NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Josh Fairbank leads C.J. Johnson during a URSS heat race Friday night at WaKeeney Speedway.
NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Clay Sellard (85c) leads Jason Schoenberger (6x), Matt Henke (10), Brian Calhoon (43c) and Cody Gearhart (1m) into turn three during a modified heat race Friday night at WaKeeney Speedway.
By NICK SCHWIEN
WaKEENEY -- The car was fast in the heat race, so Josh Fairbank decided not to make any changes.
Instead, he sat back and relaxed as much as any racer can.
And at the end of the night, Fairbank was all smiles once again. The driver of the No. 51 sprint car won his first United Rebel Sprint Series feature of the year Friday night at WaKeeney Speedway.
While Fairbank didn't win his heat, he knew he had something special in his car. He ended up proving it, besting a field of top-notch drivers in the 30-lap main event.
"I think so," Fairbank said about having the car to beat. "I wish we could have started farther in our heat race, but it felt good coming from eighth to third. And getting around C.J. (Johnson) like that, I knew we had something for them. We didn't change anything going out for the A-main, and it was perfect."
Fairbank made the night perfect with his trip to the winner's circle, where he was swarmed by family, friends and his crew.
"When you go out in your heat race and you have (Darren) Berry and C.J. and J.D. (Johnson), you know it's tough," Fairbank said. "All the heats were stacked. To come out and win one on these guys, it puts you up on a pedestal right now."
Fairbank started outside the front row, alongside rookie Jeremy Huish in the feature. It didn't take him long to jump to the lead, grabbing it by the first turn.
Then, he had to hold on and wait out the cautions.
The first came when Zac Taylor bumped tires with another driver. His sprint car hit the front-stretch wall and rolled. He then was tagged by Koby Walters, ending both drivers' nights and bringing out the red flag.
"It seemed forever," Fairbank said. "On the red, I was just talking to myself, saying, 'Calm down. Calm down.' I knew I was ahead by quite a ways, but the cautions kept coming. I knew I had a good lead on them, but the cautions kept bunching us up. It was a long one. I'm glad it's over."
That red flag erased Fairbank's large lead and put Luke Cranston and J.D. Johnson right on his tail.
J.D. Johnson got around Cranston on the restart as Ty Williams closed in on Cranston for the third-place spot.
Meanwhile, C.J. Johnson -- who started 11th after winning one of two B-mains -- made his way to fourth on lap 10.
But Williams recaptured the position on the next lap.
"He was stuck," Williams said about Fairbank. "He was running my line that I found early to get around a few cars. I thought it was going away, but it was still working for him. That's all the way the cars are set up. It looked to me his car was a little tighter than the way we had ours. But racing down in Oklahoma, I've learned a lot of things that have helped me get a little bit faster. We kind of put some of that to use tonight, and it worked."
J.D. Johnson's night ended on lap 16 when his engine failed, ending a solid night.
By lap 22, Fairbank worked his way to a two-second advantage over Cranston in second place. Then the third caution flew.
"I had no idea," Fairbank said about his big lead. "I was trying to change it up in the corner, change my marks, made sure I hit different marks each time. I figured as long as they couldn't time me, I would be all right."
Fairbank pulled away again on the final restart, cruising to the win and a $1,000 payout.
Williams inched by Cranston on the backstretch on the restart and held on to second for the final seven laps.
"But I already had committed," Williams said about riding the edge on the backside of the track to make the pass. "So one of us had to give. There was enough room in there. From where everyone is sitting, it looks like there's not much there. But these cars aren't very wide. When you see an opportunity like that, you have to take it when the track is like that."
Cranston held on to finish third, and C.J. Johnson was fourth. Steven Richardson rounded out the top five.
The URSS 305 sprint cars competed at RPM Speedway in Hays on Saturday night, the first of a two-day show that finishes with tonight's $2,000-to-win feature.
* Halfway through the sport compact feature, Art Herzog got too low in the first corner and lost his momentum. That allowed Kiowa Higdon to take the lead and win again at WaKeeney. Kirk Pfannenstiel was second, followed by Herzog and Michael Smith.
* Jason Rogers passed Nick Tubbs on lap four of the stock car feature and held on to win. He had just enough to hold off B.J. Wagoner, who made a strong charge for the lead. Nick Tubbs was third, and Jeff Tubbs was fourth.
* Randy Wilson led the first three laps of the modified feature before Chris Heim took control. Heim and Cody Gearhart raced side-by-side for several laps before Gearhart assumed the top spot and pulled away for the win. Heim was second, followed by Dylan Sherfick and Kyle Rohleder.