Cranston takes first night of Wheatshocker
By NICK SCHWIEN
There might have been a bit of apprehension in the mind of Luke Cranston.
It had been a long time since the sprint car driver from Plains had a good run at RPM Speedway in Hays.
And earlier this season, Cranston — who grew up in Ness City — flipped his 305 sprint car at RPM.
On Saturday night, though, Cranston waited out a lengthy rain delay and washed away any ill thoughts by winning the first night of the United Rebel Sprint Series Wheatshocker Nationals.
“We haven’t had a real good run at Hays for, well, I don’t know, probably eight years maybe,” said Cranston, who races a 305 and 360 sprint car. “Back in about 2006, I did pretty good in the 360. We ran about fourth, which is about as good as we’ve ever done up here. We’ve been really fast, and I’ve screwed it up. And we’ve had some really bad luck. It was nice to get that monkey off our back and finally do something.”
Cranston dominated Saturday night’s 25-lap feature and kept his car clean — minus mud — during five cautions.
“We’ve got an awesome Myers motor in there, and Kirk had the setup nailed tonight,” Cranston said. “We made some changes after the heat race, which in southwest Kansas, you don’t do it very often — which is free the car up.We freed the car up and made it work a lot better. If I could hit the line right, it was just rocket-fast.”
With a big cushion built up around the outside of the track, several drivers found the berm a hindrance. Not Cranston.
He started third in the feature and trailed only pole-sitter John Webster after the first lap. On lap six, Cranston used the high line in turn four to fly to the front.
“I was afraid it wasn’t going to dry out enough for us to be able to do anything,” Cranston said. “Then it would have been follow the leader. But they did a great job. Rod (Bencken) and his crew did a great job with the track and getting it going with the rain. I can’t say enough about that. But I was worried that we weren’t going to get it going. We kind of had that outside working in three and four. We made that work for the pass for the lead. The car felt fast, but it made me feel good after that when I talked to Kirk on the red flag and he said we were doing really good. Then I could relax a little bit and just drive the car.”
Cranston bolted away from the field, even after the numerous restarts.
Ray Seemann, who started outside the front row, passed Webster for second on lap 12, and Brian Herbert moved into third on lap 15.
The fourth caution of the night — which resulted in a red flag — did the most damage. J.D. Johnson hit the large cushion in turn four and shot into the wall. He then was hit by Coby Pearce, severely damage both cars.
“The red helped me a bunch,” Seemann said. “We were way too tight. I hate to see those guys get tore up. But when the crew came out to make adjustments, I needed that bad.”
Seemann was faster after the delay to clean up the wreckage, but he still didn’t have enough to stick with Cranston.
“We didn’t have anything for Luke,” Seemann said. “Boy, he was fast in the corners. He was smoking.
“If we could have got in lap traffic and he would have gotten choked up, maybe we could have had him. But in free air, he was gone.”
Seemann finished second, followed by Herbert and Steven Richardson.
Jake Bubak, who was fifth on lap 15 before getting too high in turn two and falling off the track, rallied from the back of the pack to finish fifth.
Koby Walters was sixth, followed by 18th-starting Josh Fairbank — who won Friday night at WaKeeney Speedway — Webster, Joey Schmidt and Jed Werner.
The top 10 automatically locked themselves into Sunday night’s main event, that paid $2,000 to win.
• A night after letting a win slip away, Art Hezog led all 10 laps of the sport compact feature for the victory. Kiowa Higdon was second, followed by Michael Smith.
• Ron Wehling led all 20 laps of the hobby stock feature but was pressured by Shane Slezak and Adam Armstrong. Slezak was second, with Armstong third. Brady Bencken was fourth.
• Action up front in the Northern sport mod feature was furious, with Clay Money leading the first 10 laps. But Jake Krone made the pass for the lead and held on for the win. Tyler Frye was second, followed by Dustin Daniels — who started 22nd — and Nate Ginest.