By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Tony Jackson Jr. made the battle for second place more interesting than his romp to first place on Wednesday night at the Monett Speedway.
Jackson, Lebanon, won the 40-lap A feature in the MARS/NCRA Challenge at the 3/8-mile clay track.
Jesse Stovall, Billings, clipped Terry Phillips, Springfield, for second place.
Said Stovall: “Hats off to that No. 56 race car (Jackson). It’s his turn. He’s stepped up his game. He’s made me work harder.”
Jackson, who shrugged off caution flags on laps 9 and 26, took the lead for good entering Turn 1 on the second lap.
Said Jackson: “We had a great race car tonight. We’ve raced this car 12 times and won six. It (the race car) gives you confidence. We also know the track.”
Monett success includes winning the Tony Roper Memorial earlier this season.
“This is our second season of trying for the MARS points championship,” Jackson said. “We race each other hard (the Jackson-Stovall rivalry) but with respect.”
Jackson, who pocketed $3,000, extended his MARS DIRTcar Series points lead. He entered Thursday night’s MARS/National Championship Racing Association Challenge at 81 Speedway in Park City, Kan., just north of Wichita, with 657 to defending champion Stovall’s 610.
Phillips (575), Justin Asplin (491) of Birch Tree (Mo.) and Leroy Johnson (430) of Springfield completed the top five in points.
Jackson earned the pole, with Stovall on the outside, by coming from last place to win the first heat.
Phillips, who has 81 career MARS wins, charged from the fifth row inside to battle with Stovall. He hasn’t won a MARS A feature since Oct. 7, 2012.
Stovall, noting engine problems, bounced back from a disappointing finish last weekend in two events.
Justin Wells, Aurora, and Will Vaught, Crane, followed Phillips across the finish line.
Completing the top 10 were Brandon McCormick of Lebanon, Asplin, Ken Essary of Cape Fair (Mo.), Jacob Magee of Caney (Kan.) and Cole Wells (Justin’s son).
Heat winners, in addition to Jackson, were Stovall, Shane Essary of Aurora and Cole Wells.
MARS moves to West Siloam Speedway, Colcord, Okla., for shows tonight and Saturday night. Starting times are 7:30 tonight and 7 on Saturday. Gates open each day at 4 p.m.
Racing at the Monett Speedway resumes on July 12.