KOKOMO, Ind. — While chasing polesitter Brandon Overton early in Monday’s 40-lap XR Super Series feature at Kokomo Speedway, Tyler Erb had an inkling he needed to jump into the high groove. Shane Clanton confirmed Erb’s suspicions.
The fourth-starting Clanton swept around Overton on the fifth lap, then won a late-race duel with Erb en route to his third XRSS victory of the season. The 47-year-old Zebulon, Ga., driver led all but seven of 40 laps in collecting a $20,000 payday in the first of two weeknight events at the quarter-mile bullring better known for wingless sprint car racing.
“I was being a little too patient with Brandon and when Shane passed me I was like, 'Man, that's probably where I should’ve been,’ ” Erb said after watching Clanton accept the $20,000 check and winner’s hardware.
Clanton, a World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series regular who previously won on the first-year tour at the Belleville (Kan.) High Banks and Gondik Law Speedway in Superior, Wis., was glad to add another lucrative victory.
“Hats off to (series founder) Barry (Braun) and (race director) Bucky (Doren) and all the guys at XR for giving us a race that we can make a lot of money at,” Clanton said. “I hope a lot of fans are watching back at home. Just glad to be here.”
Clanton, who slapped the turn-four wall heading for the checkers, crossed the finish line 0.521 of a second ahead of his fellow second-row starter while Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., nabbed the third position. Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. — piloting the family-owned No. B5 that he'll return to next year on a full-time basis — improved a dozen positions to finish fourth and top-ranked Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., rounded out the top five finishers. Overton, who lowered the track record in time trials and led the first four laps, faded to a ninth-place finish.
Once Clanton cleared Overton, he ran mostly unchallenged until the halfway point when Erb turned up the wick. The Best Performance Motorsports driver, who scored his first top-five finish since Aug. 19, got alongside Clanton exiting turn four on the 24th lap, but Clanton turned back the challenge and the race’s lone caution appeared on the 28th lap for Brian Shirley’s flat tire.
Erb pounced on the restart, blazing down the backstretch and diving under Clanton in turn three to take the lead. As the frontrunners swapped grooves and positions, Clanton regained the lead on the 30th lap and kept Erb in check the rest of the way.
“If I made a good corner (turns) three and four, I knew I could beat him off turn four. So I just had to do what I had to do,” Clanton said, who noted that his car suffered a little damage in his last-lap contact with the wall. “It was bad. I hit the fence pretty hard. I hit the wheel then, so we've some work to do to fix the rear end” before Tuesday’s $40,000-to-win program.
After leading laps 28-29, Erb looked for another opening that never came.
"I kept leaving him a lane off the top of (turn) four there just because he was going to cross me or do something and I was hoping that he would just make a big enough mistake (where) I could get a little bit of a run,” said Erb, pleased that the series has broken from other organizations and dropped the so-called droop rule that restricts rear-deck heights. “But all in all, it was really good. It’s nice, you know, when you raise this spoilers back up, the racing is 100 times better and I think anyone here could agree with that. It was a really good race. I just would like to be in Shane's position, but it gives us a lot of momentum heading into tomorrow.”
Owens wasn’t far behind but didn’t attack the track as fiercely as Clanton and Erb.
“I should probably just get up on track and be a little more aggressive. I had a pretty good hot rod tonight and you know I just got kind of content with third because I was just kind of defensive-driving a little bit,” Owens said. “ I didn't know where the fourth-place guy was at or nothing, so I should have got up top with the rest of them guys because clearly, the middle and up was a whole lot faster, but I just kept digging and digging and I thought well, ‘Maybe they'll miss up and I'll have a clear line down here to get by ‘em.’ ”
Notes: Clanton scored his seventh overall victory of the season. … He won five days earlier in a prelim at the 18th annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway. … Ricky Thornton Jr. ran as high as fifth but retired with 12 laps remaining when a rock knocked a brake bleeder off. ... Bobby Pierce broke a rod in hot laps and headed back to Illinois early (he also broke a motor the previous day on Knoxville, Iowa). … Among drivers failing to make the feature lineup: Shannon Babb, Kent Robinson, Steve Casebolt, Daulton Wilson, Rusty Schlenk and recent Cherokee Speedway Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Smith.