NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Jerry Phillips, center, gets into Jeremy Frenier as Geoff Jermark closes in as the sun begins to set Saturday night during a modified heat race at RPM Speedway in Hays.
I love covering the racing scene in the state, and I've been blessed with the opportunity to see some great tracks and even greater action.
On any given night, I can see at least one race in the multiple classes competing that sticks out more than others. The one feature that smacks me squarely in the face and has me realizing once again why I love dirt-track racing so much despite the hours it takes from my time at home.
On Saturday night at RPM Speedway in Hays, I was struck in the face again -- not once, but multiple times.
I've never been to a track where each of the "supporting" classes competing offered something exciting each feature. Saturday night was that night, though.
It started in the Northern sport mod feature. Jake Krone, the points leader at the track, had to run the B-main even to qualify for the A-main. He won the B and started 16th.
It was a chance for the rest of the regular drivers to gain some points on Krone.
"Chance" was the key word. By lap eight, Krone miraculously had worked his way through the field -- and was leading the race.
Game. Set. Match.
Yep, Krone drove his way to his fourth straight sport mod win in Hays. Not a lot of people would have given him a chance to go from 16th to the front -- in only eight laps.
Smack. Yep, hit squarely in the face once again.
It couldn't get any better, right?
In the next race, the stock car feature, there was movement through the pack by drivers such as Nick and Jeff Tubbs. But what made this race exciting was how close the first four or five cars competed lap after lap.
B.J. Wagoner and Austin Carter were the only two drivers credited with leading laps during the 20-lap event, but more than just those two easily could have won. Lance Borgman, Jason Rogers and Terry Cunningham all could have won, and the Tubbs brothers were right in the mix until being sent to the back for inadvertently spinning cars.
It was a scorer's nightmare, I'm sure, but a sweet dream for the numerous fans in attendance.
Smack. Hit on the other side of my face after this one.
My face was getting sore, but I knew the dramatics were finished. There was no way the modified feature could get any better.
Oops. I was wrong -- again.
David Murray Jr. jumped by Brian Calhoon on lap three to take the lead, and he'd eventually go on to win his fifth feature in Hays. But the trip to victory lane didn't come as easy as some of his others this season at RPM.
Dylan Sherfick had his motor issues figured out and was nipping at Murray's heels for a good portion of the race until he nearly spun in turn four on lap 16, only to correct the car and keep going.
That allowed Calhoon back in second place for three laps.
That's when Jordan Grabouski from Beatrice, Neb., entered the fray. Grabouski had to transfer from the B-main -- he finished third -- after not being able to get his car going once out for his heat race.
That left him starting 19th for the A-main.
Then he was battling for the runner-up spot.
Are you kidding me?
On lap 24, Grabouski gave Murray a tap on the back bumper in turns three and four, then showed him a nose on the final turn a lap later before Murray held off the charge to win.
I should have expected more from Grabouski. After all, he won last year's Fall Nationals in Hays and was the defending IMCA national champion.
But seriously, who expected him to come from 19th and have a chance to win it in a field of drivers that talented? Certainly not me.
That one was worth two smacks to the face. Smack. Smack.
I think I'm going to take a few weeks off and let my mug heal up.
I'm certain it won't get any better than that this year at RPM.
It's not like Kenny Schrader and Clint Bowyer are coming to town to go racing at Mod Mania on Aug. 7. Or the 305 and 360 sprint cars are coming to town Aug. 31. Or the track is hosting the sixth annual Fall Nationals in October.
* NICK SCHWIEN, HDN