With less than eight laps to go in the main event Friday night at the Rapid Speedway, an unusual turn of events paved the way for Terry Phillips to collect his fourth Casey’s General Stores USMTS National Championship victory of the 2019 campaign.
From the outside of the front row, Ryan Gustin took charge at the drop of the green flag. A two-time winner of the USMTS Rapid Rumble presented by Wrisco, ‘The Reaper’ set a torrid pace for the first half of the race while Phillips pressured him the whole way.
The only other driver with two career wins at the 3/8-mile clay oval in the Northwest corner of Iowa, Rodney Sanders raced by Phillips just shy of halfway in the 40-lapper and disposed of Gustin on the 22nd lap.
The race’s second caution occurred with 30 laps complete when Jake O’Neil, who was running fourth and looking to back up his win on Thursday night in Webster City, spun into the infield at the exit of turn four.
The yellow flag slowed the pace and wiped out a sizeable advantage for Sanders, but Gustin had been reeling in ‘The Rocket’ since finding new life tip-toeing around the high side of the turns.
When the green flag returned, Phillips tried to stay with Sanders on the low side while Gustin made a bold challenge around the top. One lap later, Sanders and Gustin were door to door racing down the back-stretch when the exit of turn four swallowed its next victims.
Gunning to regain the lead he lost ten laps earlier, Gustin drove hard into the third turn and slipped over the banking in turn four. Meanwhile, as he tried to settle himself and power back onto the racing surface, Sanders spun into the infield in the same spot O’Neil had two laps earlier.
As the lead duo performed synchronized spinning, the center of the racetrack parted like the red sea and Phiillips’ familiar red No. 75 came shooting out of the cloud of dust as he became the new leader.
Gustin regained control but Sanders stopped on the front-stretch to bring about the final yellow flag of the contest.
Phillips—a second-generation veteran racer nearly twice the age of Gustin and Sanders—nailed a flawless restart and was able to keep Gustin behind him until he streaked beneath the checkered flag with his 29th career USMTS triumph and a $3,000 paycheck for his efforts.
Gustin was denied his 101st series win and settled for second place while Dereck Ramirez finished third.
Hometown favorite Don Gerritsen Jr. raced from tenth on the starting grid and collected a career-best fourth-place finish with the nation’s elite modified tour and Hunter Marriott rounded out the top five after starting 12th.
Lance Mari also recorded a career-best sixth-place finish and USMTS legend Jon Tesch—winner of the 2007 event here—drove a second car out of the Ramirez Motorsports stable to seventh, garnering both the Eibach Spring Forward Award and FK Rod Ends Hard Charger Award in the process after rolling off 18th.
Adam Kates was eighth at the finish line while Sanders regrouped and salvaged a ninth-place finish. Polesitter Travis Saurer completed the top ten.
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OFFICIAL RESULTS: United States Modified Touring Series. 11th Annual Rapid Rumble presented by Wrisco
Rapid Speedway, Rock Rapids, Iowa. Friday, Aug. 23, 2019
Showing finishing position, starting position in parentheses, car number, driver, hometown, chassis/engine builder, laps completed and money won. All drivers advanced to the Casey’s General Stores “A” Main with the top eight in heat race passing points redrawing for the first eight starting spots.
SIMPSON PERFORMANCE PRODUCTS HEAT RACE #1 (8 laps): 1. (3) 0 Jake O’Neil, Tucson, Ariz., 2. (5) 4r Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., 3. (4) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, 4. (2) 27 Don Gerritsen Jr., Rock Rapids, Iowa, 5. (1) 9 Jimmy Ray, Las Cruces, N.M., 6. (6) 57 Duke Erickson (R), Sioux Falls, S.D.
FAST SHAFTS HEAT RACE #2 (8 laps): 1. (3) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., 2. (1) 21x Travis Saurer, Elizabeth, Minn., 3. (5) 21k Kyle Brown (R), Madrid, Iowa, 4. (2) 6 Dustin Kruse (R) Brandon, S.D., 5. (6) 782 Miah Christensen (R), Sioux Falls, S.D., 6. (4) 0 Justin Remus (R) New Ulm, Minn.
EDELBROCK HEAT RACE #3 (8 laps): 1. (1) 23 Adam Kates, Tonganoxie, Kan., 2. (6) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, 3. (2) 19sb Lance Mari, El Centro, Calif., 4. (4) 62 Hunter Marriott (R), Brookfield, Mo., 5. (3) 22d Daniel Hilsabeck, Earlham, Iowa, 6. (5) 14r Jon Tesch, Watertown, S.D.
CASEY’S GENERAL STORES “A” MAIN (40 laps): 1. (4) 75 Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo., GRT/Durham, 40, $3000., 2. (2) 19r Ryan Gustin, Marshalltown, Iowa, Hughes/TriStar, 40, $1700., 3. (8) 4r Dereck Ramirez, Woodward, Okla., Hughes/Cornett, 40, $1100., 4. (10) 27 Don Gerritsen Jr., Rock Rapids, Iowa, Skyrocket/HarryHeads, 40, $700., 5. (12) 62 Hunter Marriott (R), Brookfield, Mo., Rage/KSE, 40, $700., 6. (9) 19sb Lance Mari, El Centro, Calif., MRT/Yeoman, 40, $650., 7. (18) 14r Jon Tesch, Watertown, S.D., Hughes/Cornett, 40, $700., 8. (6) 23 Adam Kates, Tonganoxie, Kan., LG2/Speedway, 40, $550., 9. (5) 20 Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas, MBCustoms/Hatfield, 40, $500., 10. (1) 21x Travis Saurer, Elizabeth, Minn., MBCustoms/ChevPerf, 40, $450., 11. (15) 22d Daniel Hilsabeck, Earlham, Iowa, Hilsabeck/Mullins, 40, $425., 12. (16) 57 Duke Erickson (R), Sioux Falls, S.D., Dominator/Hanson, 40, $400., 13. (7) 21k Kyle Brown (R), Madrid, Iowa, Harris/Tesar, 40, $375., 14. (13) 782 Miah Christensen (R), Sioux Falls, S.D., MBCustoms/JB, 40, $225., 15. (11) 6 Dustin Kruse (R), Brandon, S.D., Sidebiter/ASI, 40, $325., 16. (3) 0 Jake O’Neil, Tucson, Ariz., LG2/Cornett, 30, $300., 17. (14) 9 Jimmy Ray, Las Cruces, N.M., AOS/AOS, 28, $300., 18. (17) 0 Justin Remus (R), New Ulm, Minn., Medieval/Bruns, 0, $200.
(R) = Grant Junghans USMTS Rookie of the Year contender
Lap Leaders: Gustin 1-21, Sanders 22-32, Phillips 33-40.
Total Laps Led: Gustin 21, Sanders 11, Phillips 8.