(May 19th - Kankakee, IL) Friday night the MARS Late Model Series rolled into town and with the threat of rain out of the forecast, 111 race teams filled the pit area for another action packed night of racing.
Kicking things off on the evening were the 3 Sons Auto Salvage UMP Stock Cars. Valparaiso's (IN) Austen Hubbard continued his hot start in the
division picking up his fourth win of the season. Early race leader and pole-sitter Joe Brown uncharacteristically spun by himself relinquishing the lead to Hubbard who outraced the field to the checkers ahead of Zane Reitz, Cody Clubb, Joe Spiewak and Jerrad Krick. Brown and Reitz scored heat race wins to earn front row honors for the 20-lap main event.
The MARS Late Models were next to grace the speedway with a field of twenty-two drivers taking the green flag. Bloomington's (IL) Jason Feger jumped out to the early lead but was eventually chased down and passed by Hall of Fame driver Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, IL. Weaver would however experience some mechanical troubles as he slowed coming off turn two just on lap 14. Feger then reclaimed the top spot but had to fend off the non-stop challenges by Ryan Unzicker, who claimed second. Michigan driver Logan Nickerson was working his way forward after starting eighth to a third place finish ahead of Mike Mataragus and Kyle Hammer, who transferred into the feature through the B main. Hammer began the 40-lap race outside row 10 and climbed to an impressive fifth place finish.
Heat race triumphs went to Weaver, Unzicker, and Frank Heckenast Jr. while Mark Voigt captured the B main. Kye Blight from Western Australia set fast time on the night with a lap of 13.723.
Perhaps the highlight of the night though belonged to a young lady from Cullom, IL. Amber Crouch has been consistently knocking on the door of opportunity for a few years now in the Romar Transportation UMP Pro Late Model division and Friday night she finally kicked that door down on her way to a convincing victory over a stout field of chasers. Crouch began on the pole for the 20-lap feature and led every lap with remarkable skill and finesse as she hugged the bottom groove and challenged her rivals to pass her on the top side. The win was Crouch's first of her career thus becoming the first female to ever win in the UMP Pro Late Model division. Defending track champion Matt Hammond let Crouch know he was there several times but never could mount a challenge to overtake Crouch. Austin McCarty, Chase Osterhoff and Jace Owens rounded out the top five.
Heat race wins went to Torin Mettille, Hammond and McCarty with Mettille taking fast time honors with a lap of 15.364.
In other action, Dillon Nusbaum of Warsaw, IN made his second appearance of the season in the CR Towing UMP Modified division and for the second time picked up the victory holding off Mike McKinney at the line as the duo thread their way through lap cars to the stripe. McKinney actually pulled ahead of Nusbaum as they exited turn two on lap 18 before Nusbaum got back by one lap later. Nusbaum slapped the front stretch wall under the flag stand as the top two split a lapped car at the line. The margin of victory was just .034 for Nusbaum. Rounding out the top five were newcomer Logan Veloz, Jamie Lomax and Nick Allen.
Heat race wins went to McKinney and Nusbaum with McKinney setting fast time with an impressive lap of 15.072.
Ashmore, IL driver Deece Schwartz continued to dominate the Miller Hydraulic UMP Pro Modified division with his fourth consecutive win of the season in four starts and his 18th win overall in the division. Newcomer Donnie Martin of Oakwood, IL gave Schwartz reason for concern however as he hounded Schwartz's every move in the 15-lap event. Ryan Kohler continued his impressive start finishing third ahead of Pete Argianas and Curtis Caldwell. Martin and Mark Rhoades earned preliminary heat race wins.
Lastly in the First Place Oils UMP Sport Compacts, David Lauritson of Normal, IL continued to show off his normal form of running up front as he bested the field to earn his fourth victory of the season in five starts. Jimmy Dutlinger of Peoria took runner-up honors pestering Lauritson throughout with the chrome horn at times but could could never shake Lauritson off his line. Rounding out the top five were Rick DeFord, making his first start, Evan Eckhoff and Joshua Wright. Track prep master Matt Prodehl earned top honors in the Stock 4 Cylinder class. Lauritson and Matt Minor earned heat race wins in earlier action.
Next Friday night, the UMP Factory Stocks are running for $1,000 to win while the UMP Sport Compacts will be running for $500 to win while the Stock 4 Cylinders will be gunning for $200 presented by Meineke of Bourbonnais. Plus a full race program in all divisions except for UMP Modifieds who are OFF and the return of the Crown Vics. In addition, at intermission the Kids Candy Drop will be held on the front stretch so kids get those kiddos legs ready to do some running.