TERRE HAUTE —
Kenny Wallace won the UMP modified feature, leading flag-to-flag for the victory on Thursday night at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Wallace, a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver from 1990-2008, couldn’t have more thrilled to become part of a racing revival at the venerable dirt oval.
“I don’t know how it happened, but it’s one of the great tragedies of dirt racing for this track to shut down,” said Wallace, referring to a period of inactivity in the late 2000s. “They finally have the right promoter, Bob Sargent. He was voted Promoter of the Year by his comrades. It looks they’re going to survive here.
“It’s crazy to think one of the top 10 legendary tracks in the United States shut down. This place needs passion. Bob has passion,” Wallace continued.
Wallace said the same to a pleased Action Track crowd, who saw him dominate the feature. He called the Action Track’s recent woes, “ridiculous.”
In the race itself, Wallace comfortably beat second-place driver Josh Ferguson of Covington. Richie Lex finished third.
Wallace was never seriously challenged. Fellow front row starter Tyler Nicely briefly threatened Wallace early, but was overcome on a restart and Wallace led comfortably the rest of the way.
“It’s everything to win here. I was so determined. I really wanted to win, but when you have Devin Gilpin and some of these guys here, I was really on the chip,” Wallace said.
Gilpin, one of the leading modified racers in the nation, was rear-ended in an early caution and finished fifth.
The modified main was marred by a major accident on the second restart attempt of the race. Several cars came together exiting Turn 3 with Mike Bechelli, Tommy Sheppard Jr. and Chad Evans coming out of it the worst.
Bechelli’s car flipped on its side in the middle of the racing surface and was struck on its roof, driver’s side, by the car of Sheppard. Evans was collected in the melee. At least four other cars were involved in the accident.
None of the drivers involved in the accident suffered serious injuries. Bechelli and Sheppard were looked at by medical officials, but neither was hurt seriously.
In the late model main, Brandon Sheppard dominated the early portion of the late model main. He took a lead over Brian Shirley and Don McNeal. He caught lapped traffic about eight laps into the feature, pulled out to as much as a straightaway lead, and appeared destined for a flag-to-flag win.
But McNeal stayed patient. He began to reel Sheppard in as Sheppard’s grip appeared to slip on the high line. A yellow flag bunched the field up, and on another restart after the original yellow, McNeal passed Sheppard exiting the second turn with seven laps to go and held on for the victory.
Curt Rhodes won the modified B-main. Off a restart, he passed Dennis Vandermersch and held on for two more yellow flags before winning under a yellow-checkered flag.
The heat races in both the modifieds and super late models were largely incident-free. The only lengthy yellow came in the first heat as Doug Bryant Jr. and Terre Haute’s Wil Newlin came together entering the third turn after an engine let go. Both drivers were unhurt.
Wallace, Covington’s Josh Ferguson and Robinson, Ill.’s Terry Messenger won the modified heat races. Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley and Dennis Erb Jr. won the super late model heats.
Racing returns to the Action Track next Wednesday as it hosts the Don Smith Classic, part of USAC’s Indiana Sprint Series.
Heat race 1 — 1. Kenny Wallace, 2. Levi Kissinger, 3. Devin Gilpin, 4. Roger Mills, Tommy Sheppard Sr.
Heat race 2 — 1. Josh Ferguson, 2. Richie Lex, 3. Garrett Sterett, 4. Robert Young, 5. Dave Baldwin.
Heat race 3 — 1. Terry Messenger, 2. Tyler Nicely, 3. Mike Bechelli, 4. Kenny Carmichael, 5. Chad Evans.
B-main — 1. Curt Rhodes, 2. Dennis Vandermersch, 3. Tres Mehler, 4. Wil Newlin, 5. Will Krupp.
Feature — 1. Kenny Wallace, 2. Josh Ferguson, 3. Richie Lex, 4. Garrett Sterrett, 5. Devin Gilpin, 6. Terry Messenger, 7. Kenny Carmichael Jr., 8. Gabe Menser, 9. Will Krupp, 10. Wil Newlin, 11. Tyler Nicely, 12. Dennis Vandermersch, 13. Curt Rhodes, 14. Rob Fuqua, 15. Tommy Sheppard Sr., 16. Chad Evans, 17. Levi Kissinger, 18. Roger Mills, 19. Mike Bechelli, 20. Dave Baldwin, 21. Tommy Sheppard Jr.
Super late models
Heat 1 – 1. Brandon Sheppard, 2. Don McNeal, 3. Bobby Pierce, 4. Jason Feger, 5. Jason McBride.
Heat 2 – 1. Brian Shirley, 2. Shannon Babb, 3. Ryan Unzicker, 4. Joe Janowski, 5. Frank Heckenest Jr.
Heat 3 – 1. Dennis Erb Jr., 2. Mike Spatola, 3. Jerry Lierly, 4. Russ Adams, 5. Duke Mounce.
Feature – 1. Don McNeal, 2. Brian Shirley, 3. Brandon Sheppard, 4. Shannon Bibb, 5. Bobby Pierce.