “B” MAIN #2 (15 laps, top 6 advances): 1. (1) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla., 2. (3) 87 Darron Fuqua, Mayetta, Kan., 3. (5) 65 Kris Jackson, Lebanon, Mo., 4. (6) 68 Dean Wille, Warrensburg, Mo., 5. (7) 9 Kevin Rutherford, Flower Mound, Texas, 6. (2) 7F Daniel Franklin, Berryville, Ark., 7. (8) 16 Austin Siebert, Grandview, Mo., 8. (9) 90 Terry Schultz, Sedalia, Mo., 9. (14) 8 Dillon McCowan, Urbana, Mo., 10. (4) 9 Ken Schrader, Dittmer, Mo., 11. (12) 444 Brooks Strength, Raymond, Miss., 12. (13) 11N Gene Nicholas, Lowell, Ark., 13. (11) 96J Jaxon Saathoff, Beatrice, Neb., 14. (15) 00 Cody Jolly, Jasper, Mo., 15. (10) 21 Jacob Bleess, Chatfield, Minn.

CASEY’S “A” MAIN (40 laps): 1. (1) 02 Tanner Mullens, Wichita, Kan., 2. (2) 4R Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., 3. (7) 4RG Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, 4. (5) 19 Dustin Sorensen, Rochester, Minn., 5. (3) 22H Dustin Hodges, Centralia, Mo., 6. (16) 87 Darron Fuqua, Mayetta, Kan., 7. (8) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, 8. (10) 27X Calvin Iverson, Eleva, Wis., 9. (20) 12 Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla., 10. (22) 4R Jared Russell, Wagoner, Okla., 11. (11) 65 Tyler Davis, Haysville, Kan., 12. (6) 33Z Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa, 13. (18) 21 Ryan Middaugh, Fulton, Mo., 14. (21) 9 Kevin Rutherford, Flower Mound, Texas, 15. (12) 6 Casey Skyberg, Rapid City, S.D., 16. (14) 91 Joe Duvall, Claremore, Okla., 17. (23) 7F Daniel Franklin, Berryville, Ark., 18. (13) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., 19. (9) 23 Adam Kates, Tonganoxie, Kan., 20. (17) 4W Tyler Wolff, Fayetteville, Ark., 21. (24) 62 Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo., 22. (25) 21 Jacob Bleess, Chatfield, Minn., 23. (4) 16S Chad Lyle, Oak Grove, Mo., 24. (15) 55 Nathan Hagar, Adair, Okla., 25. (19) 68 Dean Wille, Warrensburg, Mo., DNS – 65 Kris Jackson, Lebanon, Mo.

Lap Leaders: Mullens 1-15, Gustin 16-19, Mullens 20-24, Phillips 25, Mullens 26, Phillips 27-36, Mullens 37-40.
Total Laps Led: Mullens 25, Phillips 11, Gustin 4.

About the author

USMTS Admin

The United States Modified Touring Series (USMTS) is a fast growing and very popular open-wheel dirt Modified touring series in the United States.
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