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Radcliffe gets monkey off back with win

DODGE CITY — Jeff Radcliffe had been so close so many times. 

On Saturday night, all Radcliffe's near misses were in the rear view mirror as the Hill City hot-shoe won his first United Rebel Sprint Series feature with a victory in the series season finale at Dodge City Raceway Park. 

“The monkey is off my back,” Radcliffe said. “I feel like I won the lottery, finally. I've been waiting a long time for this. Last night, I thought I had it until Jason Martin came by me. But I got beat by the best, so I still smiled. I knew I had a shot tonight. Randy Washburn set the car up and did everything. It was night-and-day difference from what it was a week ago until now with Randy turning wrenches. I owe it all to him tonight.” 

Radcliffe led a large portion of Friday night's race, only to see Jason Martin and Luke Cranston sneak by him as he finished third. On Saturday, Radcliffe put on a solid performance en route to earning his first URSS win.

Radcliffe finished second in his heat and started outside the second row alongside Tyler Knight. Kaden Taylor led the field to the green as the pole-sitter, with Keefe Hemel starting outside the front row.

Taylor would lead the first lap before Radcliffe would get by him on lap No. 2. Knight would follow him, taking second, followed by Hemel and Taylor.

Radcliffe would build a large lead, nearly a straightaway, by the time the first caution flew on lap nine. That would bunch the field back up, allowing Knight, Hemel, Richie Dewell and Taylor a chance to tag in on Radcliffe's bumper again.

Radcliffe jumped out to another comfortable lead on the restart, but after a few laps was back into lap traffic. That's when Knight started to close the gap.

“I knew Tyler was coming,” Radcliffe said. “He's probably got more experience on this track than most people do. I knew he was coming, so I made sure I was on my game. I had to drive it a little harder than I wanted to because by brake caliper fell off my inboard brakes, so I was kind of worried about that. I knew if I made a mistake, I'd be into the wall, but it all worked out.”

Late in the race, Radcliffe would hit a hole in turns three and four and would slow considerably. But Knight was right behind and had to check up to avoid hitting him. 

“There was once I got on the binders because we about got together,” Knight said. “There was a big hole in the middle of three and four, and if you were on the gas, it would pick the front end up. I think he double up right there and the front end came over and I just about tagged him. It killed my momentum when that happened, and he just kind of pulled away from me.” 

A few laps later, Jordan Randles would spin right in front of Radcliffe and Knight, bringing out the second caution on lap 22.  

“I thought we were in trouble,” Knight said about avoiding Randles. “ … It's racing. This track here, there's not a lot of room to pass, so it's going to happen.” 

Radcliffe would get a good jump on the restart, and Knight never could put a solid effort together in the final three laps to put any pressure on him. 

“This is the third night in the chassis that C.J. Johnson built me, and he built me a great car,” Radcliffe said. “The minute I got in it, I knew I should have been running it earlier in the season. Now I have a good car and Randy turning wrenches. I feel like now I can go anywhere and do all right. I kind of wish there were some more races now.” 

Knight finished second, followed by Adam Trimble in third, Josh Fairbank in fourth and Ray Seemann in fifth. Seemann wrapped up his first URSS national championship with the finish, becoming the sixth different driver to win a URSS title in as many years. 

Trimble started seventh and moved into fourth on lap 10 and into third two laps later. 

“The track was getting pretty rough in three and four, and if you went over the cushion it felt like you were going to go into the wall,” Trimble said. “If you kept your foot in it, you were OK and everything turned out just fine. It was pretty scary, though. Overall, it was a heck of a lot of fun.” 

Heat race winners were Hemel, Fairbank, Taylor and Trimble. 

Richie Dewell won the Keizer Aluminum Racing Wheels Hard Charger Award, going from 13th to sixth.

It was the final race of the 2011 season for the URSS. 

Feature results

1. Jeff Radcliffe, 2. Tyler Knight, 3. Adam Trimble, 4. Josh Fairbank, 5, Ray Seemann, 6. Richie Dewell, 7. Gavin Stout, 8. Keefe Hemel, 9. Brian Herbert, 10. Blake Smith Jr. 11. Lance Davis, 12. Judd Sheaffer, 13. Kaden Taylor, 14. Zach Blurton, 15. Cody Caldwell, 16. Dan Brummet, 17. Jeff Heffner, 18. Mike Parker, 19. Jordan Randles, 20. Mark Walinder.

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