Veteran driver Sanders wins opening night of Spring Challenge at Deer Creek
Rodney Sanders started 16th in Thursday's USMTS feature at Deer Creek. The veteran driver and Texas native who now resides in Kasson, charged to the front to capture the $3,000 winner's check.
SPRING VALLEY — With a flawless performance from the 16th starting spot, Rodney Sanders needed just 18 laps to secure the lead and eventually his 113th career United States Modified Touring Series main event win on Thursday during the Southern Minnesota Spring Challenge at the Deer Creek Speedway.
The 33-year-old native of Happy, Texas — who now resides in Kasson — worked the high side of The Creek to perfection. He got a little help from his unfortunate friends at the front of the field just past the halfway point, and then fought back the challenges from Jim Chisholm to net the $3,000 winner’s paycheck.
"It feels good. It seems like a long time since we won one," said Sanders whose last win happened last August at the I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo. “We’ve been close and I feel like we’ve been knocking on the door here for a while, but you know it feels good… coming from 16th, it means a lot.”
A strong field of 28 competitors took the green flag for Thursday’s 30-lap feature race and the drama kicked in just as quickly as adrenaline.
Dan Ebert started on the pole and took the lead when the green flag waved, but after a few position swaps and slide jobs with Terry Phillips on the opening lap, it was Phillips taking charge the next time around.
Searching for his sixth career win at Deer Creek, Phillips remained out front and set the pace through lap 17. Meanwhile, Tyler Wolff marched from his fourth-row starting spot and stole the position from Phillips as they completed the 18th lap.
Entering the first turn, Phillips moved to the low side and slid up to retake the lead, but the pair made contact and both drivers came crashing to a stop. As the yellow flag waved, third-running Ebert was unable to avoid the melee and Al Hejna, who was fourth at the time, also clipped a stopped car, but he continued moving.
That allowed Hejna to lead the pack back to the green flag, but damage from the earlier crash left him with a less competitive machine and he slipped back several spots in the first corner.
That opened the door even wider for Sanders. Running sixth when the yellow flag came out with 12 laps to go, he wasted no time when racing resumed and bolted into the lead using the high side of the perfectly-prepped racing surface.
However, Sanders had his hands full with Jim Chisholm — a two-time USMTS winner at Deer Creek, the defending track champ and the track’s winningest driver over the last four years — with Chisholm clinging to the short way around the race track.
Despite his best efforts, Chisholm followed Sanders to the checkered flag as Sanders recorded his 113th career victory and 12th at Deer Creek.
“I felt like that top was getting a long way around and I was kind of skating on entry, but I felt like I had straight-away speed,” Sanders added. “I went pretty hard early and I didn’t know what I had left for my tire. There’s a lot of tread on it, but I feel like I got it pretty hot and the car didn't want to stick as good at the end.”
While Chisholm had to settle for the runner-up honors, Rushford's Alex Williamson held his ground and finished third—right where he started.
Looking to capture his first USMTS points crown, O’Neil sprinted from the 22nd starting spot to finish fourth and held on to his lead by a mere three points over Sanders, who is seeking his fifth USMTS title.
Not to be outdone, Hayfield's Brandon Davis rebounded from problems in his heat race, came through a B-Main and then came from 23rd in the A-Main to garner the final spot in the top five. Jake Timm, Tanner Mullens, Tom Berry Jr., Brandon Givens and defending series champ Dustin Sorensen rounded out the top 10.
Chisholm and Williamson were the only finishers among the top 10 that started the 30-lapper inside the top 10, which made Thursday just another incredible night at the Deer Creek Speedway.
Action continues with a $5,000-to-win feature tonight and a $10,000 top prize for Saturday’s winner.