Craig Ronk Dominates at SIR for Preliminary Night Win as Andrews, Galusha, Howard, Hollan and Flud Lock-In for $10,000/Win High Banks Hustle!
By Brian Walker – Maximum Dirt
Marion, IL | June 17, 2017 – As the fifth annual High Banks Hustle raced to a start on Friday night, 130 of the nation’s best micro sprint competitors poured into the Southern Illinois Raceway. With six lock-in positions on the line, drivers would be forced to battle each other through a cutthroat round of 13 heat races, eight qualifiers, and the 30-lap preliminary feature. After an intense feature run that included hard chargers, heartbreakers, dominators and just simply phenomenal battles for position, it was none other than the 17-year old Indiana native, Craig Ronk, who parked it in victory lane on the Lightning Wings Preliminary Night presented by Maximum Dirt! Locking-In with Ronk was fellow top-six finishers Chris Andrews, Frank Galusha, Nick Howard, Harley Hollan and Frank Flud.
Opening the night with a staggering round of 13 heat races, drivers would be split up into 10-car fields based on pill draw. Taking the heat victories would be Dylan Kadous, Dustin Christie, Eric Wright, Harley Hollan, Zeb Wise, Nate Lauderbaugh, Craig Ronk, Brandon Anderson, Russ Disinger, Brandon Taylor, Cooper Smith, Matt Howard and Jason McDougal. Earning high point man honors with an incredible eighth-to-first run would be Cumming, Georgia’s Brandon Taylor.
In Qualifier action, Craig Ronk, Jason McDougal, Chris Andrews, Nick Howard, Dylan Kadous, Eric Wright, Harley Hollan and Jake Hagopian scored wins. Following those eight, 15-lappers, the field had been set and the High Banks Hustle had arguably created its most diverse feature yet. A whopping 12 states were represented in the 24-car field as Oklahoma led the way with six drivers, while Indiana and Kansas both brought three into the show and Illinois, Missouri and Pennsylvania all recorded two starts. Arkansas, California, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska and Tennessee were all represented by one driver.
Come feature time, it would be Indiana’s Craig Ronk and Oklahoma’s Jason McDougal leading the field to the green flag. After a caution for spun Eric Wright on the initial start, the second attempt went smooth and Craig Ronk stormed into the early lead. As Ronk pulled away to an early advantage and approached lap traffic, heated battles for positions lit up the racetrack as Jake Hagopian and Nick Howard engaged in an intense slider fest while Harley Hollan, Dylan Kadous and Matt Howard ran nearly three-wide for the sixth lock-in.
After a caution near the halfway point, second place running Jason McDougal appeared to have a challenge prepared for Craig Ronk, but the 19-year old Factor One Racing house driver would suffer apparent motor troubles, bringing his strong run to a heartbreaking end.
Over the course of the final seven laps, Warsaw, Indiana’s Craig Ronk would find no trouble to stop him from leading all 30 laps and going onto secure the High Banks Hustle preliminary feature win! Driving a Brad Coleman owned Engler Machine & Tool, CS9 Chassis No. 5R, the 17-year old driver now has himself in prime position to contend for the biggest win of his career.
Finishing in the second spot was a man that is no stranger to big-time success at SIR, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Chris Andrews. Wheeling the Adri/Justin Blevins owned Sawyer Chassis No. 8, Andrews has himself lined up for a chance at the championship tomorrow, a victory that would give him and Blevins their second $10,000 triumph at SIR, and first since the 2012 “The 66.”
Closing out the podium was Lincoln, Nebraska’s Frank Galusha in the third spot. “Frankie G” charged his EMi, Stallard No. 12 from the 10th spot and was a strong challenger to Andrews for the second spot. Tonight, Galusha will be chasing a career-defining victory at the High Banks Hustle worth 10,000 big ones.
Scoring a fourth-place run, Nick Howard of Lawrence, Kansas has himself set up solidly entering tonight’s big dance. The 17-year old driver has recorded a career-best of sixth at the HBH and will look to topple that stat tonight in his Pace Chassis No. 37H.
Coming home in fifth was Oklahoma’s Harley Hollan in his Driven Midwest No. 14H. By locking-in, Hollan has secured his first-career High Banks Hustle championship feature start. Behind him in the sixth and final transfer was the defending Hustle champion, Frank Flud. After starting 15th, Flud raced his Driven Midwest No. 81 through the pack and emerged inside the top six during the final five laps.
Tonight, the racing is sure to be even more heated as the $10,000 prize and the Engler Machine & Tool High Banks Hustle championship is on the line. Hotlaps will start at 6:00 with racing at 7:00 For those not in attendance, you can watch the entire night of action at www.fastfourmedia.com for only $25!
Heat Winners: Dylan Kadous, Dustin Christie, Eric Wright, Harley Hollan, Zeb Wise, Nate Lauderbaugh, Craig Ronk, Brandon Anderson, Russ Disinger, Brandon Taylor, Cooper Smith, Matt Howard, Jason McDougal.
Qualifier Winners: Craig Ronk, Jason McDougal, Chris Andrews, Nick Howard, Dylan Kadous, Eric Wright, Harley Hollan, Jake Hagopian.
A-Main (30 Laps): 1. Craig Ronk (1), 2. Chris Andrews (3), 3. Frank Galusha (10), 4. Nick Howard (4), 5. Harley Hollan (7), 6. Frank Flud (15), 7. Dylan Kadous (5), 8. Nate Lauderbaugh (11), 9. Delaney Jost (20), 10. Kyle Spence (18), 11. Jeremy Camp (23), 12. Eric Wright (6), 13. Joey Wirth (24), 14. Tyler Walton (16), 15. Kameron Morral (14), 16. Matt Howard (9), 17. Jesse Maurer (19), 18. BJ Gatewood (17), 19. Zeb Wise (13), 20. Jordan Herrman (21), 21. Jason McDougal (2), 22. Jake Hagopian (8), 23. Travis Senter (12), 24. Nathan Benson (22).
Lap Leader(s): Craig Ronk 1-30.
Hard Charger(s): Jeremy Camp +12, Delaney Jost & Joey Wirth +11.