By Mike Spieker
BATESVILLE, Ark. (September 29, 2018) – Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, N.C. romped the 28-car field Saturday night at Batesville Motor Speedway to claim Mark Martin’s second annual Race For Hope 74.
Strickler led all 74 laps around the high-banked three-eighths mile clay oval en route to the $20,000 payday.
“This is such an awesome event. Mark [Martin] does such an awesome job,” said Strickler in victory lane. “I love this race track. We had a fast car last year but came up just a bit short. I wanted this one so bad.”
The three qualifying night winners, Ricky Thornton Jr., Strickler and Jordan Grabouski, made up the front row for the three-wide start. Strickler grabbed the lead on the opening lap before the first caution of the event was waved on lap two.
Thornton placed a bid for the lead on the ensuing restart, pulling even with Strickler in turns one and two, but Strickler had the momentum down the back straightaway to hold the point. Behind the leaders, Grabouski and Chase Allen swapped the third spot on lap four, with Grabouski holding on to the position.
Strickler opened up a big cushion over Thornton 20 laps in by using the top side of the speedway. However, the bottom became the preferred groove for the entire field as the race approached the lap 40 fuel stop.
Thorton slipped from second to fourth following the lap 35 restart as both Grabouski and Jason Hughes got by. At the fuel stop, Strickler was followed by Grabouski, Thornton, Hughes, and Cayden Carter.
“If you can get out front, you can set the pace and go where you want. I knew I wanted to be leading and hoped there wasn’t going to be much lapped traffic. Those restarts got to be pretty treacherous there at the end.”
The top three remained unchanged as the race resumed following the fuel stop. A five-car pile up on turn one brought out the yellow again with 30 laps remaining. Robert Baker, Jason Wolla, Allen, Ricky Engels Jr., and Donnie Barnhart were all involved.
On the restart, Thornton reclaimed the runner-up position.
A series of cautions in the closing laps kept the leaders free of lapped traffic. On each restart, Thornton was strong and looked to take the point away from Strickler, but Strickler held his line on the low side of the speedway and fended off each challenge.
Strickler went on to take the win by 0.950 seconds over Thornton.
“Congrats to Strickler on the win. He had a really good car,” said Thornton after the race. “We weren’t too bad. [Grabouski] and I had a really good race going. Second still pays quite a bit so we’ll definitely take it and move on.”
Grabouski, Terry Phillips, and Tanner Black rounded out the top five.
Wendall Wallace was the hard charger of the race, advancing from 26th to 11th.
Tripp Gaylor won the $1,000 State’s Race. John Hansen also picked up $1,000 for his Manufacturer’s Race victory. Jesse Dennis grabbed the final qualifying position in the main event by way of his Last Chance Qualifier win while Donnie Barnhart was the lucky draw for the final starting spot.
Feature – 1. Kyle Strickler, 2. Ricky Thornton Jr., 3. Jordan Grabouski, 4. Terry Phillips, 5. Tanner Black, 6. Drew Armstrong, 7. Jason Hughes, 8. Peyton Taylor, 9. David Stremme, 10. Jeff Taylor, 11. Wendell Wallace, 12. Jason Wolla, 13. Tim Ward, 14. Timmy Culp, 15. Jesse Sobbing, 16. Kelly Shryock, 17. Jake O’Neil, 18. Ken Schrader, 19. Joel Rust, 20. Chase Allen, 21. Ricky Engles Jr., 22. Donnie Barnhart, 23. Robert Baker, 24. Cayden Carter, 25. Justin Kay, 26. Zack Vander Beek, 27. Jesse Dennis, 28. Tom Berry