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Although it has been over three months since the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 last hosted competition, two-time and defending Series champion, Aaron Reutzel, left zero doubt to those in attendance at Park Jefferson International Speedway in Jefferson, South Dakota, that the extended gap in the All Star schedule affected his focus and ability, ultimately ending his evening $6,600 richer, as well as the Series point leader. Including action that did not accumulate championship points in early February, the victory was Reutzel’s third of the 2020 season against the All Stars and the 28th of his career.
Reutzel, driver of the Baughman-Reutzel Motorsports/Folkens Brothers Trucking/Fischer Body Shop/Ti22/Dissolvalloy/No. 87 sprint car, dominated action during the first-ever All Star appearance at the southeast South Dakota facility, taking command for the first time on lap eight of 25 and immediately blasting away to a impressive lead. Justin Henderson, who earned the pole position by way of dash victory, led the first seven circuits before losing command to Reutzel. With very little real estate to work with, Reutzel’s takeover occurred on the very bottom of the speedway, narrowly squeezing by the Mike Sandvig entry in turn four.
Watch highlights from Night #1 at Park Jefferson:
Despite periods of relentless traffic, all circling the bottom groove within Reutzel’s preferred line, the Clute, Texas-native dodged the slower cars with ease, and at one point, placed five lapped cars between himself and Rudeen Racing’s Cory Eliason, who followed Reutzel beyond Henderson to take the runner-up spot on lap 11.
A caution on lap 19 would give Eliason an opportunity to restart on the tailtank of the two-time and defending champion, but even a fresh start on a slick surface would prove to be unsuccessful. Reutzel eventually slipped away to a near-three-second lead by feature’s end, once again forced to navigate slower cars during the final three circuits.
Eliason held on to finish second, followed by Henderson, Brock Zearfoss, who cleared six positions to finish fourth, and Trey Starks.
“The last time I was here, it was cowboy-up and you had to drive as hard as you could, but tonight it was really slick and technical and that’s how I like it,” Aaron Reutzel explained. “It took me five laps to figure out how to run this place. I really had to open my entry up and pivot around the tires to get going down the straightaways. It was a lot of fun though.
“I’m just glad to be back racing a lot more, and I know the fans here tonight have been waiting for this for a long time,” Reutzel continued. “I can’t thank my team enough for their hard work so far this weekend. Our goal is to come back tomorrow night and do it again. I haven’t figured out how to surrender yet. I want to win every time we unload the car.”
Blake Anderson catches up with Aaron Reutzel after the race:
The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 will continue their South Dakota visit with a second consecutive start at Park Jefferson International Speedway on Saturday evening, May 30. Like the Friday night preliminary, Saturday’s Park Jefferson main event will award a $6,600 top prize, courtesy of Kevin Rudeen and Trunk Bar.