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“This is the biggest dirt track race I’ve ever won,”, yelled a jubilant Kenny Wallace in Victory Lane Sunday night at Spoon River Speedway after capturing the 26th Annual Modified Fall Nationals event at the legendary oval. “And it’s the biggest check I’ve ever gotten or winning a race on dirt!”
Wallace got back around Josh Harris with three laps remaining in the 50-lap Main event, and held off the Owensboro, Kentucky driver for the win to add his name to the list of great modified drivers who have won the prestigious event, including several that were in the field Sunday in the event co-sanctioned by UMP and the American Modified Series.
“I was on that hard tire and just hoping and waiting for it to fire, and it finally did come to life,” said Wallace, the St. Louis native now living in and racing out of Concord, North Carolina. “I saw that (fellow NASCAR veteran David) Stremme found something up top and it was cleaning up a bit up there, so I went up there for a few laps. Then it started working in the middle and I picked up some speed in the final laps. I knew Stremme was running that soft tire, and pretty sure the leader (Harris) was on it, too, so I was kinda worried when this thing wouldn’t go, but eventually it did. I can’t be happier. ”
Harris, running low for most of the event, passed early leader Wallace on lap 21 and appeared to have the race all but locked up until a caution on lap 44 forced a tightening of the field. Wallace, working the middle grove just a lane higher than Harris, was able to get a run down the backstretch on lap 47, draw alongside into turns 3 and 4, and hold the outside coming off treacherous turn four near the wall, which kept Harris from his preferred line down the front straight in front of the grandstand, giving Wallace just enough edge to grab the lead going back into turn one to start lap 48.
Harris battled hard and clean through the last laps, driving deep into turn three with each circuit, but was unable to root Wallace out of the groove he had found, and they crossed the finish line nose-to-tail as the huge crowd stood and cheered.
With the win, Wallace joins a tremendously talented list of past winners, including four time winners Jim Hibser and the late Gary Cook, Jr., along with several who were in the field Sunday, among them Jeff Leka (1999), Chad Kinder (2004 and 2015), Kevin Weaver (2008), Allen Weisser (2009), and Jeff Curl (2013). Of those past champions, Curl had the charge of the night, qualifying for the main through a B-main and then driving all the way up to sixth before ending up 11th after a late fade.
Behind Wallace and Harris it was David Stremme, AMS points leader Trent Young and Steven Brooks, who ran as high as second and like Stremme stayed in the top 5 throughout. Sixth through 10th were Mike Harrison, Kinder, Weaver, Quincy’s Michael Long, and Leka.
Wallace set fast time in qualifying, and won one of the four heat races that set the lineup for the Feature. Leka, Harris and Matt Cooper of Mackenzie, Tennessee won the other three heats. Curl and Weisser won the B-mains to advance to the tail end of the feature lineup, starting 17th and 18th, followed by B-main runners-up Brian Lynn and Bill Roberts. The field was filled with four provisionals to make the 24 car starting lineup.
Super Late Model Feature winner went to National point leader Bobby Pierce. The UMP Pro Late Model feature winner was Tommy Elston out of Iowa and the E-Mod feature winner was Kevin Morrow.
Spoon River Speedway’s next racing event will be held this Saturday Night, The 33rd running of the Tom Knowles Memorial featuring the 410 MOWA Sprint Cars, the Lucas Oil National Midget Series, the UMP Modifeds and the Speed 2 Midgets. Check out Spoons Face Book page and their website spoonriverspeedway.com for more information.