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HILLTOP REAPER: Ryan Gustin Wins at Marion Center in 100th Career Start
Montgomery led the field to the green in the 40-lap affair, holding off challenges from Mike Norris and Gustin, who slowly worked his way to the front from his fourth starting spot in the first few laps.
But as “The Reaper” snuck by Norris on the inside for second, a caution came out on Lap 4 for Colton Flinner, who spun.
After the restart, Gustin needed three laps to wrestle the lead away from Montgomery, sliding underneath him in Turn 2 on Lap 7.
From there, he aced three more restarts to earn his third career World of Outlaws win and his first of the 2023 season.
“The Reaper” said his fourth starting position allowed him to ease through the race and not use his equipment up too early.
“We took off, and I felt really, really, good,” Gustin said. “Probably the best I’ve ever felt in a Late Model. It went right around there, and I just kind of tried to ride and not kill the edges on my tires a whole lot once we got to the lead.
“It’s nice starting up there. If you start eighth or tenth or whatever, you know you just got to go. When you start up there, you can definitely take a lot better care of your tires and make sure you got something left at the end.”
Gustin’s $10,000 victory vaults him to second in the points standings—eight points behind Series points leader Chris Madden, who finished ninth.
While Gustin went unchallenged once he took the lead, two former champions waged war for the runner-up spot.
Shane Clanton and Brandon Sheppard traded the position before the “Georgia Bulldog” gained the advantage on the outside on Lap 35.
It’s a finish the Zebulon, GA driver said he needed for his Skyline Motorsports team after they didn’t start the season as he’d hoped.
“We’ve struggled this year with just the balance of the car,” Clanton said. “We struggled at Volusia, just turning and getting traction. So, we worked, and we worked hard to get where we’re at.
“Overall, our car was real good, though. We just needed a little more tweaking, and I think we know which way to go, and we’re doing the right things.”
Sheppard crossed the line third after falling back to eighth in the first few laps.
The four-time Series champion stated that his team continues building confidence as they improve each race.
“We’re just plugging away,” Sheppard said. “We’re just trying to string together some good runs and just show everybody what we got.
“We were able to pass a few cars. We fell back to seventh or eighth at the beginning, and then I was able to pick my way up through there, and I was really good in the long run. I don’t know if it was tires, but it was a tricky track. But we were able to get up there a few spots and get a podium run, so we’re happy.”
Nick Hoffman, the Rookie of the Race, finished fourth after starting 12th.
The Mooresville, NC driver said he was happy with the outcome, especially at a place he’s never raced before.
“That was a really good run,” Hoffman said. “That’s about all you could expect to start 12th there and run fourth. But Gustin was really good. Obviously, he beat me in that Heat Race there, and that was the winning move for the night.
“Our stuff was really good. I was happy with that to run fourth and come up through there.”
Bobby Pierce rounded out the top five after starting 16th.
While Ryan Gustin bested the field at Marion Center to create a milestone moment with his 100th Series start, his eyes are on a milestone no one has reached—100 wins.
“I wish it was the 100th win, but that’s not going to happen right now,” Gustin said. “You’re not going to win out here every night. Hopefully, we’ll get to 100 someday.”
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models travel to Port Royal Speedway in Port Royal, PA, on Saturday, May 20. Then, the Series makes its lone trip to New York on Tuesday, May 23, stopping at Stateline Speedway in Busti, NY.
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online on with the DIRTVision App.CASE Construction Equipment Feature (40 Laps): 1. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 2. 25-Shane Clanton; 3. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 4. 9-Nick Hoffman; 5. 32-Bobby Pierce; 6. 96V-Tanner English; 7. 22-Gregg Satterlee; 8. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 9. 44-Chris Madden; 10. 00-Kyle Hardy; 11. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 12. 1*-Chub Frank; 13. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 14. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 15. 5L-Jon Lee; 16. 36-Logan Martin; 17. 12-Doug Drown; 18. B1-Brent Larson; 19. 3S-Brian Shirley; 20. 97-Cade Dillard; 21. 1C-Alex Ferree; 22. 1Z-Logan Zarin; 23. 30-Todd Cooney; 24. W3-John Weaver; 25. 9Y-Levi Yetter; 26. 14W-Dustin Walker; 27. 10-Mike Norris; 28. 4S-Ryan Montgomery; 29. 48-Colton Flinner FOX FACTORY HARD CHARGER: Tanner English [+18].