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VINTON — The Hogan Memorial’s significance has grown exponentially through each of its editions, and the 22nd, run Sunday night at Benton County Speedway in Vinton, served as yet another in a string of memorable main events.
Through 50 laps of IMCA Modified racing, three drivers swapped the lead and banged doors before a packed house.
Richie Gustin, Todd Shute and Corey Dripps put on a show for the BCS fans, the trio racing side by side for nearly half the race. Each looked at one point like they were in firm control, but in the end it was Gustin who picked up his second Hogan Memorial win — with Shute’s nose at his door as they crossed the finish line — and pocketed $3,100 for his efforts.
“I felt like I had a solid car and there wasn’t a lot of pressure (in 2012) when I won,” Gustin said. “This year was a complete role reversal. We drew up front, and I didn’t feel like I knew the best place to be on the racetrack. Todd showed me the top, then I tried to switch and he passed me where I was at. It turned into a heck of a race with Corey in there. The track was good. That’s all you can ask for. It was as much fun as I’ve had behind the wheel, that’s for dang sure.”
Gustin became just the fourth multi-time winner, joining four-time winner Scott Hogan, two-time winner (and fourth-place finisher) J.D. Auringer and two-time winner Tim Jensen.
The Gilman driver took the lead for good on a restart with 10 laps to go, as Dripps — who won this event in 1997 — had a rear brake issue that severely changed the handling of his racecar. Gustin called Dripps his favorite driver growing up, and when Dripps was firmly in the lead for the first 15 laps of the second half of the race, Gustin followed and learned.
After starting on the pole, Gustin had to work hard to get back out front.
“I knew he was committed to the top and it was really slowing down up there in 3 and 4,” Gustin said. “He was a long ways out there, but he was getting tight. I knew I needed to do something different. I learned entry from him and from center off I worked around him.
“There’s bonuses to being behind — even though you don’t want to be in this race with the (lap leader cash) bonuses. It was a cat-and-mouse game, really. It all worked out.”
Gustin won ahead of Shute, Hunter Marriott, Auringer and Dripps in fifth. Dripps, a Reinbeck native, was disappointed after the race, but cited those rear brakes as the main culprit.
He said the issue started while he was out in the lead, and he had dealt with it enough that he might’ve been able to hold off Shute and Gustin for the win without any cautions. But with two late restarts, there was nothing much he could do.
Ultimately, it ended up as one of those age-old “racing deals.”
“I tried to compensate (for the brakes), but I just didn’t do a good enough job,” Dripps said. “I got in a rhythm late in the race. I just wasn’t able to adapt early enough to get the car to rotate getting in without brakes.
“I’m disappointed I gave away a win, but there’s another race next week and we’ll go get them.”
As for Shute, who came up just short at the line — a theme of his races at Benton County Speedway, where it seems he’s been second a dozen times in the last few years when racing special events — an eventful main event cost him in more than one instance.
He hit infield tractor tires a pair of times, collided with a lapped car once and made contact while racing hard with a few others.
“He could square up and get off of (Turn 2) better than I could. We were really good all race,” Shute said. “I don’t know. We’re just second again, I guess.
“(Gustin) protected 3 and 4 like he should’ve. I don’t know if we could’ve outran him or not (without the problems), but we were good. I don’t know if we gave one away or not.”
When looking at the rest of the field — filled with national champions, IMCA Supernationals winners, USMTS winners and drivers from across the country — Gustin was grateful more than anything in Victory Lane.
Getting a win against that field was satisfying in pretty much every way.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Todd Shute and Corey Dripps,” Gustin said. “Corey was my favorite racer as a kid. He was my guy. And then you look back through the field with Kyle Brown and Kyle Strickler; Scott Hogan, this is his home track. It’s a big deal.
“It’s definitely a stacked group of racers. This deal has turned into such a cool race with a lot of big names. It’s a who’s-who of Modified racing, that’s for sure.”
BENTON COUNTY SPEEDWAY RESULTS
1. 19g Richie Gustin; 2. 5 Todd Shute; 3. 62 Hunter Marriott; 4. 00j J.D. Auringer; 5. 31 Corey Dripps; 6. 10c Cayden Carter; 7. 8k Kyle Strickler; 8. 21k Kyle Brown; 9. 11 Cody Lanney; 10. 174 Ethan Dotson; 11. 505 Racer Hulin; 12. 20L Zach Less; 13. 96RC RC Whitwell; 14. 33d Scott Hogan; 15. 23jr Nick Roberts; 16. 8 Tony Snyder; 17. 25 Jake Bowman; 18. 4 Ryan Maitland; 19. 2 Brandon Maitland; 20. 10k Ronn Lauritzen; 21. 80 Jerry Dietrick; 22. 26j Joel Rust; 23. Patrick Flannagan; 24. 71c Troy Cordes; 25. 83g Josh Gilman; 26. Mike Jergens
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