Taking the lead on lap 18, Stoutland's JC Newell turned around the team's 2014 season by withstanding a late race surge from NASCAR's Kenny Wallace. Newell became the 3rd different O'Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model feature winner of the season on Roadtec Military Appreciation Night at the Lebanon I-44 Speedway in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Action.
The start of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model feature almost spelled disaster as one of the front runners missed a shift and veteran Steve Holt had a little help to get spun around coming to the green flag. Kevin Donahue and Terry Limberopoulos were also involved with only Donahue going to the pits ending his night early as the remainder of the field amazingly avoided the incident.
On the restart, Chad Walter grabbed the opening lead with Jacob Blair and Austin Johnson following. On the next circuit, Rookie Blair took over the top spot with Walter and Holt close behind. With Blair setting a quick pace, veteran Jimmy Van Zandt took over second place on lap 4. Caution waved on lap 5 for a spin by Austin Johnson as Kenny Wallace spun also to avoid contact and Donahue hurried to the pits for a flat tire.
With the flag flying on the restart, point's leader Kyle Donahue came out late and Vanzandt quickly shot to the top spot wasting no time in pulling away. That left Blair to hold off Newell's charge from his 9th starting spot. While Vanzandt had opened up a half a straight away lead, Newell moved around the rookie Blair on lap 9 and began his move forward as point contenders Austin Fullerton and Kaleb Allison were dead-locked in the battle for 3rd place.
A caution on lap 16 bunched the field together as 15th starter Joe Ross had moved into the top 5 in his first appearance at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in 2014. On the restart, Newell was putting pressure on Vanzandt. It was on lap 19, when Newell was able to move around Van Zandt out of turn 2 to grab the lead as Jimmy's car got loose off the corner which allowed contact while battling for the lead and he started to go backwards. Newell had Fullerton and Allison putting on pressure as Kenny Wallace had quietly moved into 4th by lap 20. By lap 22, Fullerton and Allison were locked in a duel for position and made contact as Wallace shot underneath both cars to move into second place.
The final caution waved on lap 23 as Vanzandt and fast qualifier Brennon Willard got together setting-up a 2 lap shootout for the win between the 18 year old and the veteran that now likes to be known as "The Dirt Racer". On the restart, Wallace kept a little distance between himself and leader Newell as the green flew once more. Newell shot ahead, but Wallace was making a run going for the win. Newell would hold off the surge by the NASCAR veteran and take nose to tail win with Wallace, Fullerton, Allison and Ross completing the top 5 with 13 cars finishing on the lead lap.
For Newell, it was a sweet win as last week a vibration in the car took him out of action early. "My crew worked hard all week and found the problem. We found out this morning that Bruce Mueller of B and B Engines, our motor builder passed away and this past winter, we lost one of my biggest fans, my grandmother passed away. To win on Mother's day weekend is special for the family."
Qualifying heats went to Brennon Willard and Kaleb Allison as Willard topped the time trials by turning the track at a time of 14.628 seconds.
In Budweiser Modified Action, Fair Grove's Ricky Icenhower wasted no time in taking the top spot from leader Richard Lewis on lap 3 and then had to withstand a late race caution and charge from Tim Swearengin to take his first win of the season. Lewis grabbed the top spot for the opening 2 laps before Icenhower moved around out of turn 2 to assume the lead. Out in front Icenhower opened-up a half a straight away advantage as Lewis was battling point leader Terry Taylor for several laps. Swearengin and Stephen Counterman jockeyed for position as Lebanon's Chris Johnson was joining the fun.
A lap 23 caution waved as Lewis and Taylor made contact while fighting for second and both cars went to the rear of the field. Icenhower after finishing second last week found Swearengin glued to his bumper on the restart as Counterman and Johnson were battling for 3rd place honors. On the restart, Swearengin was close, but Icenhower pulled ahead out of turn 2 to reverse the finishing order from last week. Following the lead duo to the stripe were Counterman, Johnson and Joe Bunkers. Counterman and Johnson grabbed the heat race wins.
Another 1st time winner this season saw Toby Harden hold off point leader Paul Jepson to take the win in the Monster Energy Sportsman feature. Veteran JC Newell grabbed the opening lead with Harden staying close and Justin Blake along with Jepson close behind. On lap 8, Harden took advantage of Newell going up the track and shot around on the low side.
The only caution was on lap 9 as Blake spun on the backstretch. On the restart, Jepson made several attempts to move around Harden. Harden would hold of the challenges and take the win with Jepson, Newell and Blake following to the line. Harden also took the heat race win.
The Coca-Cola Charger feature always keeps the fans excited and this week was no different. Amanda Anderson grabbed the early lead as the pack was 3 wide and side by side. Coming out of turn 2, defending champion Jimmy Poindexter along with Larry Hunter were trying move around Anderson with Ben White going top side. Contact between Poindexter and Hunter sent Poindexter spinning around and bringing out the caution flag. Both drivers involved went to the rear and the field doubled-up on the restart.
White jumped to the top spot with point leader Jason Walls followed by John Hunn and Anderson. On lap 2, last week's winner Jordan Nesbitt moved from his 10th starting spot into the top 4 quickly. Caution waved on lap 5 as Walls while contending for the lead, took a hard left turn to the infield as it looked like something in the steering had broken on his machine. At the same time rookie driver Patrick Borths made hard contact with the turn 4 wall ending his night with heavy damage.
After a spirited battle early, Nesbitt moved around White to take the lead as Poindexter was quickly moving up the leader board and into 3rd place. Nesbitt was opening a small lead as White and Poindexter were locked in a tight duel. It would be Nesbitt taking his second in a row with Poindexter making a last lap pass to secure runner-up honors followed by White, Hunn and Lauren Buhr who came from the back of the pack after an early spin. Heat race victories were claimed by Buhr and Nesbitt.
The Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors provided plenty of action as opening night winner Geoff Ledford took the lead from Riley Sharp and withstood a late race surge from Sharp to take his 2nd win of the season. Sharp grabbed the opening lead with Les Mallard and Nick Cherry following.
A lap 2 caution spin by point leader Carl Harlow allowed Ledford to close-up several cars after starting the race in 7th. On the restart, there was a tight 3 way battle with leader Sharp, Ledford and Mallard as Michael Juergensen joined the chase. On lap 4, Ledford moved into the lead with Sharp still a solid second place as Mallard and Juergensen fought side by side for 3rd spot.
A lap 10 caution for Juergensen' s spin bunched up the field as point leader Harlow was again making his way to the front pack. Sharp made a hard charge to Ledford, but Ledford was able to pull away in the final 3 laps. At the finish Ledford crossed first followed by Sharp, Harlow, Mallard and Nick Cherry. Ledford won the heat race.
The I-44 Speedway will be hosting the 2nd Annual Mercy Masters of the Pro's 144 on Saturday May 17th with NASCAR driver Jeff Burton serving as the Grand Marshall. Over 35 entries are expected to be on hand with 10 states and Canada represented so far. Headlining the early entries include 2 time Daytona 500 Champion Sterling Marlin of Columbia, TN. As well as 2013 Lebanon I-44 Speedway and NASCAR Whelen All American Series, Missouri State Champion Cole Williams of Sellersburg, IN. Fifteen year old JJ Haley who won the opening CRA/JEGS All-Star Series event 2 weeks ago in Springport MI. and the 2013 Lebanon I-44 Speedway points runner-up Matt Wallace of Concord, NC. Michigan Hot Shoe Chad Finley, I-44 opening night feature winner 15 year old Kaleb Allison of Mexico, MO are both entered. Last year's Mercy Masters of the Pro's 144 runner-up Chuck Barnes of Kentucky and two 2 time Lebanon I-44 Speedway Pro Late Model Champion Mike Slone of Rolla. Thirteen year old Harrison Burton of North Carolina and Jake Griffin of Quincy, IL, who is still the youngest driver to ever win a Pro Late Model feature event at I-44 and many, many more.
Friday evening May 16 there will be an open practice from 4 till 8PM for all cars while Grandstand and Tier Parking are Free for the public to watch.
Gates and hot laps open Saturday at 2PM with Boyne Machine Qualifying at 5PM and a special autograph session following qualifying. Action will also feature the Budweiser Modifieds and Coca-Cola Chargers. A 10 minute pit stop live on the track apron at the 100 lap mark as drivers make adjustments for the final 44 lap run paying $8,000 to win.