By BOBBY SWEENEY
VERNON, NY – On Sunday night, the King of Dirt 358-Modified Series made its maiden voyage to the Utica-Rome Speedway. Fans were treated to a large car count of 43 Modifieds fighting for the $3,000 check awaiting one of them at the conclusion of the 40-lap feature. In the end, Erick Rudolph parked his #25 Troyer in victory lane as the Victoria winner.
Matt Delorenzo and Ryan Susice brought the strong field of small-blocks to the green for the first 358-only event at the track since 2008. Neither Delorenzo or Susice could lead for long, as third starter Jessey Mueller drove under both drivers to take the top spot before they hit the backstretch on the opening lap. In turn three, a large pileup forced a yellow, but the first lap was scored completed and Mueller retained the lead. Another yellow on lap 5 for Ronnie Johnson’s mechanical issues slowed Mueller’s pace again, but this time Erick Rudolph was the man to his outside.
On the restart, Rudolph was able to beat Mueller into turn 1, snatching the lead away and quickly establishing a big advantage. Mueller could not match Rudolph’s pace, but a caution with 18 laps in the books for Randy Shantel’s issues gave Mueller another shot. When the race resumed, Alan Johnson foiled Mueller’s plans to fight Rudolph, as Johnson grabbed second from Mueller. As the laps clicked off, Johnson was able to stay closer to Rudolph than Mueller could, but Johnson was not close enough to seriously challenge Rudolph for the lead.
Behind Alan, another Johnson in the field was making headway. Marc Johnson started 11th and had driven up to third before a lap 27 yellow for Bobby Herrington. When the field was restacked and restarted, Marc was able to slip past Alan to claim second. Marc was able to hang close to Rudolph, but didn’t appear to have quite the strength necessary to get to Rudolph.
One last yellow with 33 laps completed allowed Marc Johnson to restart on the rear bumper of Rudolph, but Johnson could never quite muster up the speed to get to Rudolph’s door. At the finish, Erick Rudolph crossed the line ahead of Marc Johnson, Alan Johnson, Susice and Mueller.
“It feels pretty good, we’ve been running here for a number of year, not regularly but consistently, and this is the first one we’ve won,” Rudolph noted in victory lane. “We got fortunate with redrawing fourth, and I was able to find a line I liked and kept doing it. I was just hoping for no cautions and hoping no one would get to me.”
MARBLE HILL INN AND WILBER-DUCK CHEVROLET RACE SUMMARY
KING OF DIRT 358-MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH (40 LAPS)-ERICK RUDOLPH, Marc Johnson, Alan Johnson, Ryan Susice, Jessey Mueller, Anthony Perrego, Neil Stratton, Ryan Arbuthnot, Ronnie Davis III, Bobby Varin, Matt DeLorenzo, Jeremy Wilder, Elmo Reckner, Jordan McCreadie, Mike Mahaney, Tyler Meeks, Chad Phelps, Brandon Sweet, Alan Barker, Jack Miller, Randy Shantel, Allison Ricci, Michael Sabia, Jason Herrington, Jack Lehner, Rob Pitcher, Brian Gleason, Demetrios Drellos, Randy Chrysler, Bobby Herrington, and Ronnie Johnson.