11 min read

Humdinger at Humboldt: #FantasyDirt Primer for USMTS King of America XII

Humdinger at Humboldt: #FantasyDirt Primer for USMTS King of America XII
Iron Man Shane Sabraski prepping the Hot Karl owned WIN 1 B-Main for the USTMS Masters at Cedar Lake Speedway

USMTS, I see you! That was one heck of a way to kick off a season. Eighty-Seven, let me repeat that, 87!!! Modifieds checked in for Night One of the Summit Spring Nationals from Rocket Raceway Park. That was after having to push back the start of the event, adding another day to the event, and loading cars into the pits a fistful at a time.

And the product on the track was dang good too! If y'all arent heading out to a track to watch these drivers in person, you really do need a Racin'Dirt subscription. The production quality is quite solid. The website and Roku App are super intuitive and easy to use. Oh yeah, and the racing if freaking fantastic!

If that isn't enough to entice you, then the fact that Trenton Berry is on the broadcast should! Between the Wild West Shootout and the Spring Nationals, Trenton has become my favorite person on any broadcast. My guy calls it the way he sees it, has so much knowledge to share, and has a solid, dry wit. Ol' Gal and I had numerous moments over that weekend where we would look at each other with a smirk and ask "did you hear that?" Upon confirmation, we'd both bust out laughing. It was as good as a weekend of watching racing on TV that I've ever had. I'm so glad I bit the bullet and snatched a subscription, even if it was only a monthly one for the time being.

Alright, enough shilling for free! (Yes, believe it or not, I have no affiliation with Racin'Dirt (you totally believe that), that's an honest assessment from a happy race fan)

The Format: Group Qualifying by Heat, Heat Invert of 6, Top-12 "passing points" after heats transfer to A-Main, B's for the rest, transfer by finishing order in B's.

USMTS threw me (I want to say us, but some of y'all knew about it) for a loop and started off the season with a heat invert of 6 (Fastest Q'er starts 6th in the heat, 6th fastest Q'er starts first in the heat). I would have thought such a rule change would have been documented in the rulebook, turns out that mentioning it on a FaceBook live stream is all that is necessary!

After Night One, I thought the format was trash. After all, Kyle Brown started on the pole of his heat, won the dang thing and still had to race in a B-Main. Ultimately, Brown missed transferring by 1 spot and had to use a provisional. Night Two, however, looked more like the USMTS I'm accustomed to and we didn't have a single heat winner miss transferring via heats.

All told, after two nights of racing, here is how setting the first 12 spots on the grid unfolded:

Night One:
7 of 8 Heat Winners transferred directly through to the A-Main
3 of 8 Fast Qualifiers transferred directly through to the A-Main
Top-12 transfers by Heat Starting Postion:
1st - 1 transfer
2nd - 1 transfer
3rd - 2 transfers
4th - 3 transfers
5th - 1 transfer
6th - 3 transfers
9th - Tom freakin' Berry Jr.

Night Two:
7 of 7 Heat Winners transferred directly through to the A-Main
2 of 7 Fast Qualifiers transferred directly through to the A-Main
Top-12 transfers by Heat Starting Postion:
1st - 2 transfers
2nd - 1 transfer
3rd - 4 transfers
4th - 1 transfer
5th - 2 transfers
6th - 2 transfers

14 of 15 Heat Winners transferred
5 of 15 Fast Qualifiers transferred
Top-12 Transfers by Heat Starting Postion:
1st - 3 of 24 transfers
2nd - 2 or 24 transfers
3rd - 6 of 24 transfers (that would be a quarter of all transfers!)
4th - 4 of 24 transfers
5th - 3 of 24 transfers
6th - 5 of 24 transfers
9th - Tom freakin' Berry Jr.

It would appear that we can increases our chances of getting our entire lineup in the A-Main by targeting the 1st, 3rd, and 4th fastest qualifiers in each heat. After all, those three spots alone constitutes 15 of 24 transfers. I'll keep track of this through the season, but for now I think those three spots look promising.

The Standings: After two nights of the Summit Spring Nationals from Rocket Raceway Park, here's the top 25 in points:‌‌
1. Jake Timm‌‌
2. Jason Hughes‌‌
3. Dan Ebert‌‌
4. Tom Berry Jr.‌‌
4. Will Krup‌‌
4. Brandon Givens‌‌
7. Tyler Wolff‌
‌8. Darron Fuqua‌‌
8. Terry Phillips‌‌
10. Dereck Ramirez‌‌
11. Jim Chisolm‌‌
12. Gary Christian‌‌
13. Jake O'Neil
‌‌14. Tanner Mullens‌‌
15. Chris Henigan‌‌
16. Cayden Carter‌‌
17. Cade Dillard‌‌
18. Steve Lavasseur‌‌
18. Jeremy Nelson‌‌
18. Jared Russell‌‌
21. Zack VanderBeek‌‌
22. Tyler Davis‌‌
23. Jacob Bleess‌‌
24. Cody Thompson‌‌
25. Rodney Sanders

Outside of being a good barometer for who is running well early in the season, this also is the list for provisionals as those should be allocated based on 2023 points this weekend.

As for provisionals, here is how I believe provisionals have been used so far:
Tom Berry Jr. - 1
Terry Phillips - 1
Tanner Mullens - 1
Zack VanderBeek - 1
Rodney Sanders - 1
Dylan Thornton - 1
Kyle Brown - 1
Joe Duvall - 1

The Track: Humboldt Speedway - 1/4-mile bullring

The History: USMTS raced three times at Humboldt Speedway in 2022. Below is the Top 10 of each those races.

3/25/22 (Feature completed 3/26/22)
1. Kale Westover
2. Dereck Ramirez
3. Tyler Peterson
4. Dustin Sorensen
5. Tyler Wolff
6. Tyler Davis
7. Tanner Mullens
8. Jayson Good
9. Jake O'Neil
10. Zack VanderBeek

3/26/22 - King of America XI
1. Jake O'Neil
2. Darron Fuqua
3. Dustin Sorensen
4. Dereck Ramirez
5. Jason Hughes
6. Zack VanderBeek
7. Jake Timm
8. Ethan Dotson
9. Tanner Mullens
10. Tom Berry Jr.

1. Dereck Ramirez
2. Tanner Mullens
3. Terry Phillips
4. Rodney Sanders
5. Tyler Davis
6. Jake O'Neil
7. Zack VanderBeek
8. Jason Hughes
9. Dan Ebert
10. Cayden Carter

Previous Kings:
2022: Jake O'Neil - In Attendance
2021: Brooks Strength
2020: COVID
2019: Ricky Thornton Jr. - In Attendance (Kyle Brown's backup car)
2018: Lucas Schott
2017: Ryan Gustin - In Attendance (Chris Kratzker's car)
2016: Zack VanderBeek - In Attendance
2015: Jason Hughes - In Attendance
2014: Ryan Gustin
2013: Stormy Scott - Twin Brother, Johnny, is in attendance
2011: Kelly Shryock

Who to Watch: My hope is that this list can be used as a resource throughout the weekend. I have listed drivers by their Thursday, March 23rd salary. As the weekend progresses, each driver's salary and salary slot will change, but the analysis should still be relevant.

Dereck Ramirez - $22,000 (1): Ramirez was electric at Humboldt in 2022 (as you might have noticed above), with finishes of 2nd, 4th, and 1st. Ramirez wasn't just good at Humboldt though, as he had an average finishing position of 6th in 8 races on 1/4-mile tracks during the 2022 USMTS season. I find it hard to roster the highest-salaried driver (no upside), so Ramirez might not be in on Thursday. However, should his salary slot dip even a little, I'll be all over Ramirez.

Terry Phillips - $21,600 (5): The Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer started off the new season hot, bringing his new Bloodline Chassis home 2nd in the Summit Spring Nationals opener. Phillips looked fast on Night Two but mechanical gremlins reared their ugly head, ultimately forcing Phillips to use a provisional. I was encouraged by the speed I saw out of Phillips. Phillips' early season speed combined with his two career USMTS wins at Humboldt, make me think Phillips could snag a podium finish or two over the course of the weekend. That would be plus value out of the fifth highest salaried driver.

Tom Berry Jr - $21,400 (7): TBJ is a badass. In his first full season running an open motor (think USMTS, WWS, USRA, WISSOTA), Berry has two wins, a runner-up, a Top-5, 2 Top-10s, and an average finish position (AFP) of 9.5 (including a DNS in the WWS finale) in 8 DirtDraft (DD) contests across the Wild West Shootout and USMTS. Oh yeah, in his first race in his first USMTS season, TBJ won the freakin' thing. From the 9th starting position in his Heat! Sitting at the seventh Salary Slot heading into Thursday, it's hard not to see the value TBJ offers.  

Dan Ebert -  $21,300 (8): Did you see all those awesome finishes for Tom Berry Jr? Did you notice TBJ's AFP? Ebert heads into Humboldt sporting an AFT of 9.625 in the same 8 races as TBJ. So how the heck has Ebert done it? Try 4 Top-5s, 2 more Top-10s, one 15th place finish, and one DNS. In 8 DD contests, Ebert has 5 finishes equal to or better than the eighth salary slot he occupies on Thursday! Want more? Ebert, on average, advanced 4.4 positions and had an AFP of 10.14 in 7 (of 8) USMTS features on quarter-mile tracks. I really like Ebert heading into the King of America!

Jake O'Neil - $21,000 (11): I'll admit, I was a little surprised to see O'Neil struggle as much as he did at Rocket. I think there is some downside with O'Neil headed into the weekend. At least until we see him string together a couple solid finishes. Be that as it may, O'Neil is still the reigning, defending King of America. That alone proves he can win this weekend. Moreover, in 2022, O'Neil advanced, on average, 6 positions and had an AFP of 6.25 in 8 USMTS features contested on a 1/4-mile tracks. The numbers are pointing, adamantly, to O'Neil out performing this salary slot over the course of the weekend.  

Jake Timm - $20,500 (13): Timm had an interesting Spring Nationals, to say the least. Failing to lay down a qualifying lap on Night One and starting dead last in his heat. From there, Timm moved forward in his heat, won a B-Main, and advanced 5 positions to salvage an 11th-place finish. Night Two went much better, laying down the fastest qualifying lap of the entire field, winning his heat from 6th, and winning from the pole. All of that allowed Timm to leave Texas as the points leader for the season. Yep, the current USMTS points leader heads into the weekend in the 13th Salary Slot. The value is dripping!

Darron Fuqua - $20,300 (14): - For some reason, it has felt like Fuqua is always charging forward in a feature this year. His 25th to 5th run during the opener at Rocket did nothing to dispel that feeling. Apparently, this is a habit of Fuqua's, having finished 2nd twice in the King of America and earning Hard Charger honors for both. In 2019, Fuqua charged forward from 16th. In 2022, Fuqua out did himself and charged to 2nd from 26th! On the 2023 season, Fuqua has 4 Top 5s, an 8th, 2 14th-place finishes, and one DNS, which equates to a 10.625 AFP. Between the hot start to the season and the historical, hard charging, success at Humboldt and in the King of America Feature, there is a good chance Fuqua outpaces this salary slot all weekend long.

Ricky Alvarado - $20,100 (15): Alvarado showed up halfway through the Wild West Shootout and he, apparently, brought his ass kicking boots! Ripping off a 4th and 8th place finishes in his first two night. The last two nights were a bit rougher with a 20th and DNS to end the WWS. Alvarado then headed over to the Workin' Man Nationals and brought home a 21st (DNF), a runner-up and a 4th-place finish. So far in 2023, Alvarado has 7 starts with 3 Top-5s and another Top-10. I'm certainly intrigued.

Zack VanderBeek - $19,700 (19): VanderBeek started on the Pole Night One of the Summit Spring Nationals before sliding back to 14th. Night Two was a bit rougher, with VanderBeek having to take a provisional and coming home 26th. Despite those results, this salary feels a bit low. VanderBeek has been King once, back in 2016, had three Top 10s in three 2022 USMTS A-Mains at Humboldt, and had an AFP of 10.625 on 1/4-mile tracks in 8 USMTS A-Mains. That's a solid resume for someone sitting in the 19th salary slot to start the weekend.

Jason Hughes - $19,600 (20):

Jason Hughes has 13 career USMTS wins at Humboldt Speedway, including a King of America championship in 2015. He is the...

Posted by RacinDirt.com on Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Carlos Ahumada Jr. - $19,500 (21): Carlos had a rough start to the USMTS season, missing the feature Night One and coming home 25th on Night Two of the Spring Nationals. That is certainly a cause for concern and we should rightly be cautious. Be that as it may, Carlos does have one win at Humboldt in USMTS action back in 2021 on the eve of the King of America. In three features at Humboldt in 2022 action, Ahumada had finishes of 17th, 18th, and 18th. I wouldn't pound the table for Ahumada, but I do think his resume at this track is solid enough to warrant consideration as we put our rosters together.

Gary Christian - $19,400 (22): In 8 DirtDraft contests this year, Christian has an average Salary Slot of 18.25 and an average Salary of $19,688. Both of which are higher than where Christian enters the King of America weekend. Against those averages, Christian has delivered an average Value (difference between salary slot and finishing position) of +4 and an AFP of 14.625, which includes one DNS on Night Two of the Spring Nationals. That Night Two DNS is of little concern to me as Gary got caught up in someone elses solo spin during qualifying and had to bust out the backup car for the rest of the night, missing the transfer by a 4 in his B-Main. Christian has been balling out to start his 2023 season. I fully expect Christian to continue delivering plus value and solid finishes this weekend.  

Jared Russell - $19,300 (23): So far we've discussed a lot of really good drivers who have missed at least one feature between the WWS and the Spring Nationals. Russell was at every one of those races too. He hasn't missed a single feature yet! That's pretty dang impressive! The finishes haven't been mind blowing, but our first priority for any driver in our lineup is to make the feature. Russell has done that, every time! With a salary slot on the fringe of the A-Main, Russell's AFP of 16 provides us some nice upside.

Will Krup - $19,100 (25): Krup sits T-4th in USMTS season points and had finishes of 10th and 4th at the Spring Nationals. He enters the weekend in a salary slot outside the A-Main. Sign me up!

Joseph Thomas - $19,000 (26 - tied): This is completely a homer pick!  Thomas primarily runs WISSOTA modifieds up here in the Tundra of Minnesota, so naturally I'm gonna want to see him do well. And he just might! Thomas opened the WWS with 9th, 10th, and 11th-place finishes before missing the final three features. In his one 2022 USMTS event, Thomas came home 12th at Casino Speedway. Psstt... Casino Speedway is 1/4-mile.

Brandon Givens - $19,000 (26 - tied): Givens enters the weekend tied for 4th in the USMTS points chase, so there is a provisional out there potentially. But I'm not sure we're going to need it. Givens had a pair of Top-10s at the Spring Nationals, coming home 7th (from 22nd) Night One and 6th (from 10th) Night Two. Beyond recent results, Givens managed to make 2 of 3 2022 USMTS at Humboldt, coming home 20th in the KoA preliminary Feature and 13th during the August stop. The Cookie Monster could be one of the biggest potential values in the whole field.

Kale Westover - $18,800 (29): Westover was highlighted in the Primer for the Spring Nationals. Unfortunately, Kale missed both features. With that in mind, there is definitely some downside here. I ain't scared though! Westover won the preliminary feature at last year's King of America and ran well enough in the KoA feature to fail tech. I'm very intrigued at a sub-$19,000 salary.

Trevor Hughes - $18,600 (31): This one is pretty simple. Jason Hughes is the winningest USMTS driver at Humboldt. Trevor is Jason's son. We can feel fairly confident Trevor will have the right set up each and every night.  

Jeremy Nelson - $18,400 (34): Nelson made both features at the Spring Nationals and sits T-18th in USMTS points. In addition to making both Features, Nelson was seemingly moving forward all weekend long, with the unfortunate exception of the Sunday A-Main where he pulled off early netting a 29th-place finish. Night One was much better with a 12th-place finish. All in all, Nelson has run well so far in USMTS competition and enters the weekend with a very juicy Salary. He's definitely worth heavy consideration.

Steve Lavasseur - $17,900 (43): Much like Nelson, Lavasseur made it into both features. Unlike Nelson, though, Lavasseur transferred both nights via heats. Not only did Lavasseur make the feature, he ran decent with a 22nd-place (from 9th) and a 13th-place (from 8th) finishes. It's almost comical that Lavasseur enters the weekend sitting in the 43rd Salary Slot. Maybe DirtDraft knows something I don't (entirely possible, if not completely likely), but I'm drooling looking at this Salary!

Ryan Gierke - $17,500 (53-tied): Another homer pick as Gierke is a regular at the USMTS stops around my neck of the woods. That being said, Gierke did put it in the King of America Feature in 2021. Not too shabby for the driver all the way at the bottom of the salary chart to start the weekend.