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September 2, 2021

Lucas Oil Speedway Spotlight: Former pavement racer Willard looks for progress at MLRA Ron Jenkins Memorial

The transition from pavement to dirt has been a challenging one for Brennon Willard, who looks forward to Saturday's Lucas Oil MLRA Ron Jenkins Memorial at Lucas Oil Speedway. (GS Stanek Racing Photography)
WHEATLAND, MO. (Sept. 2, 2021) - Brennon Willard knew the transition from being one of the region’s top asphalt Late Model drivers into the dirt-track world was going to be a challenge.
It has been that, and then some, for the racer from Lebanon. But despite limited success since making the leap beginning with the 2020 season, Willard is glad he made the move.
“It’s been tough. Anybody who tells you it’s not hard is lying to you,” Willard said this week, during his preparations for a two-race Lucas Oil MLRA Late Model swing which includes Saturday night’s 2nd annual Ron Jenkins Memorial at Lucas Oil Speedway.
“It turns into a business quickly, but in the back of your mind you have to remember that you are doing it for fun,” Willard said. “But that’s the hard part. I’m too competitive to not want to run better.”
Willard plans to debut a new Rocket XR1 this weekend, Friday at Lakeside Speedway for the Clyde Ellis Memorial and then on Saturday at what is now his home track.
Racing has been a life-long passion for Willard, whose grandfather Bill Willard, built the Lebanon I-44 Speedway and Bolivar Speedway in the mid-1980s. Brennon Willard’s family owns I-44 Speedway and Brennon raced on the pavement at both I-44 and Bolivar, winning championships there prior to moving to the dirt.
“It was hard in the fact that I still like asphalt racing,” the 37-year-old Willard said of his decision to switch surfaces. “I have nothing against it at all. I didn’t want to race at our own track. I didn’t want to race at Bolivar and worry about getting into somebody and they couldn’t race at Lebanon the next week.
“Travel is just too hard. The closest (asphalt) track next to us is six hours away. You can go race dirt Late Models any time, within three hours. It was kind of a no-brainer as far as deciding what to do. We won both championships that last year and it was like, ‘What do you want to do now?’
“I wasn’t getting any younger and felt like it was time to try something different.”
Even though the results don’t always show up - he has two top-10 MLRA finishes this season - Willard said he knows he’s getting better each time behind the wheel.
“I know we’re better, especially earlier in the night,” he said. “We’re qualifying better. We qualified eighth the last race and last year our qualifying wasn’t good. So, we’re getting better. It just takes time to learn.
“Every week you also know you’re getting better because of who you’re racing against. You’re racing against the best guys in the area and they teach you a lot, whether they know it or not.”
One preconceived notion that Willard had to overcome was the thought process that saving his tires and equipment - especially in lengthy races - was important.
“On asphalt, you’re being patient trying to save your equipment to be there at the end. Everything’s backwards on dirt,” Willard said. “On dirt, it’s a sprint. The harder you drive a dirt car usually, earlier in the night, the better you are. The harder you drive an asphalt car, the harder you wreck and the slower you are. It’s 100 percent backwards.”
Willard does have the benefit of having fellow Lebanon resident Tony Jackson Jr. to lean on for advice. Jackson leads the MLRA points and has done his share of racing on both dirt and asphalt over the years.
“He understands cars better than he’ll ever let anybody know,” Willard said of Jackson. “When you have him as a buddy and see what he’s doing at night - as he’s giving you a hard time for not working on your car he holds you accountable and pushes you. That’s the best thing. He pushes me whether he realizes it or not to try and be better.”
“It’s been good to have him to lean on. If I’m not sure of an adjustment or what to do, he helps me a lot. That’s been a positive.”
Willard said he’s eager to try and close the season strong. Including this weekend’s doubleheader, there are six MLRA events remaining.
“We’ll see what 2022 brings,” Willard said. “Hopefully the next month will be good and we’ll get ready for next year.”
The Ron Jenkins Memorial marks the final Late Model action of the season at Lucas Oil Speedway. Winner of the 40-lap Late Model feature will earn $6,000, which includes a $1,000 bonus from Mary Jenkins in memory of her late husband Ron Jenkins, builder of the original Wheatland Raceway. Mary Jenkins also is awarding a $500 Fast Time Qualifier bonus.
Included on the dirt track will be full programs for the Ozark Golf Cars USRA B-Mods and O'Reilly Auto Parts USRA Stock Cars, paying each 25-lap feature winner $750. While regular-season points are finalized in those divisions, drivers will continue to collect USRA national points.
For the complete MLRA schedule, point standings and archived stories, please visit
Gates at Lucas Oil Speedway dirt track for the Ron Jenkins Memorial open at 4 p.m. Saturday with hot laps at 6:30 and racing at 7:05.
Lucas Oil MLRA Ron Jenkins Memorial admission:
Adults (16 and over) $20
Seniors (62 and over)/Military - $17
Youth (ages 6-15) - $10
Kids (5 and under) - FREE
Family pass (2 adults and up to 3 kids) - $50
Pit pass - $40
*Admission free with 3-day drag boat, 2-day drag boat or Saturday drag boat ticket
On Lake Lucas: Sanctioned by the Kentucky Drag Boat Association, the Diamond Drag Boat Nationals, Friday through Sunday, will have a $40,000 purse.
Lucas Oil Speedway General Manager Danny Lorton reminds drag boat racers and fans that a revised pricing package is available for the lakeside RV and camping spots adjacent to Lake Lucas. They must be purchased in advance by contacting Admissions Director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984.
For the three-day show, the Lakeside RV Package is $250. It includes a 20 by 45 foot space, one vehicle pass and one golf cart pass. Campers can deduct $50 per package if they do not need a vehicle pass and another $50 if a golf cart pass is not necessary.
In addition to the drag boat racing on Friday, the Steve Moeller Band will play from 8 p.m. until midnight at the beer tent on the Lake Lucas drag boat midway. Fans are invited to attend.
For more information on the Kentucky Drag Boat Association, please visit
11th annual Diamond Drag Boat Nationals
Friday tentative schedule:
7 a.m. - Registration opens
8 a.m. - Spectator gates open
9 a.m. - Round 1 Sportsman qualifying
10:30 a.m. - Round 1 Pro qualifying
12:30 p.m. - Round 2 Sportsman qualifying
2 p.m. - Round 2 Pro qualifying
Friday drag boat admission:
Three-day general admission/pit pass combo - $60
Senior/Military three-day general admission/pit pass combo - $54
Youth (ages 6-15) three-day general admission/pit pass combo - $30
Ages 6 and over general admission/pit pass combo - $10
Kids 5-and-under - FREE
Saturday tentative schedule:
7 a.m. - Registration opens
8 a.m. - Spectator gates open
9 a.m. - Round 1 Sportsman qualifying
10:30 a.m. - Round 1 Pro qualifying
12:30 p.m. - Round 2 Sportsman qualifying
2 p.m. - Round 2 Pro qualifying
Saturday drag boat admission:
Adults (16 and over) general admission/pit pass combo - $25
Seniors (62 and over)/Military general admission/pit pass combo - $22
Youth (6-15) general admission/pit pass combo - $10
Kids (5 and under) - FREE
Family pass (2 adults and up to 3 kids ages 6-15 - $60
Adult 2-day general admission/pit pass combo - $50
Seniors/Military 2-day general admission/pit pass combo - $44
Youth (6-15) 2-day general admission/pit pass combo - $20
*All Saturday, 3-day and 2-day tickets include FREE admission to dirt track on Saturday night
Sunday tentative schedule
8 a.m. - Spectator gates open
9 a.m. - Eliminations begin
Sunday drag boat admission
Adults (16 and over) general admission/pit pass combo - $25
Seniors (62 and over)/Military general admission/pit pass combo - $22
Youth (6-15) general admission/pit pass combo - $10
Kids (5 and under) - FREE
Family pass (2 adults and up to 3 kids 6-15) - $60
For ticket information for any event during the 2021 Lucas Oil Speedway season, contact admissions director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or via email at Fans also can use the online ticketing system.
Danny Lorton
Lucas Oil Speedway General Manager
Office: (417) 282-5984 
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Complete Lucas Oil Speedway event information, archived race recaps, previews and driver features, along with ticket information and schedules can be found by visiting
Lucas Oil Speedway is located at Highways 83 and 54 in Wheatland, Missouri. A campground with shower and bathroom facilities is also available. With its entrance located just outside the pit gate this sprawling scenic camping facility will continue to enhance the racing experience at the Diamond of Dirt Tracks.
Click for more information and detailed directions to the speedway or call the Track Hotline at (417) 282-5984.
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About Lucas Oil Speedway 
Lucas Oil Speedway is considered by fans, drivers and industry insiders to be one of the top five racing facilities in the nation. Located in Wheatland, Missouri, approximately an hour from Springfield, Missouri, and just an hour and a half from the Kansas City metro area, the "Diamond of Dirt Tracks" lives up to its title.
Twenty-One VIP Luxury Suites, HD Jumbo-Tron Screen, Stadium Style Musco Sports Lighting, a Bose Sound System, Go-Kart Slick Track, The Diamond Bar, Track Treasures Gift Shop, the best track food in the country and paved pits are a few of the spectacular amenities setting the Diamond of Dirt apart. This year marks the ninth season for the Liquid Quarter Mile Drag Racing Lake, "Lake Lucas." New for 2017 was all-purpose built Off Road facility featuring the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series as well as a host of other regional events.
Lucas Oil Speedway's dirt oval track plays host to some of the largest and most-popular events in the Midwest with national and regional touring series appearing frequently including: The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, POWRi Midget National Series, Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League, United States Modified Touring Series, ASCS Sprint Cars and the Lucas Oil MLRA. 
In addition to the special events, the Lucas Oil Speedway Weekly Racing Series features the ULMA Late Models, USRA Modifieds, USRA Stock Cars and USRA B-Mods.
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Advanced Automotive Repair, AM Pyrotechnics, Angler's Resort, Arizona Sport Shirts, Ash Grove Aggregates, Ball Tree Service, Benton County Tire, Berry Tractor and Equipment Co., Big Adventure RV, Bill Roberts Chevrolet-Buick, Bolivar Auto Sales & Detailing, Bolivar Farmers Exchange-MFA, Boone's BBQ Barn, Boubin Tire/American Racer, Branstetter & Lightfoot LLC, Bridal Cave, BWI Sanitation, Camden on the Lake Resort, Candlelight Creations-Dick's Wild Root Horseradish, Casey's General Stores, Cedar Creek Beef Jerky, CED Electric, Central Life Sciences, Citizens Memorial Healthcare, City Magnet, Clearlight Inn, Comfort Inn-Bolivar,, Dixie Chopper, eBay Motors, Eibach Springs, Evans Pipe & Steel Co., Farmers Insurance Agent Kristy Reynolds, Fast Shafts by Axle Exchange, Foley Equipment-Cat Rental Store, Frog Signs, Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare, Heritage Tractor Inc., Hermitage Lumber, HICKAMO Country Store, Highway 54 RV Park, Hobbytime Motorsports, Hoosier Race Tires, Impact Signs Awnings Wraps, In the Garden of Eden, Kettle Treats, Keyser Manufacturing, Kluhsman Racing Components, Kona Ice, LimeBank, Lucas Cattle Company, McCoy Logging LLC, Merck Animal Health, Midwest Sheet Metal, Miller Welding, Missouri Land Co. LLC, Missouri Welding Institute (MWI), MyRacePass, Nemo Quarry, NMI/VMG Marketing Group, Nutrien Ag Solutions, OakStar Bank, O'Bannon Bank, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Ozark Golf Cars, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr. Pepper, Ozarks Community Health Center, PFI Western Store, Pitts Homes, Pitts Realty, Pitts Cattle, ProThings Apparel, RACEceiver,,,, Rains Ice Company, Real Racing Wheels, Rod End Supply, Ron Jenkins Accounting & Tax Service, Rugged Radios, Ryan E. Murphy Law Firm LLC, SBU Athletics, Safety Kleen, Schlesselman Fencing, Scott Furniture, Sidetrack RV Park, Southwest Electric Cooperative, Square B Ranch, Stillwater Resort, Stover Milling, Sunoco Race Fuels, Sunflower Resort, Superior Products, TA/PETRO, Transportation Distribution Co. (TDC), US Army Corps of Engineers-Pomme de Terre, Wheatland Motel, White's Marine Center, Wild Animal Safari, Windsor Livestock Auction, Woods Supermarkets, Wrisco Industries, ZINPRO Performance Minerals.