By Jackson Braun
TUCSON, Ariz. (February 15, 2019) – The grand reopening of the fast USA Raceway was a successful one for many. The track had been shut down for a few years but hard work and dedication to bringing racing back to the facility led to the final two dates for the 2019 edition of the tour.
Ricky Thornton Jr. and John Hansen led the IMCA Modified field to the green, and from that point on, it was hardly a contest. Thornton was arguably the smoothest racer out there on the speedway, as he scampered away even after the lone caution of the event. Racing was phenomenal throughout the pack as the drivers adjusted to the track conditions and swapped positions back and forth.
Colorado racer Brett Smith had a strong run as he jumped into 2nd place early from inside of the 2nd row. When being interviewed after the race, he added, “[I] gotta thank my father-in-law, this is one of his cars. I haven’t been in a car for two years, so we decided to come down and do this deal. Guess it’s working out alright!”
Behind him, young guns Zachary Madrid and D.J. Shannon raced hard against veterans Jeff Taylor and hometown racer Jake O’Neil. Thornton claimed his fourth victory of the week, as Smith finished behind him in second with Shannon, Madrid, and O’Neil completing the top 5.
The IMCA Northern SportMod field got infused with some fresh blood for the rounds at USA Raceway, as Iowa racer Austin Paul tried his hand at coming down and facing the competition. Not only did he face the competition, but he conquered them as he checked out on the field after grabbing the lead early in the 20-lap contest. Keith Brown Jr. and Ryan Moser completed the podium with respective strong runs.
All Ricky Thornton Jr. needs to do for Saturday’s action at USA Raceway is take the green flag to be crowned Modified champion. In the SportMods, it is gonna be down to the wire as Brady Bjella has a slim 3-point advantage over Jake McBirnie. Chase Rudolf sits in third, only 5 points behind. Full standings are able to be viewed here.
Modifieds – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., Clive, Iowa; 2. Brett Smith, Merino, Colo.; 3. D.J. Shannon, Merced, Calif.; 4. Zachary Madrid, Tucson; 5. Jake O’Neil, Tucson; 6. Jeff Taylor, Cave City, Ark.; 7. John Hansen, Brush, Colo.; 8. Jeff Larson, Freeport, Ill.; 9. Drew Armstrong, Benton, Ark.; 10. Bubba Stafford, Wittmann; 11. Rick Akers, Tucson; 12. Kollin Hibdon, Pahrump, Nev.; 13. Kelsie Foley, Tucson; 14. Kody Scholpp, Estevan, Sask.; 15. Casey Arneson, Fargo, N.D.; 16. Bob Moore, Sioux City, Iowa; 17. Riley Simmons, Susanville, Calif.; 18. Lance Mari, El Centro, Calif.; 19. Justin Kay, Wheatland, Iowa; 20. Jason Noll, Peoria; 21. Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo.; 22. Shane DeMey, Denison, Iowa; 23. Ryan Roath, Peoria; 24. J.P. Dowell, Killeen, Texas; 25. Tyler Mecl, Queen Creek; 26. Tim Ward, Harcourt, Iowa.
Northern SportMods – 1. Austin Paul, Monroe, Iowa; 2. Keith Brown Jr., Pittsburg, Calif.; 3. Ryan Moser, Englewood, Colo.; 4. Brady Bjella, Williston, N.D.; 5. Bo Partain, Casa Grande; 6. Chase Rudolf, Prole, Iowa; 7. Roy Poeling Jr., Globe; 8. Speedy Madrid, Laveen; 9. Jake McBirnie, Boone, Iowa; 10. Dwayne Melvin, Medford, Ore.; 11. Michael Egurola Jr., Tucson; 12. Kelly Jacobson, Fargo, N.D.; 13. Chuck Delp, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 14. David Jones, Chandler; 15. Brandyn Johnson, Mesa; 16. Brian Osantowski, Columbus, Neb.; 17. Ethan Braaksma, Newton, Iowa; 18. Cole Carver, Apache Junction; 19. Tate Johnson, Homestead, Mont.; 20. Jim Horejsi, Marshall, Minn.; 21. Bryan Moreland, Durango, Iowa; 22. Ty Weidner, Chandler; 23. Shelby Frye, Casa Grande; 24. Justin Svoboda, David City, Neb.