Lonnie Wheatley, KILGORE, Texas (April 9, 2010) - Glenpool, Oklahoma's Matt Covington captured his first career Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series presented by K&N Filters feature victory by wiring the field in Friday night's 30-lap main event atop the high-banked, ½-mile Lone Star Speedway.
The 20-year-old bested a rugged field of 52 entries, beating Brandon Ikenberry to the stripe to assert himself as the leading 2010 Brodix Rookie of the Year contender after earning Newcomer of the Year honors last year along with a runner-up finish in 2009 ASCS Sooner Region points.
A few more laps though, and the outcome could have been different.
"I could feel the right rear chattering worse and worse after that last restart," Covington commented in reference to the final restart with five laps remaining. "I knew it wouldn't last much longer, I was just hoping we could make it to the finish."
Racing into the redraw by winning his heat race from the front row outside, Covington drew the front row outside for the main event and outgunned pole starter Kenneth Walker for the lead at the drop of the green flag aboard the Covington Motorsports Wesmar-powered T&L Foundry No. 95 Maxim.
As action quickly heated up, the caution lights flickered early when Justin Spoerl slapped the turn three wall and was forced pitside with race-ending damage with just one lap in the books.
Vaulting from fifth to second on the opening round, Travis Rilat put the pressure on Covington when the green flag flew again and the pair traded sliders on the fourth lap with Covington maintaining command as another caution flew when reigning ASCS Lone Star champion Kevin Ramey spun exiting turn four.
Back under way, Covington opened up an advantage of several car-lengths over Rilat, as the 2003 series champion was left to fend off Brandon Ikenberry in the Big Game Tree Stands No. 24x entry. Ikenberry ultimately got the best of Rilat by the time the caution flew after eleven laps for the disabled machine of Preston Peebles II.
Ikenberry kept Covington in his sights the rest of the way but was never able to mount a serious challenge as tire management became key in the final circuits.
"It's tough sometimes when you're leading, you don't know exactly where you need to be," Covington explained. "Right before that one caution (lap eleven for Peebles), I had been buzzing around the top and I caught all those lapped cars that were all running through the middle, that's when I knew I had to get down there."
With minimal tread remaining on Covington's right rear when the race's final caution flew with 25 laps in the book for Rilat, who surrendered third with his own shredded right rear, Covington nursed it home to preserve the victory.
"It feels great to get this first one, this is our biggest win by far," Covington explained of the $6,000 victory.
Ikenberry settled for a strong runner-up finish in his series debut, with defending series champion Shane Stewart surging from eleventh to claim the show position aboard Paul Silva's Wesmar-powered Rockstar Energy Drink No. 57 A.R.T., moving atop the $60,000 championship points chase in the process.
Jason Johnson climbed from tenth to snare fourth in the Jason Johnson Racing Don Ott-powered Haynes/Don Pope Transportation No. 41 Maxim, with Brian Brown rounding out the top five in the FVP No. 21 Maxim.
Dustin Morgan was the second of three Brodix Rookie of the Year contenders among the top ten by finishing sixth just ahead of fellow rookie shoe Kyle Hirst of Loomis, CA. Jesse Hockett picked off Hard Charger honors by racing from 19th to eighth, with Matt Sherrell and 21st-starter Tony Bruce, Jr., completing the top ten.
Ramey rebounded from his early spin to claim eleventh, tops amongst the ASCS Lone Star ranks.
After Rilat exited five laps short of the checkered with abused right rear rubber, Danny Wood held fourth until his right rear gave way on the final circuit to demote him to 15th in the final rundown.
Riding a wave of three consecutive Lucas Oil ASCS National wins in a row into the night, Sammy Swindell was forced to utilize a provisional to start the main event. Swindell worked his way into the top ten, only to have his tire give out less than two laps shy of the checkered flag.
Hirst, Brown, Morgan, Covington, Ramey and Bean Elliott topped heat race action, with Spoerl and Jack Dover victorious in the twin "B" Mains.
The night's first red flag flew in the fourth heat race when Matt Clevenger got into the turn three wall and spun, leaving no place to go for Zach Chappell, Martin Edwards, Sean McClelland and Peebles. Edwards got upside down and was done for the night along with Clevenger and Chappell, while McClelland and Peebles were able to continue on.
Koty Adams flipped down the frontstretch in an opening lap scrum in the First "B" Main, with the red flag flying again on the second try when Chris Coker and Brandon Moseley got together after Joshua Hodges lost power in the opening pair of corners.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car action continues on Saturday night at Little Rock's I-30 Speedway, with racing action going green at 7:30 p.m.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters
Lone Star Speedway Results:
Heat Races (Top 16 in Passing Points to "A" Main; Balance to 2 "B" Mains):
Heat One (8 Laps): 1. 6-Kyle Hirst, 2. 29-Travis Rilat, 3. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 4. 71-Channin Tankersley, 5. 10a-Ricky Logan, 6. 75-Jesse Hockett, 7. 30-Brandon Corn, 8. 9-Brian Parker, 9. 14e-Todd Evans.
Heat Two (8 Laps): 1. 21-Brian Brown, 2. 35-Matt Sherrell, 3. 57-Shane Stewart, 4. 24x-Brandon Ikenberry, 5. 6s-Justin Spoerl, 6. 10-Sammy Swindell, 7. 99-Brady Bacon, 8. 11-Justin Melton, 9. 80-Josh Hawkins.
Heat Three (8 Laps): 1. 93-Dustin Morgan, 2. 91x-Taylor Milton, 3. 2-Kenneth Walker, 4. 74e-Claud Estes, 5. 87x-Billy Melton, 6. 1r-Scott Reneau, 7. 7-Don Young, 8. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 9. 11m-Brandon Moseley.
Heat Four (8 Laps): 1. 95-Matt Covington, 2. 41-Jason Johnson, 3. 88-Tim Crawley, 4. 44w-Austen Wheatley, 5. 0c-Preston Peebles II, 6. 1-Sean McClelland, 7. 31-Matt Clevenger, 8. 50z-Zach Chappell, 9. 45-Martin Edwards.
Heat Five (8 Laps): 1. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 2. 3g-Darren Long, 3. 9x-Gary Wright, 4. 53-Jack Dover, 5. 5h-Justyn Cox, 6. 76-John Ricketts, 7. 87a-Andrew Marshala. DNS: 24-Justin Carver.
Heat Six (8 Laps): 1. 30x-Bean Elliott, 2. 94-Danny Wood, 3. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 4. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 5. 45k-Kolt Walker, 6. 16-Koty Adams, 7. 5c-Chris Coker. DNS: 17-Bruce Griffith, Jr.
"B" Mains (Top 3 From Each Advance to "A" Main):
First "B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 6s-Justin Spoerl, 2. 75-Jesse Hockett, 3. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 4. 9x-Gary Wright, 5. 99-Brady Bacon, 6. 44w-Austen Wheatley, 7. 30-Brandon Corn, 8. 1-Sean McClelland, 9. 74e-Claud Estes, 10. 80-Josh Hawkins, 11. 24-Justin Carver, 12. 87a-Andrew Marshala, 13. 9-Brian Parker, 14. 71-Channin Tankersley, 15. 87x-Billy Melton. DNS: 1r-Scott Reneau, 50z-Zach Chappell, 45-Martin Edwards.
Second "B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 53-Jack Dover, 2. 10a-Ricky Logan, 3. 88-Tim Crawley, 4. 4-Eric Baldaccini, 5. 5h-Justyn Cox, 6. 7-Don Young, 7. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 8. 11-Justin Melton, 9. 76-John Ricketts, 10. 45k-Kolt Walker, 11. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 12. 5c-Chris Coker, 13. 11m-Brandon Moseley, 14. 10-Sammy Swindell, 15. 16-Koty Adams. DNS: 31-Matt Clevenger, 14e-Todd Evans, 17-Bruce Griffith, Jr.
Lone Star Speedway "A" Main Event:
"A" Feature (30 Laps): 1. 95-Matt Covington, 2. 24x-Brandon Ikenberry, 3. 57-Shane Stewart, 4. 41-Jason Johnson, 5. 21-Brian Brown, 6. 93-Dustin Morgan, 7. 6-Kyle Hirst, 8. 75-Jesse Hockett, 9. 35-Matt Sherrell, 10. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 11. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 12. 88-Tim Crawley, 13. 3g-Darren Long, 14. 10a-Ricky Logan, 15. 94-Danny Wood, 16. 53-Jack Dover, 17. 30x-Bean Elliott, 18. 10-Sammy Swindell, 19. 2-Kenneth Walker, 20. 29-Travis Rilat, 21. 91x-Taylor Milton, 22. 9x-Gary Wright, 23. 0c-Preston Peebles II, 24. 6s-Justin Spoerl.
Lap Leaders: Matt Covington 1-30.
Note: Gary Wright and Sammy Swindell utilized provisionals based on 2009 owner's points to start the "A" Main. It was Wright's second provisional of the year and Swindell's first.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Points (Top 15): 1. Shane Stewart 257, 2. Sammy Swindell 244, 3. Jason Johnson 236, 4. (tie) Jesse Hockett and Tony Bruce, Jr. 235, 6. Danny Wood 230, 7. Ricky Logan 218, 8. Matt Covington 215, 9. Kevin Ramey 212, 10. (tie) Travis Rilat and Brady Bacon 200, 12. Jack Dover 196, 13. Brian Brown 190, 14. Dustin Morgan 187, 15. Kyle Hirst 184.
ASCS Lone Star Region Points (Top 10): 1. Kevin Ramey 150, 2. Bean Elliott 142, 3. Preston Peebles II 135, 4. Justin Spoerl 130, 5. Eric Baldaccini 125, 6. Brandon Corn 122, 7. Justin Melton 119, 8. (tie) John Ricketts and Claud Estes 116, 10. (tie) Kolt Walker and Josh Hawkins 110.