A lot of people struggle with patience.
Luke Cranston has learned a lesson or two in his racing days about it.
So when Kade Hagans jumped out to a big lead in Sunday night’s United Rebel Sprint Series feature at RPM Speedway in Hays, Cranston stayed calm and collected.
“That’s what I’ve learned from racing through the years,” Cranston said. “You can’t get so worked up right at the beginning. It’s a long race. … I’ve basically learned to be patient and let the car come in at the end of the race.”
That patience paid off as the 305 sprint car driver who grew up in nearby Ness City won the 25-lap main event.
“It is awesome. This series is so tough anymore,” Cranston said. “All the cars over the last 10 years have just improved so much. Since I started racing this deal in 2011 when we started racing 305s, it’s gotten so much more difficult to get wins. You can see that by our results. We won a lot of races that first year, then a little bit less the next year and a little bit less the next year. Last year we probably only won two or three races. You have to take them when you can get them because it’s a tough deal.”
Cranston became this year’s first repeat winner in the URSS. In each of the races this season, a different driver had taken the checkered flag — the latest before Sunday being Ty Williams on Saturday night at Thomas County Speedway in Colby.
Cranston started sixth but was up to third by the end of the first lap. Then he set his eyes on Darren Berry, who was running second.
Meanwhile, Hagans had pulled out to a solid lead.
On lap nine, Cranston got by Berry into second, and Jake Bubak followed closely behind.
Cranston reeled in Hagans, pulling even with him after the 14th lap, then completing the pass on the next circuit.
He’d pull out to a comfortable lead, only to be bottled up by lap traffic — allowing Bubak to close in.
But as soon as Bubak closed within a car length, the yellow flag flew when Berry went off the track and stopped.
“He’s not one to screw up in traffic, but that’s kind of what you have to hope for,” Bubak said about Cranston. “It’s better to be in traffic like that. That yellow hurt us a lot. Clean air with the big wings, you can get going and it’s hard to run people back down.”
“I knew there was a white car down there,” Cranston said. “I saw a flash one time, and I didn’t know if it was Ty or Bubak. I knew someone was right there. That made it a little bit more nerve-racking when we were in the traffic. I’ve been in a lot of races like that and lost a lot of races like that. It’s good when it works in your favor.”
On the restart, Cranston powered ahead and pulled away for the win.
“I couldn’t tell because I felt like we were slower getting into three,” Cranston said. “I didn’t know if someone had moved down and was running a different line and started picking up some ground on us. But it worked out, I guess. I kept running up there. I kept looking up at the flagman and hoping he was going to throw the white flag.”
The final restart gave Steven Richardson a chance to make the top four. He powered around the high side in turns one and two, making up two spots to move into third behind Cranston and Bubak.
“We kind of anticipated the track drying out a little more than it did,” said Richardson, who won one of the three heat races along with Hagans and Jeremy Huish. “They worked on it all night, and it really hung in there. That last five to 10 laps, we really started coming on. That’s what we were planning on the whole time. I think if we would have had another caution, you never know. Jake and Cranston are some of the best out here and in the country. It would have been tough to pass those guys, but I think we could have given them a run if we had another caution.”
The top three would stay that way the final seven laps, with Williams finishing fourth.
The special Sunday race was rescheduled from a rainout a few weeks ago. It was the first time the URSS competed at RPM this year, and served as a primer for a two-day show July 16 and 17 during the Ellis County Fair.
“We always love Hays,” Richardson said. “We don’t have a track in Liberal anymore, so this really feels like our home track nowadays. We love the people here. They’re great. Rod (Bencken) and all his crew do an awesome job every time we come here to give us a great race track. It’s probably one of the greatest race tracks in the state right now, if not the region.”
• In the cruiser feature, Brian and Shaylon Holloway took the lead on lap three and led the rest of the way. Dalton Bauer and Josh Crombie were second, followed by Levi Ryan and Justin Yarmer. Shaun Woods and Hatlan Kuntsch rounded out the field.
• Lyle Shepard bested the field in the NCRA late model feature. Delbert Smith was second, followed by Chris Kratzer and Justin Bussell.
• Brady Bencken took the win in the hobby stock main event, followed by Shay Simoneau and Eric Cross. Will Bauer was fourth.
• Racing returns to RPM at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the IMCA modifieds, stocks, Northern sport mods, hobby stocks and sport compacts. Cruisers and buses also will be racing.