Wallace Walks Into ‘Firecracker 50’ Winner’s Circle at I-44
Matt Wallace has two wins to his name and yet, still hasn’t had the chance to celebrate in front of a raucous Lebanon I-44 Speedway crowd in what’s shaping up to be a special rookie season. The 16-year-old North Carolina native collected his second victory of the year at Missouri’s only asphalt oval after the original victor, fellow teenager Cole Williams, was disqualified during post-race inspection following the ‘Firecracker 50.’ An excited crowd witnessed heated racing action and spectacular stunts courtesy of the Monster Energy FMX team that was on hand for their only appearance of the season.
Fireworks capped off a night that saw David Bates return to the top of the podium in the Budweiser Modifieds while Dustin Reeves and Robert Reeves continued their red-hot reign atop the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors and Hardee’s Sportsman with another family sweep, pushing their streak to an incredible three consecutive weekends of Reeves’ trophies. Caston Jones regained the points lead in the Coca-Cola Chargers with a commanding victory in their main event.
A 16-car field got the O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models ‘Firecracker 50’ off to a quick start as Jim Reaves grabbed the early advantage. Jimmy Vanzandt needed only four laps to score the top spot as he got around Reaves via the low line at Missouri’s only asphalt oval. Points leader Mike Slone wasted little time slicing and dicing his way through the field, inheriting second from Reaves and swiftly tracking down the leader.
As the two veterans broke away from the rest of the field, Vanzandt and Slone played a high-speed game of cat-and-mouse with the top spot hanging in the balance. Rodney Phillips’ solo spin in turn two brought out a caution with 15 laps in the books, allowing the other machines to close in. When racing resumed, Vanzandt eased away to a three car-length edge that Slone erased within two laps.
As the leaders approached lapped traffic, Slone – who entered the night second in the ASA National point standings – lost control of his machine trying to make a move on the low side and spun in front of the field. Fresh off a feature win ten days ago, young gun Grant Sharp couldn’t find a way to avoid Slone’s idling hot rod and slammed into the front end of the veteran’s machine, heavily damaging both cars and halting the race with 29 laps remaining.
When racing resumed, Jimmy Vanzandt grabbed a solid margin as Dale Roper, Jr. snagged the second position. Roper, Jr. closed up to Vanzandt’s back bumper on numerous occasions before 16-year-old Cole Williams entered the picture in third. Williams rolled to second and eyed the top spot, maneuvering around Vanzandt on the bottom of turn one with eight laps to go. Vanzandt was shuffled back to fourth as Matt Wallace scored the bridesmaid’s position in second. That proved to be key as Williams would cross the line first but later be disqualified for illegal weight distribution, handing Wallace his second victory in the same manner he scored his first: via the disqualification of the race-winning car. With the triumph, Wallace crept closer to Slone in the standings as the season approached the halfway mark.
Vanzandt rallied for a hard-fought runner-up effort while Mike Coryell notched a solid third place finish. Brian Brown brought his machine home fourth as Austin Fullerton rebounded from a disappointing few weeks with a top-five in fifth.
A frantic start to the 20-lap Budweiser Modifieds headliner saw Stephen Counterman bring out the caution on the fifth circuit of the race after a solo spin in turn four. When racing resumed, David Bates burst into the top spot and slipped away to a comfortable half-straightaway advantage. That entire edge was erased when Counterman once again brought out a yellow after getting on his side and collecting three other machines in the ensuing mayhem.
Bates bolted to a solid cushion over points leader Tyler Scott on the restart with eight laps remaining, slowly pulling away with each passing circuit. Despite Scott’s attempt to track down his bona fide rival, it wasn’t enough as Bates held on for his fourth feature win of the year. Scott settled for a disappointing second place result while Scotty Allen notched a season-high third to round out the podium.
Robert Reeves rolled to the early lead in the 15-lap Hardee’s Sportsman feature after a wild start reshuffled the entire field. Reeves rocketed away on a restart as Lil’ J.C. Newell took second and erased the deficit between himself and the leader. Despite Newell’s best efforts, Reeves held off the points leader on the way to a third consecutive trophy and fourth of the 2012 season. Newell maintained his points lead with a second place finish while his grandfather, J.C. Newell, made it a family affair up front with his top-three effort.
Dustin Reeves wasted little time getting to the front of the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors 15-lap feature, rolling from his tail back starting spot and assuming command of the top spot on the seventh circuit around the 3/8th-mile oval. Reeves quickly opened up some track between himself and Les Mallard for the top spot and the ‘Showstopper’ hit his marks over the final laps on the way to his seventh feature win of the season, extending his points lead in the process. Les Mallard scored another bitter second place while Mike Scott settled in and notched a third place effort.
A wild wreck marred the beginning of the 15-lap Coca-Cola Chargers main event as Paul Jepson lost a wheel on the exit of turn two and smacked the backstretch wall on the second lap, bringing an early end to his evening and knocking him out of the points lead. When racing got back underway, Caston Jones bided his time before making a dive into the entrance of turn three and taking the top spot with nine laps to go. After his pass for the lead, Jones put on the afterburners and never looked back en route to his fourth feature victory of the season. Lauren Buhr managed a career-best runner-up effort while Larry Hunter returned to I-44 with a podium finish in third.
Racing returns to Missouri’s only asphalt oval this Saturday night, July 7, as a quick turnaround awaits the headlining O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models in the 11th ‘Kickin’ Asphalt’ program of the 2012 campaign. The Hardee’s Sportsman highlight an exciting undercard with their first annual ‘Lucky 21’ twin feature events while the Budweiser Modifieds, Hoosier Tire Road Warriors and Coca-Cola Chargers will also be in action. Spectator gates will open at 5 p.m. with the green flag set to wave at 7:30 p.m. sharp on the evening’s jam-packed slate of racing action.
I-44 Speedway PR