MARION CENTER, Pa. — An early caution was all Ryan Gustin needed to make his 100th World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models Series start a memorable one.
The Marshalltown, Iowa, driver stormed under Ryan Montgomery on lap seven to take the lead and never looked back to win the Connor Bobik Memorial Friday night at Marion Center Raceway.
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 four for Colton Flinner, who spun.
After the restart, Gustin needed three laps to wrestle the lead away from Montgomery, sliding underneath him in turn two on lap seven.
From there, he aced three more restarts to earn his third career World of Outlaws win and his first of the 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.
“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.
“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 finished fourth after starting 12th.
“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.
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