Jason Hughes came into last night's event at Houston Raceway Park trailing Kelly Shryock by eight points in the USMTS Southern Series point standings with three races remaining. But when all was said and done last night, Hughes picked up a win and took over the point lead with two races left on the slate.
While neither driver made the redraw, both were able to qualify out of the heat races via passing points. Hughes started ninth with Shryock on his rear bumper in eleventh. Randy Timms led the first lap after starting on the pole, but he was soon challenged by Sam Haftertepe, a regular late model pilot. Haftertepe gained command of the race on lap four as he dove to the inside of Timms. Meanwhile, Shryock and Hughes were making their way forward with Shryock advancing to third. A caution flag came out, allowing Jason Hughes to get a great restart and get by Shryock and Timms to snag the third spot.
Ryan Gustin, who finished second in the National Tour Hunt this season, also made the trip south for his first ever Southern Series event. Gustin finished second to Hughes in his heat race and easily won one of three b-main events. Gustin started eighteenth on the grid, but he quickly used every line en route to the front. By around lap eight Gustin had already advanced to the top ten. Hughes and Shryock engaged in a heated battle for the runner up spot before another caution flag waved. Hughes would take advantage of the yellow as he got by Haftertepe on the restart to take command of the race. Howard Willis, the USMTS Southern Series race winner two weeks ago at Battleground Speedway near Highlands, was also on the move as he raced under Jon Tesch for the fourth position. However, his luck would run out as he spun in turn one. As luck would have it, Dereck Ramirez was unable to avoid Willis and clipped his front bumper on the way by, sending Ramirez in a "gentle" roll.
At that point, Hughes was leading the way ahead of Haftertepe, Shryock, Tesch, Rodney Sanders, and Gustin. Gustin's good run would end early as he suffered a left rear flat tire. He was running fifth at the time. Haftertepe would also be a victim of bad luck as he spun in turn four late in the race, giving up the runner up spot. Bumper Jones, involved in a wreck early in the race, did a great job of recovering as he rebounded nicely to finish seventh. But up front it was all Jason Hughes as he not only took the win, but took over the point lead as well. Jon Tesch finished second, Kelly Shryock third, Rodney Sanders fourth, and Randy Timms rounded out the top five.
1. 12 Jason Hughes
2. 14 Jon Tesch
3. 3 Kelly Shryock
4. 20 Rodney Sanders
5. 5T Randy Timms
6. 33z Zack VanderBeek
7. 111 Bumper Jones
8. E Howard Willis
9. c8 Timothy Culp
10. 9 Shane Hebert
11. 5R Morgan Bagley
12. 88xx Bobby Malchus
Also on the card last night were the limited modifieds. Derek Ross led from the start, but he would lose the handle and spin through the infield to hand the lead over to Shane Hebert. Hebert would hold off challenges from Howard Willis and Paul White to take home the big paycheck ahead of Willis and White.
1. 9 Shane Hebert
2. 461 Howard Willis
3. 216 Paul White
By my count, 73 modifieds and forty limited modifieds were in competition last night. The track did get pretty rough as the night progressed, but that is understandable considering all the rain the Baytown area had received earlier in the week. As I type this blog, snow is coming down. According to the Weather Channel, schools are letting out early and the reporter mentioned the town does not have snowplows. The snow has let up here lately, and I was informed last night that the track crew does everything in their power to get the show in.
Speaking of the track, one of the diehard race fans in attendance last night mentioned that Houston Raceway Park will not be running a weekly show next year. Rather they are going to hold about eight special events throughout the season. That is a shame to hear as Houston Raceway Park is a top-notch facility.
- Racing may be a hobby, but it's DEFINITELY addictive!!