Ron Wehling, Russell, competes in hobby stock hot laps Saturday at Fall Nationals VII.
John Hansen, Brush, Colo., pilots his modified during hot laps Saturday night at Fall Nationals VII at RPM Speedway in Hays. NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News
By NICK SCHWIEN
Perhaps it was the thrill of victory. Perhaps it was the aftermath of racing 40 laps nonstop.
Whatever it was, John Hansen was a bit lost for words.
The modified driver from Brush, Colo., won his first title at Fall Nationals VII on Saturday night at RPM Speedway in Hays, picking up a nice $5,000 check as the payout.
"It's awesome," Hansen said. "We've been coming here a long time and racing a while, and it sure feels good to get one of these. Man, the competition just doesn't get any better. Anybody can win this thing. There are so many good cars here. Just thank the Lord he let us win it tonight."
Hansen became the seventh modified driver in as many events to win a Fall Nationals crown, making sure there still wasn't a repeat winner in the division.
"I've been trying this a while, and I'm happy to get it done," said Hansen, who mentioned the win was the biggest of his career.
Hansen's day started well, with him drawing the pole position for the 40-lap, 24-car feature to cap the racing season in Hays.
But at the drop of the green flag, Hansen faded while Scott Drake grabbed the lead. Dominic Ursetta, who started third, quickly settled in behind Drake.
"The track, they worked it a little before we started," Hansen said. "So it was a little bit greasy and hadn't gotten quite worked in enough. I hit a few spots the first few laps that really put us behind. Once I got figured out where those spots were and could avoid them -- and then they came in, too -- that was the trick. It let those guys get out there. But once the track worked in, we were able to get back to them."
Hansen passed Ursetta for second on lap nine. On lap 14, he had run down Drake and passed him for the lead.
"I knew I had to go in a hurry, and I knew John was good," Ursetta said. "I caught Drake early and gave the bottom away. Then here came Hansen. He was really good. I don't think I could have ran with him."
As the laps dwindled, Hansen's lead grew. He had no trouble working through lap traffic, hitting his line every time.
"I guess after you run awhile and you don't see any noses poking in, you hope there's not a caution because it lets everybody catch back up," Hansen said. "Those lap cars are tough, too. They're all racing hard. And some were about the same speed. You just had to catch them and be patient with them and then get by them."
While Hansen cruised to the big payout, Ursetta set his sights on Drake. He reeled him in, passing him for the runner-up spot on lap 19.
"I've ran second a bunch, ran third," said Ursetta, who finished second. "I just can't win this thing."
Eddie Belec got by Drake on lap 22 to eventually finish third. Drake settled for fourth.
"I highly doubt it," Ursetta said about his chances of catching Hansen in the caution-free race. "He was really strong. I knew we were decent, but he was awful good. I would have had to work on it."
Iowa's Nichols rules stock feature
Mike Nichols believes he has a chance to win every race he's in. And when he starts on the front row, he'll take that chance any day of the week.
Nichols started Saturday night's stock car feature on the pole and led all 30 laps of the feature to claim the $3,000 payout.
"We didn't have to pass anybody this year," Nichols said. "But I'll take them any chance I get. We were talking about the fact that it's almost better to start back a little ways. But when it comes right down to it, I'll take my chances from the front row."
The victory was Nichols' third at Fall Nationals, including his second in a row. He also won the stock feature in 2008, the second year of the event.
"This year, I thought we were finally going to get the monkey off our back (at Boone)," Nichols said about the 31st annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa. "If I had to pick only one show I could win, it would be that one. But honestly, if you can't win that one, the Fall Nationals -- it feels really good, too."
Selden's Jason Rogers stayed on Nichols' tail the entire race. But even with five cautions, he never could get Nichols to slip out of his groove.
"I wanted first. I want to win this thing," Rogers said. "One year, some year I will get to win this one. But to run second to someone like Mike Nichols, what can you say."
Nick Tubbs ran third most of the race, only to be passed on the final restart with two laps remaining. He'd finish sixth.
That final restart gave Rogers one final chance at the win.
"Actually, I was too tired. I was just wanting it to be over with," Rogers joked. "Then I thought he was still sticking to that top, and that bottom really locked in with the rubber. I thought I had one shot at it. I wasn't going to hit him, but I drove it in there and it just didn't stick good enough. He's got just pure talent and forward drive I don't have."
Rogers was second, followed by Jeff Tubbs and Chris Adams. Josh Hudson, who started 12th, finished fifth.
Frye still the guy at RPM's Fall Nationals
The Northern sport mod track title went to Tyler Frye this year, and so did the Fall Nationals crown. Frye won his seventh feature race in Hays this year in dominating fashion. He rode the high line around the track for his fourth Fall Nationals title.
"We've always had really good luck here, and we did all season really," Frye said. "It's kind of my favorite track to go to every year."
Frye led all but two laps when Greg Metz held the top spot. But once Frye found the high groove, the race was essentially finished.
"It felt good," Frye said. "There at the end, I just kind of quit driving it. I really expected to not have any tires left on the car, but we actually still didn't even hurt the tires at all. I was kind of happy for that. We just got up on that top and cruised around and saved everything. I didn't hear anybody, so I didn't push the issue at the same time. If somebody would have stuck their nose down there, I'm sure we would have found that extra little bit of throttle. But it's fun. I love this place, and I love this show. This is our highlight of the year every year."
The lead would grow to as much as two seconds on lap 17 and stay that way until the checkered flag on lap 25.
Metz finished second, followed by Clay Sellard and Daniel Gottschalk -- who started 12th.
Wehling gets second chance at crown
A Fall Nationals title was within Ron Wehling's reach in 2012. But with only a few laps remaining, the win slipped away when he got too high in turn three.
This year, Wehling made sure there wasn't a repeat performance. The Russell hobby stock driver led all but the first lap of the 20-lap feature to claim the win.
"Finally," he said. "I let it go last year. I led something like 16 laps last year and lost it on the last two laps."
Wehling didn't falter this year. Instead, his lead grew as the race wore on.
"When I saw it was halfway done, about the next thing that I remember was the white flag," Wehling said. "I knew I had it within reach then. A lot of things were going through my mind when I crossed the finish line."
Brandon Beeter was second, followed by Jesse VanLaningham. Jamie Songer was fourth.