Gustin Breaks Bank For $25,000
SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — Over the last couple of years, many people have called Ryan Gustin the best modified driver on the planet.
After his $25,000 victory Saturday night at the second annual World Modified Dirt Track Championship, it would be hard to argue with that.
With 58 career wins over the last four seasons, the 21-year-old from Marshalltown, Iowa, is far and away the winningest driver in the United States Modified Touring Series during that time span. He’s also hopped into the cockpit of modifieds in unknown territory under different rulebooks and proven himself a force to be reckoned with.
The only chink in his armor it seemed was he had yet to win one of those high-profile special events when the really big money was on the line — much like a top-ranked golf pro with multiple wins, but still missing that major victory on his résumé.
So much for that argument.
Saturday night at the Deer Creek Speedway, Gustin started on the inside of the second row in the 75-lap main event featuring a three-wide start and quickly moved into second place to challenge polesitter and early leader Joey Jensen.
Before the first lap could be completed, caution delayed the start when Friday night winner Jordan Grabouski lost the handle in the fourth turn. The resulting scramble behind the leaders saw front-row starter Mike Sorensen and Ryan Ruter join Grabouski at the rear of the field after they ducked into the pits for repairs.
Jensen, who won Wednesday night’s 35-lap qualifying feature, took to the high side of the track on the restart. Gustin looked for a way around the leader on the inside while 2010 USMTS national champion Jason Hughes, three-time Deer Creek track champion Jason Cummins and Lucas Schott, who turned 16 on Thursday, followed close behind.
As Jensen stretched out his lead to four car-lengths, Gustin continued to search the bottom of the track for a faster way around. Hughes pulled alongside Gustin on the third lap but was unable to complete the pass and Gustin quickly shut the door, sliding up to mirror Jensen’s line on the cushion.
After brief cautions on the ninth and tenth laps, Hughes dove to the low side of the first turn and briefly edged in front of Jensen. Jensen raced back into the lead down the backstretch and pulled back out to a five-car-length lead while Gustin slipped back to third with Cummins glued to his rear bumper.
Meanwhile, Schott, Jason Miller, Jason Krohn, Stormy Scott, Johnny Scott and Jon Tesch were close behind in tight battles of their own while 17th-starting Rodney Sanders and 15th-starting Brandon Davis were looking to crack the top 10.
With 15 laps down, Gustin began to run a little closer to he wall and streaked back into second while Cummins took away the low line to challenge Hughes for third. Little by little, Gustin began to reel in Jensen.
Lapped traffic came into the picture on lap 22, and Jensen was briefly slowed by a lapped car as they raced through turns three and four. For just a moment, the high line was open and Gustin pounced on the opportunity as he shot past Jensen on the outside as they came to the flagstand to complete lap 23.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get another opportunity to pass him again for a while, so I figured I’d stick it in there and see what I could do,” Gustin said.
After the pass, Jensen wrestled with the back-marker for another orbit while Gustin opened up a four-car-length lead of his own. Once in the clear, Jensen quickly closed back in behind Gustin and the two raced side by side until the race’s final caution occurred four laps later.
“We just kind of cruised there for a little bit and tried to keep the right rear (tire) under it,” Gustin recalled. “I got lucky to get by (Jensen) and then I was just trying to hold him off after that.”
Prior to the start of the race, drivers and officials agreed that if four cautions occurred that all drivers would stop on the front-stretch for two minutes while a crew member added fuel. No other changes to the racecar were permitted.
Jensen again showed his nose to Gustin on the restart and contested for the lead in every turn for the next three laps. It looked like the next 40 laps would be a nail-biter, but that’s when ‘The Reaper’ turned on the afterburners.
“We had that stop for fuel and there was no concern about the right rear so we just took off.”
Riding the cushion and taking the longest route around the high-banked three-eighths-mile clay oval, Gustin was on rails as he extended his lead to a full straight-away ahead of Jensen within 10 laps.
From that point on, it seemed the only thing that could stop Gustin from reaching the winner’s circle would be a crash, mechanical failure or a late-race caution. None of those things happened, and even a few sprinkles that fell during the final 30 laps weren’t enough to change the outcome.
With $25,000 going to the winner, not only did Gustin pick up the biggest paycheck of his career but he also did it in dominant fashion as he crossed the finish line more than seven seconds ahead of Jensen.
“As the race went on the track got better and better and better,” said Jensen, whose earnings of $13,713 dwarfed the $5,000 he pocketed just over a month ago when he captured his career-first USMTS win at this same track. “At the end there after 75 laps I probably burned off my tires trying to run away from Gustin there. Then I seen Hughes there and just kind of went into block mode and pulled off a second.
“We’re very, very happy with our finish. Give the credit to Ryan. He did a great job. He’s a great competitor and a great driver.”
Hughes, a three-time winner of the Featherlite Fall Jamboree which takes place here in less than two months, came home with a third-place finish and an $8,913 payday.
“We had that wreck in the first corner there, and then these guys got up there and put on a show I just kind of got to watch,” he said. “Seen the rain start coming in so we thought we’d better go, but we didn’t have quite enough to go.”
The next two finishing positions were secured by Cummins and Davis – two drivers who have battled all season at Deer Creek in weekly USRA Modified competition with Davis coming out on top in the majority of those contests.
Cummins earned $6,913 for his efforts while the ‘Medford Monster’ gobbled up $5,713 after racing from 15th to fifth.
Ryan Gustin, Joey Jensen, Jason Hughes, Jason Cummins, Brandon Davis, Stormy Scott, Randy Timms, Johnny Scott, Terry Phillips, Jon Tesch, Nate Wasmund, Chris Brown, Zack VanderBeek, Lucas Schott, Josh Angst, Jeremy Payne, Jason Miller, Kelly Shryock, Mike Steensma, Brandon Davis, Ryan Ruter, Tommy Weder Jr., Rodney Sanders, Jason Krohn, Corey Dripps, Bryan Rowland, Mike Sorensen, Jordan Grabouski, Eddie Martin, Mark Teske, Dereck Ramirez.
SPEED SPORT Magazine “digital edition” now available for iPad and iPhone!
Get one year for just $12.99. Single issues (including back issues) are available for $2.99.
Click here to visit the iTunes App Store for details!