HAYS, Kan. (Oct. 2-3) – Already a regular visitor to victory lane at RPM Speedway, Steven Bowers Jr. parked there again Saturday night after the biggest win of his IMCA Modified career.
Bowers caught and passed long-time race leader Tom Berry for the $5,000 Fall Nationals feature win, adding another exclamation point to what has already been an amazing season.
“This was pretty exciting, after the season we’ve had. I’m almost speechless,” Bowers said. “Running with Tom Berry, who is my closest friend, and battling with him for $5,000 was an honor.”
While Tripp Gaylord and Bowers started on the front row, Berry – who’d drawn for the tardy Bowers – quickly charged from the fourth row to take control.
After an early caution, the 40-lapper ran green to the finish. Bowers caught] up with and chased Berry into traffic, the two touched briefly and then Bowers edged ahead.
“I reeled him in with five to go and passed him with three to go,” said Bowers, who pilots a homebuilt SB Chassis. “I had to change my line if I was going to get around him.”
A former Sunflower Classic and frequent weekly race winner at Hays, he’d finished a disappointing 19th at Fall Nationals last year.
“This win tops my season,” said Bowers, already a Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational candidate. “It’s my biggest IMCA win and my best payday ever.”
Gaylord, 16th starting Clay Money and Eddie Belec rounded out the top five.
The 14th annual Briney Motorsports fueled by Casey’s special, presented by Nutrien Ag Solutions, brought nearly 230 IMCA race teams to Hays.
Mike Nichols topped the $3,000 to win IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature for the sixth time in his career. Blaine Walt was the $2,000 Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod winner, Tathan Burkhart topped the $1,500 to win IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stock main and Drake Bohlmeyer was best in the $300 to win Mach-1 Sport Compact feature.
Nichols started from the pole and had his hands full with Kyle Pfeifer before mechanical issues forced the challenger out. Nick Tubbs raced from 10th starting to finish second, 1.7 seconds off the pace.
Cautions came out the right time for Nichols, keeping him out of lapped traffic.
“This track has been really, really good to me over the years,” he said. “”Six times $3,000 equals $18,000.”
Walt owns success at RPM as well, with two Fall Nationals wins and a runner-up finish in the last three years. He took over up front after midway and followed the fast high line, moving to the bottom after late restarts to protect the lead.
Second was Tyler Nerud.
“This is my home track. We’ve had a lot of laps and seen a lot of different track conditions here,” Walt said. “This is definitely one of the bigger shows. It’s real enjoyable to go out and be successful in front of my home crowd.”
Burkhart, headed to the Stock Car division in 2021, finally had some Fall Nationals success of his own to talk about after lead every lap of a Hobby feature slowed just once by an early yellow.
“This is the first time in four years I’ve finished. I was nervous going in because I always seem to have bad luck in this race,” said Burkhart, who rolled last year and blew a motor the year before. “This is my home track and I run pretty good there weekly. I just haven’t had any luck at Fall Nationals.”
Brady Bencken was the runner-up, a second and a half behind Burkhart.
Drake Bohlmeyer led all 20 laps of the Sport Compact feature, after running side-by-side and bumper-to-bumper with Toby Schwien.