Stories

Walinder breaks through for URSS victory

By the URSS

COLBY, Kan. -- Mark Walinder had been oh so close to capturing his first win in the United Rebel Sprint Series during his racing tenure.

But every time a win was within reach, something would happen at the end of the race to snuff out his chances at taking the checkered flag.

The same scenario played out again Saturday night at Thomas County Speedway in Colby. Only this time, Walinder would not be denied as he captured the win on the high-banked 3/8-mile dirt oval.

"We've been working hard to do this," the veteran driver said. "We've had a couple chances where we've led down to the last coupe of laps and broke. So it's nice to finish it off."

Walinder started outside the second row as Butch Hardman and John Webster started on the front row.

Webster led for the first five laps as Walinder tucked in behind him.

"We've been kind of running up front, just missing it a little bit,"  Walinder said. "I think we found it tonight. It feels good."

Walinder made the pass for the lead on the sixth lap and set sail, building a huge lead that reached nearly a straightaway.

Meanwhile, Webster and Blake Smith were battling well behind him for the runner-up spot as the top cars entered lap traffic.

With Walinder staked to a large lead, Smith finally got by Webster into second on lap 14. But Smith was facing a huge gap between him and the leader while trying to maneuver through lap traffic as well.

Taylor Velasquez, who started eighth, passed Webster on lap 17 to move into third. But with four laps remaining, Smith and a lap car got together on the front straightaway, sending Smith's car and Chuck Lutters spinning and sliding backwards into the infield -- bringing out the lone caution and bunching up the field.

"It was real important," Walinder said about jumping out front early. "In lap traffic, I was doing OK for awhile. But then I got kind of hung up with some as the rubber went down. The yellow flag actually came out and helped me."

The caution foiled Walinder's plans at the easy win with such a large advantage. Instead, he'd have to fend off the rest of the field.

The caution gave Velasquez the opportunity he needed, putting him right behind Walinder on the restart, followed by Webster, Jake Bubak and Luke Cranston.

"It had been a tough race," Velasquez said. "The car was starting to get tighter and tighter as the race went. It was starting to take rubber. I thought we might have had a shot. We had to make it work going into one and two. That race went by so quick, it seemed like we just ran out of time real quick. I had to make it happen because it was just a rubber-down race track. Not much you can do but kind of jump in line sometimes unless you could make something else work sometime."

Walinder got the jump on the restart and held on the final four laps for his first feature win in the URSS. Velasquez finished second, with Webster in third, Cranston in fourth and Bubak in fifth.

"We've been kind of running up front, just missing it a little bit,"  Walinder said. "I think we found it tonight. It feels good."

Walinder became the 10th different driver to win in 11 URSS events this year. Only C.J. Johnson has multiple wins this year with the Rebels.

Heat race winners were Cranston and Bubak.

The Keizer Aluminum Wheels Hard Charger Award went to Velasquez, who went from eighth to second.

Feature results

1. Mark Walinder, 2. Taylor Velasquez, 3. John Webster, 4. Luke Cranston, 5. Jake Bubak, 6. Coby Pearce, 7. John Jacob, 8. Brian Hardman, 9. Butch Harman, 10. Blake Smith (DNF), 11. Chuck Lutters (DNF), 12. Luke Lucero (DNF), 13. Zac Taylor (DNS).