Hager breaks through with hobby stock

The hoodie was pulled up over his head, but the smile still was evident on the face of Garrett Hager.

It was for good reason, too.

The hobby stock driver from Hays had notched his first feature win of the season Sunday night at WaKeeney Speedway as he sought shelter inside his enclosed trailer as a gusty northwest wind howled outside.

"It's been about two years to the day tonight since we got our last feature," Hager said. "It was good. We needed it."

It looked like Hager had something special dialed up Sunday. He won his heat race in impressive fashion, then started sixth in the night's feature.

"The car was real good in the heat," Hager said. "I knew with the double features and all the cars it was going to slick off -- and with the wind. We just snugged it up, tightened it up and put some more drive in it and the car went good."

Hager showed his driving skill at the drop of the green flag. No one was willing to try the top side of the track in turns one and two -- except for Hager.

He shot out of turn two and passed two cars, making them seem as though they were standing still.

"Honestly, when I was watching the last modified heat, the top had been watered and went away," Hager said. "It was dusty and crummy up there again. The top had went away again. I didn't really know what to expect. I just kept it on the black in the top and stood on it, and it worked. And I went around them on the top."

It's true he inherited the lead after lap six when the leader came to a stop on the backstretch. But it wouldn't have mattered much anyway. Hager was on a mission and was going to make his way to the front anyway.

He proved that by holding off Cody Graham and Colin Heim, who both charged hard from the fifth row on the starting grid.

"Honestly, I didn't even know how many laps were left," Hager said. "I kept looking for the halfway markers, and I never seen them. ... I was wondering where we were in the race, and I kept thinking we had to be close to getting done. Then (the yellow) came out. We got a good restart, and I was able to hang on to it."

Hager has been close to winning several times this year, only to have something not go his way. He helped rebuild the car in the offseason, then battled through transmission issues for a while.

On Sunday night, everything finally came together.

"I'm hoping I'm back in the saddle and it's going to keep working and going at them each weekend," Hager said. "And hopefully we can be up at the front."

Nick Schwien is managing editor at The Hays Daily News.