Owosso, MI (09/25/2021) – Showers vacated the Owosso area Saturday morning, and left a crisp fall day for everyone attending the 26th annual Owosso Fall Nationals. The earlier start time made for a perfect racing afternoon, and a jacket-wearing autumn evening, to promote some great racing action. The annual season-ending show, had well over 100 cars in the pit area, with a features-only format that equaled 265 laps of feature racing. All divisions, except the supers and trucks, locked in the top 12 qualifiers, and then had those drivers draw for starting positions within the top 12.
The Outlaw Super Late Model division saw former FWD champion, Kyle Crump set fast time. That would give him the 11th starting position in the 12 car field. Jimmy O Smith started on the pole and led the first six laps, until young Chase Rosebrugh took the lead and tried pull away. On lap 17 the one and only caution flag of the 60 lap race would occur with Todd Rosebrugh getting into Jason Felver in turn 3, spinning Felver. Jason would get his spot back and was able to pull up next to Chase on the restart. Felver stuck to the inside and took the lead away from Chase, and started to pull away. It looked like it could be another Nationals win for Felver, but behind him, two cars were making their way to the front, as they held their own battle. Crump, and now dirt track ace, Chad Finley, were picking cars off one by one. Crump moved to third on lap 34 with Finley in tow. Finley was glued to the bottom groove, and got by Crump on lap 38. The distance to Felver seemed like a lot, but Chad made it up quickly and got by Felver on lap 46. Finley never looked back and pulled away from the competition to win his first ever Owosso Nationals title.
It had been over three years since Finley had even competed on asphalt, let alone win against the stellar competition that was present on this night. His win continues a long legacy his family has created at Owosso Speedway with championships achieved by his Father, and uncle. Felver held on for a runner up finish, with Crump, Harold Fair Jr, and Matt Frazier completing the top five.
In the Howe Racing Enterprises Modified division, Josh Ware was the fastest in qualifying. 23 mods took the green flag for the 50 lap event, with former Sportsman champion, Blake Rowe, drawing the pole position. This young man has been one of the hottest drivers in the state of Michigan this year with numerous big wins in multiple divisions. Starting up front meant big trouble for the completion, as Blake set sail from get-go. Ware and Curtis Spencer would try to keep Rowe in their sights, but the #57 kept a torrid pace up front. Laps wore on and the three separated from the field and started catching slower cars. This is where things got very interesting as this race would go caution-free, and as Rowe caught the tail of the field, these drivers were battling for positions too. In the last 10 laps, Rowe was trying to lap cars in the top 10, and this allowed Ware and Spencer to creep closer. But the Ortonville, MI driver was too fast on this night and brought home another Owosso Nationals title. Ware and Spencer followed Rowe to the finish, with Nick Lechota, and Steve Saddison completing the top five.
In Owosso Auto Mall Pure Stock action, Smilin’ Kyle Callahan set fast time and drew the pole for the 40 lap feature. He would set the pace early, and looked like he may be the driver to end the undefeated streak that Lonnie Saumier Jr has accomplished in the division this season. Numerous cautions in the early stages of the race kept the field together, and on every restart, Hunter Doutre would dive to the inside and challenge Callahan, lap after lap. But Callahan would edge out front and start to gap the field. Doutre dropped out just after halfway, and more contenders moved up to challenge Callahan. But on lap 31, the #14 moved to the high side and exited the race track with problems. This handed the lead to Nick Johnston on lap 32. Last year’s champ tried to make his car as wide as possible, but Saumier was on a mission at this point. He drove his car deep into the corners and carried the outside momentum past Johnston on lap 36 and finished off his perfect season with a Nationals feature win. He started ten Pure Stock features this year, and won every one of them! Mark Avram got past Johnston to finish second. Johnston, Andrew Burton, and Jordan Lechota completed the top five.
The Geyer Auction Services Sportsman saw two-time former champion, Tom Stone set fast time. It didn’t take the veteran long to find the front as he took over the lead on lap 4. Ryan Cords didn’t let the former champ get to far in front and challenged Stone throughout the early stages of the race. Just past halfway, Cords got by Stone and was leading on lap 22, only to lose that lead back to Stone four laps later. A few restarts kept the field tight, and with ten to go, Bob Farley had moved to second and looked like he was heading to the front. But something happened to the Prescott, MI driver’s #2, and he left the racing surface. A final restart on lap 37 put Cords to the side of Stone, and Ryan grabbed the lead and held on the final three laps to secure his first Sportsman Nationals title. Adam Rowe worked his way from his last starting position through the field to finish second, followed by Stone, Dale Spencer, and Lonnie Saumier Jr.
In the Parisian Home Improvement Front Wheel Drive class, John Eastman Jr set fast time. In the 25 lap Modified FWD feature, Eastman grabbed the lead on lap 6 and dominated the event. He had a half lap lead over second place Billy Luckhurst at the finish line. But the post-race technical inspection did not fare as well for the top two finishers. Both drivers were disqualified, and the victory went to Blake Gokee. Following Gokee at the finish were Pat Dent, Dale Spencer, Parker Vozar, and Craig Cummings. In the Stock FWD 25 lap feature, Robert Hankinson took over the lead just before halfway and staged a superb battle with rookie Owosso driver, Corbin Kelley. Kelley had to track down Hankinson and was trying every way possible to get around him the last five laps of the race. But Hankinson proved a little to strong and was able to hold off Kelley for his first ever Nationals win! Kelley had to settle for second, with Jim Gallien, Ron Crawford, and Tom Perakovic completing the top five.
The Finish Line Auto Repair Trucks finished the night with their 25 lap feature. “Rowdy” Nate Rowe, who you can usually find in the Owosso Speedway flag stand, jumped behind the wheel of Darren Burton’s #05 and set fast time. It was just past halfway when he took over the lead and went on to get his first feature win in well over four years. Track champion, Brad Reseigh fought hard but had to be satisfied with second, followed by Tony Hart, Alan Secord, and Jim Briggs.
The Owosso Speedway Banquet will be held on October 23, 2021 at the Ovid VFW Hall in Ovid. Go to www.owossospeedway.com for information on tickets for the banquet, and updates and news for the 2022 season.
Story - Ed Inloes, Horsepower Happenings
Photo - Chad Finley