By Jordan Kuehne
(LEBANON, Mo.) – Grant Sharp just wanted to finish a race. After a horrendous start to his 2012 campaign at Lebanon I-44 Speedway, Sharp finally got that finish in grand fashion in the O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models on Saturday night, fending off veterans Ken Dickinson and points leader Mike Slone on the way to the winner’s circle. In other feature action, Dustin Reeves and Robert Reeves made it a family sweep for a second straight week in the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors and Hardee’s Sportsman, while Tyler Scott continued his dominant run in the Budweiser Modifieds with another triumph. Paul Jepsen’s hot streak rolled on after he reigned victorious in the Coca-Cola Chargers headliner.
A wild start marred the beginning of the 30-lap O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models as a single car spin sent several drivers scrambling to avoid a potential multi-car pileup in turn four, ‘Calamity Corner.’ When racing resumed, Grant Sharp surged past Jim Reaves for the top spot as Ken Dickinson followed him into the bridesmaid’s position with 25 laps to go.
After another caution in ‘Calamity Corner’ halted proceedings, Dickinson jumped to the bottom of Sharp and began working him over as he eyed the top spot. The two veterans went door-to-door for a number of laps before another yellow once again bunched the field back up. Once the green flag waved, Sharp slipped away to a two car-length edge while points leader Mike Slone closed up on Dickinson’s back bumper for second.
The top three drivers spread out in single-file fashion as the laps ticked away in a rapid fashion before another caution flew with six laps remaining. Sharp escaped the clutches of Dickinson and hit his marks over the final few laps en route to his first feature win of the season. The young driver overcame several wrecks and a number of bad breaks in the early portions of the season to make it into victory lane.
“It feels good to finally finish a race,” said an exasperated Sharp in the winner’s circle. “It feels even better to finish a race first. We’ve had one of the fastest cars every week and I have to thank my team for getting me a fast car each week.”
Dickinson rebounded after a rough few weeks with a strong runner-up finish while Slone maintained his edge in the points with a podium effort in third. Tony Jackson, Jr. made his season debut on the 3/8th-mile speed plant with a solid fourth place finish and Brian Brown rounded out the top five in fifth.
Toby Harden hustled to the lead in the early stages of the 15-lap Hardee’s Sportsman feature and had a comfortable cushion when a solo spin by the elder J.C. Newell brought out a caution with three laps in the books. On the restart, Harden broke away from the field as second place Aaron Douglass dirt tracked it through turns one and two, bringing out a caution as last weekend’s feature victor, Robert Reeves, inherited the bridesmaid’s position.
Reeves rolled to the inside and went door-to-door with Harden as the race rocketed past the halfway point. Harden wasn’t done though, pulling up to Reeves’ back bumper and challenging him for the lead as the laps wound down. Despite a hard-charging Lil’ J.C. Newell’s charge to second and his valiant effort a win, no one could overtake Reeves as he collected his second consecutive feature triumph. Newell maintained his points lead with a runner-up finish while Harden came home with a tough-luck third place effort.
The 20-lap Budweiser Modifieds headliner got off to a slow start after an early caution halted proceedings. Once racing got underway, Tyler Scott and Stephen Counterman duked it out for the lead, playing a high-speed game of cat-and-mouse for eight laps before Scott finally emerged with the top spot. After Counterman finished trying to play bumper cars with Scott’s back rollbar, the ‘Nixa Nightmare’ slipped away to a five car-length advantage and slammed the door shut on anymore advances. Scott cruised to his fifth win of the season and extended his already vast points edge with the triumph. Counterman notched a solid second with a new chassis on his machine while young Payton Lucas overcame a mid-race spin to finish third.
Points leader Caston Jones jumped to the early edge in the 15-lap Coca-Cola Chargers feature but it wasn’t long before rival Paul Jepsen assumed control of the top spot with a pass on the backstretch during the third circuit. Jepsen’s hot rod was on a rail and the driver continued his charge from out of nowhere, easing into the winner’s circle for a third time this season. Jones settled for a runner-up finish while Jesse Poindexter notched a top-three in third.
It took Dustin Reeves a little bit longer than normal to ascend to the front and assume command of the 15-lap Hoosier Tire Road Warriors main event, but once the Camdenton, Mo. driver finally made it to the top spot, the race was essentially over. Reeves cruised to the win and garnered his amazing seventh trophy of the 2012 campaign in just nine weeks of racing action, extending his points lead to just under 300 markers in the process. Mike Funcannon found his way to the checkers with a season-high second place finish while Mike Scott scored a strong podium result in third.
Lebanon I-44 Speedway will not be in action next weekend. Racing returns to Missouri’s only asphalt oval on Tuesday, July 3, for a holiday evening special capped off by an extravagant fireworks show that will light up the night sky. The O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models headline the tenth ‘Kickin’ Asphalt’ program of the 2012 campaign with the ‘Firecracker 50’, a special 50-lap main event while fans will also be treated to the exhilarating thrills of the FMX Motocross team. The Budweiser Modifieds highlight an exciting undercard that includes the Hardee’s Sportsman, Hoosier Tire Road Warriors and Coca-Cola Chargers. 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 exciting 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.
Lebanon I-44 Speedway – June 23, 2012
ASA Late Models
Heat 1 Heat 2
1. # 18 Reaves 1. # 21 Dickinson
2. # 2 Sharp 2. # 77 Slone
3. # 20 Fullerton 3. # 3 Jackson
4. # 35 Holt 4. # 10 Roper Jr
5. # 66 Woods 5. # 51 Coryell
6. # 02 Brown 6. # 6 Wallace
7. # 9 Corey 7. # 67 Vanzandt
1. # 2 Grant Sharp Conway
2. # 21 Ken Dickinson Lebanon
3. # 77 Mike Slone Rolla
4. # 3 Tony Jackson Jr. Lebanon
5. # 02 Brian Brown Springfield
6. # 35 Steve Holt Strafford
7. # 6 Matt Wallace Concord, NC
8. # 9 Tucker Corey Quincy, IL
9. # 10 Dale Roper Jr Fair Grove
10. # 66 Brian Woods Leawood, KS
11. # 51 Mike Coryell Lebanon
12. # 67 Jimmy Vanzandt Springfield
13. # 18 Jim Reaves Strafford
14. # 20 Austin Fullerton Chelsea, OK
Heat 1 Heat 2
1. # 1 Rash 1. # 57 Scott
2. # 21 Hunt 2. # 25 Counterman
3. # 95 Harris 3. # 26 Lucas
4. # 29 Icenhower 4. # 66 Taylor
5. # 00 Johnson
1. # 57 Tyler Scott Nixa
2. # 25 Stephen Counterman Fair Grove
3. # 26 Payton Lucas Fair Grove
4. # 1 Rocky Rash Elkland
5. # 66 Terry Taylor Fair Grove
6. # 00 Chris Johnson Lebanon
7. # 21 Kevin Hunt Spring Hill, KS
8. # 95 Norm Harris Marshfield
DNS # 29 Roderick Icenhower Fair Grove
Heat 1 Heat 2
1. # 1 Harden 1. # 7 Douglas
2. # 36 Higdon 2. # 84 Newell
3. # 25 Owen 3. # 15 Newell
4. # 63 Higdon 4. # 6 Reeves
5. # 10 Sharp
1. # 6 Robert Reeves Camdenton
2. # 15 Lil JC Newell Stoutland
3. # 1 Toby Harden Ozark
4. # 10 Rick Sharp Fair Grove
5. # 84 JC Newell Decauterville
6. # 7 Aaron Douglas Lebanon
7. # 25 Darin Owens Halfway
8. # 36 Jon Higdon Strafford
DNS # 63 Chuck Higdon Strafford
1. # 00 Juergensen
2. # 21 Mallard
3. # 6 Reeves
4. # 38 Funcannon
5. # 33 Scott
6. # 35 Ball
1. # 6 Dustin Reeves Lebanon
2. # 38 Mike Funcannon Cassville
3. # 33 Mike Scott Rogersville
4. # 21 Les Mallard Fair Grove
5. # 35 Gary Ball Lebanon
Heat 1 Heat 2
1. # 5 Poindexter 1. # 44 Jepsen
2. # 7 Poindexter 2. # 1 Page
3. # 11 Buhr 3. # 27 Cherry
4. # 42 Nisbett 4. # 6 Lewis
5. # 34 Jones
1. # 44 Paul Jepsen Rolla
2. # 34 Caston Jones Belle
3. # 7 Jesse Poindexter Willard
4. # 27 Nick Cherry Springfield
5. # 6 Richard Lewis Willard
6. # 11 Lauren Buhr Neosho
7. # 1 Amanda Page Republic
8. # 42 Jordan Nisbett Lebanon
9. # 5 Jimmy Poindexter Willard