NICK SCHWIEN •ÊHays Daily News Dylan Smith (95) takes the low line through turn one as he battles Kenny Schrader for position during a modified heat race Tuesday night at RPM Speedway in Hays.
By NICK SCHWIEN
The masses surrounded the pits of NASCAR drivers Kenny Schrader and Clint Bowyer following Tuesday night's Mod Mania event at RPM Speedway in Hays.
Occasionally, a few fans would venture into the area of Dylan Smith, offering congratulations and seeking his autograph.
The large trophy set on top of Smith's car, signifying he won the modified main event by beating out a talented cast of drivers -- including Schrader and Bowyer.
Smith, though, wasn't about to have a sour feeling more people weren't coming to his pit area instead of the other two drivers.
"They've paid their dues, earned every bit of respect they get," Smith said. "Just being able to race with those guys is awesome."
Smith earned his respect from the two drivers and the rest of the 50 modified drivers who competed Tuesday night by winning the 30-lap feature.
Smith is no slouch himself. He's crafted himself into one of the nation's best IMCA modified drivers, and he showed it.
Smith battled with Schrader early in the race before taking control and the win.
"It's awesome," he said. "This is all I race, plus a few late model races. But it's tough for them to jump in and do it. I know Kenny doesn't run much IMCA, and Bowyer not at all. It's nice to compete with them."
Smith started outside the front row alongside Schrader in the draw-redraw event. Schrader was the last of the 12 drivers to redraw following his qualifying heat. The only stick left was the pole position.
Smith earlier had drawn the No. 2 stick.
"We drew good, started on the first row for the feature," said Smith, who traveled from Osceola, Neb., to compete. "I lost the lead for a little bit and then found the groove on the bottom and came back and got the lead."
Smith led the first two laps before Schrader took the top spot. But on lap nine, Smith got around the NASCAR driver to take the lead -- one he never would relinquish.
Meanwhile, Schrader battled with Brandon Blochlinger for the runner-up spot before Josh Most entered the fray. Most moved into second on lap 12.
Behind the top two, the action was furious and featured Travis Sherfick charging his way through the field after starting 16th.
Sherfick moved into the top five on lap 11 and into the top three on lap 15 when he passed Bowyer.
He'd eventually made his way all the way up to second before running out of laps.
"Sometimes I surprise myself," Sherfick said. "I started 16th and was thinking if I could pull off a top eight spot I'd be happy, especially running with some of the competition we're running against. I would have never imagined I would have done that."
Most would finish third, followed by Jordan Grabouski -- last year's IMCA national champion and the winner of the 2011 Fall Nationals at RPM -- and Blochlinger in fifth.
Bowyer finished one spot ahead of Schrader in seventh.
But Smith was more than happy to take home the $2,000 grand prize.
"I kind of figured if they were going to pass me, they were going to pass me on the bottom," the 2009 IMCA national champ said. "I was trying to stay as close to the bottom while trying to maintain good speed. The track was a little rough, had a lot of character. I just tried to keep all four tires on the ground."
Schrader led six laps of the feature, while the highest position Bowyer ran in was fourth from laps 15 to 19 when he eventually was passed by Blochlinger -- who built Bowyer's car.
(To view a video of Bowyer's hot-lap sesson, visit the HDNracing page on YouTube, or click here)