NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Jesse Richter, Great Bend, competes in a modified Race of Champions heat race Thursday at the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.
BOONE, Iowa -- A wry smile was plastered across Jesse Richter's face as he stood in the Xtreme Motorsports enclosed trailer.
There was nothing that could have ruined the moment for the modified driver from Great Bend.
He was, in fact, a ROC star.
Richter just had pulled off one of the biggest feats in his career: qualifying for Saturday's Race of Champions feature.
"Hell yeah," Richter said enthusiastically. "I'm pumped. I'm just excited I made it. Now we have to draw Saturday to see where we start. Now it's down to 12 cars and only 12 laps. I might have something for them."
Richter qualified for the ROC main event by finishing second in one of six heat races Thursday at the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa. The six heats were made up of track champions from this season at tracks throughout the nation, or those drivers leading at respective tracks. A total of 71 drivers competed.
Richter has a 16-point lead at Thunderhill Speedway in Mayetta. That gave him the opportunity to compete in the hard-hitter heats.
"The Race of Champions is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "I finally got the opportunity to. When you're running your heat race, you're not necessarily racing against the best. In this Race of Champions, you're racing against every guy that's leading a track championship right now. So to actually go out and beat some of those guys, you know you've got something. That was pretty cool."
On Saturday afternoon, Richter will draw a card -- along with the 11 other qualifiers that include big names such as Dylan Smith, Jordan Grabouski and Johnny "The Jet" Saathoff -- to see where he starts in the race. The winner pockets $1,000, and extra money is awarded for leading laps.
What made Richter's run more impressive was how he got into second. He started seventh and rocketed into turn one on the start, passing three cars to take fourth.
"The start was awesome," said Richter, who put a 1st Class Chassis in an ROC feature for the first time in any class at Super Nationals. "I sling-shotted through there, and it felt good. I knew we had something then. I was just hanging out, holding on until someone made a mistake -- and they did."
Mark Elliott jumped to the lead and led the entire eight laps, but the action came for the second qualifying spot, with Cory Sample and Randy Havlik battling it out as Richter closed the gap.
Entering the final turn, Sample and Havlik bumped in the middle of the turn. Richter stuck his nose into the battle, making it a three-wide drag race down the front stretch to see who was the last qualifier.
"I really didn't think I had a chance," Richter said. "There were a bunch of heavy-hitters in there. But I got up to fourth and ran there the whole entire time. I really thought I was going to settle for fourth. Then that last lap, I saw them two beating each other up. I said, 'It's either wreckers or checkers.' We beat and banged all the way to the finish line, and I got them."
The moment turned out to be one of the biggest in his racing career.
Well, so far anyway. You never know what Saturday will bring.