HUTCHINSON, KS (July 31, 2004) - Tonight Brian Powers won his second O'Reilly/NCRA Modified Series feature of his career - both this season -- but there's definitely no comparison between the two feature victories. That's because tonight's win was...
HUTCHINSON, KS (July 31, 2004) - Tonight Brian Powers won his second O'Reilly/NCRA Modified Series feature of his career - both this season -- but there's definitely no comparison between the two feature victories. That's because tonight's win was at the 48th Annual Hutchinson Nationals.
"I can't believe it," Powers said of his win. "I'm afraid I'm going to wake up here in a little bit and find out it was all a dream. I'm excited as hell!"
Powers' Thursday night qualifying earned him the outside first row starting spot. Occupying the pole position was Brian McGowan. Powers was obviously pleased to be starting on the first row.
"Starting on the outside I thought maybe we could get a lucky break and end of fifth or something coming off turn two," Powers said.
Well, you can call it an extremely lucky break or you can call it outstanding driving, the result was the same.
When the green flag dropped, Powers put the hammer down and roared around McGowan for the lead going into turn one. His strong move allowed Greg Stephens to follow along from fourth on the grid (directly behind Powers) and ease down in front of McGowan into second.
Powers and Stephens slowly began to distance themselves from the field and put on quite a show for the fans at the historic Kansas State Fairgrounds. At times the duo looked like they were on a string - wherever Powers went, Stephens was right behind him, but Brian didn't always know that.
"With the nationals you can't really get any signals (from the crew) so you don't know if anybody's right there or not," he said. "It's just hard to know where people are without being able to see the crew guys to signal me."
As the laps wound down, Stephens began taking a closer look at getting around Powers for the lead. He took a peak to the inside a couple of times on the back stretch but didn't find any way to really make a move on Brian.
Stephens even gave Powers a little tap once going down the back straight, just to let Brian know he was still around.
"I felt a bump down the straightaway one time but he raced clean," Brian said. "He never turned me sideways or anything."
Stephens may have actually had the faster car but the trick was getting around Powers. On lap 15, Greg twitched a bit and got out of the gas to save it. That allowed Powers to open the largest lead he had at any time during the race. But two laps later, Stephens was right back on Brian' tail, applying pressure the rest of the race.
On lap 18, Stephens again tried to get a run on Powers down low side, first in turn 2 and then on the backstretch but each time Brian shut the door.
Stephens continued to run low on the final two laps, looking for a way to get around Powers. Brian led Greg nose-to-tail across start/finish for the checker.
I still can't believe it," Powers was saying an hour after the race. "Last year we missed the transfer spot by one car and didn't even make the show."
Powers is having a great season, the best of his NCRA career. He entered the nationals third in points having led the series for most of the early part of the season.
Running good lines when you're in front makes it tough on whoever's right behind you. That's what Brian was able to do to stay in front.
"I just tried to stay smooth and hit the same line every time," he said. "I thought we were where we needed to be, in the groove, so I just tried to make him have to do something different other than in the groove."
Good racing wasn't confined to the battle for the top spot either. Running some distance behind Powers and Stephens was a group of five drivers dicing with each other for position as well.
Defending champion Brent Burkhart started the feature fifth but he quickly got past Dustin Briley, who started right in front of him, and fell in line behind McGowan for fourth place. With Briley in fifth, Alan Dix, Dave Hardesty, Brian Franz, John Schwab and Bobby Joe Scott rounded out the early top 10.
Burkhart got around McGowan for third place on lap eight but couldn't get close to Powers and Stephens except on caution flag restarts. Schwab fell out of the hunt about midway through the race and finished 12th. Dix got loose coming out of turn two on the 11th lap and fell two positions to eighth, just in front of Scott.
But the running order didn't change the rest of the race. Burkhart held of McGowan for third place, with Briley finished fifth. Hardesty and Franz battled each other throughout the race but Dave brought it home in front of Brian for sixth. Scott was eighth, followed by Scott Green and Tim Echeverria, to round out the top 10 finishers.
Green had moved from the C to a top 10 finish in the A, capturing the final transfer spot into the A.
Randy Woodside started the C feature on the pole and led all the way to move into the B. Also transferring were Shannon Gilchrist, Scott Brown, Jason Schniepp, Marc Hurd, Jason Roe, Green, Joe Bidwell and Johnny Whitmore.
Kenny Sweet took the lead on the first lap and never let it go to win the B feature. Also transferring from the B to the A were Ron Emmerson, Brian Casey, John Allen, Marlin Farr, Woodside, Bidwell, Jeff Tector and Green.
-Randy Fisher, guest writer