LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — In a season that’s seen a new crop of youngsters step up to the forefront of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car competition, Josh Hodges became the latest to establish himself as a first-time series winner.
Hodges took the lead with 13 laps remaining and romped home with the $10,000 Fall Nationals victory Saturday at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
The 21-year-old from Tijeras, New Mexico became the seventh first-time winner on the USAC sprint car trail this season, joining Scotty Weir, Tyler Courtney, Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp, Carson Short and C.J. Leary.
Hodges became the first New Mexico driver to win in the series since Richard Griffin triumphed at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in 2000.
On Saturday night, Hodges made the Midwest his stage and a little over a year after his debut on the national scene, the fruits of his labor have paid off with a USAC National victory in his Jack Hodges/Jackson Compaction – Mesilla Valley Transportation/Maxim/Gibson.
“I knew it was going to be tough to beat Darland on the start,” Hodges admitted. “I thought we had gotten a decent start, but he just beat me to turn one. I just got in a rhythm. I’ve gotten to run here quite a bit, so I kind of knew what to look for and, luckily, we caught lapped traffic in time and I was able to get moved up. It seemed like it slowed up just enough there; when it slows up and you get to lapped traffic, you need to move up. I was able to do that and when you’re running third, you can go where they’re not. Our car was bad fast. It’s unreal to get our first USAC win here at such a big show.”
Earlier in the night, Hodges’ Southwest Sprint Car rival, Stevie Sussex, laid down the fastest lap in ProSource Qualifying in his first visit to Lawrenceburg.
Hodges held the pole for the 30-lap main event with April Lawrenceburg winner Dave Darland alongside.
Darland got the early jump at the start on the outside. Hodges fought to stay alongside Darland for the duration of the first lap, but Darland prevailed off of turn four to secure the lead on the opening lap.
Nearing the halfway mark, Darland saw his six-car-length advantage over Hodges begin to shrink as the two neared lap traffic. As the two continued to run the middle of the race track, third-running Windom closed in to make it a three-car tango.
On lap 15, Hodges migrated to the high side, which in the short-run cost him a position as Windom shot underneath to grab second off of turn two.
In the long run, though, the move to the high side would pay large dividends for Hodges as he created his own line up top that enabled him to pull even with Windom off the second turn on lap 16. Both Hodges and Windom surrounded the tail tank of Darland as the three drag raced under a blanket down the back straightaway.