Two locals will again take their shot at showing something to the guys from the Show-Me State that are dominating at the top of the Cash Money Late Model Series that makes its third stop of the season at Thunderbird Speedway.
Last time out, Hayden Ross came close.
The 17-year-old Muskogee High School student, in his 66 car, was fifth in June. Brandon Hunter of Van Buren, Ark., won, and Brad Looney of Republic, Mo., was second with Michael Maggard of Republic in third. The two Missourians lead the points standings and were 1-2 in the first race here in May.
If an Arkansas driver can do it, why not an Okie in the regional circuit established for those interested in competing with late models which carry regulations that even the playing field and the cost.
“We changed our setup a little last time, but not much,” he said of the XR1 Rocket chassis and Pro Power engine. “Main difference was the first night I was locked down on the bottom line of the track and the second night the track traveled really well on the top.”
At 17, he’s making an early name for himself in a family of accomplished racers. His dad, Brady Ross, raced motorcycles, winning multiple pro circuits in Oklahoma and Texas, and his great uncle, Tommy Laster, won eight championships over a career that earned him a spot in the Oklahoma Racing Hall of Fame at Outlaw Motor Speedway in 2009.
“My dad originally got me into go-karts when I was young. I got good at it and he decided soon after to buy me a bigger car to see how I’d do,” Hayden said.
But not completely at first.
“When he initially tried it, he was an 8-year-old and a little on the shy side and we did half a season at it,” said his dad. “When my youngest son Eli turned 8, I asked him if he wanted to race and he did, and at that point Hayden came to me and asked if I’d get him a kart again.
“He was 14 then. He did really well that season and I wanted him to go to a bigger class, not just a local class but something that would allow him to travel a bit and learn more about racing at different tracks.”
Enter Cash Money, the three-state budget-friendly regional series involving Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri drivers. It networks Thunderbird with tracks at Fort Smith and Van Buren in Arkansas, and three in Missouri – Monett, Springfield and Lebanon.
After spinning out twice in his first outing in a B feature due to a bad setup, Brady took Hayden's car to Bill Fry, a noted late model expert, and took two weekends practicing to ensure the setup was right.
In start number two last summer, he won his heat and the feature at Tri-State Speedway in Pocola. Hunter was seventh in that one. He also beat a notable from the bigger MLRA circuit, Cole Wells.
“I started up front, had a different car at the time, and the track was good,” Hayden said. “I’d like to win another one, but this circuit has a lot more experience and overall I’m still trying to get the jist of it. It’s pretty difficult.”
Indeed, the car counts have increased after the inaugural year of the series, to where some drivers from higher series circuits where travel is more extensive have come back to a more regional format to compete.
Hayden is determined to find his way through the pack.
“I want more experience and eventually would like to move up to a bigger series,” he said.
Ross is 19th overall, trailing the other Muskogee driver, Mike Anderson, who is 15th. He was ninth in the first race here and hoping to climb up the ladder, was rear-ended coming out of the second turn in the B Feature, resulting in heavy front end damage.
The key for Anderson on Friday? Simple.
“To finish first you must first finish,” he said.
This circuit excites Anderson, who sees this type of circuit popping up in other areas of the country where you have a hard tire, everyone runs the same kind of shock and has moved the left rear shock location in such a way it unhooks the car and makes it harder to drive.
“It’s really not the guys from the top who are pushing the growth,” he said. “Looney’s a guy who stands out among those who have had major success at higher levels. What’s going to make this successful is the car count from cars that, for lack of a better description, can be pulled out of the weeds.
“Muskogee is late model country. And this has blown fresh life into it.”
Racing at the half-mile Fairgrounds track begins at 7:30 p.m. In addition, the regular points races will be conducted.
Thunderbird at a glance
Cash Money Late Models, regular points races, 7:30 p.m. tonight
1. 4R, Jared Russell, Wagoner, 682. 2. 02, Tanner Mullens, Wichita, Kan., 662. 3. 5* Dalton Clay, Oktaha, 593. 4. 4W, Tyler Wolff, Fayetteville, Ark., 507. 5. 7H, Brett Hansen, Fort Gibson, 484. 6. 73, Jay Arnold, Haskell, 479. 7. 15, George Martin, Fort Smith, 409. 8. 89, Tate Cole, Fort Gibson, 400. 9. F5, Fausten Wilhite, 400. 10. 7, Colby Kasinger, Broken Arrow, 388.
1. 37, Clint Johnson, Neosho, Mo., 856. 2. 94, Dustin Leatherman, Muskogee, 823. 3. 27, Jacob Campbell, Oktaha, 820. 4. 25, Michael Hornback, Muskogee, 783. 5. 33, Bobby Ward, Tahlequah, 759. 6. 22, Dalton Ragsdale, Muskogee, 728. 7. 501, Leroy Cook Jr. Tulsa, 549. 8. 2, Daniel Tarkington, Checotah, 487. 9. 11, Ryan Lowe, Muskogee, 457. 10. 17JR, Drake Long, Stilwell, 451.
1. 75M, Randy Moses II, Muskogee, 470. 2. 64L, Dan Leatherman, Muskogee, 406. 3. 93, Danny Southerland, Shady Point, 394. 4. 55, Chuck Bumgarner, Muskogee, 332. 5. 00, Ray Roberts, Owasso. 6. 26, Gean Davlin, Shady Polint, 284. 7. 34, Tyler Hopson, Fort Gibson, 263. 8. 10-4, Billy Wheeler, Gans, 188. 9. 7K, Jack Kirby, Pryor, 168. 10. 24, Toby Lindell, Muskogee, 163.
1. 88, Matthew Burnett, Muskogee, 959. 2. 16, Blly Arnold, Chouteau, 814. 3. DT1, Mike Wiseman, Muskogee, 739. 4. 7, Brandon Hogard, Yukon, 739. 5. 25, Mike Moschak, Muskogee, 731. 6. 8R, James WAltman, Fort Gibson, 576. 7. 17, Dale Drieth, Yukon, 571. 8. 5, Keith Heaslet, Indianola, 517. 9. 11W, Graci William, Fort Gibson, 484. 10. 96, Phillip Blair, no city, 427.
Cash Money Late Models
1. 14, Brad Looney, Republic, Mo., 798. 2. 160M, Michael Maggard, Republic, Mo., 684. 3. 7w, Cole Wells, Crane, Mo., 594. 4. 88, Jon Driskill, Joplin, Mo., 568. 5. 55, Brandon Cheek, Hackett, Ark., 497. 6. 30, Don Cloyd, Fair Grove, Mo., 469. 7. 5G, Garrett Essary, Galena, Mo., 467. 8. USA1, Chris Hawkins, Neosho, Mo., 457. 9, 20, Dustin Mooneyham, Aurora, Mo., 449. 10. 1/4, Aaron Scroggins, Neosho, Mo. 440.