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Regional Drivers Find Mixed Results in Gateway Dirt Nationals Opening Night



St. Louis, MO - In the opening night of the 7th Annual Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals Presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts, HPH Regional drivers had a mixed bag of results to start the weekend. In the Velocita Super Late Models, our eyes were on McClure, Ohio's Rusty Schlenk, Muskegon, Michigan's Mike Epplett, Portage, Michigan's Carson Hocevar, and Michigan natives, Rachel Carpenter and Megan Sanders. In the Summitt Racing Equipment Modifieds, our attention was on Dillon Nusbaum, Chad Bauer, and Todd Sherman.


Heat races were only favorable for one driver in the Super Late Models, and that was Rusty Schlenk. After a solid qualifying effort, Schlenk started on the pole of Heat #3 and led each rotation holding off Shannon Babb for the win. Mike Epplett stayed out of trouble in his second heat race, but was outside of the top-two transfer. Rachel Carpenter started off strong in her fifth heat race of the night, but her car faded outside of the top 8, ending her night early. Megan Sanders was in contention for a transfer spot after Jason Feger and Carson Hocevar came together on a restart; retaliation from Feger took out both he and Hocevar's chances of continuing. Sanders, while battling to hang on to third, spun in turns three and four, sending her to the evening's LCQ.


The modified boys had a tough go in qualifying, with all three finishing trunk in their group. This made for a long road to the main event in the heat races. For Todd Sherman, a setup that was meant for a tacky and rough track kept him at the back of his heat. Chad Bauer had an apparent tire failure in his heat race which kept him at the back. Despite starting near the rear, however, Dillon Nusbaum was able to drive into the top three transfer spots for the Modified main event.


In LCQ action, tough nights continued for Epplett and Sanders. A strong "roll the bottom" performance for Epplett wasn't enough to get into a transfer spot, and he'd settle for 7th. Sanders was unable to complete a lap in her Last Chance race which brought an end to her night.


Just one eight-lap Modified B-Main was scheduled and the top three were able to race in the evening's nightcap. Sherman made valuable improvements to his machine, driving all the way up to fourth by the checkered flags curtain call - one spot short of advancing. For Bauer, his struggles continued settling for 8th.


Schlenk was the lone representative in the Super Late Model 25 lap $5,000 to win event. Starting sixth, Schlenk quickly went to the top of the race track to try and work his way around traffic. The tactic was fast, but the rubber on the bottom was just a little faster. A second effort after a restart was good enough to rip the right-rear quarter pannel off, but the end result was a loss of position. The multi-time DIRTcar UMP National Champion settled for 10th.


Nusbaum had a tough race as well, spinning early and getting sent to the tail was an early downer for the No.17N. The end result, a 16th place finish.


Tonight, Cody Bauer is the lone HPH regional driver to keep an eye on.


Story - Zach Hiser

Photo - Gateway Dirt Nationals

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