QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — Bobby Pierce notched his first victory in the desert Southwest while giving himself a shot at a huge paycheck.
Making his racing debut west of the Rockies, the Oakwood, Ill., driver led all the way from outside the front row, riding the preferred high groove early before cruising to a $5,000 victory in Saturday's Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout opener at Arizona Speedway.
The 20-year-old took the checkers 1.989 seconds ahead of runner-up Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., in the 30-lapper at the third-mile oval.
Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, who took the second spot on a lap-eight restart but gave it up to Overton on a lap-22 restart, was third while home-state favorite Ricky Thornton Jr. of nearby Chandler and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., rounded out the top five.
Polesitter David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., held the second spot the first seven laps but got shuffled back on an early restart before settling for sixth.
By virtue of the victory, Pierce stands as the only driver with a chance at the Keyser Quarter-Million Bonus, a $250,000 windfall for a driver sweeping the six-race miniseries. The bonus program also offers $100,000 for a five-victory week or $50,000 for nabbing four of six victories.
“If we got luck by our side, and we’re really fast, it’s possible, you know?” Pierce said. “The main thing is we gotta stay lucky. We know we’re fast. We’ve just gotta stay lucky.
“You’ve gotta start up front. These races are only 30 laps — which tonight it felt like a long time leading the whole thing — but if you start in the back it’s going to be a hard time to get up through there in a hurry. But we’ve gotta make sure we stay up front and keep our hopes high.”
While the Midwestern has never won beyond the Rockies, Pierce is coming off a 25-victory season when he became the youngest World 100 winner in history and wrapped up his second straight UMP DIRTcar Summernationals and DIRTcar weekly championships.
One of six heat race winners, Pierce drew the outside front-row starting spot and went right to work from the outset, riding the high-side cushion to pull away from Breazeale in the early laps.
Simpson took second from Breazeale after a yellow but didn’t have much more success keeping up with the red No. 32. By the halfway point, Pierce lead a four-car breakaway with Simpson, Overton and Thornton pulling a half-track ahead of the fifth-running Pearson.
Traffic loomed in the second half of the race and Pierce’s high groove led him safely past several cars before he dove under Garrett Alberson in turn one with eight laps remaining to stretch his lead further.
Another yellow reset the field and gave Pierce clear racetrack on the lap-22 restart, and he deftly pulled away again, this time settling in the middle of the blackening track.
Overton never got within striking distance the rest of the way, but he was pleased with a runner-up finish in substituting in the No. 42s of concussion-sidelined Minnesota driver Don Shaw.
“Yeah, that wasn’t too bad for the first night out,” the 25-year-old Georgian said. “Don brought a good car down here … I’m just glad to be able to come down here and be able to get an early start on everything. First night, we’ll take it.”
Simpson felt like he had a little something for the winner despite slipping back to finish third.
“At times, Bobby really didn’t pull away from me,” Simpson said. “I could kinda stay a little lower and reel him in, but anytime you get him out there with a little bit of a top (groove), it’s going to be tough to beat him …
“A podium finish is a good start to the week, but I’m disappointed, you know? I only want to be in one spot, so we’re going to work hard and we’re going to get there.”
The feature was slowed by two cautions for single-car incidents. Former WWS winner Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., slowed on the backstretch on the eighth lap before retiring while Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas, Calif., spun between turns one and two on lap 22.
The six-race miniseries continues Sunday with Round 2 of action featuring another $5,000-to-win event for Super Late Models with modifieds and X-mods on the undercard. Hot laps are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. MST with racing at 5.
Notes: Pierce became the first Illinois driver this century to win a winter Late Model event in Arizona. … He’s the sixth World 100 winner to win at Arizona during that stretch following Billy Moyer, Steve Francis, Jonathan Davenport, Shane Clanton and Jimmy Owens. … A.J. Diemel of Elk Mound, Wis., missed Saturday’s action because of Friday’s wreck and practice and because his father was briefly hospitalized. He plans to compete Sunday. ... Justin Duty of Mulino, Ore., won the Pro Power Dash for non-qualifiers, collecting the $1,000 winner's purse and passing on an opportunity to join his father John in the 30-lap feature.
Preliminary results and notes:
Pro Power non-qualifiers' dash
Results: Justin Duty, Tony Toste, Cole Schill, Brian Kleine, Andrew Kosiski, Steve Drake, Nick Bartels, Steve Stultz, Dave Deetz, Jake O'Neil, Darren Coffell, Joey Moriarty.
(Winner has option to run feature)
Row 1: Jake O’Neil, Justin Duty
Row 2: Darren Coffell, Joey Moriarty
Row 3: Tony Toste, Dave Deetz
Row 4: Steve Drake, Cole Schill
Row 5: Steve Stultz, Andrew Kosiski
Row 6: Nick Bartels, Brian Kleine
(Top two transfer)
First consolation: Terry Phillips, Scott Ward, Jake O'Neil, Joey Moriarty, Steve Drake, Andrew Kosiski, Clay Daly, Kye Frick, Dan Diebel, Greg Jelvik, Larry Childress.
Second consolation: Justin Kay, Garrett Alberson, Justin Duty, Tony Toste, Cole Schill, Nick Bartels, Rob Sanders, Thomas Hunziker, Terry Carter.
Third consolation: R.C. Whitwell, Collen Winebarger, Darren Coffell, Dave Deetz, Steve Stultz, Brian Kleine, Billy Franklin, Rick Ortega, Carlos Ahumada Jr.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Scott Ward, Terry Phillips
Row 2: Jake O’Neil, Joey Moriarty
Row 3: Steve Drake, Clay Daly
Row 4: Andrew Kosiski, Dan Diebel
Row 5: Kye Frick, Larry Childress
Row 6: Greg Jelvik
Row 1: Garrett Alberson, Justin Kay
Row 2: Tony Toste, Thomas Hunziker
Row 3: Justin Duty, Cole Schill
Row 4: Nick Bartels, Terry Carter
Row 5: Rob Sanders, James Laing
Row 1: R.C. Whitwell, Collen Winebarger
Row 2: Billy Franklin, Darren Coffell
Row 3: Dave Deetz, Rick Ortega
Row 4: Steve Stultz, Carlos Ahumada Jr.
Row 5: Brian Kleine, Paul Guglielmoni
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top three transfer)
First heat: David Breazeale, Earl Pearson Jr., Jason Krohn, Scott Ward, Jake O'Neil, Steve Drake, Andrew Kosiski, Kye Frick, Greg Jelvick.
Second heat: Ricky Thornton Jr., Jason Rauen, Billy Moyer, Terry Phillips, Joey Moriarty, Clay Daly, Dan Diebel, Larry Childress.
Third heat: Bobby Pierce, Rodney Sanders, Tyler Erb, Garrett Alberson, Tony Toste, Justin Duty, Nik Bartels Rob Sanders.
Fourth heat: Dustin Strand, Kyle Beard, Chad Mahder, Justin Kay, Thomas Hunzicker, Cole Schill, Terry Carter, James Laing.
Fifth heat: Brandon Overton, Jimmy Mars, Bobby Hogge IV, R.C. Whitwell, Billy Franklin, Dave Deetz, Steve Stultz.
Sixth heat: Chris Simpson, Mike Marlar, John Duty, Collen Winebarger, Darren Coffell, Rick Ortega, Carlos Ahumada Jr., Paul Guglielmoni.
A busy week of action started Saturday at Arizona Speedway for the first round of the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout with 48 Late Models part of the winter minitour.
The Late Models are split into six groups for time trials with officials employing combination hot-lap/time trials to set the lineups for six heat races. Drivers start straightup by time.
The top three finishers in each of six heat races transfer to the 30-lap main event with the winners redrawing for the first three rows of the feature lineup. Three consolation races will transfer two drivers apiece to complete the 24-car field for the feature, which pays $5,000-to-win.
Saturday’s event is the first of six races over the next nine days at the third-mile oval southeast of Phoenix.
A.J. Diemel of Elk Mound, Wis., isn’t in competition. Besides wrecking his car in Friday’s hot laps, his father was taken to the hospital for an unknown medical condition, it was announced at the drivers’ meeting. … Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., is among drivers making his first WWS appearance. Moring’s team has multiple winter victories in Arizona with Steve Francis behind the wheel. … The seven Oregon drivers in action are the most at the miniseries in several seasons. … Home-state drivers R.C. Whitwell and Ricky Thornton Jr. are competing in Late Models and modifieds, and Thornton plans to add an X-mod ride on Sunday. ... The Pro Power Dash is scheduled for Jan. 7-8, and 14 among the top 12 drivers who failed to transfer to the feature through consolation races; the winner can pass up $1,000 and opt to tag the field of the main event. ... Besides 49 Late Models, the opener drew 36 modifieds and 45 X-mods.
(Heat race lineups straightup)
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.116
David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., 15.195
Jake O’Neil (0), Tucson, Ariz., 15.278
Jason Krohn (7k), Slayton, Minn., 15.305
Steve Drake (11x), San Luis Obispo, Calif., 15.364
Scott Ward (37), Watertown S.D., 15.934
Andrew Kosiski (53), Omaha, Neb., 15.959
Kye Frick (08), Sweet Home, Ore., 16.506
Greg Jelvik (12j), Tucson, Ariz., 16.708
Jason Rauen (98), Farley, Iowa, 15.013
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.116
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 15.391
Ricky Thornton Jr. (33x), Chandler, Ariz., 15.403
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 15.515
Clay Daly (32B), Watsonville, Calif., 15.728
Dan Diebel (74), Lebanon, Ore., 16.336
Larry Childress (17), Bakersfield, Calif., 16.846
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 15.073
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.180
Garrett Alberson (F5), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.363
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 15.586
Tony Toste (91T), Pismo Beach, Calif., 15.602
Justin Duty (15D), Mulino, Ore., 15.696
Rob Sanders (10N), Bakersfield, Calif., 15.877
Nick Bartels (12), El Segundo, Calif., 16.148
Dustin Strand (71), Grand Forks, N.D., 15.409
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 15.443
Justin Kay (15K), Wheatland, Iowa, 15.646
Chad Mahder (33C), Eau Claire, Wis., 15.794
Cole Schill (44), West Fargo, N.D., 16.119
Thomas Hunzicker (38), Bend, Ore., 16.492
Terry Carter (6T), Edmonton, Alberta, 16.605
James Laing (89), Tucson, Ariz., 16.687
Brandon Overton (42s), Evans, Ga., 15.272
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 15.275
Bobby Hogge IV (2), Salinas, Calif., 15.525
R.C. Whitwell (96), Tucson, Ariz., 15.599
Billy Franklin (17), Calera, Ala., 16.144
Steve Stultz (78), Peoria, Ariz., 16.693
Brian Kleine (R5), Las Cruces, N.M., 17.029
Dave Deetz (43), Las Cruces, N.M., 17.924
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 15.348
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 15.444
John Duty (5), Mulino, Ore., 16.166
Collen (74w) Winebarger, Corbett, Ore., 16.432
Rick Ortega (24), Las Cruces, N.M., 17.024
Darren Coffell (46), Bend, Ore., 17.063
Carlos Ahumada Jr. (54), El Paso, Texas, 17.607
Paul Guglielmoni (22), Vacaville, Calif., 17.763
3:30 p.m - Hot laps
Late Models (combo hot laps/time trials)
4:50 p.m. - National anthem
4:55. - Heat races
Modifieds (8 laps)
X-mods (8 laps)
Late Models (8 laps)
Modifieds (12 laps)
X-mods (10 laps)
Late Models (12 laps)
Modifieds (25 laps)
Pro Power Dash (eight Late Model non-qualifiers; 10 laps)
X-mods (20 laps)
Late Models (30 laps)