by Lyndal Scranton
Dustin Walker will be aiming for feature win No. 3 this season as the Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Models go after a $1,000-to-win prize in the headliner of “Thursday Night Thunder” at Lucas Oil Speedway.
The 38-year-old dirt-track veteran from Polk, about 25 minutes away from the speedway, spent some time driving open Late Models after working his way through Street Stocks on Modifieds early in his career.
“I’ve been racing dirt since I was 21 or 22. I started in Street Stocks at Adrian Speedway, then moved to Modified. Then I thought I needed to be frustrated all the time and started racing open Late Models,” Walker said with a laugh. “And if the cattle market wasn’t bad and utility construction wasn’t bad, we’d still be open Late Model racing.
“But it’s really expensive to be able to do it. So we’re racing the class of Late Models that we can afford to compete in and having a good time.”
This after a not-so-good time to start the 2020 season. Walker didn’t even officially record a lap in the season opener after being caught up in a wreck involving Jason Sivils’ car, which landed upside down on the front straightaway. Then a week later, Walker’s Rocket XR1 landed on its lid, leaving him buried in the point standings with the season barely underway.
“The beginning of the season was horrible,” Walker said. “I don’t know how much worse you could get. The first week we didn’t even get to take the green flag. Then we flipped that car the following week and had to switch over all my stuff to a different car for week three and week three wasn’t that great either. But we did at least get to finish a race.”
Walker found himself in victory lane the next week, in his MB Customs car. He won again on June 20 at the Midseason Championship and now has momentum on his side entering the special Thursday program to kick off the 4th of July Weekend.
Casey’s General Stores and KY3 present the program, which will find the Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Models chasing a special 25-lap, $1,000-to-win courtesy of Rains Ice. Visit participating area Casey’s locations for $2 discount admission coupons.
The Pitts Homes USRA Modifieds, Ozark Golf Cars USRA B-Mods and O’Reilly Auto Parts Street Stocks also will be in action. The area’s wildest fireworks show, courtesy of AM Pyrotechnics and coordinated with music, will light up the sky after the races.
Gates will open at 4 p.m. with hot laps at 6:30 and racing at 7:05.
In the main event on the program, Walker will be looking to run up front again. He’s hit on a winning formula in the car that was a backup at the beginning of the year.
“We made a few changes on the car and got a win, made a couple of more changes and had a lackluster finish and went back to what we had and got a win again,” Walker said. “So, I think we’re gonna leave it along and see if we can’t get three.”
Walker said the MB Custom had been a dependable car for him in the past, when he picked up a ULMA victory back in 2017 at Lakeside Speedway.
“We decided to go back with what we had the best of luck with, with these hard tires and it seems to be working so far,” Walker said. “With the Rocket, the chassis wasn’t bad, we just never could get a shock combination that agreed with me. I think the chassis on the MB just fits me a little better and the shock package that Chris Mars put together for these hard tires really seems to be working.”
Walker is competing on a regular basis again after doing racing since buying his Polk County farm in 2017 as business took precedence over racing.
“Last season we got to where we could save enough money to get a car and a motor and ordered a trailer over the winter,” he said. “We’re trying to get back to it. Being This close to Wheatland, it would be hard to race anyplace else. We’re just gonna stick with this.”
Walker is 38 points behind Cole Henson for the track points lead, but Larry Ferris and three-time reigning champion Johnny Fennewald are between him and the lead.
“I wish our season had started better. I’m not sure if we won every race left that we could win the points deal, but we’re definitely gonna try to do the best we can and try to win some more races,” he said. “That’s all we can do right now. But I’d like to have the first two weeks back, for sure.
‘I think the points championship has left us, so all we got left is bragging rights and try to get the most wins.”
Kids’ Bicycle Night: It’s also the always-popular Kids’ Night at the Races featuring the annual bicycle giveaway. Fans, sponsors or drivers wishing to donate can drop off bicycles – both boys’ and girls’ models – at the speedway during weekday business hours or bring them to pit office prior to Thursday’s races.
The Frog’s Signs Junior Fan Club giveaway is for youngsters, ages 5-12 and they can sign up on the midway, next to the gift shop trailer on the south end of the midway, prior to the races. Drawings for the bicycles will be held during intermission.
Fans also can make cash donations toward purchase of the bicycles this week. For questions or more details, contact Lisa Lorton at the Lucas Oil Speedway office (417) 282-5984 or via email at Lisa@lucasoilspeedway.com.
The Frogs Signs Junior Fan Club Kids Pit Tour also continues as eight lucky kids will get to tour the pits with flagman Mike Striegel to get an up-close look at the cars and drivers. The tour will be from 5:15-6 p.m. and then the kids will get to attend the drivers’ meeting before going back to the grandstands.
Youngsters ages 5-12 can sign up from 4-5 p.m. at the same location as the bicycle sign-up. Parents will have to sign a waiver form allowing the kids to go into the pits for the tour.