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Via Late Race Dramatics, Ron Hartford Seals a Season Sweep at I-44 Speedway

Monday August 13, 2012


By Jordan Kuehne

Ron Hartford knew he’d stolen one. Sitting in his United States Super Truck unbuckling his belts after locking up a season sweep at Lebanon I-44 Speedway, Hartford proclaimed that “I didn’t deserve that one.” The Show-Me-State hotshoe was only able to score the victory in the 50-lap main event after a late-race caution erased JJ Sonneveldt’s lengthy lead and set up a green-white-checkered finish. When the green flag waved, Hartford hustled to a slim advantage and held on to take the trophy by a truck length ahead of Sonneveldt.

While the trucks headlined KTTS Night at the Races, Missouri’s only asphalt oval featured the ASA National Championship points leader in the star-studded O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models main event. Matt Wallace finished ninth while track points leader Mike Slone dominated en route to his fifth win of the year. Robert Reeves rolled around both J.C. Newell and Lil’ J.C. Newell on the way to his seventh victory of 2012 while Ricky Icenhower ran away from the field in the Budweiser Modifieds to collect his second triumph of the season. With a doubleheader for the Coca-Cola Chargers, Lauren Buhr pulled off a late-race rally for her first career win that included the most exciting finish of the entire year at I-44. Paul Jepson, the hard-luck loser in the first feature, got his revenge by holding off Buhr at the line in the second event and extending his points lead in the process.

The United States Super Trucks made their second and final visit of the 2012 season to Lebanon I-44 Speedway and it was series president Eric Caudell who set the early pace and collected the top spot as the green flag waved on the 50-lap main event. JJ Sonneveldt soared into the top spot with a move on the low side of the racing surface before drifting ahead of Caudell with 43 circuits remaining.

Memorial Day weekend winner Ron Hartford tried to follow Sonneveldt up to second but Caudell slammed the door shut on him and continued to try to fend him off for the bridesmaid’s position. Hartford finally took the spot a few laps later and set his sights on the leader, immediately beginning to slice into Sonneveldt’s ten car-length advantage. As Sonneveldt navigated around lapped traffic, Hartford slowly inched forward.

The Raytown, Mo., native had narrowed the gap to five car lengths before he temporarily lost the handling on his truck, dropping back to a straightway behind Sonneveldt as the laps clicked off at a rapid pace. While Sonneveldt had some trouble putting Caudell a lap down, an accident involving Dalton Kirk and Randy Price brought out a late-race caution with just two laps remaining, throwing a wrench in the leader’s plans for a comfortable win.

With a green-white-checkered set up, Ron Hartford tightened up his belts and got up on the wheel, nosing ahead of Sonneveldt on the backstretch with two laps to go and pulling away en route to a season sweep at Missouri’s only asphalt oval.

Hartford was sheepish in the winner’s circle after stealing a win he knew wasn’t his.
“I really didn’t deserve this win,” said Hartford after his unlikely triumph. “I gunned the restart and got ahead of JJ but he really deserved to take this home. I got lucky with that caution and took advantage at the end.”

Sonneveldt ended up with a tough-luck second place effort while Caudell came home third. Steve Smith finished fourth as Price returned to the track after his earlier mishap to round out the top five in fifth.

O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models points leader Mike Slone surged into the top spot on the third circuit of the 30-lap main event, blowing by Jim Reaves for the lead and quickly stretching the gap to a full straightaway.

Behind the freight train that was Slone, Reaves came under fire from Illinois hotshoe Tucker Cory for the second position as Cory got underneath of Reaves and spun himself out trying to make his machine stick on the low line of turn two, washing up the asphalt banking into the path of Dale Roper, Jr. and making contact with the veteran. Cory’s bumper was sheared off as the caution flew for the incident with 19 laps to go.

With his lead erased, Slone set out on the restart and quickly got away from Reaves. While Reaves came under fire from Jimmy Vanzandt for second, Slone eased away to a comfortable margin. As Reaves and Vanzandt battled for second, the two made contact on the exit of turn four sending Reaves shooting hard into the outside wall and bringing out another caution with 15 circuits remaining. Reaves’ night came to an end on the hook while Vanzandt was allowed to maintain his second place position on the restart.

When racing resumed, Slone once again slipped away to a lengthy lead while Ken Dickinson drove around Vanzandt for the second spot with 18 laps in the books. As the laps ticked down, Slone continued to pull away, making his fifth win of the season look easy as he finally ended his slump with a dominant trip to victory lane.
“We had some fuel pressure issues the last three weeks,” said a relieved Slone in victory lane. “We put a new setup in the car this weekend and tore it apart a few weeks ago and it showed. I’m out here to win the title in 2012.”

Dickinson notched a comfortable second place while Vanzandt held on for third. Dale Roper, Jr. scored a fourth place result and Grant Sharp grabbed a solid top-five with his fifth place effort.

Ricky Icenhower left the field in his wake as he roared to the early lead in the 20-lap Budweiser Modifieds main event. Points leader Tyler Scott soldiered into second and set his sights on the leader with 15 laps remaining. Scott got the break he needed when a yellow flew with six laps in the books for a solo spin by Chris Johnson as Icenhower’s straightaway advantage evaporated into the summer night. On the restart, Icenhower rolled to a three car-length margin over Scott as the race cruised by the halfway point. Scott slowly dropped off the pace of the leader as Icenhower ran away to a wire-to-wire win, his second of the year. Scott settled for a runner-up spot as his points lead got larger while Payton Lucas rallied to score a podium finish in third.

The 15-lap Hardee’s Sportsman headliner got off to a quick start as the elder J.C. Newell nabbed the top spot in the early portion of the event. His grandson, points leader Lil’ J.C. Newell, closed to his back bumper in second as Robert Reeves made it a three-car fray for the top spot. The yellow flew for a solo spin by the 16-year-old Newell with five circuits remaining after he got loose in turn three trying to fend off Reeves’ run at second. When racing resumed, Reeves rolled to the lead with four to go, pushing past the elder Newell on the high side and slipping away en route to his division-leading seventh victory of the season. J.C. Newell came home in the runner-up spot while grandson Lil’ J.C. made it a family affair with his third place effort.

Paul Jepson wasted no time jumping to the front of the first of two 12-lap Coca-Cola Chargers features, splitting the middle of a three-wide sandwich and emerging with the lead on the opening lap. From there, Jepson set sail on the field as action got tense in the middle of the pack. Eventually, Lauren Buhr burst into the bridesmaid’s position and turned her sights toward the leader, applying pressure to the points leader’s back bumper before coming off turn four on the final lap and making contact with Jepson, edging him out at the line by mere inches in what was certainly the closest finish of the 2012 campaign at Lebanon I-44 Speedway.

“I didn’t even know I’d won there at first,” said a stunned Buhr in the winner’s circle. “This is the first time I’ve won here and it feels great.”

Jepson suffered the hard-luck second while Jim Poindexter came home third.
Caston Jones rolled to the early lead as the Coca-Cola Chargers tackled the 3/8th-mile asphalt oval for the second of two features. Jones nabbed the edge after starting three-wide but Paul Jepson – eager to make up for his disappointing runner-up finish earlier in the evening – jumped into the top spot and didn’t look back. Lauren Buhr, who edged Jepson earlier in the evening, busted through the field into second with four laps to go but couldn’t track down Jepson. The points leader held on for his eighth triumph of the 2012 campaign and extended his lead in the standings in doing so. Buhr settled for second while Jones notched a third place result.

Racing returns to Missouri’s only asphalt oval this Saturday night, August 18, as the O’Reilly Auto Parts ASA Late Models ‘World 50’ headlines the 15th “Kickin’ Asphalt” program of the season at I-44. An action-packed undercard includes the Budweiser Modifieds and the Hardee’s Sportsman as well as the track’s two entry-level classes, the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors and the Coca-Cola Chargers. Spectator gates will open at 5 p.m. with the green flag set to wave at 7:30 p.m. sharp on the evening’s jam-packed slate of racing action.

For more information on Lebanon I-44 Speedway, including a full 2012 schedule and more, visit the track website at www.i44speedway.net or visit the track’s Facebook and Twitter pages online.

Lebanon I-44 Speedway – August 11, 2012
Race Results

United States Super Trucks

Heat 1
1. 97 Hartford
2. 69 Sonneveldt
3. 14 Smith
4. 75 Caudell
DQ 22 Martley

Heat 2
1. 42 Willard
2. 11 Price
3. 1 Seal
4. 64 Kirk
5. 31 Minor


1. 97 Ron Hartford Raytown
2. 69 Jim Sonneveldt Platt City
3. 75 Eric Caudell Piedmont, OK
4. 14 Steve Smith Edmond, OK
5. 11 Randy Price Independence
6. 31 Ted Minor Weatherford, TX
7. 42 Brennon Willard Sleeper
8. 64 Dalton Kirk Gardner, KS
9. 1 Don Seal Talaga, OK
10. 22 Mark Bartley Rogers, AR

ASA Late Models

Heat 1
1. 77 Slone
2. 9 Cory
3. 18 Reaves
4. 54 Scott
5. 2 Sharp
6. 35 Holt

Heat 2
1. 6 Wallace
2. 10 Roper Jr.
3. 67 Vanzandt
4. O2 Brown
5. 21 Dickinson


1. 77 Mike Slone Rolla
2. 21 Ken Dickinson Lebanon
3. 67 Jim Vanzandt Springfield
4. 10 Dale Roper Jr Fair Grove
5. 2 Grant Sharp Conway
6. O2 Brian Brown Springfield
7. 54 Tyler Scott Nixa
8. 35 Steve Holt Strafford
9. 6 Matt Wallace Concord, NC
10. 18 Jim Reaves Strafford
11. 9 Tucker Cory Quincy, IL


Heat 1

1. OO Johnson
2. 51 Kelley
3. 1 Rash
4. 26 G/O Lucas

Heat 2
1. 7 Icenhower
2. 57 Scott
3. 25 G/O Counterman
4. 21 G/O Hunt


1. 7 Rick Icenhower Fair Grove
2. 57 Tyler Scott Nixa
3. 26 Payton Lucas Fair Grove
4. 51 J.D. Kelley Walnut Grove
5. 1 Rocky Rash Elkland
6. OO Chris Johnson Lebanon
7. 25 G/O Stephen Counterman Fair Grove
DNS 21 Kevin Hunt


1. 6 Reeves
2. 15 Newell
3. 84 Newell
4. 21 Besser
5. 36 Higdon
6. A1 Newell
7. 63 Higdon


1. 6 Robert Reeves Camdenton
2. 84 JC Newell Decauterville
3. 15 Lil JC Newell Stoutland
4. 36 Jon Higdon Strafford
5. A1 Ben Newell Stoutland
6. 63 Chuck Higdon Strafford
7. 21 Randy Besser Branson


Heat 1
1. 27 Cherry
2. 42 Nisbett
3. 7 Poindexter
4. 5 Poindexter
5. 55 Coverdell

Heat 2
1. 11 Buhr
2. 44 Jepsen
3. 34 Jones
4. 6 Lewis

Feature 1

1. 11 Lauren Buhr Neosho
2. 44 Paul Jepsen Rolla
3. 5 Jim Poindexter Willard
4. 34 Caston Jones Belle
5. 27 Nick Cherry Springfield
6. 42 Jordon Nisbett Lebanon
7. 55 Ernie Coverdell Rolla
8. 7 Jesse Poindexter Willard
DNS 6 Richard Lewis Willard

Make up Feature

1. 44 Paul Jepsen Rolla
2. 11 Lauren Buhr Neosho
3. 34 Caston Jones Belle
4. 5 Jim Poindexter Willard
5. 42 Jordon Nisbett Lebanon
6. 27 Nick Cherry Springfield
7. 7 Jesse Poindexter Willard
8. 55 Shawn Coverdell Rolla
DNS 6 Richard Lewis Willard
DNS 30 Billy Taylor Willard

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This report was provided by an outside PR source and posted by Mike Neff.


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