NICK SCHWIEN â ¢Â Hays Daily News Ty WIlliams slides into turn one during a URSS 305 sprint car heat race Saturday night at RPM Speedway in Hays.
NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Ray Seemann prepares for the start of a United Rebel Sprint Series heat race Saturday night at RPM Speedway in Hays as the sun sets on the track.
By NICK SCHWIEN
The triple-digit temperatures weren't a deterrent.
Neither was the sporadic dust kicked up by the wind and cars.
Instead, RPM Speedway in Hays was a mecca of sorts for drivers and fans alike this past weekend for the two-day Wheatshocker Rebel Nationals featuring the 305 sprint cars of the United Rebel Sprint Series.
Adding to the fever pitch was the IMCA modifieds, Northern sport mods and stocks Saturday night. On Sunday, the IMCA hobby stocks and sport compacts added a supporting role to the winged warriors. School buses competed both nights as well.
It was the fifth year the Ellis County Fair hosted the event. And a chance at larger winnings brought out record numbers of drivers.
In fact, 31 modifieds took to the track Saturday night, including such big names as David Murray Jr. -- a four-time IMCA national champion -- and Jordan Grabouski, last year's national champ.
Plenty of local and area flavor was in the mix, too, including Dylan and Travis Sherfick, Jeremy Frenier, Brian Calhoon and a slew of others.
But the crowning feature event came Sunday night, when the URSS drivers battled it out for $2,000 to win.
Ty Williams of Liberal won the event, taking home his first Wheatshocker crown after a few years of disappointment in the event.
"I can't believe the crowds they put out here in Hays," Williams said. "I don't necessarily think of Hays as a racing town, but you turn around and the place is packed. It's like when you go to Belleville, and they fill the stands for a 305 race for us. This is actually turning into one of my favorite places to come just because you look around, and everywhere you have people that love it."
Williams swept the two-day event, winning Saturday night's feature as well. The 2010 URSS national champ finished second Friday night at WaKeeney Speedway, too.
"They did a great job with the track, especially with the 100 degree weather," Williams said after his Saturday win when he dominated the field. "You couldn't ask for a better track anywhere in the country."
Sunday's track changed some with the conditions and the number of cars competing on it the previous night.
That made it more of a challenge for drivers to find the preferred line.
"Ty was fast," said Keefe Hemel, who finished second to Williams on Sunday night. "There were a couple times I would catch him a bit coming out of turn two. He'd slide out and I'd keep it along the tires and get a good run. But I was just so bad in three and four. There just wasn't anything there."
The victory for Williams was his 17th in the URSS, tying him for fifth with Brian Herbert -- who was seventh Sunday night.
What made it even more special was the win came in Hays, a town Williams considered a rival during his football playing days for the Redskins years ago. That includes Hays High School football coach Ryan Cornelsen, who grew up in Liberal, and Cornelsen's father, Gary, who was Williams' head coach during his playing days in Liberal.
"Especially in Hays," Williams said about the win having added incentive. "We have a lot of Liberal people around here -- all the Cornelsens, Gary and Ryan up here as coaches now. It's kind of cool to come up here and win."
For Darren Bowman, the Wheatshocker event offered another opportunity to compete relatively close to his home in Kinsley. He finished fourth in Sunday's feature, his second-best finish in a Wheatshocker event. He was second to Patrick Bourke in 2009.
That made the high temperatures all the more bearable by the end of Sunday night.
"I hate sitting around all day Sunday when it's hot and stuff," Bowman said. "But once you get in the car like tonight, there wasn't a lot of classes and it wasn't bad. But it's a fun event. The fair board does an awesome job putting it on, and we always camp out and have a little party time. It's fun, and not very far from home."