MASON CITY — Ryan Gustin couldn’t help but be excited about the possibility of winning a national championship, especially with the year he’s had. But, when the United State Modified Touring Series Hunt for the Casey’s Cup got under way, health issues arose and he was diagnosed with cellulitis in his foot and ankle.
In the five races prior to Sunday night’s show in Mason City, Gustin, who hails from Marshalltown, had only been able to be a part of two, which meant his chase for a championship is over.
“It’s tough for sure,” Gustin said. “This is probably one of the best chances I’ve ever had to win a national championship, and then to throw it away, it is what it is.”
On the nights he is on the track, don’t count Gustin out, though. Sunday night he proved why.
Gustin dominated the Hunt for the Cup race, and then followed it up by winning the make-up feature later in the evening to give him a sweep.
“It makes up for it a little bit, but it’s still tough,” Gustin said of the first win.
In the first race, the only one that counted toward the championship chase, Gustin started outside the front row and made sure he got around pole-sitter Jason Hughes in the opening laps so the clean track would be his.
Nobody got close to him for the first 25 laps.
“The track conditions made it so there was kind of one lane there on the bottom so I just wanted to get out front,” Gustin said. “I figured there was no rubber up there from the beginning, but once the rubber was there it was hard to pass the guy in front of you, so the guy out front has got the big advantage.”
Then came a little turbulence.
In the final five laps, drivers had to endure a slew of cautions – six to be exact – as restart after restart saw guys blowing tires to bring out the yellow.
Even with Stormy Scott, the Hunt for the Cup points leader, and Jason Hughes right behind him on restarts, each time on the wave of the green it was like Gustin was shot out of a cannon. He just had to execute and the win was his.
“I knew everybody was popping right-rear tires so I just wanted to make sure I didn’t go in there and miss it and there was nobody under me,” he said. “If I slipped a tire too much it would cause us to have a flat, too.”
In the night’s second USMTS feature, a make-up from a rain out earlier this summer, Gustin hunted down the leader Hughes and overtook him a few circuits in.
The rest of the race, which was caution free, saw him try the high side and then back to the bottom. When he returned to the bottom, Hughes started to close the gap.
With five to go, Hughes was within two car lengths, and was on his bumper for most of the closing three laps. On the final lap, Hughes tried a move to pull even with Gustin in the middle of Turns 3 and 4, but slid up the track, and Gustin drove on to another big paycheck. He won $3,000 for each victory, plus a bonus $1,500 to finish the night ahead $7,500.
Smith’s flare for the dramatic
Count Hobby Stock driver Zac Smith among the thousands of fans who love seeing the USMTS at Mason City Motor Speedway.
Smith, a Mason City native who hadn’t won on the track prior to this season, added his second win of the year Sunday night. In the two times the USMTS has been in town this summer, Smith has won the Hobby Stock feature both nights.
“USMTS has been good because they were here last time I won, so I wish they were every week,” Smith joked. “But it means a lot and I’m kind of speechless right now.”
Like his first win on the track, Smith waited until the last lap to take a lead.
Starting from the second position, Smith said it was only his goal to take top 4. He ended up being in a three-car chase for the win, with each going back and forth for most of the race.
First it was pole-sitter Matt White out front, then Andrew Borchardt grabbed the lead, White took it back, and finally on the last lap, Smith made a move to the inside in Turn 2 to get underneath White, and then beat him to the finish line for the win.
“I took the white and I saw him bobble just a tad in 1 and 2, and I got a good run up to him in 2,” Smith said. “I kind of knew he was going to go to the bottom so I kind of back off a little earlier than I wanted to. I’d been watching couple laps before and saw that he was sliding up and if I wanted to go by I’d better drive on the bottom, so I just stuck her where I wanted.”
Jim Chisholm (B-Modifieds), Derek Green (Stock Cars) and Oliver Monson (Tuners) were the evenings other winners.
Coming Friday in Lead Lap
Jim Chisholm is one of the youngest drivers at Mason City Motor Speedway, and in just his first year wheeling around the track, he’s already making a name for himself.