WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa — After a long time of trying and countless travel miles from his California home, Jason Papich finally broke through on Saturday night to score his first Lucas Oil MLRA victory in the 13th annual running of the Slocum 50 at the 34 Raceway.
The $10,555 victory came in front of a near capacity crowd at the three-eighths-mile dirt oval.
Papich started third on the grid for the 50-lap main event behind pole sitter Garrett Alberson and four-time Slocum 50 winner Bobby Pierce. With Pierce seeking his third win in a row in the event he, took control from the drop of the green, until the first caution of the night waved on lap three for then fourth-running Terry Phillips who slowed on the track with a flat tire.
On the restart, 2015 Slocum 50 winner Jason Unzicker spun at the entry to turn number one, also while running in fourth. Mason Oberkramer was unable to avoid Unzicker’s parked MB Custom and made heavy contact sending both drivers to the pit area.
The race would return to green again with Pierce finally able to being to distance himself from the field until the final caution of the night waved on lap 19 for debris in turn three. Just prior to the caution Papich was able to clear Alberson and move into second.
Pierce took control on the restart and appeared headed for yet another Slocum win as he pulled away from Papich. As the laps clicked off Pierce began to lose the handle of his car, allowing Papich to reel in the leader as they approached the twenty to go mark.
On the 32nd lap, Papich navigated the low line and move to the top spot for the first time on the night.
Papich continued to distance himself from the field as Pierce jumped the turn one and two cushion with eight laps to go, resulting in an eighth-place finish. In the closing laps, Midwest Sheet Metal Point Leader Tony Jackson Jr. moved into the runner up spot and began to pursue Papich only to come up short at the line.
Papich scored the win by 1.66 seconds over Jackson Jr. for the biggest win of his career. Jackson Jr. retained the point lead with his second-place run, followed by Alberson’s second podium finish of the year in third. Billy Moyer Sr. and Chris Simpson rounded out the top five.
“Down in one and two I could get in there and whoa it up and stay below the bumps and he was kind of sliding through the bumps and it was upsetting his car,” Papich said. “I just tried to stay disciplined and not spin the tires, it was awful slick out there. Tim Douglas has got this Longhorn chassis just rolling, and I’m looking forward to a great season ahead.”
Jackson scored his third top five and second podium finish on the weeklong MLRA swing.
“We had a couple of good runs this week and we do have a good car. I just really wanted to win this race for all the fans, we were really let down last year,” commented Jackson Jr. “We put ourselves into position, we just couldn’t get it done.”
Feature (50 laps): 1. 91P-Jason Papich; 2. 56JR-Tony Jackson Jr; 3. 59-Garrett Alberson; 4. 21-Billy Moyer Sr; 5. 32S-Chris Simpson; 6. 19-Ryan Gustin; 7. 3S-Brian Shirley; 8. 32-Bobby Pierce; 9. 18B-Shannon Babb; 10. 16T-Tyler Bruening; 11. 20-Rodney Sanders; 12. 15V-Kolby Vandenbergh; 13. 74-Mitch McGrath; 14. 91T-Tony Toste; 15. 11R-Justin Reed; 16. 4G-Bob Gardner; 17. 76-Blair Nothdurft; 18. 12W-Ashton Winger; 19. 25-Chad Simpson; 20. 15-Justin Duty; 21. 49T-Jake Timm; 22. 99-Frank Heckenast Jr; 23. 93-Mason Oberkramer; 24. 75-Terry Phillips; 25. 3W-Brennon Willard; 26. 24-Ryan Unzicker