By Jackson Braun
PEORIA, Ariz. (February 13, 2019) – The lone stop at Canyon Speedway Park was a wild ride, but after the dust settled, a familiar face reigned over all and made it to victory lane.
Colorado’s Brett Smith and Wyoming’s Casey Delp, both making their first feature start of the 2019 Arizona Mod Tour, led the IMCA Modified field to the green flag. Delp and Smith were still side-by-side coming to the completion of the first lap, with Ricky Thornton Jr., Jeff Taylor, and Hunter Marriott duking it out three wide behind them.
Those three, along with Casey Arneson, got around the machine piloted by Smith as Delp hung onto the lead for one more lap. However, after 3 laps were in the books, Ricky Thornton Jr. had vaulted his way to the top spot once again this season.
A few caution flags here and there didn’t stop the drivers from racing their heart out, as they were going three and four wide on the narrow track in the middle of the pack.
Even throughout those restarts, Thornton started to settle in to the top spot as Marriott, Taylor, Arneson, and O’Neil comprised the top 5. Travis Denning started to peek his nose behind O’Neil’s car to try and grab a top 5 spot. After a mishap by Marriott, Denning battled with O’Neil for 4th as Taylor and Arneson worked side-by-side in front of them.
With 12 laps to go, O’Neil got back around Denning. Denning took his 56 machine easy into turn 1, but bounced a bit too much and rolled his machine.
Arneson started to close in on Thornton’s machine with 8 laps remaining in the contest. As Thornton and Arneson threw their cars in on the bottom line, Jeff Taylor was within striking distance running the middle-to-top groove.
Bricen James began to contend for a top 5 spot late, as he clashed with Marriott and O’Neil. At the front of the field, Arneson could catch up to Thornton, but could never gather his car enough to take a shot at grabbing the lead.
Thornton crossed the checkers first to grab his 3rd feature win of the 2019 tour. Arneson, Taylor, Marriott, and O’Neil completed the Top 5.
It took a few tries for the IMCA Northern SportMods to get their feature going, but they finished strong. The final 19 laps were completed without any yellows as polesitter Chase Rudolf ran away from the field to secure the victory. Taylor Kuehl showed some lady power as she had a strong second place showing.
The Top 4 in Northern SportMod points for the Tour are separated by a mere SIX points with 2 races remaining. Jake McBirnie, Brady Bjella, Chase Rudolf, and Kelly Jacobson are all vying for the crown. Ricky Thornton Jr. extends his lead by one more point over Arneson to have a 19 point cushion with the rounds at USA Raceway left. Full standings can be viewed here.
Modifieds – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., Clive, Iowa; 2. Casey Arneson, Fargo, N.D.; 3. Jeff Taylor, Cave City, Ark.; 4. Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo.; 5. Jake O’Neil, Tucson; 6. Bricen James, Albany, Ore.; 7. Drew Armstrong, Benton, Ark.; 8. Tim Ward, Harcourt, Iowa; 9. Jeff Larson, Freeport, Ill.; 10. Kollin Hibdon, Pahrump, Nev.; 11. Casey Delp, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 12. Ryan Roath, Peoria; 13. Austin Howes, Memphis, Mo.; 14. Brett Smith, Merino, Colo.; 15. Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.; 16. J.P. Dowell, Killeen, Texas; 17. Casey Skyberg, Rapid City, S.D.; 18. Travis Denning, Sterling, Ill.; 19. Jason Noll, Peoria; 20. Joey Price, Great Falls, Mont.; 21. Brint Hartwick, Quitman, Ark.; 22. Justin Kay, Wheatland, Iowa; 23. Kody Scholpp, Estevan, Sask.; 24. Nick O’Neil, Tucson; 25. Shane DeMey, Denison; Iowa.
Northern SportMods – 1. Chase Rudolf, Prole, Iowa; 2. Taylor Kuehl, Cave Creek; 3. Ryan Moser, Englewood, Colo.; 4. Brady Bjella, Williston, N.D.; 5. Kelly Jacobson, Fargo, N.D.; 6. Jake McBirnie, Boone, Iowa; 7. Ethan Braaksma, Newton, Iowa; 8. Justin Svoboda, David City, Neb.; 9. David Jones, Chandler; 10. Heath Dry, Phoenix; 11. Drew Costa, Gilbert; 12. Brandyn Johnson, Mesa; 13. Dwayne Melvin, Medford, Ore.; 14. Dennis Gates, Claypool; 15. Jim Horejsi, Marshall, Minn.; 16. Cole Carver, Apache Junction; 17. Brian Osantowski, Columbus, Neb.; 18. Jarrod Mounce, Atwater, Calif.; 19. Steve Shumaker, Peoria; 20. Chuck Delp, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 21. Keith Brown Jr., Pittsburg, Calif,; 22. Tate Johnson, Homestead, Mont.; 23. Ty Rogers, Somerton; 24. Arie Schouten, Blair, Neb.