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November 2, 2020

Diamond Dozen: 12 moments to remember from Lucas Oil Speedway's 2020 season

Despite a delayed start due to COVID-19, Lucas Oil Speedway enjoyed a 2020 with many memorable moments - including home-state driver Payton Looney's victory in the Show-Me 100 Presented by
WHEATLAND, MO. (Nov. 2, 2020) - What began as a season in doubt before a delayed opening night due to the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to produce its usual amount of memorable moments at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Once the season began on May 16 with the Big Adventure RV Weekly Racing Series opener, it clicked off without a rainout and even included a couple of mid-week specials that proved to be popular.
"It turned out to be a really good season and we want to thank all our fans and drivers for taking the necessary measures to insure that we could race, week after week," Lucas Oil Speedway General Manager Danny Lorton said. "The fans were great about following the social distancing guidelines and so were the drivers. It was a team effort by everyone involved."
The 2020 Lucas Oil Speedway season produced many memorable moments along the way. In coordination with announcers Corey Riggs and Shane Friebe, here is Public Relations Director Lyndal Scranton's annual "Diamond Dozen," a look at 12 races that stood out over the course of the Lucas Oil Speedway season:
No. 1 - The Show-Me 100 title stays home.
Driving a race for the ages, Payton Looney etched his name into exclusive dirt-track company. Looney, a 26-year-old from Republic, became only the second Missouri driver to win the Show-Me 100 Presented by with a flawless performance in the 28th annual edition of the event on July 18. Looney led 87 of the 100 laps, beating Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, North Carolina, by 1.677 seconds for the biggest win of his career.
Looney was asked in victory lane if he could believe he had just won a race he grew up watching and dreaming of someday winning.
"No, not really," he said. "I changed my mind-set a lot this year. I put a lot of pressure on myself the past couple of years. I just realized that the sun's coming up tomorrow. I have a beautiful wife and kids. There's always more races. I'm just thankful to win this one.”
Prior to Looney's victory in a race rescheduled from its traditional Memorial Day Weekend slot, Springfield's Terry Phillips in 1999 was the only Missouri driver to win the state's biggest dirt-track race
No. 2 - A "Hollywood" ending brings the fans to their feet.
Robert “Hollywood” Heydenreich passed Reed in wall-scraping final 50 yards to pick up the Pitts Homes USRA Modified feature win on June 18. Heydenreich made up three car lengths from the middle of turn four to the finish line, using the highest groove possible to pass reigning track champion Robbie Reed and bring cheers from the fans.
The 24-year-old from Bolivar, who says he was representing "all the low-budget teams," has been a fan favorite since breaking onto the scene three years ago in the B-Mod and being tagged with the nickname "Hollywood" after rolling his car and emerging, to cameras, with a smile.
No. 3 - Gustin over Moyer at MLRA Fall Nationals
Ryan Gustin threw a slider on Billy Moyer going into turn one on lap 36 and made it stick. The daring move propelled the Marshalltown, Iowa, driver to a $3,000 victory on Night One of the MLRA Fall Nationals Presented by Lucas Oil on Oct. 9. Gustin, 29, said it was a thrill to outduel Moyer, a 62-year-old Hall of Famer.
"Any time you can chase that 21 car (of Moyer) you're doing something right, for sure," Gustin said. "To pass him to get a win is pretty cool.” Gustin also won the Night One feature of the Fall Nationals in 2019.
No. 4 - Mullens earns first USMTS win
Tanner Mullens took command late when race-leader Terry Phillips suffered a mechanical failure and picked off the United States Modified Touring Series "Wednesday Night Madness" feature at Lucas Oil Speedway on June 3. Mullens, of Wichita, Kansas, earned $2,500 for the victory in a race that turned out to be a dandy after a slow start. It was the third-generation racer's first career USMTS triumph.
Dereck Ramirez finished second with Ryan Gustin - driving Ramirez's backup car - third and Dustin Sorensen fourth in the special weeknight event. "We've been close a few times," Mullens said of tasting USMTS victory. "To finally get one feels pretty good.”
No. 5 - Hafertepe earns another Hockett-McMillin win
In an absolute classic, Sam Hafertepe Jr. emerged from a three-way battle to win the 10th annual Jesse Hockett/Daniel McMillin Memorial on Sept. 19. Hafertepe, of Sunnyvale, Texas, grabbed the lead from Derek Hagar with two laps remaining and held on to earn his third Lucas Oil ASCS Winged Sprint victory in the Hockett-McMillin Memorial and take home $10,000.
Hafertepe worked past Mark Smith for second and then wiped out what had been a 1.3-second deficit and closed in on Hagar going into turn three on lap 38. Hagar pushed high, into the cushion, and Hafertepe capitalized with the winning pass. “I didn’t give up. I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing,”
No. 6 - Mittag takes Off Road Pro 2 finale
After being oh-so-close for two days at the Lucas Oil Off Road Shootout Presented by General Tire, Doug Mittag hoped to climb one notch higher. The veteran southern California racer did just that at Lucas Oil Speedway's off-road course on Aug. 23
Mittag, of Temeculah, California, passed points leader Jerett Brooks with three laps remaining and went on to capture the finale of a Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series tripleheader weekend as the series made its return to south-central Missouri for the first time since 2018.
Brooks, as he did a day earlier in victory, set a blistering early pace. He had a 2.1-second lead over Mittag as the mandatory caution waved after lap five, with Mickey Thomas third and RJ Anderson in fourth. The race took an eventful turn two laps later as Mittag pulled alongside Brooks in the s-curve and made the decisive pass.
No. 7 - Young McCowan finally gets to celebrate
At last, Dillon McCowan was able to properly celebrate in Lucas Oil Speedway victory lane, on July 11. The 16-year-old from Urbana held off Kris Jackson to earn the Ozark Golf Cars USRA B-Mod victory.
While it was McCowan's second official win of the season, the other came after the apparent winner was later disqualified and the fans had departed. Ever since, McCowan had craved a chance to take the checkers first and get to enjoy it in front of the fans.
"It feels amazing," McCowan said emerging from his car having led all 20 laps and collecting the $750 prize.
No. 8 - Fennewald rallies to last-lap triumph
Johnny Fennewald came from seemingly nowhere to capture his second straight Warsaw Marine & RV ULMA Late Model feature on May 30. After starting his season two weeks earlier with a DNF, the three-time reigning track champion from Appleton City made it two feature wins in a row when he made a last-lap pass of Kaeden Cornell in the headliner of the Big Adventure RV Weekly Racing Series. Fennewald took home $1,000 courtesy of Hickamo Country Store.
Fennewald said it took moving to the top groove and rim-riding his way toward the front. There were too many slide jobs to count among the leaders over the final few laps.
"I don't really like doing that. It's pretty abusive on equipment," he said. "That caution came out and I seen that Kaeden was not near as good in one and two and that's where I shine. I was like he can ride that cushion in three and four, but I'll pass him in one and two. It was like playing a chess game."
No. 9 - Taylor bags Big Buck 50 repeat
Peyton Taylor came to Lucas Oil Speedway on a mission to repeat his Big Buck 50 Presented by Whitetail Trophy Big Buck 50 championship. Call it mission accomplished for the veteran racer from Batesville, Arkansas on Oct. 17.
Taylor led all 50 laps Saturday night to capture the $10,000 prize at the 7th annual Street Stocks Big Buck 50 Presented by Whitetail Trophy.
Taylor did a reverse victory lap, in tribute to close friend Randy Sherril of Batesville who passed away recently of an apparent heart attack. “A couple of weeks ago, I lost a really good friend and this one’s for him,” an emotional Taylor said in victory lane.
No. 10 - Tony Jackson Jr. wins B-Mod Clash III
The Ozark Golf Cars USRA B-Mod Clash of Champions III Presented by went to Jackson - but not the Jackson many might have picked. Tony Jackson Jr., who earlier finished 10th in the MLRA Late Model feature, made the most of a rare appearance behind the wheel of a B-Mod on Oct. 10.
Jackson rallied from his 10th starting position, took over the lead on lap 27 and beat his cousin Kris Jackson - the defending Clash of Champions winner - by 2.8 seconds. Both Jackson are from Lebanon, Missouri. "It's a lot of fun," Jackson Jr. said, holding an oversized check for $3,000 and a championship belt."Kris does all the stuff to these cars. I don't touch this thing. It just shows you what kind of work he puts in. This thing drove itself."
No. 11 - Tucker Cox gets first feature win
Tucker Cox of Jefferson City held on to beat Kaeden Cornell by a car length in the Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Model feature in a thrilling finish for his first Lucas Oil Speedway win. "It's awesome," the 20-year-old Cox said, noting that he was frustrated and fed up after a mishap with a competitive car the week before.
"I was ready to park it for a couple of weeks," Cox said. "I felt like we could have won the last two or three weeks, but everything fell our way tonight and it was awesome."
No. 12 - Drag Boats return to Lake Lucas in a big way
For the first time since 2018, the roar of drag boat engines returned to Lake Lucas for three events during the season, kicking off with Kentucky Drag Boat Association events in June (Inaugural Summer Thunder on Lake Lucas) and August (KDBA Show-Me Shootout Presented by Lucas Oil).
The Diamond Drag Boat Nationals, over Labor Day Weekend, was co-sanctioned by the KDBA and Southern Drag Boat Association. It attracted a whopping 163 boats in professional and sportsman divisions.
No. 13 (Bakers' Dozen) - After a long wait, engines fire on opening night
After being delayed by more than six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lucas Oil Speedway season finally got underway on May 16 with the Big Adventure RV Weekly Racing Series opener. Derek Brown (O’Reilly Auto Parts Street Stocks), Robbie Reed (Pitts Homes USRA Modifieds), Kris Jackson (Ozark Golf Cars USRA B-Mods) and Kaeden Cornell (Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Models) won features.
For Brown, Reed and Jackson it was a sign of big things to come as that trio went on to earn track championships in 2020. It also was a night of smiles all around as racing action returned and kicked off a fun season.
For ticket questions or information for future events as Lucas Oil Speedway, contact Admissions Director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or email her at for more information.
Danny Lorton
Lucas Oil Speedway General Manager
Office: (417) 282-5984