WEBSTER CITY, Iowa — With a baby boy due any day now, Denise Mullens stayed home Saturday night, while her husband, Tanner Mullens, performed a last-lap pass for the victory at the Karl Chevrolet Hamilton County Speedway.
It was just one year and two days ago that Tanner Mullens captured his first victory with the Summit USMTS National Championship fueled by Casey’s at the age of 27.
Saturday’s win in the 15th annual USMTS Webster City Wrangler presented by BigDeal Car Care was worth $10,000—a nice gift with less than an hour remaining on his wife’s birthday.
Tanner Mullens set himself up for success by earning the pole and led the opening lap of the 35-lap feature at the historic half-mile clay oval, but the hottest driver on tour right now, Tyler Wolff, took control on the second lap.
From there, Wolff was in charge for the next 33 circuits while non-stop action and drama kept the competitors racing in spurts as a season-high 10 cautions kept the field within striking distance of the leader.
While Mullens was trying to find victory lane for the first time in 2021, Jake O’Neil was hunting his third checkered flag in nine days. The pair fought tooth-and-nail for most of the race while Wolff was consistently able to pull away on each restart after a brief challenge each time.
Three of the yellow flags waved for two of the top three in the points battle. Rodney Sanders, who worked his way up to fourth got into turn three too hot and tagged the left rear of Mullens, sending the defending USMTS national champ spinning while Mullens carried on. Then, with just two laps remaining, the right-rear tire exploded on Sanders’ machine, dropping him from the race in 22nd.
O’Neil was battling Mullens and chasing Wolff when his right-rear tire went flat, causing him to pit for replacement rubber. He found his way back to 13th by the time the checkered flag waved 13 laps later.
After winning two features and leading the points battle early on, the gremlins have hitched a ride with Terry Phillips and stayed with hm again tonight. Riding in the top 10, mechanical woes sidelined the veteran racer on lap nine and he was paid for 26th place.
Meanwhile up front, Mullens began to reel in Wolff with five laps to go. Both were using the high line around the racetrack but Wolff was churning the cushion while Mullens was slightly lower and wheeling his ride through the smooth dark area.
Riding his rear bumper the final two laps, Wolff bobbled slightly in turn two as the pair were racing on the final lap. That created an opportunity for Mullens to dive low and slide up in front of Wolff in turn three.
There was never an issue with clearing the leader as Wolff got sucked into the heavy high side and grazed the guardrail while Mullens cruised by and led the final few hundred feet to score his fifth career win which tied him on the all-time wins list with Mike Sorensen, Dustin Sorensen and Greg Skaggs.
“I knew that’s probably the last chance I was going to get there and he kind of pushed down here (pointing at turn two) and I got beside him and I figured ‘What the hell, if I hit the fence I hit the fence.’
“We’ve been struggling really bad so it feels good to finally get a win… My wife back home, it’s her birthday so that’s a good day to win.”
Although Wolff was unable to notch his second win in three nights, he did hang on for his second runner-up finish in the same time span. Lucas Schott, q8th-starting Dustin Sorensen and Brooks Strength followed in the rest of the top-five spots.
Tanner Mullens, Tyler Wolff, Lucas Schott, Dustin Sorensen, Brooks Strength, Dereck Ramirez, Kyle Brown, Jason Hughes, Zack VanderBeek, Landon Atkinson, Jesse Glenz, Jacob Bleess, Jake O’Neil, Curt Myers, Al Hejna, Carlos Ahumada Jr., Tyler Davis, Lance Mari, Jayson Good, Pat Graham, Chris Clark, Rodney Sanders, Darron Fuqua, J.D. Auringer, Lucas Lee, Terry Phillips, Nathan Hagar, Dan Ebert.