La CROSSE — A cloud of dust is how Adam Gullion ended his night.
But it came in celebration, not disappointment.
The Nebraska sprint car driver did multiple donuts in celebration Friday night after winning the United Rebel Sprint Series Bullring Nationals at Rush County Speedway in La Crosse in his first trip to the quarter-mile track.
“It’s been a really good trip,” said Gullion, of Lincoln, Neb. “There’s nothing better than winning. It definitely makes the ride home a lot more enjoyable.”
If it hadn’t been for an earlier phone call from Zach Blurton, Gullion might have been racing elsewhere Friday night — or not at all. Instead, he made the long trek to La Crosse on the urging of Blurton, a fellow competitor who races against Gullion when he travels to Nebraska.
“It’s good having him down here,” Blurton said. “I enjoy having his company. They’re like family to us. They’re our home when we go to Nebraska, so we’re more than glad to have them. And it’s good to see them have success when they came down here.”
The success might have belonged to Blurton, if not for the phone call. The Quinter 305 sprint car driver finished second after making a late charge.
But by that time, Gullion had distanced himself from the field en route to the win.
“We’re real good friends with Zach Blurton, and he’s been a regular on the URSS stuff for a long time,” Gullion said. “We ran the Belleville show with a sprint series in Nebraska, which is our traveling series. And we had a ball with the URSS guys. It makes you want to come back. The rain chances are pretty high for tomorrow for Eagle, and I’m winning the weekly points there right now and in the top 10 in the nation. When you have a rainout and are going to be short of shows, you try to find somewhere you can go. Zach called me and said it looks like rain, why don’t you guys come down. I looked at my crew chief and made a couple phone calls and made sure it was OK with my wife and loaded the car up and here we are.”
Koby Walters started on the pole and held down the lead for the first 18 laps. But Walters got into a lap car on Lap 13, sending Howard Van Dyke to the infield and giving Walters a failing right rear tire.
Meanwhile, Gullion was biding his time and settling into his zone.
“We snugged up our car quite a bit,” Gullion said. “We made sure it was nice and tight. The first couple laps, the track was still pretty heavy, pretty racy, still pretty good. I knew it was going to be kinda hang out for 10 to 12 laps and as the race progressed we were going to get better and better and better. But you never know how anybody else is running.”
Gullion worked his way into the top four on the sixth lap and into the top three on the 15th circuit.
That relegated Blurton to fourth as Walters and Tyler Knight held down the top two spots.
But Gullion got by Knight on the 17th lap, then passed Walters coming out of turn two two laps later for the lead — although he didn’t know it at the time.
“You’re racing every lap in the short track stuff,” Gullion said. “I wasn’t even sure who the leader was when I passed them. I was just trying to pass cars. I think it was the guy I passed going down the top on the backstretch, but I wasn’t for sure. I got in kinda behind Zach and was just trying to hit my marks. Then he messed up in three and four, and I was able to get underneath him. Then I just tried to pass cars and clip off cars and tried to hit my marks and get good speed.”
When the first caution flag flew after lap 19, Gullion was out front setting the pace on the restart.
“Honestly, I favor the short track stuff as opposed to the big track stuff just because you are racing someone every lap — whether it be a car for position or a lap car,” he said. “You’ve got to get up on the wheel. You have to hustle the car around the whole time because you never know — especially when you have a late race caution like that. You have a long green run and you get in a rhythm and into a groove. Then sometimes those yellow flags will disrupt that. The big key is to make sure you get a nice jump on the second-place car. When you have caution after caution after caution, you’re running out of cards you can kind of throw. Then you just hope it doesn’t stumble too much and you don’t miss your mark going into one and two. Then the rest is just kind of getting through.”
Gullion didn’t miss a beat on two more restarts and powered his way to the win.
Blurton was able to get by Knight for second with three laps remaining in the 25-lap feature, but never could get a good chance to reel in the leader.
“I think (Knight) was stumbling a little bit, and we were close enough to him that once we finally got by him, Adam was already gone,” Blurton said. “After that, it was just trying to reel him in and maybe hope for another yellow. But it didn’t happen.”
Blurton said he knew Gullion would be fast at the hectic quarter-mile dirt oval in La Crosse.
“Up there in Nebraska when we go up there, small race tracks are what’s up there,” Blurton said. “That’s what he’s good at and used to. I knew he’d be fast down here. We don’t get too much experience on the small, tiny race tracks, but going to Nebraska helps a lot with the small tracks up there.”
Knight finished third, followed by Tracey Hill. Darren Berry was fifth, and Steven Richardson — who wasn’t able to compete in a heat race due to engine troubles — started next-to-last in the 20-car field and finished sixth.
“I like the short track stuff,” Gullion said. “I like the elbows up. I like the racing airplanes in a gymnasium part better than the half-mile stuff.”
• Perry Misner led all 20 laps of the stock car feature, but he was pressured the entire race by Cody Zimmerman — who never was able to get a good run to get underneath Misner for the win. Chad Sterling was third, followed by Shannon Maughlin in fourth.