EAST MANATEE -- Cody Stickler's win in the 50-lap Open Wheel Modified feature event highlighted the opening night of the 2014 season Saturday night at Desoto Speedway.
Kyle Bookmiller led the 15-car field to the green flag and led the first 14 laps. Nick Hernandez found some speed on the upper groove and got past Bookmiller to take the lead at the completion of the 15th lap.
Hernandez was leading a seven-car freight train around the three-eighths-mile oval until Travis Roland, who earlier won one of the night's two heat races, suddenly slowed coming out of Turn 2 to bring out the yellow with 21 laps on the board.
On the restart, Bookmiller and Hernandez collided while taking the green flag, sending Hernandez hard into a tire barrier. Hernandez was able to continue, while Bookmiller was sent to the rear of the field.
Bobby Blake grabbed the lead from Hernandez on the restart. Blake, Hernandez and L.J. Grimm staged a fierce three-way battle for the lead over the next several laps until all three got together in Turn 2. Grimm and Hernandez went to the pits for repairs while Blake was sent to the rear of the field.
Dalton Nelson inherited the lead on a Lap 29 restart and would pace the field for the next seven laps.
Stickler powered past Nelson on a restart with 14 laps to go and would go on to win by nearly three seconds.
"The car started off really tight and got better toward the end of the race," Stickler said. "It was at its best around Lap 40, and I'm really happy with how the car drove tonight."
Nelson finished second, while Grimm nipped Steve Arnold at the line for third. Ralph Bowman rounded out the top five.
The Late Model Sportsmen division followed the Modifieds with a 50-lap feature event. Daniel Webster started on the pole and grabbed the lead at the start with Brandon Morris and Aaron Williamson on his tail.
A caution for Greg Gorniak's spin bunched up the field with 10 laps to go, but nobody had anything for Webster over the closing stages of the race.
It was the first career win at Desoto Speedway for Webster. Morris, Williamson, Sheldon Bowers and Shawn Harper rounded out the top five.
In other action Saturday night, Duane Best grabbed the lead on the second lap of the 35-lap Pure Stock feature and went on to win race; Randy Johnson won the 30-lap Pro-4 feature; Zack Rogers took the win the Rookie 4 class; and Dalton Ellis won the 15-lap Mini-Stock feature.
Desoto Speedway returns to action Saturday night with a 75-lap Super Late Model $5,00.00 to win event along with Street Stock, Pro 4, Rookie 4,Cowbot Cadillacs and Dwarf Cars.