NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News Garrett Hager, Hays, drives his hobby stock during a heat race Saturday night at RPM Speedway in Hays.
NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News From bottom to top, Dylan Sherfick, Dave Solberg and Kyle Rohleder compete in a modified heat race Saturday night at RPM Speedway in Hays.
By NICK SCHWIEN
A few times Saturday night, Garrett Hager was living on the edge.
The hobby stock driver from Hays didn't know whether things were going to pan out in his favor or not.
But after multiple cautions, door-to-door racing and a battle of survival, Hager walked away with the feature win in the hobby stock class at RPM Speedway in Hays.
"There was a couple situations I got myself into where I was going, 'Boy, I don't know if she's going to fit through here,' " Hager said. "It did, and it stuck. The car was awesome once I got to the top. The bottom, I really couldn't do anything on. It was stable, but I couldn't go forward. I was lucky to be able to get to the top as quick as I did and go and make up ground."
In a field of 25 cars, Hager started 11th and had a lot of ground to make up in the 20-lap feature to keep his track title hopes alive at RPM.
He was able to manage that and left the track Saturday night only a point behind Adam Armstrong in the standings with two points races remaining.
"Starting sixth row inside, we were a ways back there," Hager said. "But after the race two weeks ago when we ran a tire down with five laps left and had to go back to the back and got 18th, we lost the points lead and were seven behind the leader tonight. I knew we had to go to try to pick up as much ground as we could."
It didn't take Hager long to make up ground in the feature. He was seventh after the first lap, fourth after the second and third after the third.
"When there's 20 cars every night and they're running a B, you absolutely have to transfer out of your heat to get your starting spot," Hager said. "Otherwise, you're starting in the back, and who knows what can happen. But there's probably 10 cars easily that can win on any given night. There's a lot of tough competition, and obviously tonight there was."
Hager passed Kyle Pfeifer for the runner-up spot on lap five, then set his target on leader Tyrel Smith.
He battled Smith for 10 laps before finally making the pass for the lead.
Smith fell off the pace with a low tire, allowing Duane Wahrman to move into second on lap 15.
By that time, 10th-starting Cody Graham had worked his way into sixth. After lap 16, Graham was fourth and closing fast.
The fourth caution flew on the next lap, and Smith pitted with the tire issue, moving Graham to third on the restart.
"On that last restart we had, I was sitting third, and I had to start on the inside because Wahrman started on the outside," Graham said. "That was good, because I knew Garrett was going to run the high side. I thought if I could get in under Garrett and make it a drag race out of (turn) two, I had a chance. But he just got a heck of a run. That high side was where it was at tonight."
Graham got by Wahrman on the restart, but Hager had too much and pulled away in the final four laps for the victory.
"Once Garrett can pick his line and control of the race, he's the master of controlling a race," Graham said. "He's very, very good at that. And that high line was where it was at, and he loves that high line. It was good and fun. I wish I would have had a little bit more to run him down and make it more of a race, but there was three Bart cars in the top three. That's a good night for Marty (Barth)."
Wahrman finished third, followed by Armstong -- who got caught up in an early pileup and was forced to pit. He restarted 22nd and rallied to make tech lane.
Ron Wehling, who had a three-point lead over Armstrong entering the night in the points race, slowed during the late portion of the race and finished 15th. That dropped him to third in the track standings behind Armstrong and Hager.
* Kiowa Higdon continued to dominate the sport compact class in Hays, taking the lead for good on lap eight and leading the rest of the way. Michael Smith edged by Dean Herzog at the checkered flag for second, and Richard Tegethoff was fourth.
* Austin Walker led all 20 laps in the caution-filled Northern sport mod feature, but Clay Money gave him a late battle during the final laps before Walker took the checkered flag. Money was second, followed by Daniel Gottschalk -- who won Friday night in Salina -- and Blaine Walt.
* Incoming weather forced track officials to call the night three laps into the stock car feature. The stocks and modifieds will run double features Aug. 16.