Jackson Jr. claims MLRA Fall Nationals finale as Vaught captures title; Kris Jackson earns B-Mod Clash triumph
WHEATLAND, Missouri- Tony Jackson Jr. earned redemption and Will Vaught got a championship on Sunday night as the 6th annual Lucas Oil MLRA Fall Nationals concluded at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Jackson bounced back from a poor first night of the doubleheader by leading all 40 laps to take the $3,000 winner's check, finishing 4.3 seconds in front of runner-up Payton Looney.
Vaught, meanwhile, finished third and turned his 33rd birthday into a celebration of his first Lucas Oil MLRA championship.
The Jackson family story line didn't end there. In the night's other headliner, Kris Jackson - Tony's cousin - held on to capture the B-Mod Clash of Champions II and its $3,000 first prize.
Tony Jackson spun on lap one of the Saturday MLRA feature and wound up 18th. He made up for it by dominating the final race of the MLRA season and helping himself in the COMP Cams Super Dirt Series points, where he's battling Timothy Culp for the championship. Two events remain in that series in 2019.
"We've had a good car ever since we unloaded and we broke a shock on the first lap last night," Jackson said. "We just kind of had to stay out there for points, but (tonight) we had a really fast hot rod."
Jackson, of Lebanon, set sail at the start from his front-row starting position and opened up a two-second leader over Looney in the early stages. That margin was wiped out by a lap-13 caution for a spinning Reid Millard after the top two had more than a three-second gap over third-place Merrill and fourth-place Gustin.
The trend that Jackson started continued after the restart. He pulled away as the race remained green over the final 27 laps, lapping more than half the field while maneuvering through slower traffic to finish about a straightaway in front of Looney.
"Sometimes that lapped traffic helps you and sometimes it hurts you," said Jackson, who also earned a $750 bonus in the memory of Ron Jenkins, builder of the original Wheatland Raceway. "They had a really good pace tonight, so I wasn't real anxious to get by them. It was a good."
Vaught, who clinched the MLRA championship with a fourth-place run on Saturday, wound up third after starting 13th. He said it was nice to drive without worrying about points.
"Last night we missed the set-up. That and being conservative don't ever go together," Vaught said. "We got a decent finish last night and the car was a lot better tonight. We changed a lot of things on the car and work hard to get it a lot faster.
"We just needed a caution there at the end. We were about a half-second faster than everybody. That would have been a good victory, but that's part of racing. We didn't qualify well."
Vaught, of Crane, said the first MLRA title was extra sweet after finishing as runner-up twice previously, including last year. His three children joined him atop the car in post-race festivities.
"This championship is pretty awesome," Vaught said. "We've never been a points racer and these last couple of years it's kind of fit our schedule with our kids playing sports and racing themselves. Eric (crew chief Eric Barnes) has worked really hard at the shop and a lot of this is for him.
"Just to be able to do it with my family is the biggest, most-important thing to me."
Looney also enjoyed a strong bounce-back, a night after an early race multi-car crash left him upside and with a 24th-place finish. The crew worked late into Saturday night/Sunday morning getting the car repaired.
"It was a pretty late night, but we got it patched back up," Looney said. "Fortunately it wasn't tore up too bad. The race track was pretty good tonight. Hats off to them. It's tough on track guys when you start during the day. They did what they could with what they had. Kudos to them.
"It was a really fun race. I kind of pulled up beside (Jackson) for a little bit and thought maybe we'd be able to race a little bit, but I just didn't have anything for him. So congrats to him and a good run. Thanks to all the fans for coming."
Ryan Gustin, who won Saturday's feature, finished fourth and Culp was fifth with 2018 MLRA champ Chad Simpson in sixth.
Logan Martin of West Plains finished 10th, but that was enough to earn him the Sunoco Race Fuels MLRA Rookie of the Year Award.
"We enjoyed it and I can't wait until next season," Martin said.
Kris Jackson prevails in B-Mod Clash: USRA B-Mod National points leader Kris Jackson earned his 27th victory of the season and eighth at Lucas Oil Speedway. But it was far from easy, especially with worry about a motor that was sputtering over the final dozen laps.
"I got to the lead and when I was passing a lapped car, something happened," Jackson said of his motor. "It started popping and carrying on. It finally cleared out, but it's got a dead-miss in it. I was just holding it on the floor the last 15 laps.
"I feel sorry for the motor, but I feel like we needed to win and here we are."
Jackson finished ahead of Andy Bryant, surviving a restart with six laps to go. Gunner Martin was third with JC Morton fourth and Ryan Gillmore fifth.
"I have to thank all the guys who work on the car. We have a lot of fun in the pits, despite all the stress," Jackson said. "We come in, I feel, with a target on our back."
Ryan Gillmore started on the front row and led the first eight laps before Jackson, who started fifth, made an inside pass for the lead coming to the finish of lap nine.
Jackson remained out front, as Gillmore and Bryant gave chase with the three separated by less than a second as the trio worked through slower traffic during the lengthy green-flag run.
Jackson was ahead of Bryant by one-half second with Gillmore right behind when the race's first caution flew on lap 33 after Parker Hale spun in turn two.
One lap after the restart, another caution came out, this one for debris on the track. Jackson had opened up a five-car-length lead as Gillmore and Bryant battled side-by-side for second with Brian McGowen in fourth.
That set the stage for a six-lap shootout. Jackson was up to the task, riding the low side as Bryant tried to make up ground by taking to the high groove.
"Everything was going fine with no cautions, then that caution came out," Jackson said. "I just knew it wasn't going to take off right. Normally on a restart I'll start it real slow because Jim (Ruble) builds such a good motor, I can take off from almost a dead stop.
"I decided since it wasn't running right, I'd keep my momentum up on the restarts. I thought they'd be coming. I couldn't help but look up at the (video board) a couple of times and noticed that they weren't right on me. I just had to keep doing the same thing over and over."
Jackson finished about six car lengths in front of Bryant with 10th-starting Gunner Martin moving into third on the final lap. JC Morton, who started 13th, advanced to fourth and Gillmore, slipping on the final circuit, wound up fifth.
"You have to give kudos to Kris," Bryant said. "He ran a clean race and got to the bottom first and went off from there."
Article Credit: Billy Rock