MACON, Ill. (Sept. 21, 2013)-Danny Stratton won a fiercely fought feature in the POWRiLucas Oil National Midget Series and Nathan Benson drove to his fourth victory of the season in the POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series on Saturday at one-fifth mile Macon Speedway.
Stratton’s triumph in a 30-lap race that had four lead changes was the eighth of his POWRi career, but his first in 12 events this season. He finished two car lengths ahead of Andrew Felker and championship leader Zach Daum was third.
“It’s been a trying year, but we finally got it done,” Stratton said. “It’s my first race with the DRC chassis. I just thought I’d try it and I liked it.”
Stratton started on the outside of the second row in the Hans Lien-owned Esslinger-powered DRC and ran third through two red flags in the opening seven laps. He was running several car lengths behind Felker, who started on pole and led the opening 13 laps, and Tyler Thomas, who began challenging Felker with a series of slide jobs.
Thomas of Collinsville, Okla., passed Felker on the 14th lap in turns one and two. Stratton overtook Felker in turns three and four for second and was a few feet behind Thomas at start/finish. By the next time around, Stratton had passed Thomas to take the lead.
“We had the first five or six laps with the red flags, but once Felker and Thomas got rolling, they were slowing each other’s momentum with the slide jobs,” Stratton said. “I’m not sure they knew I was that close and kind of snuck up on them and got the lead.
“The car was good and I didn’t’ have any problems until getting into lapped traffic. It seemed like I didn’t have anywhere to go and not get slowed down.”
The final 24 laps were run under green and Stratton was on front for 15 of 16. Felker’s Spike-Fontana took the lead in traffic on the 27th, but couldn’t hold it.
“It feels good to run that good, but we led nearly half the race and it’s a disappointment not to finish it off,” the 20-year-old from Carl Junction, Mo., and 2012 POWRi National Midget champion said. “Tyler and I were sliding each other and by the time Stratton got by us, we didn’t have a chance.
“But once we got into lapped traffic, Stratton made some mistakes and getting caught behind slowercars and I had a shot at him. It would have been nice to have five more laps.”
Felker shaved 10 points off Daum’s lead and trails Daum officially by 270 points, 4,030-3,760. But when the POWRi rule that requires each driver to drop two events at the end of the season is included, Daum’s advantage is 180 points, 3,920-3,740. Four events remain.
“We’re still in contention,” Felker said.
Daum had a narrow escape from disaster that would have swallowed most of his championship lead.
On the 16th lap, Daum’s Toyota-powered Eagle touched wheels with Nick Knepper’s Spike-Esslinger exiting turn four. Daum went partially airborne and made contact with the outside wall on the front straight. The impact broke a part that held on the rear end, but the Eagle came down on the track and kept going.
“Luck,” the 22-year-old from Pocahontas, Ill., said. “I thought we were flipping. I was sure we were going for a ride. I don’t know how it happened that we kept going.”
Benson’s victory combined with championship leader Cale Thomas’ crash on the 11th lap and 21st-place finish substantially narrowed the gap in the championship. Thomas leads by 40 points, 2,330-2,290, when the rule eliminating the worst two finishes of the year is included. Two events remain.
Benson started on pole and led 19 of 20 laps in his Pace-Suzuki. The 29-year-old from Concordia, Mo., held off Jacob Patton’s Boss-Suzuki by four car lengths and Aaron Andruskevitch was third.
“Cale (Thomas) has been so fast all year, I hate to see him lose his championship lead like that,” Benson said. “I’d rather race him for it. We’ve got two races left and we’ll see what happens.
“I love this Macon track. I had my first POWRi win here in 2010 and getting going on the top is fabulous.”
Patton of Bethalto, Ill., has missed most of the season with a broken finger. He started on the outside of the front row and, running the inside, led the ninth lap, but couldn’t keep up with the outside-running Benson. Patton’s second was the best finish for the first-year Boss chassis.
Thomas was running third when Andruskevitch tried pass him with a slide job in turn four. They touched wheels and Thomas’ Sawyer flipped and crashed hard on the front straight. The 15-year-old from Fairland, Ind., wasn’t injured.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series feature results (30 laps): 1. Danny Stratton, 2. Andrew Felker, 3. Zach Daum, 4. Daniel Robinson, 5. Bubba Altig, 6. Tyler Thomas, 7. Garrett Aitken, 8. Parker Price-Miller, 9. Justin Peck, 10. Austin Brown, 11. Jake Neuman, 12. Daniel Adler, 13. James Eden, 14. Tony Roney, 15. Nick Knepper, 16. Shane Hollingsworth, 17. Terry Babb, 18. Colten Cottle, 19. Tyler Robbins, 20. Jeff Flesher, 21. Logan Hupp, 22. Jake Blackhurst.
POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series feature results (20 laps): 1. Nathan Benson, 2. Jacob Patton, 3. Aaron Andruskevitch, 4. Nick Bailey, 5. Jake Neuman, 6. Nic Harris, 7. Jimmy Miller, 8. Matt Ponder, 9. Trey Datweiler, 10. Max Pozsgai, 11. Joe Faloon, 12. Nick Knepper, 13. Jeremy Zumwalt, 14. Devin Feger, 15. Joey Wirth, 16. Derek Schuett, 17. Shelby Bosie, 18. Kyle Schuett, 19. Evan Weyant, 20. Trent Mulligan, 21. Cale Thomas, 22. Jason Harms.
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