WHEATLAND, Mo. (July 18) — Payton Looney had a difficult time coming to grips with what he accomplished Saturday night at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Winning his home state’s marquee event — the 28th Show-Me 100 presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com — in just his fifth season of Super Late Model competition? It all just seemed too good to be true.
“Man, I really couldn’t believe it at first,” said Looney, whose only previous start in the Show-Me 100 finale came in 2017 when he finished 30th. “None of this ever sinks in right away, and people that say it does, they’ve either one too many of ‘em or they’re lying. It’s just surreal.”
But Looney, 26, of Republic, Mo., did indeed capture the race co-sanctioned by the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Association — and in convincing fashion. He grabbed the lead for good from Shanon Buckingham of Morristown, Tenn., on lap 20 and was never threatened again, building as much as a straightaway advantage en route to the $20,000 top prize.
Racing less than a month after winning his first-ever MLRA feature, Looney claimed his first career national touring series checkered flag and his fourth MLRA triumph in the circuit’s last six races. He also became just the second driver hailing from Missouri to win the Show-Me 100, joining Springfield’s Terry Phillips, Looney’s good friend who won in 1999 when the event was held at West Plains Motor Speedway (now Legit Speedway Park).
Looney swept the night, setting fast time and winning his heat race before thrilling the large partisan crowd that packed the 3/8-mile oval’s grandstand for the coronavirus-delayed century grind. Aside from ceding the lead to Buckingham for laps 8-19, Looney was flawless in circling the track with his Atnip Enterprises Capital Race Car and beating first-time Wheatland visitor Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, N.C., to the finish line by 1.677 seconds
Buckingham settled for a Lucas Oil season-best finish of third after losing second to Strickler on lap 82. Chris Ferguson of Mt. Holly, N.C., placed fourth and outside polesitter Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., finished fifth — both drivers cracking the top five in their first career Show-Me 100 starts.
Rick Eckert of York, Pa., made one of the best advances in the race with his 16th-to-sixth run in Texan Allen Murray's car while Lucas Oil Series points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., started 11th and quietly moved forward to finish seventh.
The race’s lone caution flag flew on lap 28 when Tyler Bruening of Decorah, Iowa, slowed with a flat left-rear tire.
While Looney’s victory certainly qualifies as an upset, he was nonetheless well positioned for success when he entered the event. His MLRA hot streak had him riding high, and just under one month ago, on June 24, he led an MLRA feature at Lucas Oil Speedway until Johnny Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., passed him with two laps remaining to steal the victory in an outcome Looney called “heartbreaking.”
“I knew that once I qualified good and once I won that heat race that I had a chance there to, you know, ride around and have a good finish,” Looney commented. “You never know if you’re gonna win. You always like to think you can, but I don’t know … everything just kind of played in my favor.”
That included the uninterrupted 72-lap stretch of racing that closed the feature. Looney had a straightaway on Buckingham by shortly after the halfway mark and didn’t see his edge dip below 2 seconds until Strickler made up some ground in the final circuits.
“That long green flag run really helped me, and I was able to get a lead,” said Looney, who started his racing career in Wheatland’s ULMA Late Model division in 2013 when he was 19. “And once I got that lead … the racetrack was really moving to the bottom and I was getting worse, but fortunately I guess everybody was getting worse.
“I really didn’t want to see a yellow (late in the distance),” he added. “I was scared to death if a yellow come out they’d blow by on both sides, I felt that bad.”
Looney’s trepidation over his car falling off gave him some anxious moments as the laps counted down.
“I really didn’t get like, ‘Where’s the white (flag)?’ until like 10 to go,” Looney related. “We’d go back by and I’d be like, ‘Really? We only ran a lap? There’s still nine to go?’ I remember seeing six (laps left) and then I quit looking at it, and then the flagman’s got to give you five to go and I’m like, ‘Well, OK, you ran another lap.’
“Once I got the two-to-go sign I was looking to my left and making sure everybody was still rolling and nobody was stopped (to bring out a caution). And we took the white and I was just gonna park it on the bottom.”
Moments later Looney flashed under the checkered flag uncontested, putting him in a dream-like state that seemed to ratify the newfound mindset he now employs.
“I’ve taken a whole different approach to racing this year,” said Looney, who was met in victory lane by a legion of family members — including his wife and their two young children — and friends. “I used to put so much pressure on myself because I thought I could win races like this, and when stuff would happen I’d beat myself up over it.
“I just come to the point where I’m really blessed and fortunate and I’ve got a really good wife and two beautiful kids and I’ve got a good job, so the sun’s coming up tomorrow and whatever happens, happens.”
Strickler, 36, shifted away from the inside lane most of the field took to running as the race wore on and used an outside charge to overtake Buckingham for second on lap 82. He proceeded to cut in half his approximately 3-second deficit to Looney over the remaining distance but couldn’t get close enough to pressure the winner.
“We had an awesome race car and I tried blasting that top and made up a lot of ground, but Payton was very good,” said Strickler, who earned $10,000 for his career-best Lucas Oil Series finish. “So congrats to him. That’s awesome, local boy to get the win, and I’m real happy for him … and I’m really proud of my team for a second-place finish. This is awesome, coming out on the road with the best in the business and being able to compete.
“I think we definitely had a shot at the win tonight,” he continued. “I think if we could’ve got a caution we would’ve made it exciting, but Payton was pretty good out in clean air too.”
The 47-year-old Buckingham was the only driver to pass Looney during the feature, but he gave the lead back to the eventual winner on lap 20 and wasn’t able to stay within striking distance of the top spot after lap 40. He still was very pleased with his podium finish, which marked just his second top-five finish of the 2020 Lucas Oil Series campaign in his Double Down Motorsports Longhorn car.
“I think we possibly had a good enough race car to win,” said Buckingham, whose only previous Show-Me 100 feature start resulted in a 14th-place finish in 2018. “Obviously (Looney) used more of the racetrack than I did, watching him get by and the way Strickler got by. The lapped cars definitely jammed me up a little bit (but) I should’ve put it in a couple places that maybe I was a little scared to, so I might have left a little on the table. But I’m not taking anything away from (Looney). He was good. He kept a straightaway on me most of the time.
“But man, I’m happy. We were really bad last night (Friday’s Lucas Oil event at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.) and we’ve had some really bad runs this year, so I’m tickled to death just to be competitive and be up there racing for the lead.”
Show-Me 100 presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Payton Looney (15), Republic, Mo., Capital, $20,000
2. Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., Longhorn, $10,000
3. Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., Longhorn, $6,000
4. Chris Ferguson (22), Mt. Holly, N.C., Bloomquist, $4,000
5. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20RT), Chandler, Ariz., Longhorn, $3,500
6. Rick Eckert (0E), York, Pa., Rocket, $2,500
7. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Rocket, $2,100
8. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, Rocket, $2,000
9. Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., Rocket, $1,800
10. Chad Simpson (1), Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Black Diamond, $1,750
11. Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., Black Diamond, $1,650
12. Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., Longhorn, $1,600
13. Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., Capital, $1,550
14. Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., Rocket, $1,500
15. Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., Rocket, $1,450
16. Johnny Scott (1ST), Las Cruces, N.M., Rocket, $1,400
17. Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., Capital, $1,350
18. Jeremiah Hurst (58), Decorah, Iowa, Black Diamond, $1,300
19. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., Longhorn, $1,250
20. Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, Capital, $0
21. Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., Black Diamond, $1,200
22. Jesse Stovall (00), Billings, Mo., Black Diamond, $1,200
23. Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, Longhorn, $1,200
24. Will Vaught (1v), Crane, Mo., Rocket, $1,200
25. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., Capital, $1,200
26. Tony Jackson Jr. (93), Lebanon, Mo., Longhorn, $1,200
27. Kolby Vandenberg (15), Ashland, Ill., Rocket, $1,200
28. Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., Rocket, $0
Lap leaders: Looney 1-7, 20-100; Buckingham 8-19
Fast qualifier (among 48 cars): Looney, 15.537 seconds
Heat race winners: Looney, Strickler, Thornton, Buckingham
Consolation winners: Pearson, Richards
Provisional starters: Moran, Bronson, Bruening, S. Scott, Hurst, Jackson
10:18 p.m.: Green flag for the feature ...
Lap 1: Payton Looney leads over Thornton and Strickler.
Lap 8: Buckingham overtakes Looney for lead.
Lap 20: Looney regains lead from Buckingham in traffic.
Lap 28: First caution for Bruening slowing with flat left-rear tire; Looney leads Buckingham, Thornton, Stovall, Strickler, Ferguson, Owens, Phillips, Erb and Simpson.
Lap 45: Looney in traffic with 1.5 second lead on Buckingham; Strickler challenging Buckingham for second.
Lap 50: Looney leads Buckingham, Strickler, Thornton, Ferguson, Owens, Stovall, Erb, Eckert and English.
Lap 65: Eckert inches past Owens for sixth racing a bit higher on the track than the mostly inside-hugging field; Looney leads Buckingham by a straightaway.
Lap 80: Looney still dominating with lead of over 3 seconds on Buckingham, followed by Strickler, Thornton, Ferguson, Eckert, Owens, Erb, English and Pearson ...
Lap 82: Strickler moves to outside and takes second from Buckingham; trails Looney by straightaway.
Lap 90: Looney leads Strickler by 3.5 seconds, followed by Buckingham, Ferguson, Thornton, Eckert, Owens, Erb, English and Simpson.
Lap 100: Looney crosses finish line 1.677 seconds ahead of Strickler to become just the second Missouri driver to win the Show-Me 100 ... Buckingham finishes third, followed by Ferguson, Thornton, Eckert, Owens, Erb, English and SImpson.
Row 1: Payton Looney, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 2: Kyle Strickler, Shanon Buckingham
Row 3: Chris Ferguson, Chad Simpson
Row 4: Tyler Erb, Terry Phillips
Row 5: Jesse Stovall, Shane Clanton
Row 6: Jimmy Owens, Kolby Vandenbergh
Row 7: Johnny Scott, Tim McCreadie
Row 8: Tanner English, Rick Eckert
Row 9: Earl Pearson Jr., Josh Richards
Row 10: Billy Moyer Jr., Billy Moyer
Row 11: Jonathan Davenport, Will Vaught
Row 12: Devin Moran, Kyle Bronson
Row 13: Tyler Bruening, Stormy Scott
Row 14: Jeremiah Hurst, Tony Jackson Jr.
The 28-car field for the Show-Me 100 began rolling for pace laps at 10:08 p.m. CT. ... Polesitter Payton Looney, who enters the night having won three of the last five MLRA events, will make just his second career start in the Show-Me 100 headliner. A 30th-place finisher in the race’s 2017 edition, Looney will look to join 1999 victor Terry Phillips as home-state winners of the Show-Me 100. … Seven of the 16 heat-race qualifiers are making first-ever Show-Me 100 feature starts: Ricky Thornton Jr., Kyle Strickler, Chris Ferguson, Tyler Erb, Kolby Vandenbergh, Johnny Scott and Tanner English. … Veterans Shane Clanton and Rick Eckert are in a Show-Me 100 finale starting lineup for the first time at Lucas Oil Speedway. Both drivers made multiple Show-Me 100 starts when the event was held at West Plains Motor Speedway (now Legit Speedway Park); Eckert’s six starts at West Plains yielded a best finish of sixth (2004) while Clanton’s two starts brought him a top finish of 18th (2006). … Billy Moyer and his son, Billy Moyer Jr., start side-by-side in the 10th row. … Tony Jackson Jr.’s No. 56 machine was sidelined for the night at his home-state track due to terminal engine trouble that developed during hot laps. An MLRA provisional allowed him to start the feature, however, driving Mason Oberkramer’s car. … Other provisional starters are Devin Moran, Kyle Bronson, Tyler Bruening, Stormy Scott and Jeremiah Hurst.
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
First consolation finish: Earl Pearson Jr., Billy Moyer Jr., Jonathan Davenport, Kyle Bronson, Mason Oberkramer, Stormy Scott, Mike Marlar, Kaeden Cornell, Aaron Marrant, Jeremy Conaway, Jason Papich, Garrett Alberson, Devin Moran, Tyler Bruening, Andrew Kosiski.
Second consolation finish: Josh Richards, Billy Moyer, Will Vaught, Cody Laney, Justin Duty, Doug Drown, Tony Toste, Steve Stultz, Johnny Fennewald, Scott Crigler, Brennon Willard, Daniel Hilsabeck, Reid Millard, Al Humphrey (DNS) Jeremiah Hurst, Hudson O’Neal.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
First heat finish: Payton Looney, Chris Ferguson, Jesse Stovall, Johnny Scott, Kyle Bronson, Billy Moyer Jr., Stormy Scott, Kaeden Cornell, Mason Oberkramer, Jason Papich, Garrett Alberson.
Second heat finish: Kyle Strickler, Tyler Erb, Jimmy Owens, Tanner English, Earl Pearson Jr., Jonathan Davenport, Mike Marlar, Tyler Bruening, Devin Moran, Aaron Marrant (DNS) Andrew Kosiski.
Third heat finish: Ricky Thornton jr., Chad Simpson, Shane Clanton, Tim McCreadie, Will Vaught, Billy Moyer, Brennon Willard, Cody Laney, Scott Crigler, Al Humphrey, Daniel Hilsabeck, Jeremiah Hurst.
Fourth heat finish: Shanon Buckingham, Terry Phillips, Kolby Vandenbergh, Rick Eckert, Josh Richards, Tony Toste, Doug Drown, Justin Duty, Steve Stultz, Johnny Fennewald, Reid Millard, Hudson O’Neal.
Payton Looney (15), Republic, Mo., 15.537
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 15.626
Jesse Stovall (00), Billlings, Mo., 15.636
Kyle Strickler (8), Mooresville, N.C., 15.658
Jason Papich (91P), Nipomo, Calif., 15.662
Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 15.672
Johnny Scott (1ST), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.723
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 15.756
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 15.783
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.817
Stormy Scott (2), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.856
Kaeden Cornell (50x), Willard, Mo., 15.919
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.932
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 15.985
Mike Marlar (57), Winfield, Tenn., 15.993
Mason Oberkramer (93), Brosley, Mo., 16.004
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.012
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 16.018
Aaron Marrant (1x), Richmond, Mo., 16.038
Garrett Alberson (59), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.194
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.209
Jeremy Conaway (F15), Springfield, Ill., no time
Andrew Kosiski (53), Omaha, Neb., no time
Tony Jackson Jr. (56), Lebanon, Mo., no time
Chad Simpson (1C), Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 15.629
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 15.687
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.777
Kolby Vandenbergh (15), Ashland, Ill., 15.809
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 15.814
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 15.888
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.914
Rick Eckert (0E), York, Pa., 15.972
Will Vaught (1), Crane, Mo., 15.978
Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.990
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.001
Doug Drown (12d), Wooster, Ohio, 16.009
Daniel Hilsabeck (22H), Adel, Iowa, 16.151
Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 16.229
Jeremiah Hurst (58), Dubuque, Iowa, 16.262
Justin Duty (15), Mulino, Ore., 16.267
Cody Laney (32B), Torrance, Calif., 16.281
Johnny Fennewald (21F), Appleton City, Mo., 16.327
Brennon Willard (3W), Lebanon, Mo., 16.339
Tony Toste (91T), Pismo Beach, Calif., 16.360
Scott Crigler (12c), Monticello, Ark., 16.366
Steve Stultz (78s), Peoria, Ariz., 16.473
Al Humphrey (6), Giltner, Neb., 16.731
Reid Millard (14R), Jefferson City, Mo., 16.853