Ward stampedes back to winner’s circle at Southern Oklahoma

Tim Ward made his return to Southern Oklahoma Speedway a winning one, topping Friday’s $2,000 to win IMCA Modified Stampede feature. (Photo by Distorted Exposure, Elaura McCauley)

ARDMORE, Okla. (March 18, 2022) –Tim Ward raced his way back to victory lane while Blake Clark won for the first time at Ardmore and Tim Hamilton won for the first time in his IMCA career on opening night of Southern Oklahoma Speedway’s Stampede special. 

Ward topped Friday’s $2,000 to win IMCA Modified feature, leading all 25 laps from the pole. The 10th starting Clark collected the $1,000 IMCA Sunoco Stock Car checkers a fraction of a second ahead of Shelby Williams and Hamilton was the $1,000 Smiley’s Racing Products Southern SportMod winner at his home track from sixth starting.

Early cautions kept lapped traffic from becoming a factor in the Modified main event and Ward caught up with the back of the field again late in the contest.

“Southern Oklahoma really fits my driving style,” said Ward, who’d become a first-time winner in the state at last year’s Stampede. “It gets slick and slippery when it dries out. You’ve got to slow down (for the corners) and be patient in the car.” 

“It’s a lot like how I grew up racing in Arizona.” 

The win was Ward’s third of the season, the first two coming in his native state, and made him eligible to qualify for the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational. Brint Hartwick, 17th starting Ethan Braaksma, 14th starting Drake Findley and Clay Money completed the top five.

Forty-seven Modifieds were among the 100-plus IMCA entries Friday night.

Clark restarted on the inside line following a caution early in the 20-lap Stock Car feature, started passing cars running “right on the tires” and was running side by side with Williams coming out of the final turn.

They were still side by side at the finish line, with Clark’s margin of victory measured in inches.

“He’s tough to beat, especially at his home track,” Clark said of Williams. “We had a good, clean race to the checkers. It was a fun race. I couldn’t have asked for a cleaner one.” 

William Gould was third. Clark became B & B Racing Chassis All-Star Invitational qualifying eligible with his second win of the season.

Hamilton quickly became a contender in the Southern SportMod feature by moving up to third on the middle groove, then passing Alex Hickham for second and swapping the lead with Jimmy Day before settling into the front spot for good just after midway in the 25-lapper. 

“We knew the track was going to get slick and we’d need some more rear percentage in the car,” he said of setup changes made after running third in his heat. 

“We got back in this sport last year and won 12 heats but couldn’t get a feature win,” Hamilton continued. “We’ve poured a lot into this. I said we were going to do this right when we got back into it, and we’ve had a lot of help.” 

Hamilton is camping at the track but didn’t get the opportunity to sleep in Saturday morning. He was up at 5:30 a.m. to make the hour and a half trip to Moore for his son’s T-ball game.

Hickham and Day finished 2-3.