Feger's challenges can't stop Sullivan at Peoria
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com chief writer
PEORIA, Ill. (July 13) — Outside front-row starter Jack Sullivan fought off high-side challenges, low-side challenges and everything in between from eighth-starting Jason Feger on Tuesday at Peoria Speedway for a $5,000 victory on the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. | Complete Summernationals coverage
Feger, the Bloomington, Ill., driver who posted his seventh runner-up finish on the tour, actually took the lead when he rubbed past Sullivan with a low-side move on lap 14, but the move was erased by a caution for a turn-two spin by Jason Jaggers, resetting Sullivan as the leader.
Another caution slowed the race on lap 17, and Feger spent the final 23 laps trying everything he could to overtake Sullivan, who crept away in the final laps to win the 25th event on the month-long tour by a half-straightaway margin.
“I kind of had an idea in my mind, kind of what he was going to do there. He was just going to get a run, (do a) banzai move, which he did there, made contact a few times,” Sullivan said. “I just tried to keep my head, just make smooth laps ... try not to slide the car a little bit, and it all worked out.”
Polesitter Frank Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill., ran a close third most of the race, but Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., slipped under him heading for the checkered flag after Heckenast struggled with a lapped car on the final lap. Steve Lance Jr. of Cuba, Ill., last year’s Peoria champion who started 12th, advanced to a fifth-place finish.
Feger’s second-place finish solidified his points lead, helping him extend it to 75 points from the 55-point margin he held over Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., heading into the race. Erb, who took a provisional starting spot after a disastrous heat race wreck, salvaged a sixth-place finish in the main event, advancing 13 positions. Three series races remain, beginning with Wednesday’s event at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway.
The feature event was slowed by three cautions. Jay Sparks and Brian Harris tangled between turns one and two on the sixth lap, and Jagger spun on lap 13. The final yellow appeared on lap 17 when Todd Bennett and Jeep Van Wormer got together at the entrance to turn three.
Notes: Sullivan’s GRT Race Car has a Vic Hill Racing Engine and sponsorship from Triple A Diesel Service and Allstar Performance. ... “If it wasn’t for Dickie Allen, I would probably be fishing,” Sullivan said of the owner of Louisiana-based Triple A Diesel Service. ... As Sullivan pulled back onto the track for victory lane ceremonies, smoke wafted from the rear of his car. It's a tell-tale sign of the ailing powerplant the team's been limping along with the last 10 days. ... Sullivan’s previous Summernationals victory came June 26 at Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway. ... Fourteen cars finished on the lead lap. ... Shannon Babb, third in the series points, started fourth but faded to 10th at Peoria. ... Billy Moyer Jr. advanced from 16th to ninth.UMP @ Peoria: (1) Jack Sullivan, (2) Jason Feger, (3) Ryan Unzicker, (4) Frank Heckenast Jr., (5) Steve Lance Jr., (6) Dennis Erb Jr., (7) Mike Mullvain, (8) Kevin Weaver, (9) Billy Moyer Jr., (10) Shannon Babb, (11) Rich Bell, (12) Doug Drown, (13) Brian Harris, (14) Jeff Maher, (15) Brandon Sheppard, (16) Tim Lance, (17) Jason Jaggers, (18) Todd Bennett, (19) Jeep Van Wormer, (20) Mike Hammerle, (21) Charley Hess, (22) Jay Sparks, (23) Mike Provenzano, (24) Dillan White. Fast qualifier (among 44 cars): Shirley, 12.545 seconds. Heat race winners: Unzicker, Babb, Sullivan, Heckenast. C-Main winners: Hammerle, Moon. B-Main winner: Harris. Provisional starters: Erb, Sheppard, Lance, Van Wormer, Hammerle, Maher.
Race promoter Jason Plumer has added a second set of provisional starters, meaning two series drivers, two '09 UMP drivers and two locals are added to the field, making for 24 starters. Track provisionals are Tim Lance and Jeff Maher. UMP '09 point provisionals are Brandon Sheppard and Mike Hammerle. And series provisionals are Dennis Erb Jr. and Jeep Van Wormer, who lobbied for the additional provisionals after engine problems sidelined him in his heat race. ... Van Wormer used a backup car for the C-Main (when he spun), but the team believes it has fixed the engine woes in the original car and are returning to it for the feature (Van Wormer took a few test laps during the B-Main to test it out). ... There's some grumbling in the pits from drivers about the late addition of more provisionals, including Jim Moon, who also protested when the promoter gave Van Wormer extra time to get his backup car ready for a C-Main that was ready to go on the track. ... Donny Walden's night ended early when he broke the right rear axle in his car before taking the green for the main event. .. Brian Shirley and Dennis Erb Jr. disagreed over their collision in the heat race that sent Erb spinning and put Shirley on the tail for causing a caution. Shirley said he tried to make his case to Erb that he was too high on the track and didn't give him room to run the high side. Either way, Shirley knows he should've been in the main event (he lost a transfer spot in the B-Main on the last lap). "I'm more pissed at myself because of I would've run the top the whole time (in the heat) I would've been fine," Shirley said.
Fifth-starting Brian Harris grabbed the early lead in the 12-lapper and cruised the rest of the way. The second spot was a tight battle between a high-running Brian Shirley, who started outside the front row, and third-starting Mike Provenzano. Provenzano worked on Shirley for several laps, getting the second and final transfer spot in the race's waning moments. Shirley was third. Polesitter Ryan Dauber struggled in the high side and eventually pulled off the track after dropping out of contention.
Finish: Brian Harris, Mike Provenzano, Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard, Tim Lance, Bobby Pierce, Jason McBride, Brandon Thirlby, Jim Moon, Mike Hammerle, Jim Carmody, Scott Schmitt, Dennis Erb Jr., Gerry Reeder Jr., Ryan Dauber.
The top two transfer to the main event:
Row 1: Ryan Dauber, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Brandon Thirlby, Tim Lance
Row 3: Brian Harris, Bobby Pierce
Row 4: Mike Provenzano, Scott Schmitt
Row 5: Brandon Sheppard, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 6: Gerry Reeder Jr., Jason McBride
Row 7: Mike Hammerle, Jim Moon
Row 8: Unavailable, Jim Carmody
Redraw and notes
Frank Heckenast Jr. is on the pole after the redraw among heat race winners. Jack Sullivan is outside the front row with Ryan Unzicker and Shannon Babb on row two. ... C-Main victories went to Mike Hammerle and Jim Moon. ... The pits were a flurry of activity after the heat races as Jeep Van Wormer scrambled to pulled out his backup car (unused on the Summernationals) for the C-Main. A misfiring engine in his primary car forced him to the backup. But he spun in turn two trying to rally in the C-Main and now must wait and see if he has any hopes of getting a provisional. ... Those hopes primarily rest on Dennis Erb Jr. rallying from 10th in the B-Main to make the race. But Erb's car suffered major right-front damage and he patched it up just in time to make the B-Main lineup. ... Pitside observers report that Erb had a few words for Brian Shirley when he pulled past his car following their heat-race accident. Shirley stopped and Erb expressed his displeasure with the wreck. ... Dillan White broke a pinion mount in his heat-race wreck with Erb. While he'll start the main event, he plans to take just a few laps in the feature and drop out to get the $500 starting money.
Ruining Jason Feger's chances to become the first heat winner on the high side, polesitter Shannon Babb beat the outside front-row starter out of turn four at the checkered flag for his only lead of the race. Feger was inches behind in second while fifth-starting Steve Lance Jr. moved up to finish third. Billy Moyer Jr. got the fourth and final transfer spot over Tim Lance in a race halted by a red flag midway through the race. The red appeared when Kyle Logue spun high in turn one, rear-end first toward the wall. A high-running Brian Crebo had nowhere to go his No. 99c bounded into the air and onto its side before completing a slow rollover and ending up on its roof, blocking Logue's exit from the driver's compartment. Neither driver was injured.
Finish: Shannon Babb, Jason Feger, Steve Lance Jr., Billy Moyer Jr., Tim Lance, Scott Schmitt, Jason McBride, Craig Vosbergen, Bob Gardner, Kyle Logue, Brian Crebo.
Staying hot after last night's victory at Spoon River, polesitter Ryan Unzicker cruised to an easy 10-lap victory in the low groove. Jason Jaggers, who inherited the outside front-row spot with Jeep Van Wormer's early departure, ran second all the way with Jay Sparks in third. Brandon Thirlby held the fourth spot most of the way, but hometown driver Charley Hess slipped by on the backstretch on the final lap. Thirlby tried to answer the move by getting under Hess in turn four, but he slammed an infield tire barrier and tore up his nosepiece, although he held on to finish fifth. Two early cautions slowed the action, first when Gerry Reeder Jr. spun in turn one, and again when Dick Taylor and Mike Provenzano spun in turn three. Outside front-row starter Jeep Van Womer suffered early damage and headed pitside.
Finish: Ryan Unzicker, Jason Jaggers, Jay Sparks, Charley Hess, Brandon Thirlby, Mike Provenzano, Gerry Reeder Jr., Jim Carmody, Jim Moon, Dick Taylor, Jeep Van Wormer.
With polesitter Brian Shirley struggling, outside front-row starter Frank Heckenast Jr. raced to a 10-lap victory in a race with scrambled transfer spots in the final two laps. Dennis Erb Jr. — scheduled to start fifth but getting the third spot when Donny Walden scratched — took second from Shirley on the backstretch midway through the race, but Shirley jumped to the high side and rallied back into contention for second. On the eighth lap, Shirley clipped the low-running Erb's rear end entering turn three, sending Erb for a spin. He suffered damaged when Dillan White banged into his right front corner. Erb headed pitside and Shirley was banished to the tail by officials for the final restart. That moved White into the second spot, and Kevin Weaver and Rich Bell moved up to take the third and fourth transfer spots in the dash to the checkers. Walden pulled onto the track to start the race, but went pitside before the green.
Finish: Frank Heckenast Jr., Dillan White, Kevin Weaver, RIch Bell, Brian Shirley, Bobby Pierce, Dennis Erb Jr., John Gardner, Larry Riekert, Zack Kuhel. Scratched: Donny Walden (reverses Pierce and Shirley in finishing order).
Outside front-row starter Jack Sullivan, aided when polesitter Mike Mullvain got bumped heading for the green flag by Brian Harris, jumped to the lead and cruised to a 10-lap victory. Sullivan ran in the low groove with Mullvain in his tire tracks most of the way, but Mullvain never offered a serious challenge in finishing second. Todd Bennett and Harris battled for third most of the way with Harris running up high, but Bennett got the spot as Harris faded late, slipping up in turn four heading for the white flag to allow Doug Drown past for the fourth spot. Ryan Dauber dropped Harris to sixth on the final lap. Sullivan has fought engine problems the past 10 days, and his car showed signs of smoke as he pulled to the pits after the race. Drown failed to win a heat race for the first time in the last four series races.
Finish: Jack Sullivan, Mike Mullvain, Todd Bennett, Doug Drown, Ryan Dauber, Brian Harris, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Hammerle, Russ Adams, Jeff Maher.
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., was fastest among 44 qualifiers Tuesday at Peoria Speedway for the 25th race on the month-long UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. Shirley’s lap of 12.545 seconds on the quarter-mile oval in Tim Lance’s backup car puts him on the pole for the second heat.
Other heat race polesitters based on group qualifying: Mike Mullvain of Bartonville, Ill.; Monday’s series winner Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill.; and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.
The top four finishers from each of four heat races transfer to the main event. Two C-Mains will send two drivers apiece to the B-Main, which transfers two drivers to the main event. Three provisional starters round out the 21-car field. The night’s 40-lap main event at the quarter-mile oval pays $5,000 to the winner.
Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., enters the event with a 55-point lead with just five series events remaining. Feger’s 1,583 points leads three-time and defending champion Dennis Erb Jr. (1,528) of Carpentersville, Ill., two-time champ Shannon Babb (1,523) of Moweaqua, Ill., and Jeep Van Wormer (1,517) of Pinconning, Mich. ... Those four drivers are the last four series winners at Peoria with Feger winning last year, Van Wormer in ’08, Erb in ’07 and Babb in ’06. ... Babb lead the series with two career victories at Peoria. ... Brian Harris of Davenport, Iowa, has a season-high six victories at Peoria, including a stretch of five in a row in the Ray Neltner-owned No. 75. Neltner’s main concern? The UMP tire rule allows for three compounds while Peoria’s weekly rules allows only the hardest of the three compounds. But the car owner said they’ll likely use the hardest tires on their cars to stick with what they know. ... Ryan Unzicker is coming off his first Summernationals victory Monday at nearby Spoon River Speedway, where he led the final 13 laps. ... Among series newcomers is former series regular Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., who is driving a Russ Adams-owned car. ... Jeff Maher of Elmwood, Ill., won Saturday’s weekly feature at Peoria. ... Steve Lance Jr. won last year’s Peoria Late Model title. ... Drivers Jeep Van Wormer and Jason Feger are tending bar after the races at nearby Mooney’s Pub in a charity fund-raiser. ... Peoria’s Late Model qualifying record is 12.018 seconds, set by Steve Sheppard Jr. ... Kevin Weaver is back in his own No. B12 after driving Randy Korte’s No. 00 at Spoon River. ... Shannon Babb ran a unique line in time trials, high in turns one and two and low in turns three and four; it netted him fast time in the fourth group. ... Vermilion County Speedway, which hosted the Summernationals on June 21, has closed, according to promoters Bob and Angie Pierce in an announcement on the track's website. ... As usual, Peoria has drawn a big crowd, despite running back-to-back with Spoon River Speedway in nearby Banner, Ill. (Monday's Spoon River race was a makeup from a rainout a week earlier).