Sanders having breakout season
July 6, 2012 | by Jason Feldman, Rochester Post-Bulletin
One night of racing can sum up Rodney Sanders' season in a neat little package.
It happened on June 8 at Southern Oklahoma Speedway in Ardmore, Okla.
"We broke a motor in the heat race," Sanders said, "and we almost didn't even run the B Main. We had to change the motor. Luckily, we got it changed in time. Once we got it changed, I knew we'd have a good car, but I didn't know it'd be as good as it was."
It turned out to be the best car that night.
After the motor change, Sanders passed eight cars to win a B Main and secure the 14th starting spot in the 25-car, 30-lap A Main. He proceeded to pass all 13 cars in front of him in half the race, taking the lead on the 15th lap and holding it the rest of the way to win $2,000.
The moral of that story? Sanders, a 22-year-old from Happy, Texas, is intent to not let anything get in the way of him challenging for a USMTS national championship.
After winning just once last season, Sanders will go for his fifth, and possibly sixth, USMTS victory of the season this weekend. The series stops at Chateau Raceway in Lansing tonight for the Mike Guttormson Memorial and visits Deer Creek Speedway on Saturday for the 33rd annual Gopher 50.
"We've been really consistent so far," Sanders said. "We have a few wins and it seems like we're always in the top five or top 10. "We haven't done much different from last year. Maybe it's a little more luck and we're a little more prepared. We have two good crew guys who are dedicated and always ready to race. I can't really pinpoint anything, we're just running a little faster."
So far, 2012 has been a breakout season for Sanders, who has traveled and raced regularly with the USMTS since 2009. In addition to his four victories, he sits atop the USMTS Casey's Cup qualifying points standings and is second to defending national champion Ryan Gustin in the USMTS National Championship Series standings.
"At the start of the year, I was hoping for a top-three finish this year," he said. "With guys like (former USMTS national champions) Gustin, Jason Hughes and Kelly Shryock, it's always tough, but I was hoping we'd be able to run for a championship."
Sanders finished eighth in USMTS national championship points last season, but he has jumped into the national championship fray this season thanks to remarkable consistency. In 34 USMTS events, he has 23 top-five finishes and 31 top-10s.
In fact, in his four wins this season, Sanders has started no better than seventh.
"We kind of struggled last year," he said. "We know we're capable of running better. We had some bad luck this year, some things break, but only being outside of the top 10 a handful of times, I couldn't ask for anything better."
Sanders has spent quite a bit of time with another former USMTS national champion; 2007 champ Jason Krohn, from Slayton, Minn., has given Sanders a place to stay and a shop to use to work on his car. Not only has it drastically reduced Sanders' travel time, but it's allowed him to constantly pick the brain of a driver who's won a championship.
"He's a smart guy, a good racer, a good person," Sanders said of Krohn. "He's been almost like another dad to me. He's been there for whatever I need."
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