LITTLE ROCK , Ark. – official release — Mike Spivey photo —
Aaron Reutzel has taken a liking to I-30 Speedway. Or, perhaps, I-30 Speedway has taken a liking to Aaron Reutzel.
Either way, the Clute, Texaas, racer remained perfect atop the high-banked, quarter-mile clay oval in 2014 by besting a field of 66 competitors in Wednesday night’s Second Annual STN Open that kicked off the track’s 27th Annual COMP Cams Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires.
Reutzel earned $2,000 for his third I-30 Speedway victory of the year in as many tries and also earned first option at a provisional into Saturday night’s $15,000-to-win, $2,500-to-start STN championship finale.
Should Reutzel race into the STN finale on his own, the provisional option will fall in order to STN runner-up Stevie Smith, third-place Dalton Davis and then fourth-place Derek Hagar.
“I can’t believe it, to win three in a row here and win this one is awesome,” the driver of the BC Fundz/Wren Motorsports No. 87 Triple-X exclaimed in victory lane. “Bob (Miller) has backed us all year and this is one of the first nights he’s been able to be with us, I won this one for him.”
Racing from fifth to make a critical pass of Tim Crawley in the night’s eighth and final heat race netted Reutzel the second row inside starting spot behind front row starters Eric Riggins, Jr., of North Carolina and Ohio’s Shawn Dancer.
While Riggins gunned into the early lead, Reutzel disposed of Dancer in short order and was pressuring for the point when Riggins looped it getting into turn one on the fourth lap. Reutzel dodged the spinning machine then kept the field at bay the rest of the way for his seventh overall win of the year.
“We were fortunate he didn’t take us out when he was spinning,” Reutzel commented.
With Reutzel setting the pace, A.J. Bruns and Dalton Davis led the host of chasers with tenth-starter Jason Johnson disposing of Stevie Smith for fourth by the fifth round.
Seeking his first ASCS National Tour win of the year, Johnson got loose and spun to a stop in turn four with 14 laps in the books to bring out the race’s only caution.
Reutzel took off on the restart with Stevie Smith racing past both Davis and Bruns within a lap to take over second aboard Shawn Petersen’s No. 4 machine.
With traffic in play over the final circuits, Smith had Reutzel within his sights until the leader made a nimble move around a pair of lapped cars on the white flag that essentially sealed his third ASCS National win of the year.
“I was too tight to roll the bottom the way I need to those last few laps, but we made it work,” Reutzel said.
Smith flashed across the stripe in second with Memphis-area darkhorse Davis claiming the show position. One of the pre-STN favorites with 15 wins on the season, Marion, Ark., shoe Derek Hagar advanced from the 12th starting position to snare fourth.
Zach Pringle edged Kevin Swindell at the line to round out the top five, with Swindell settling for sixth after rallying from the 18th starting position. Bruns slipped to seventh over the final rounds with Ray Allen Kulhanek, 17th-starter Johnny Herrera and 20th-starter Brian Brown completing the top 10.
Josh Baughman, Jason Johnson, Dustin Morgan, Pringle, Hagar, Kulhanek, Eric Lutz and Smith topped heat race action for the 66 car field.
Shane Golobic edged Cody Gardner to win the first C Main with Ryan Bickett topping the second C Main. Herrera and Kevin Swindell won the B Mains.
The night got off to a wild start with Taylor Tidmore clipping another car then sliding into the infield tires entering turn one and flipping in the night’s opening heat race. Dusty Zomer nailed the same tire later in the sixth heat race. Both drivers were uninjured but done for the night.