By Jacob Seelman
DILLON, S.C. – Twelve-year-old Preston Lattomus may be small in stature, but he proved on Saturday that he could take the fight to the titans of the USAC Eastern Speed2 Midget Ass’n.
Lattomus started on the pole at Dillon Motor Speedway after an invert of the top six qualifiers and never looked back, leading from start to finish in the 35-lap main for his first EMA victory.
The Landenberg, Pa., pre-teen was making just his seventh series start. His previous best finish before Saturday’s triumph was a runner-up effort in the second Twin 25 at Dominion Raceway on June 29.
Lattomus pulled away from outside polesitter Sam Hatfield, who won the season opener at the four-tenths-mile oval in April, on the initial start and set sail from there. He opened up a two-second lead in the first 10 laps and steadily extended that margin throughout the remaining distance.
By the time the twin checkered flags waved over the field, Lattomus was a full 7.561 seconds clear of second-place finisher and two-time defending series champion Jessica Bean.
It was such a dominant performance that the winner was at a loss for words at first in victory lane.
“I didn’t think we’d be able to do this tonight; I really didn’t. I thought Sam (Hatfield) would get (around) me on the first or second lap, but we held him off,” Lattomus explained. “I just kept watching the laps tick down on the scoreboard, and when I saw Jessica and Connor get up there … I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to catch me. Oh my God.’
“Then we finally got back to the white flag … and it was like, we’re actually going to do this! I didn’t even know what to feel. I still don’t,” he added. “This is my first year in these cars and we came out here to learn. Now we have a win under our belts and it’s just an unbelievable moment. It’s amazing.”
Bean waged a torrid duel for the runner-up honors with Connor Gross, who was celebrating his 16th birthday on Saturday, for much of the feature’s second half. She finally took the spot for good on lap 25.
However, Bean was powerless at that point to run down Lattomus, whose lead was insurmountable.
“I have no idea if we had anything for him, because by the time I finally got to second, he was long gone,” noted Bean. “Congrats to Preston, though. That’s awesome that he got his first win tonight. We all just got our butts kicked by a 12-year-old, and I hate losing, but that’s pretty cool what he did here.”
Gross completed the podium, marking his third top-three finish in the last four races. Fast qualifier Alex Murray crossed the line fourth, moving forward from sixth on the grid, with Levi Riffle finishing fifth.
The USAC Eastern Speed2 Midget Ass’n returns to action on July 20 at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C.
USAC EASTERN SPEED2 MIDGET RACE RESULTS: July 13, 2019 – Dillon Motor Speedway – Dillon, South Carolina
QUALIFYING: 1. Alex Murray, 22, Murray-16.469; 2. Jessica Bean, 5, Radical-16.502; 3. Connor Gross, 14, Gross-16.540; 4. Levi Riffle, 75, Riffle-16.588; 5. Sam Hatfield, 9, Radical-16.606; 6. Preston Lattomus, 28, Lattomous-16.621; 7. Nolan Allison, 16, Allison-16.734; 8. Sam Mazzo, 31, Mazzo-NT; 9. Mason Hoskins, 12, Hoskins-NT; 10. Eric Lewis, 4, Radical-NT.
FEATURE (35 laps): 1. Preston Lattomus ; 2. Jessica Bean ; 3. Connor Gross ; 4. Alex Murray ; 5. Levi Riffle ; 6. Nolan Allison ; 7. Sam Hatfield ; 8. Sam Mazzo ; 9. Mason Hoskins .
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-35 Preston Lattomus.
NEXT USAC EASTERN SPEED2 MIDGET RACE: July 20, 2019 – Southern National Motorsports Park – Kenly, North Carolina