By NICK SCHWIEN
For most drivers, a track championship would be enough to prove how good you've been all year.
Monte Honas felt that way, but he also knew there might have been some doubt in people's minds.
So the sport compact driver from Ellis went out and erased all those doubts with a dominating performance Thursday night in winning the feature to kick off Fall Nationals VI at RPM Speedway in Hays.
“This is a great cap to the year,” Honas said. “After winning the track championship, I had less feature wins than a couple of other drivers out there. But coming out and winning nationals proved, in my mind, that I deserved it.”
Honas led the track points at RPM entering the final regular-season show in September. He then nursed his sport compact to the finish in that race to secure the track crown — his first.
On Thursday, though, there was no doubt who was the best on the track after his performance.
Honas started ninth in the 13-car field of the 20-lap feature. He showed just how a track champion should perform as he bolted to the front.
Allen Rice, who started outside the front row, battled for the lead and held down the top spot through lap three when the only caution flag would fly.
By that time, Honas had moved all the way up to second.
On the restart, Honas powered through turns one and two, passed Rice on the inside down the backstretch and toasted the field.
“I didn't think it was that fast,” Honas said. “I knew I could gain on them, but there were a couple of cars I was worried about. There were a couple of fast cars toward the front, so I didn't know how long it would take to catch them — if I could catch them.”
Honas would lead the final 17 laps en route to the win, increasing his lead each lap. By the time he crossed the finish line, the second-place car was nearly 4.5 seconds behind him.
“I just focused on driving the track, and I didn't know who was behind me,” Honas said. “I knew I was going around cars, but I wasn't paying attention to who it was. I didn't know who was behind me.”
Behind him was a battle between Rice and Shyla Hughes on laps five through nine. Then, Hughes, who was runner-up to Honas in track points, got by Rice into the runner-up spot.
At that point, Honas' lead was 3 seconds.
“It's kind of nerve-racking because I feel like he's going to catch up to me and pass me,” Hughes said. “But as long as I can see him, I feel pretty confident that maybe I still have a chance — at least can catch up. But he's a good racer. It's nice having him as competition.”
Hughes never could get a caution flag to bunch the field back up, but she was able to hold down the second-place spot until the finish.
“For me, it's almost a little harder running up front because you don't have anybody else to judge off of,” Honas said. “You just have to focus on the track. It's hard to look around and focus on other cars and where they're at. You're just trying to find the line and miss the holes in the track.”
Zach Olmstead worked his way through the field to close on Hughes' bumper, but eventually would finish third. Rice would take fourth.
Wade Heller, who was credited with the caution on lap three after getting into Art Herzog just enough to spin him, rallied from the back to finish fifth.