HARTFORD, Mich. (July 11) — The old big Hartford Speedway suited Billy Moyer Jr. very well. So does the new, small(er) version of the Wolverine State oval.
Just over one year after winning an American Ethanol Tour event on Hartford’s former half-mile monster oval, Moyer returned Tuesday night to test himself on the shortened, 3/8-mile layout and enjoyed more success, scoring a flag-to-flag victory off the pole position in the 40-lap UMP DIRTcar Summernationals feature.
Moyer, 29, of Batesville, Ark., faced an early challenge from Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., and a late threat from Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., but he handled both to pocket a $5,000 first-place prize for his third Hell Tour triumph of 2017 and the eighth of his career.
“I won on the big one (last year),” said Moyer, whose $4,000 victory last June came in his first-ever visit to Hartford. “We ran a 535 gear — that’s, like, crazy big. I tend to run better on bigger tracks, so I liked that half-mile.
“They shortened this place up this year, but this place is still big. You think about it, and this place is bigger than Wheatland (Missouri’s Lucas Oil Speedway), bigger than Batesville (Ark.). This is one of the first places (on the ’17 Hell Tour) where there’s big corners and you really gotta drive off the right-front tire. I’m a little better at that than backing it in off a big cushion — that’s fun, but I’m way better whenever I can steer in and keep the car underneath me and kind of drive like asphalt at times.”
In a race that was slowed by just two caution flags for cars hitting the wall between turns three and four — first outside polesitter Adam Bowman of Seymour, Ind., on the opening lap, then fourth-place Marcoullier on lap 38 — Moyer mastered the green-white-checkered sprint that closed the A-main to defeat the eighth-starting Feger by 1.178 seconds.
Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Mich., who won a Super Late Model feature at Hartford on May 12, ran solidly in the top five throughout the distance and finished third. Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., advanced from the ninth starting to place fourth, nipping runaway Summernationals points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., who charged forward from the 19th starting after relying on a provisional to gain entry to the A-Main thanks to a flat right-rear tire that knocked him out of the lead in his heat race.
Moyer didn’t have much time to relax in the frenetic event. He had Marcoullier nose underneath him off turn four on lap 15, and, after managing to build a race-high advantage of nearly 3 seconds as the 5-to-go signal neared, he had the surging Feger suddenly catch him and sneak to his inside off the fourth corner on lap 38.
“Them guys were right on me,” Moyer admitted.
But Feger, who, like Moyer, ran a Billy Moyer Victory Race Car, was effectively done in when the caution flag flew on lap 38. The former Summernationals champion wasn’t able to make a serious bid for the lead over the final two circuits.
“He leaned on that top down there and he got on me,” Moyer said of Feger’s late charge. “I was just too comfortable I think. I couldn’t see really good because of the dust when I got into (lapped) traffic, so I couldn’t judge how high I could wing it in (turns) one and two and Feger caught me. After I had clean air in one and two (on the restart), I went up (higher) and I said, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of good track up here.’
“And when you see 25 (Feger) in second — well, he didn’t get that nickname (Highside Hustler) for nothing. I figured he was up top, so I just went up there to make him pass me on the bottom. Then if he did, he did, but we got the money.
“I’m just glad to get a win,” he added. “Man, we’ve been up-and-down. We’ve got a pretty good piece here, but we just haven’t been consistent. We run like 13th seven times — that’s just too damn inconsistent to get close to the championship. Bobby (Pierce) has a bad night and runs seventh, so that’s why he’s gonna be the champion.”
Feger, 38, settled for the bridesmaid cash two days after winning his first Summernationals feature of ’17 at Kickapoo Speedway in Danville, Ill.
“I was pretty close to (Moyer) the one time and then me and (the lapped Paul) Stubber almost wrecked on the front straightaway,” said Feger, who passed Marcoullier for second on lap 28. “He got crossed up and I about came to a stop it felt like on the frontstretch, and then then (Moyer) got back out on me. I was doing all I could to catch back up because I knew we were about out of time.
“I didn’t want to see that (lap-38) yellow. I felt like I was in a good place and a good rhythm, and then after that yellow I didn’t fire off quite as good and he had clean air so that was it.”
The 29-year-old Thirlby enjoyed a career-best Summernationals performance seven years after chasing the full Hell Tour schedule for the only time in his career. He spent the race’s late stages battling for third with the third-starting Marcoullier, whose hopes for a top-five finish evaporated when he tangled with a slower car on lap 38 and slammed the outside wall between turns three and four with such force that it broke left-side frame rails on his XR1 Rocket and left him sore enough to consider visiting a hospital for a checkup.
“I saw Feger jump it up high (to make a late run) and I just tucked it down low,” Thirlby said. “But there was a hellacious mogul coming out of (turn) two and I kind of hit it wrong and I was just hoping that Bobby and Ryan stayed behind me.”
Notes: Moyer’s victory put him on top of the Hell Tour’s FK Rod Ends-sponsored final-week points standings. … Bowman was able to continue after slapping the wall on the opening lap, so by Summernationals he was permitted to reclaim his outside pole starting slot for the restart. He ran in the top 10 throughout the race’s first half before retiring on lap 26 and finishing 20th. … Bob Gardner of East Peoria, Ill., had to pull out his backup car after his primary machine was sidelined because he hopped the cushion during time trials and had mud push the radiator into the fan. … Cody Mahoney of Hanover, Ind., was knocked out of his heat race with significant nosepiece damage and didn’t start the consolation, but he gained a berth into the feature from a provisional and rallied from the 22nd starting spot to finish seventh.
The field for the 40-lap feature began rolling onto the racetrack just before 10 p.m. ... Some showers appeared to be moving toward the speedway during the heat races, but the precipitation broke up as he came off nearby Lake Michigan. ... Billy Moyer Jr. picked the pole position for the A-main, giving him a chance to duplicate his dominating $4,000 victory in last year’s American Ethanol Tour feature at Hartford. He won that event by nearly 7 seconds over Dona Marcoullier, who starts behind Moyer in third. … Thanks to a flat right-rear tire that knocked him from the lead in the first heat, Bobby Pierce had to rely on a points provisional to start the A-main for the first time on the 2017 Summernationals. He took just one lap in the consolation. … Other provisional starters are Rusty Schlenk, whose C.J. Rayburn house car was towed off the track in the consolation when he couldn’t avoid hitting the spinning Justin Pauley; Cody Mahoney, who didn’t start the last-chance race after sustaining front-end damage in his heat race; and Phil Ausra.
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Adam Bowman
Row 2: Dona Marcoullier, Gordy Gundaker
Row 3: Brandon Thirlby, Travis Stemler
Row 4: Curtis Roberts, Jason Feger
Row 5: Ryan Unzicker, Curt Spalding
Row 6: Brent Larson, Michael Kloos
Row 7: Jake Rendel, Bob Gardner
Row 8: Dustin Nobbe, Paul Stubber
Row 9: Eric Spangler, Brett Miller
Row 10: Bobby Pierce, Rusty Schlenk
Row 11: Phil Ausra, Cody Mahoney
Finish (10 laps; top 3 transfer): Paul Stubber, Eric Spangler, Brett Miller, Phil Ausra, Bob Mayer, Jarrett Rendel, Brandon Williams, Justin Pauley, Rusty Schlenk, Bobby Pierce (DNS) Cody Mahoney, Dan Gehring, Mike Bores.
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Brett Miller, Phil Ausra
Row 2: Paul Stubber, Justin Pauley
Row 3: Mike Bores, Eric Spangler
Row 4: Bob Mayer, Brandon Williams
Row 5: Jarrett Rendel, Bobby Pierce
Row 6: Rusty Schlenk, Dan Gehring
Row 7: Cody Mahoney
Adam Bowman paced the field from flag-to-flag for a convincing victory over Travis Stemler. Ryan Unzicker overtook Michael Kloos midway through the heat for third place and finished there. A caution flag flew on lap three for Dan Gehring’s spin between turns three and four.
Finish: Adam Bowman, Travis Stemler, Ryan Unzicker, Michael Kloos, Dustin Nobbe, Paul Stubber, Eric Spangler, Jarrett Rendel, Dan Gehring.
Billy Moyer Jr. led all the way, holding off several bids from Brandon Thirlby to take the checkered flag. Jason Feger was a distant third-place finisher with Brent Larson and Bob Gardner completing the transfers. Rusty Schlenk was an early retiree, pulling off the track on lap five.
Finish: Billy Moyer Jr., Brandon Thirlby, Jason Feger, Brent Larson, Bob Gardner, Phil Ausra, Mike Bores, Brandon Williams, Rusty Schlenk.
Dona Marcoullier inherited the lead during a lap-three caution period when Bobby Pierce headed pitside with a flat right-rear tire and turned back a furious late-race challenge from Gordy Gundaker to emerge triumphant. Curtis Roberts came from the rear to place third while Curt Spalding was fourth in Phil Ausra’s second car. Caution flags flew on lap two for Cody Mahoney, who stopped on the inside of turn one while running fourth with apparent front end damage, and lap three when Justin Pauley and Bob Mayer spun off turn four.
Finish: Dona Marcoullier, Gordy Gundaker, Curtis Roberts, Curt Spalding, Jake Rendel, Brett Miller, Justin Pauley, Bob Mayer, Bobby Pierce, Cody Mahoney.
Summernationals points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., was the overall fastest qualifier, setting a new track record of 16.169 seconds to earn the pole position for the first heat.
Other heat polesitters will be Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., and Travis Stemler of Ionia, Mich.
Curtis Roberts of Coleman, Mich., was the only entrant who failed to turn a qualifying lap. He arrived late to the speedway due to hauler trouble.
Bob Gardner of East Peoria, Ill., timed third-fastest in the second group, but he will have to start at the rear of the prelim because a busted fan belt at the end of his qualifying run forced him to pull out his backup car.
The final week of the grueling UMP DIRTcar Summernationals begins on a sultry night at Hartford Speedway; temperatures are in the high 80s with high humidity. … A 28-car field is signed in for action. … Summernationals regular Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., returns to the track where he won an American Ethanol Tour event in June 2016. … Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill., is making his first-ever start in the state of Michigan. The driver from the St. Louis area took vacation days from his job to chase the Hell Tour’s concluding five-race stretch in Michigan and Ohio — a swing that features four tracks he’s never previously visited. … Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Mich., enters the evening’s program having won a May 12 feature at Hartford, one of just two Late Model events the track has hosted this season. … Hartford’s 3/8-mile layout will be a new challenge for many of Tuesday night’s entrants, including top Michigan guns Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake and Eric Spangler of Lake City. Neither driver has competed at Hartford since it was shortened from its former sprawling half-mile length. … After dropping out of Sunday night’s Summernationals feature at Kickapoo Speedway in Danville, Ill., when his car’s oil light blinked on, Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., feared that his engine might have been damaged because oil lines he mistakenly left loose drained most of the lubricant from his motor. (He began the process of changing a cracked oil tank after his heat race but had to abandon the work when the A-main rolled out quickly.) He said he was relieved when his engine builder, Bill Schlieper, checked the powerplant and found no problems.
Following a day off, the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals begins its concluding stretch of five races with a stop at Hartford Speedway. The $5,000-to-win show is the first of three straight nights of action in the state of Michigan.
The Hell Tour has visited Hartford three times in the past, but the last race came in 2006. Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., won the ’06 feature as well as an event in ’05, and Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., captured the track’s other Summernationals checkered flag in 2002.
Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., holds a commanding lead in the Summernationals points race as he sits on the cusp of his third consecutive series title.
Qualifying results/Heat lineups
(10 laps; top 5 transfer)
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 16.169
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 16.585
Dona Marcoullier (6M), Houghton Lake, Mich., 16.605
Cody Mahoney (4), Hanover, Ind., 17.414
Curt Spalding (15s), Watervliet, Mich., 17.475
Justin Pauley (13), Dowagiac, Mich., 17.678
Bob Mayer (42*), Holland, Ohio, 17.741
Jake Rendel (06), Adrian, Mich., 17.936
Brett Miller (97), Greenville, Tenn., 18.03
Curtis Roberts (9R), Coleman, Mich., no time
Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., 16.542
Brandon Thirlby (M14), Traverse City, Mich., 16.667
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 16.791
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 16.915
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), McClure, Ohio, 16.933
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 17.608
Mike Bores (15B), Bellevue, Ohio, 17.638
Phil Ausra (15A), St. Joseph, Mich., 17.897
Brandon Williams (83W), Kouts, Ind., 18.542
Travis Stemler (2s), Ionia, Mich., 16.744
Adam Bowman (77), Seymour, Ind., 16.889
Dustin Nobbe (5N), Batesville, Ind., 16.911
Michael Kloos (6k), Trenton, Ill., 16.946
Eric Spangler (27), Lake City, Mich., 17.034
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 17.041
Paul Stubber (31AUS), Bunbury, WS, 17.059
Dan Gehring (31G), Pettisville, Ohio, 17.804
Jarrett Rendel (006), Clayton, Mich., 18.157
Schedule of events
• 6:30 p.m. - Drivers' meeting (draw closes)
• 7 p.m. - Hot laps/time trials
• 8 p.m. - Preliminary races
- Stock Car heats
- Late Model heats
- Modified heats
- Cyber Stock heats
- Late Model consolation(s)
- Modified consolation(s)
- Stock Car A-main
- Late Models (40 laps)
- Modifieds (25 laps)
- Cyber Stock A-main