Springfield driver holds off NASCAR hall of famer to win Dayton 100

Springfield's Kyle Jones won the Dayton 100 late model race at Kil-Kare Speedway on Sunday. Greg Billing/Contributed

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Springfield's Kyle Jones won the Dayton 100 late model race at Kil-Kare Speedway on Sunday. Greg Billing/Contributed

XENIA – Given his choice, Springfield late model driver Kyle Jones said he’d “rather be lucky than good any day of the week.”

On Sunday he was both.

The lucky part came when Jones avoided several accidents that slowed other frontrunners battling to win the historic Dayton 100. The good – and he was even better than that – came when he maintained no less than a car-length lead over NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte the final 46 laps to win the Dayton 100 by 0.242 seconds.

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Racing returned to Kil-Kare Raceway for the first time since August of 2019. The crowd came back, too. About 1,500 spectators packed the stands to watch the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, the Ohio Wheelman Street Stocks, FWD Compacts and Compact Enduro at the tricky 3/8th, modified-D track in Greene County.

“Gary (Estes) stuck his neck out there,” Jones said of the Miamisburg car owner who, along with former Columbus Motor Speedway owner Jeff Nuckles, put the event together. “I was glad to see the turnout in the grandstands and we had a good car count for the JEGS Series. I was happy they did it and hopefully they get to do it again.”

Jones started seventh in the Dayton 100′s 20-car feature – presented by Platinum Express trucking – and quickly worked to the front. He took the lead on lap 20 after passing Michigan’s Andrew Scheid coming out of turn four. He retained the lead each time after five restarts (there were six cautions overall) to lead the final 80 laps.

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Springfield's Kyle Jones won the Dayton 100 late model race at Kil-Kare Speedway on Sunday. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Springfield's Kyle Jones won the Dayton 100 late model race at Kil-Kare Speedway on Sunday. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Springfield's Kyle Jones won the Dayton 100 late model race at Kil-Kare Speedway on Sunday. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Labonte, Cody Coughlin, Ethan Stadniczuk and Chad Pendleton were among those chasing Jones early. Five-time USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson, who along with Labonte piloted rides for Team Platinum, worked his way to the front by the finish.

In the qualifying session, Labonte topped the field and earned a $1,000 bonus in a tribute by Shane and Stacy Shirk to the late fabricator, car designer and crew chief Dick Ater. But both Labonte and Swanson started in the back of the field because their cars practiced on Friday outside of the approved CRA window.

Labonte quickly charged to the front in his first appearance at Kil-Kare. He raced into 12th the first seven laps. From laps 36-45 he went from sixth to fourth. On lap 54 he passed Pendleton for second. From there Labonte put pressure on Jones but never managed to pull up to his bumper.

“He was really good and I feel like I might have worn out the right-side tires a little bit having to drive up there,” Labonte said. “I was able to kind of stay with him, but I couldn’t gain no more. I started gaining one time and I didn’t have any more grip left.”

Jones contended with lapped traffic with five laps left. He split a pair of lapped cars with two to go. On the last lap he went low and used a lapped car on the outside to prevent Labonte from passing.

“Just doing the same thing I was doing the last 90 laps,” Jones said of what he was thinking as the final 10 laps clicked off. “Hitting my marks. Trying to stay out of trouble, really. Those lapped cars on the last lap got a little hairy. Other than that everyone did a great job as far as staying out of the way as far as lapped cars go. … I just wanted to maintain that gap and not use my tires too much. I wanted to have something left at the end if I needed to.”

Both Labonte and Swanson spent Saturday night competing in Tony Stewart’s Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) event at Eldora Speedway. Swanson finished second to Stewart. Labonte finished 11th (out of 12) after Paul Tracy knocked him out of podium contention late in the race.

Nuckles, who raced sprints with Terry Labonte back in the day and became good friends with the Labontes, took the opportunity to have some fun about Saturday night.

“We’ve been friends for 50 years,” Nuckles told the crowd during pre-race festivities. “We’re very happy he came this afternoon and he’s … not answering Paul Tracy questions.”

Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR points champion and 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, did answer the question about how he’d handle Kil-Kare’s unusual track.

“I think (second is) respectable,” Labonte said. “We had to start in the back and it was a challenge to get around and pass. Sure, we would have loved to won and there’s nothing better than that. At the end of the day it was good and Kody came in the top five as well. For my first time I felt pretty good.”

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte won the Dick Ater Memorial Pole Award at the Dayton 100 on Sunday. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte won the Dick Ater Memorial Pole Award at the Dayton 100 on Sunday. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte won the Dick Ater Memorial Pole Award at the Dayton 100 on Sunday. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Jones, Labonte, Cody Coughlin (Delaware, Ohio), Swanson and Tanner Jack (Indiana) were the top five finishers. Germantown’s Justin Alsip finished sixth, Dayton’s Brandon Oakley 15th and Enon’s Mike Stacy 17th.

“I like tracks with character,” Swanson said. “I like Kil-Kare because there is no set way to do it. There’s options everywhere and I love that. Eldora is the same. The track is always changing so there are options all the time. … We passed a lot of race cars so at least we were part of the show. It was great to see a good crowd. It was a great opportunity.”

The victory was the third in three starts for Jones. He also won the first two Ohio 300 late model championship races at Shady Bowl Speedway driving his No. 2 Chevrolet sponsored by BMC, Beach Marine Products, Duncan Oil Performance and KJR Racing.

“This win ranks right up there with (the rest of) them,” Jones said. “I think every win is just as important as the last one. They don’t always come often. Whenever you get one treasure it because you don’t know if it’s your last.”

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