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Gustin is USMTS king

SPRING VALLEY — A decal on Ryan Gustin's race car reads "Who's Next?"

After Gustin wrapped up his first United States Modified Touring Series national championship on Saturday night at Deer Creek Speedway, a better question might be, "what's next?"

It would seem logical that Gustin — with the strong backing of car owner Ed Gressel and a great team led by crew chief Joe Bob Ciechanowski— would return to defend his title in 2012. But talented 20-year-olds tend to catch the eye of car owners in other racing series.

Gustin, from Marshalltown, Iowa, has been a force to be reckoned with since he won his first USMTS A Main on Aug. 28, 2008, at Highway 3 Raceway in Allison, Iowa. He has won 46 more times since then, including 23 this season.

After finishing as the runner-up last season to national champion Jason Hughes, Gustin was determined not to settle for second place again. He won four of the first five Hunt for the National Championship races and five times in all on the Hunt. His 23 victories this season were just seven shy of the single-season record of 30, set by Kelly Shryock.

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"I'll tell you what, all these guys we race with night in and night out definitely didn't make it easy on us," Gustin said. "They're the best in the business. ... It's awesome."

When Gustin won at Highway 3 Raceway three years ago, he became the youngest A Main winner in USMTS history. Saturday, he became the youngest national champion the series has known in its 13 years.

Before he decides on his plans for 2012, Gustin said he has his sights set on the next big-money Modifieds race, the King of America Modified Nationals. That show, from Oct. 19-22 at Humboldt (Kan.) Speedway, pays $15,000 to the winner of the final night's A Main.

"It wouldn't be possible without Ed, Joe Bob, all these guys," he said. "Now we're gonna go down there and win that Humboldt race. That'd be all right."

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