WHEATLAND, Mo. – Using slower traffic to his advantage, Mark Smith rocketed from the fifth starting spot to win Thursday’s opener of the General Tire Hockett/McMillin Memorial with the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by the MAVTV Motorsports Network at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Smith, runner-up in the big finale of last year’s Hockett-McMillin Memorial, served notice that he will be a contender for the $10,000 final-night prize. The Sudbury, Pa., driver picked up $3,000 on Thursday.
Starting the feature in fifth, Smith grabbed the lead on lap nine and cleverly worked through lapped traffic to open a two-second lead. But he had to hold off a charge from eighth-starting Mallett, who gradually cut into the gap and made it a dramatic finish.
Smith was able to hang on by .342 seconds – or about two car lengths – to claim his 18th feature win of 2020.
“I saw somebody’s tire down there,” Smith said of the last lap challenge from Mallett. “But there ain’t much you can do on this type of race track unless you take somebody out and Jordon is a pretty good driver and he wouldn’t do something like that.
“It’s a pretty good haul to get out here. I’ve been hanging out in Mississippi to just hit this race this week. Hopefully we can keep this roll going. It’s really been great. Any time you win it’s good. There’s a lot of luck involved. We’re just lucky to have the opportunities that we do.”
Mallett said he thought he had a superior car over the final laps, but said the slick conditions made it difficult to get around the leader.
“We were definitely better at the end, but when it gets rubbered down it gets pretty narrow and tough to pass,” Mallett said. “We were good. I can’t thank everybody enough, all these people who make this deal happen.
“We’ll come back and try to be one spot better. I’m pretty disappointed with second, but you can’t hang you (head) when there’s (77) cars in the pits.”
Scott Borgucki finished third with ASCS points leader Sam Hafertepe fourth and Dylan Westbrook winding up fifth.
1. M1-Mark Smith; 2. 14-Jordon Mallett; 3. 28-Scott Bogucki; 4. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr; 5. 47X-Dylan Westbrook; 6. 28C-Jonathan Cornell; 7. 9JR-Derek Hagar; 8. 11-Roger Crockett; 9. 23-Seth Bergman; 10. 3-Ayrton Gennetten; 11. 91T-Tyler Thomas; 12. 94-Jeff Swindell; 13. 3M-Howard Moore; 14. 88X-Shane Stewart; 15. 47-Dale Howard; 16. 7C-Justyn Cox; 17. 21-Miles Paulus; 18. 17W-Harli White; 19. 24D-Danny Sams III; 20. 52-Blake Hahn; 21. 55B-Brandon Anderson; 22. 9-Chase Randall; 23. 11A-Austin O’Neal; 24. 22-Riley Goodno; 25. 95-Matt Covington