Mills masters Salina for modified win
By NICK SCHWIEN
SALINA -- The caution flag proved to be Jeremy Mills' best friend Friday night.
And when the modified feature was done at Salina Speedway's Spring Fling, the Garner, Iowa, driver was dancing away with the winner's trophy after holding off a strong charge by Corey Lagroon.
Mills and the rest of the field battled a rough track for the final feature of the night at the season-opening race. But that didn't stop the action from getting intense on the 3âÑ8-mile oval. Saturday's second night of the event was canceled due to the threat of severe weather.
"You have to try to remind yourself to slow down to go faster sometimes," Mills said. "It's hard to do on a track like that because you feel so un-smooth, like they're going to be running you over. But I guess it worked."
Mills, in his first race driving a new ride from Belleville Motorsports, started outside the front row, alongside Danny Morrison Jr.
Morrison led the first two laps before Mills took the top spot, followed by Lagroon and Mike Petersilie.
That's the way it would stay until lap 10, when Lagroon pulled alongside Mills to challenge for the lead for three consecutive laps -- finally grabbing a slight edge on laps 11 and 12.
"Good starting spot, good parts on it and tight nuts and bolts," Lagroon said. "Getting the car to turn right off the bottom on two and four was the key. That's where I was getting him at, and then we had the yellow there and he kept getting through the ruts. We had that yellow, and I lost my concentration or something and I just couldn't hit it again. I thought I had something for him and could pass him again."
That first caution came on lap 14 and allowed Mills the break he needed. After he and Lagroon battled lap after lap with inches to spare, Mills got the nod on the restart to take the point.
Mills would pull away on the restart, only to have Lagroon pull back into the mix before another caution flew.
That left Mills leading Lagroon and Troy Johnson back to the flag stand. Two laps later, the final caution flew, giving Lagroon another chance.
"There was twice it killed me," Lagroon said about the yellow flags. "Once we were side-by-side on the first one. Then there was a run in there where he kind of got away a little bit. Then the next one I stayed with him. Then I don't know what happened."
Mills stood on the gas just enough in the final six laps to earn the win.
"It's really tough trying to tell yourself you have to go slower to go faster," Mills said. "But the last five or six laps after that last yellow, I just wanted to keep it as smooth as I could and keep it on the bottom and out of the ruts."
Lagroon finished second, followed by Johnson in third and Petersilie in fourth.
Lagroon said he was disappointed he didn't get the win at his hometown track.
"You're never happy with second after you've been leading," he said. "It wasn't like it was a runaway and we messed up. We had a heck of a race. It should have been a pretty good race for the crowd because we didn't have the tires on the ground."
* Kyle Vanover led all but two of the 20 laps in the stock car feature to claim the win. He started seventh before making his move to the front. Eric Rempel finished second, followed by Nolan Remus and Jim Powell Jr.
* Dustin Daniels had his first Northern sport mod win at Salina in his sights before being passed by Jeremy Chambers with five laps remaining. Daniels would finish second behind Chambers, who won the Fall National crown at RPM Speedway in Hays in October. Seth Schroer used a last-lap pass to take third ahead of Dan Smith.
* G.W. Fuller and Roy Armstrong battled at the front of the pack in the hobby stock feature before contact ended both drivers' chances at winning. That left the door open for Pete Beaumont, who took the checkered flag. Brian Stich was second, with Tony Slothower in third and Mark Normandin -- who started 17th -- in fourth.
* Braden Stoner won the mini stock feature, followed by Stacey Fuller in second. Dallas Dunn beat Rooster Rice to the finish to take third.
* Racing action returns Friday night to Salina Speedway, with late models, IMCA modifieds, stocks, Northern sport mods, hobby stocks and mini stocks.