Mason Mingus Takes Ken-Ten Win at Salem Speedway
15-Year-Old Leads Every Lap on First Trip to Tricky Track
By Rob Spires and Terrell Davis
When Mason Mingus started his 811 Tennessee and Kentucky One Call Chevy on the outside pole for the Touchstone Energy Hoosier Hills 100 in his very first race at Salem Speedway, he knew he had a fast car. What he didn’t know was if it would hold together for 100 grueling laps on the high banked, blazing fast racetrack.

After running well in a number of races this season, Mingus left the track pleased with how well the car ran, but disappointed that it wasn’t still running when the checkered flag dropped.

The car ran flawlessly in the Ken Ten Pro Late Model Series event at Salem and Mingus not only took the checkered flag in first place, he led every lap.

“Wow, what can I say,” Mingus commented after the race. “We had a fast car that would run anywhere on the track. Even with the cautions that closed the field up, we still were able to pull away from the pack. Kevin (Gardner) really had the car set up well and Chuck Barnes, Jr. helped me with what on track lines to use. It was definitely a team win at Salem.”

An hour or so before qualifying the 15-year-old hot shoe from Brentwood, Tennessee was not sure if he would even make a qualifying run because of clutch problems.

“We had to overcome a bad carburetor and then the clutch went out,” he said. “Kevin and the crew were able to repair it and we felt really good about qualifying our 811 Tennessee and Kentucky One Call Chevy on the outside. We knew that we had some serious challengers including Will Kimmel, who has a lot of experience and several wins at Salem, so when we got the lead on the first lap, I just wanted to keep it there.”

Mingus had to overcome several restarts throughout the race in order to maintain the lead.

The most dramatic incident of the night occurred on lap 17. As the cars worked off of turn 2, the sixth and seventh place cars of Kevin Willis, from Shepherdsville, KY., and Ryan Isaacs, from Lagrange, KY., tangled.

Both cars slid into the inside wall and ricocheted back into the racing groove where series regulars Brian Royalty and Tim Hollis were collected. As the cars ground to a stop, Willis’ car burst into flames. Though Willis emerged from his crumpled machine unhurt, the race had to be red-flagged for over half an hour while fire crews battled the inferno. Because of the damage sustained to his charred racer, Willis was awarded the AR Bodies hard luck award.

Once the race resumed, it was business as usual for Mingus, though by lap 39 AR Bodies fast qualifier Will Kimmel, from Sellersburg, Ind., had worked his way into second place. Kimmel, a Salem Speedway veteran and former track champion, stalked Mingus lap after lap until his car began to overheat. Kimmel brought the steaming car onto pit road on lap 57 and retired from the event.

Kimmel’s misfortune opened the door for Weston to challenge Mingus for the top spot. Weston, a former Rookie of the Year winner at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, was able to maintain a consistent margin behind Mingus, though he wasn’t able to gain any ground on the youngster.

“We’re pleased with our finish at Salem, but we would have liked to have had one more spot,” Weston said. “We aren’t running many races this season, so a win would have been nice, but second isn’t bad. We’ll take it.”

The field was bunched up as the last caution of the night flew for a Martin Belcher spin on lap 76, but as soon as the green flag was displayed, Mingus reasserted his dominance. Mingus comfortably led until lap 95 when the lights went off in turn 4 of the racetrack. Due to the circumstances, the race was deemed official and Mingus was awarded the win. In all, it was one of the most dominating performances in Ken Ten series history as Mingus led every lap to score his second Ken Ten career series victory. Mingus, who won a Ken Ten Series race at Kentucky Speedway last year is still the youngest winner in series history. Weston had to settle for second, and Greenfield, IN., driver Damon Ecoff finished third. Weston’s charge through the field was enough to earn him the hard charger award.