By Steven Young
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Dec. 11, 2020) – It was an exciting night of racing on night one of the inaugural STXR at the South Texas Speedway, as PJ Egbert, Marcus Mikulencak, and Donald Cain, Jr. ended the night in victory lane.
Jeremy Tharp of Arkansas, and Cody Leonard, representing his home state, led the field to the initial green for the 35 lap main event in the Modified division.
Leonard took the lead on the first trip down the backstretch, and brought Scott Bloomquist with him into second, while PJ Egbert moved into third at the end of the opening round.
Leonard took the top line, as Bloomquist looked for the lead to his inside. The top three were nose to tail, as Cory Davis and Tharp’s battle became the best on the track, as they battled for fourth.
Leonard caught up to the back of the field on lap eight, but he was able to maneuver through well enough to put some ground between him and Bloomquist in the battle for the top spot with ten complete.
Lapped cars running door-to-door further quelled Leonard’s progress, but he was able to keep the lead again with a pass on both lappers on lap twelve.
The heaviest lapped traffic of the race was caught near the midway point, as Leonard then had to abandon the top to protect the lead. Egbert used that traffic to move past Bloomquist for the runner-up spot.
While that swap took place, Leonard was able to build a lead of nearly a straightaway with 20 circuits in the books.
Four rounds later, Egbert was able to reel in Leonard for the lead. Leonard again tried to protect on the lowside, but Egbert went three wide with lapped cars to take the lead with nine laps left.
The top three went to war for the top spot, as Leonard returned to the top side, as Egbert and Bloomquist stuck with the bottom.
The trio went three wide for the lead coming off of turn four with seven to go, but somehow remained in the same order. Bloomquist and Leonard ended the following circuit even at the line as Egbert continued to lead.
New Mexico racers Cory Davis and Zane DeVilbiss completed the top five, as Egbert built his biggest lead of the race with three to go.
The top three were nose to tail once again as they received the two to go signal, but a caution set up a green-white-checkered restart.
Leonard made a strong attempt to take back the lead on the cushion on the ensuing restart, then peeked to Egbert’s inside on the final lap, but Egbert beat the field back to the checkered.
“It was a lot of good, close, hard racing. I’m glad to keep it in Texas,” were Egbert’s initial thoughts on picking up the win.
“The first long green run, we were really good, and I was really comfortable. I had a really good pace once I got the lead. I got maybe a little conservative on the restarts, which made the car a little tight, and I felt like I gave up some corner speed.”
Leonard was second followed by Bloomquist, Davis, and DeVilbiss.
In the thirty lap Limited Modified feature, Hunter Flanagan and Jared Maupin led the field to start the race. Fourth starter Marcus Mikulencak used the middle to storm to the lead on lap one.
Flanagan, running the 38 driven by David Schury last weekend, ducked to Mikulencak’s inside on the second round, but Mikulencak continued to lead.
Johnny Torres moved Steven Whiteaker’s No. 89C into the third spot with three in, and the top three remained the same until the first caution with five laps complete.
After a pileup on the ensuing restart, Torres moved into the runner-up spot, which stuck despite another caution one lap later.
Maupin took second back on the next restart, before the third caution another circuit later.
The top three remained the same on the restart, but ninth starting Trent Beaver took third from Torres on the eleventh lap.
Maupin went even with Mikulencak for the lead after another caution on the eleventh round, but Mikulencak kept the top spot, as Beaver and Torres continued to battle for third.
At the halfway point, eleventh starter, and eventual Modified runner-up, Cody Leonard moved into the top five before a caution on lap sixteen.
Maupin again peeked to Mikulencak’s inside on the next restart, but was unable to take the top spot again.
Mikulencak had just caught up to the rear of the field with seven laps remaining, but the final caution saved him from having to negotiate through lapped traffic to keep the lead.
Maupin was able to take the lead briefly in turns one and two on the final restart, but Mikulencak got a strong bite off the bottom coming off of turn four to continue to lead.
Maupin made one last charge for the lead with four to go, but it was Mikulencak leading the field back to the checkers.
Maupin was second, with Leonard third, Beaver fourth, and Torres rounding out the top five.
After a caution at the start of the twenty-five lap Factory Stock feature, the race was much like the Modified feature, with great racing during a long green flag run.
Rodney Twardeski and Jacob Wilburn lead the field to the green, with Wilburn taking the lead.
Donald Cain, Jr., driving the No. 99 piloted by Tryton Temple one week prior, wasted little time moving into the top five on lap two.
On the sixth circuit, Cain moved past EJ Gilpin to move into a podium spot.
The field ran single file around the top of the South Texas Speedway for the next handful of laps, until Cain reeled in Twardeski for the second spot.
Cain took second just past the halfway point, before the first caution of the race on lap fifteen.
It took two laps on the ensuing restart for Cain to take the point from Wilburn, which he held until a pair of cautions with two to go, and as the field took the white flag.
Cain was able to hold off Wilburn for the victory over Jeffrey Abbey, who used the late restarts to move into the runner-up spot, but was disqualified in post race tech.
Twardeski ended up as the runner-up, with Benjamin Mikulencak, Jacob Wilburn, and GW Hessong completing the top five.