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BOONE — Winning the biggest race of your career generally is followed by celebration — and relaxing the next day. That’s especially the usual case at IMCA Super Nationals and the racing vacation atmosphere at Boone Speedway.
Richie Gustin had to work Sunday, though.
The Gilman driver won his second Modified Big Dance on Saturday night, backing up his win in 2011. Standing in Victory Lane, amid the whirlwind of photos and conversations with friends, family and fans, Gustin laughed when asked if he’d celebrate into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
“No man, I have to pour concrete at 6 a.m.,” Gustin said.
He made it to work, too — on about 45 minutes of sleep, he told The Gazette on Sunday. As the owner of T&R Concrete, he couldn’t miss the job.
Even on that little sleep, Gustin had plenty of energy to work Sunday. Winning Super Nationals is an adrenaline rush unlike many others in dirt racing. To ask almost any racer, there are a few crown jewels for dirt racers — the Knoxville Nationals and the World 100 at Eldora Speedway among them — and Super Nationals is without question on that list.
Winning it for a second time likely won’t sink in for a while, but even Saturday night, Gustin said this time around was easier to appreciate.
“For me the second one is much sweeter,” Gustin said. “There is a lot of luck that plays into this deal and a lot of things that have to go your way, but once you’re clicking off that second one, you can’t say it’s luck anymore.
“This deal is just unbelievable. It’s the biggest race to me there is in all of dirt track racing. I know there’s other bigger paying ones, but car count-wise, people here, it’s unbelievable. It means the world.”
The win makes him just the seventh driver in the 35 year history of the event to win a second Modified Big Dance, joining John Logue (five times), Mark Noble (twice), Mike Frieden (twice), Wayne Larson (twice), Kevin Stoa (twice) and Kyle Strickler (back-to-back in 2014 and 2015).
In terms of IMCA Modified racing, that list is a legendary one.
Gustin got good luck from one of the guys on the list before Saturday night’s main event, too, and you can be sure he noticed the gesture.
“Guys John Logue and Mark Noble, they were my idols growing up,” Gustin said. “They’re still my idols now. John was down and wished me luck before the race. To get to a point where we’re multi-time champions like these guys are, I really can’t explain it. I’m sure it’ll set in at some point. I’m very, very honored.”
Gustin’s 2011 win came a year after his brother Jimmy won his only Super Nationals championship main event, and the younger of the two laughed at the notion he has one up on Jimmy — who has a Hall of Fame resume of his own.
They’re joined on racetracks across the Midwest by their other brother Ryan, who currently is among the most dominant USMTS racers in the country, and sister Jenae, who moved up to Modified last season.
The family has won the biggest races in dirt Modifieds, and even this year have made headlines for big victories. Jimmy got his 100th IMCA win at the opening Hawkeye Dirt Tour race of the season at Benton County Speedway in Vinton. Ryan has several USMTS wins, including the King of America at Humboldt (Kan.) Speedway. Jenae picked up a handful of weekly wins as well, including a few at Marshalltown Speedway.
That’s not to mention their dad Rick Gustin, who won a ton of races in his career, and his wife Judy who raced herself as well.
How can one family, all No. 19 — Jimmy 19, Richie 19g, Ryan 19r and Jenae 19j — be so successful?
“Good genes, I guess,” Richie said. “A lot of racers and a lot of families do this thing, but you’ve really got to live it. We live it. It gives us a heads up on a lot of guys. My grandpa did it, my dad did it, my step mom Judy did it. Grandpas and uncles on the other side. It’s a huge asset to us — just common sense stuff it takes guys a long time and trial and error to figure out. We’re just very fortunate. We do our best.”
Gustin’s second win wasn’t a breeze, to be certain.
He had to beat two former Super Nationals champions to get it done. Todd Shute (2007) and last year’s winner Ricky Thornton Jr broke away from the rest of the field with Gustin, and the three of them raced for the lead for the majority of the race.
Gustin won ahead of Thornton, Shute, Ricky Stephan, his brother Jimmy and Waterloo driver J.D. Auringer.
Thornton and Shute both went out of their way to go congratulate Gustin — “He was the first guy to congratulate me last year, so I wanted to be the first one there this year,” Thornton said — and Shute, who led the first 30 laps, said Gustin was widely considered the guy to beat going into the race.
Gustin agreed. He said he knew Friday night he’d have a car capable of winning, even starting ninth (outside Row 3) among the best IMCA Modified racers in the country. His first year in a Gheer’d Up Modified has yielded a few big wins already.
Getting his second Super Nationals win required a plan — one he executed perfectly.
“When I qualified (Friday) night, I felt like we had a pretty good racecar, and it was going to take me making a mistake or something,” Gustin said. “Once we caught lapped traffic I got my left rear lower and lower and I tried to attack when I got the opportunity.
“It was definitely a deal where I felt like if I followed (Shute) long enough and got a long green flag run, I felt like my car was maneuverable and we could get by. We got it done.”
IMCA SUPER NATIONALS
Modifieds — 1. Richie Gustin, Gilman; 2. Ricky Thornton Jr., Chandler, Ariz.; 3. Todd Shute, Des Moines; 4. Ricky Stephan, South Sioux City, Neb.; 5. Jimmy Gustin, Marshalltown; 6. J.D. Auringer, Evansdale; 7. Randy Havlik, Ankeny; 8. Jeremy Mills, Garner; 9. Ricky Alvarado, Delta, Colo.; 10. Nick Roberts, Des Moines; 11. Jeremy Payne, Buckeye, Ariz.; 12. Cayden Carter, Oskaloosa; 13. Jordan Grabouski, Beatrice, Neb.; 14. Josh Most, Red Oak; 15. Jonathan Snyder, Ames; 16. Kelly Shryock, Fertile; 17. Drew Christianson, Minot, N.D.; 18. Kyle Strickler, Mooresville, N.C.; 19. Justin O’Brien, West Union; 20. Cody Laney, Torrance, Calif.; 21. Troy Cordes, Dunkerton; 22. Nick Meyer, Whittemore; 23. Jesse Richter, Great Bend, Kan.; 24. Eric Elliott, Boone; 25. Jason Wolla, Ray, N.D.; 26. Paul Stone, Winton, Calif.; 27. Corey Dripps, Reinbeck; 28. Ryan Ruter, Clear Lake; 29. Chris Abelson, Sioux City; 30. Chris Mills, Sioux City; 31. Jay Noteboom, Hinton; 32. Randy McDaniel, Olivehurst, Calif.; 33. Darin Duffy, Urbana.
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