Wheatland, Missouri (October 13, 2020) - With sixteen races in the books and just three remaining, the stage is finally set for this weekend's Lucas Oil MLRA Championship showdown. The stage may be crowded heading into the weekend, but only one driver will be left standing on Sunday night and able to call themselves the 2020 MLRA champion.
The weekend trifecta begins with a two-night stand at the Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, IL on Friday and Saturday October 16th - 17th, presented by Bullet Racing Engines. This will mark the MLRA's first time back to the 3/8-mile facility since joining the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in a co-sanctioned event back in 2014. A Thursday night practice session is planned from 6:30 - 9:00 PM that will allow drivers to fine tune leading up to Friday nights $5,000 to win event. Saturday night the stakes are even higher with $7,000 going home with the victor of the 50 lap main event.
Promotors Kevin & Tammy Gundaker are excited for the MLRA's return to Tri-City and being a part of Championship Weekend. Expectations are high in anticipation of what could be the largest MLRA field of the season both Friday and Saturday night.
For the first time since 2014 the season finale moves from the Lucas Oil Speedway to the confines of the Randolph County Raceway (RCR) in Moberly, MO. This will mark the second time in the storied history of the MLRA that RCR will play host to crowning the series champion, the last time that happened was in 1999. STLF Transportation & STLF Diesel Repair will present the final event of the season, a $5,000 to win "A" Main.
Shannon Babb grabbed the checkers in June at RCR in the season opener, while Ryan Gustin picked up the win back on Labor Day weekend in a thrilling "Scottie 46".
The series top four drivers are separated by just 110 points heading into the final three events, and if the season to date is any indication of what lies ahead, all four drivers have a legitimate shot at the title. For the first time this season Jeremiah Hurst will carry the Midwest Sheet Metal spoiler into Tri-City Speedway when action gets going on Friday night. The Dubuque, IA driver became the fifth different point leader on the season by virtue of his third place run over the weekend at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Payton Looney who surrendered the point lead to Hurst sits just 10 points away from the title, while two-time series champion Chad Simpson finds himself only 30 back of the lead. Tony Jackson Jr. narrowed his deficit this past weekend and is now only -110 points from his second series title and first since 2013. 200 championship points will be on the line at each event plus qualifying points, so the title bout is far from over with multiple drivers still having a mathematical shot at the MLRA Championship.
Jeremiah Hurst (Point Leader): Wins (0), Top 5's (6), Top 10's (12)
Why Hurst will win the title: "Consistency" -- Hurst has finished 9th or better in the last 11 MLRA events, including four podium finishes in that span. His MLRA average finish of 6.5 is also a series best in 2020. While he started out the season chasing the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title, his focus has changed in recent weeks as he now tries to pull off the double by winning the Rookie Title and the series overall Championship in the same season. The 2018 IMCA Late Model National Champion is used to the pressures of point chasing, and may be the most relaxed of the contenders coming into the weekend.
Payton Looney (-10): Wins (4), Top 5's (6), Top 10's (10)
Why Looney will win the title: "Determination"-- Looney surrendered the point lead last Saturday at Lucas Oil Speedway for the first time since taking the top spot back on July 4th. Although the Atnip Motorsports team is in a bit of a slide, they come into the weekend highly motivated to seek out their first championship. Qualifying will be at a premium all three nights, something that Looney has dominated in 2020, with a series leading 5 Lucas Slick Mist Fast Time Awards to go along with his 4 wins. The driver of the Capital Chassis, surprised many people in the late model world back in July by winning the Show-Me-100, now just three races and ten points away from the title they stand a strong shot at silencing the doubters once more by walking away as MLRA Champions.
Chad Simpson (-30): Wins (0), Top 5's (6), Top 10's (12)
Why Simpson will win the title: "Experience"- Simpson has been in the Championship position more times than most will ever dream of. The 2014 & 2018 MLRA champion knows all about the pressures surrounding the title hunt. Still searching for his first MLRA win of the year, Simpson knows all too well that consistency can win you the title, just as it did in 2014 when he defeated Terry Phillips for the title without scoring a single victory. On the flip side, Simpson proved in 2018 that the best way to clinch the title is to "leave no doubt", by winning the season finale. As the only title contender with an MLRA win at RCR, if Simpson can maintain or close the gap at Tri-City, he very likely could be looking at the title of "Three Time Champ".
Tony Jackson Jr. (-110): Wins (0), Top 5's (4), Top 10's (11)
Why Jackson Jr. will win the title: ""Tri-City Speedway" -- While he may be a longshot to score the championship, the Lebanon, MO driver has the best on track record of any of the contenders when it comes to Tri-City Speedway. Jackson Jr. has won races in back-to-back seasons here including the $2,000 to win Russ Wallace Memorial on August 21st. We have seen huge point swings in recent weeks at the top of the standings, and if the #56 can secure a couple of good finishes, aided by an expected high car count, he stands a good shot at closing the gap and walking away with his second title come Sunday.
Tri-City Speedway: Granite City, IL Practice Info- Thursday 10/15
Pit Gates: 3:00 PM
Practice Time: 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Tri-City Speedway: Granite City, IL Race Day Info -Friday 10/16
Gates GA: 5:30 PM
Racing: Hot Laps - 6:30 PM, Racing 7:15 PM
Admission: Adults $25, Kids (12 & Under) FREE
Support Classes: UMP Mods ($2,000 to win)
Tri-City Speedway: Granite City, IL Race Day Info- Saturday 10/17
Gates GA: 4:30 PM
Racing: Hot Laps - 5:30 PM, Racing 6:15 PM
Admission: Adults $30, Kids (12 & Under) FREE,
Support Classes: UMP Mods ($2,000 to win) & B-Mods ($1,000 to win)
Randolph County Raceway: Moberly, MO Race Day Info -Sunday 10/18
Gates: 4:00 PM
Racing: Hot Laps - 6:00 PM, Racing to follow
Admission: Adults $25, Seniors $20, Students $15, Kids (6 to 11) $5, Kids 5 & under FREE
Support Classes: B-Mods & 4 Cylinders