BY MARVIN HOLMAN firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — OAKWOOD — The first-ever Kickapoo Klash at the Vermilion County Speedway on Sunday was at times a war of attrition.
For Justin Grant, the only option in a non-wing sprint car feature race with six cars leaving by accidents was to keep cool. Grant took the lead early from Nick Bilbee before the first big accident of the race saw Brandon Mattox and Mitch Wissmiller knocked out.
Grant would continue to hold off Billbee and Jon Stanbrough through most of the race, but had to deal with two more red flags and a caution yellow before finally winning the race.
“We had some great drivers and it was a tough race and in those situations, you can’t get wrapped up in everything,” the veteran from Ione, Calif. said. “I have faced and beaten Stanbrough before but he is a great racer.”
For Grant, it is his first win at VCS since 2010 and was his second win of the weekend after winning the Dick Gaines Memorial in Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Stanbrough, who has also won races at VCS in the past, ended up second while Billbee was third, Blake Fitzpatrick was fourth and Chris Gurley took fifth.
Sunday was also the last day of the USAC’s Ignite Midget Week which saw Ohio City, Ohio’s Cooper Clouse win the final night of the three-race series with a close win over John Heydenreich.
“I learned a lesson from him during the heat race,” Clouse said. “He taught me when you go ahead and find your line on the rack, you go ahead and get aggressive and that is what I did.”
Clouse, who is tops in the Midwest Pavement class in the USAC, said that this win came at the right time.
“We have had some bad luck as of late, so this was a good way to get back into things,” Clouse said.
While Heydenreich lost the race, he did win the points title for the week, Joey Greening was third, Gage Walker finished fourth while Aaron Schuck ended up fifth.
In the UMP modified race, Wheatfield, Ind.’s Nick Allen was able to overtake the lead from Nick Westfall thanks to a caution with a few laps left to get the win.
“That caution was the key, but I had to hold on for the last lap,” Allen said. “I tried to outrun him as fast as I can but it was tough to get him.”
Allen gets his 16th win of the season and is currently third in the UMP national standings after winning a race on Friday at Shady Hill Raceway in Indiana.
After Westfall, Josh Ferguson was third, Dave Baldwin was fourth and Chad Evans was fifth. Also, Baldwin, Nate Zimmer, Chad Kinder, Donovan Lodge and Roger Cary ended up with bonuses for being the top five finishers of cars who raced without the usual tops on their cars.
The Pro Late Models made their first appearance at VCS with Mt. Vernon’s Aaron Heck getting the win in his first appearance at the track, holding off Tyler Allen.
“I have actually been here many times because my dad worked with Rodney Melvin,” Heck said. “So I have seen many races here, but it was the first time I have every raced a car here.”
Heck is the UMP national points leader and he is very close to clinching the title.
“I just need three wins to clinch the title,” Heck said. “Zach Lyons, who shares a car with me, is second and we both race at our home track at Granite City. He wants to win the final race of the season in October there so I want to wrap things up quickly so I can relax and have fun for that final race.”
After Heck and Allen, Tim Rivers was third, Evan Fink took fourth and Catlin’s Logan Moody ended up fifth.
In the street stock race, Charleston’s Josh Griffin was able to get the win in a tough field of some of the best in the nation.
“You had eight of the top 11 racers here so it was good win to get,” the sixth-rated Griffin said. “I had the lead but then I lost it to Darrin (Kohler) and I didn’t think I would get it back again.”
Griffin did get the lead and was able to hold off A.J. Wright for the win, continuing a season of redemption.
“We have had a couple of years of bad luck but this season, we have come on,” Griffin said. “I have picked up some good wins and this is one of the best.”
After Griffin and Wright, Jesse Simmons was third, Jerrad Krick ended up fourth and Kohler was fifth.
Sunday was scheduled to be the last race of the season on the VCS schedule, but it was announced that there will be one more race on Sept. 15 featuring non-winged and winged sprints. The other classes for that night will be announced at a later date.