Wallace Scores Key Feature Win, Finally Gets to Celebrate at I-44 Speedway
The third time was indeed the charm for 16-year-old Matt Wallace. The teenager has been the hottest driver in the O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models over the past five races at Lebanon I-44 Speedway and he grabbed his third feature win of the season with a power move, overtaking Jim Reaves with ten laps remaining and slashing the gap in the point standings between himself and Mike Slone, who had another rough night at Missouri’s only asphalt oval. Unlike his past two victories that came after the original victor was later disqualified, Wallace earned this one the old-fashioned way and was able to celebrate with family and friends in a more traditional manner.
In other feature action, Dustin Reeves continued his dominance in the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors with a comfortable victory while father Robert saw his three-race winning streak snapped by points leader Lil’ J.C. Newell in the Hardee’s Sportsman. Ricky Icenhower finally broke the chokehold on feature wins by Tyler Scott and David Bates in the Budweiser Modifieds, rolling to a wire-to-wire victory. Paul Jepson closed the deficit in the standings between himself and rival Caston Jones with a triumphant showing in the Coca-Cola Chargers.
Jim Reaves rushed to the early lead in the 30-lap O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models headliner on Cintas Night at the Races. A pair of cautions plagued the early portion of the race after points leader Mike Slone was sent for a wild ride through the infield with 27 laps remaining. After taking some heat from Steve Holt on the ensuing restart, Reaves slipped away to a comfortable margin before a pair of cautions slowed the event.
A few laps after racing resumed, Holt was spun into the frontstretch wall as Brennon Willard and Mike Coryell were caught up in the ensuing mayhem. All three drivers made heavy contact with the retaining wall and their evenings all came to an early close on the hook. After a lengthy delay, Reaves returned to this post in the top spot when the green flag waved.
It wasn’t long before North Carolina hotshoe Matt Wallace made his way to the front, powering past Reaves with a strong move on the inside of turn one with ten laps remaining. Wallace quickly stretched his lead to three car lengths over Dale Roper, Jr. and hit his marks over the final laps en route to his third victory of the season, the first of which saw him actually take the checkers on-track.
“I’ve been digging harder these last few weeks and it’s paid off,” said the 16-year-old Wallace in the winner’s circle. “Slone and I both want to win and get it done and it’s been fun racing up front out here. At this point, we’re looking for every bit of edge in the points we can find.”
Roper, Jr. jumped into second and held on to that position for a season-best runner-up effort. Brian Brown put together a strong showing with his podium effort in third while Reaves was relegated to fourth. Austin Fullerton recovered from a mid-race spin to finish fifth.
A wild start to the 20-lap Budweiser Modifieds main event culminated with Ricky Icenhower leaving the field in his wake en route to a straightaway advantage by the halfway point. While Icenhower checked out on the rest of the field, young Payton Lucas pedaled his machine through the corners as he held off Stephen Counterman for the second spot. ‘The Kid’, as Lucas is affectionately called, managed to hold onto the runner-up position but it was Icenhower who went wire-to-wire, becoming the first driver outside of David Bates or points leader Tyler Scott – who was absent on this evening due to a family vacation – to win this season in the division. Lucas scored another bridesmaid’s position finish fending off Counterman who came home in third.
Lil’ J.C. Newell rolled to the front of the 15-lap Hardee’s Sportsman feature as soon as the green flag waved, cruising to a comfortable cushion over Aaron Harden in second. The points leader clicked off laps out front as Robert Reeves – looking to keep his three-race win streak alive – blew past Hardin into the bridesmaid’s position. Despite a late-race caution and Reeves’ best efforts to track down the 16-year-old, Newell had the field covered going wire-to-wire for his third win of the season. Reeves had to settle for second as his victorious streak was snapped while Harden notched a third place result in his season debut.
Paul Jepson jumped to the front of the 12-lap Coca-Cola Chargers feature when the green flag waved, looking to bounce back from a tough break after he lost a wheel during the Fourth of July mid-week special at I-44. Points leader Caston Jones couldn’t find his way through heavy traffic as Jepson stretched his lead, never looking back on the way to his fourth win of the 2012 campaign. After a heat race win earlier in the evening, Jepson closed the gap between himself and Jones in the standings. Richard Lewis landed a solid second place showing as Lauren Buhr scored a strong third place result.
With his record-setting run at risk, Dustin Reeves wasted little time moving to the front of his 12-lap Hoosier Tire Road Warriors headliner, utilizing a power move on the opening lap to overtake four cars in turns three and four before blowing past Les Mallard for the top spot on the second circuit. Reeves immediately went about separating himself from the rest of the field, building up a straightaway advantage over Steve Shaw en route to his incredible ninth victory of the season. Shaw made his return to the 3/8th-mile oval with a runner-up effort while Mallard garnered a podium finish in third.
Racing returns to Missouri’s only asphalt oval this Saturday night, July 28, as the headlining O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models star in the 12th ‘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.
For more information on Lebanon I-44 Speedway, including a full 2012 schedule and more, visit the track website at www.i44speedway.net or visit the track’s Facebook and Twitter pages online.
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