La CROSSE, KS — Jason Martin knew where the faster line was. Only problem was the sprint car driver wasn’t going to be able to use it to get to the front. Instead, he continued to use the high line and wait for an advantage that would put him in the lead. It came with two laps remaining, and it helped the Liberal driver claim a United Rebel Sprint Series win Saturday night at the Bullring Nationals at Rush County Speedway in La Crosse, KS.
Luke Cranston, who had won three straight races, staged an epic battle with Martin for approximately 10 laps — with Cranston using the lower, quicker line and Martin flying around the top and driving hard into each corner. But on a late restart, Cranston was slowed by contact from another driver, allowing Martin the advantage he needed to claim his fifth URSS win of the season.
“I went to the bottom a couple of times just to try it, and it was better down there,” Martin said. “But I knew I never was going to be able to pass him down there, so I had to keep trying to make the top work. I was hoping we’d get in lap traffic and I’d buzz right by him, but every time we got into traffic the yellow came out.”
Judd Sheaffer took the early lead after starting outside the front row alongside pole-sitter Cody Caldwell. Sheaffer led the first 13 laps, with Caldwell hot on this tail.
Cranston, who started sixth moved into third on lap four. He got by Caldwell into second on lap 12, and Martin moved from his 10th-place starting spot into third and right on Cranston’s bumper on lap 13.
“We had the car set up really, really tight because we thought it was going to slick off a little bit faster,” Cranston said. “We made some adjustments to free it up, and that made us faster after the red flag (after Patrick Bourke flipped on lap 11). I could really run it around the bottom a lot better. We were way better after that. I felt if it would have stayed green … ”
Cranston took the lead away from Sheaffer on lap 14, and Martin got by Sheaffer into second a lap later. That set up a battle between the two drivers. Martin would drive his car in hard into three and four using the high side, while Cranston would hug the bottom. It would prove to be the preferred line as he’d beat Martin coming out of turn four every time.
“I had to wait for the track to slick off,” Martin said. “And the cautions helped us. The race track was in awesome condition. There aren’t many race tracks in this part of the country that had a cushion like that.”
Five cautions during the 25-lap feature would bunch up the field, the final one coming with two laps remaining. Cranston paced the field back to the green, followed by Martin, Ray Seemann — who started 13th — and Richie Dewell — who started 15th. Cranston would go to the bottom in turn one, with Martin taking the high line. Seemann went hard into turn one and ran up over the back of Cranston’s car, slowing him enough to let Martin come out of turn two with the lead down the backstretch. From there, it was smooth sailing the final lap and a half for Martin.
“They just kept leaving me openings to get into the corner,” Seemann said about how he marched through the field. “On that last deal when I ran into Luke, I thought it was all over there. I thought we were going over. I got in hot, and he slowed down heavy.” Cranston would hold on to second, while Seemann was able to regain control of his car and avoid flipping after the contact to finish third.
“I got lucky, plain and simple,” Martin said. “That last restart, I timed it perfectly and he didn’t get a good start.” A disappointed Cranston said he felt one slipped away.
“I definitely felt we had that one,” Cranston said. “I don’t want to say we had it in the bag because Jason was so fast. But if we wouldn’t have had that last restart, I think we could have had it.” Dewell, in one of his strongest runs this year, finished fourth, and Barry Crane was fifth after starting 14th. Ty Williams, who won the cash dash, was sixth.
Heat race winners were Williams, Martin, Brian Herbert and Sheaffer.
The Keizer Aluminum Racing Wheels Hard Charger Award went to Dewell, who started 15th and finished fourth.
1. Jason Martin, 2. Luke Cranston, 3. Ray Seemann, 4. Richie Dewell, 5. Barry Crane, 6. Ty Williams, 7. Judd Sheaffer, 8. Cody Caldwell, 9. Lance Davis, 10. Kasey Beckham, 11. Zach Blurton, 12. Brian Herbert, 13. Josh Fairbank, 14. Bob Sheaffer, 15. Steve Dalton, 16. Craig Jecha, 17. Reed Bernbeck, 18. Connor Atkinson, 19. Patrick Bourke, 20. Kirby Hagans.
1. Bob Sheaffer, 2. Craig Jecha, 3. Ray Seemann, 4. Barry Crane, 5. Richie Dewell, 6. Steve Dalton, 7. Kirby Hagans, 8. Lance Davis, 9. Reed Bernbeck, 10. Connor Atkinson, 11. Jerry Caldwell, 12. Raymond Blackburn, 13. Jeff Crook.