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Paducah International Raceway

Birky ends season-long winless skid at Paducah

June 29, 2012, 6:21 pm
By Joshua Joiner
DirtonDirt.com staff writer
Brian Birkhofer ended a season-long winless streak with his Paducah win. (Richard Cunningham)
Brian Birkhofer ended a season-long winless streak with his Paducah win. (Richard Cunningham)

PADUCAH, Ky. (June 29) — Riding his longest winless streak to start a season since the 1990s, Brian Birkhofer worried his family might not have the money to take a family vacation this year due to a lack of funds from the extended dry spell.

After a profitable trip to Paducah International Raceway Friday night, the Birkhofers can start planning their getaway. | Complete Summernationals coverage

“I guess we got some vacation money now,” Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, said after claiming a $12,000 payday for capturing Friday’s Chris Smith Memorial at Paducah. “I’ve been telling them that there’s a certain percentage of what we win that we can put in the vacation fund. They’ve been talking to me a lot about that and we finally got some money for it.”

Charging forward from his ninth starting spot in the 15th of 29 races for the month-long UMP DIRTcar Summernationals, Birkhofer overtook polesitter Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., on lap 18 the 40-lapper and led the remaining distance to beat Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., to the finish.

“I’ve been needing a win for all the guys that help me and my family and friends and fans,” said Birkhofer, who won for the first time since Sept. 30 at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway. “We’ve done a lot this year on chassis stuff and we finally hit on something and kinda worked on it all night. I think we kinda out-tired the guys, too. We put the right tires on for the track conditions.”

Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., was third with Scott James of Lawrenceburg, Ind., fourth and 18th-starting Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., rounding out the top five in a race that saw both Babb and fellow front-row starter Billy Moyer Sr. succumb to flat tires while battling among the leaders.

Moyer Jr. used a low-side charge off turn two to grab the lead on the race’s opening lap. He then held off repeated of challenges from Babb in the early going, but couldn’t stop Babb’s strong run off the top of turn four on lap 14.

After being dropped to third by Birkhofer’s charge, the younger Moyer retook the second spot when Babb had to pit under a lap-20 caution. He first withstood challenges from his father until he had to pit under a lap-23 caution and later turned back Feger in the closing laps to record his best-career finish at Paducah.

“We had a good car right off the bat. The start kinda startled me that I took off that good. But bottom line, Birkhofer had the best car and that’s all there was to it,” said Moyer, who won three of the first four Summernationals races before dropping of the tour for a few days last week. “To get out of Paducah with a second — this is probably my least favorite track — I’ll take it for sure.”

Feger, the 2010 Summernationals champion who recorded his fifth consecutive top-five finish on the tour, thought he could have taken the second spot from Moyer Jr. if there were more green-flag laps.

“We needed the race to go green flag. We were harder on tires than Little Billy so we probably could have got him. But I don’t think we could have got Brian,” Feger said. “We got a little lucky and had a few guys in front of us fall out. Sometimes that’s what it takes.”

Notes: Birkhofer's MB Customs chassis has a Pro Power engine and sponsorship from J&J Steel, Zens Flooring, Baileigh Industrial, ASI and Port City Racing. … Points leader Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., recovered to finish eighth after pitting with a flat right-rear tire on lap 20. … The race was slowed by five cautions. … Sixth-starting Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., was up to fourth before slowing to bring out the race's first caution on lap five. … Eighth-starting Kevin Cole of Christopher, Ill., was running fifth when he slowed with a cut right-rear tire and brought out a lap-28 caution. … Jason Papich of Nipomo, Calif., had a solid run going in his Summernationals debut before spinning to cause a lap-23 caution. … The Summernationals moves to Federated Raceway at I-55 Saturday for a $10,000-to-win event.

UMP @ Paducah: (1) Brian Birkhofer, (2) Billy Moyer Jr., (3) Jason Feger, (4) Scott James, (5) Mike Spatola, (6) Ryan Unzicker, (7) Kevin Cole, (8) Brian Shirley, (9) Tim Brown (10) Greg Johnson, (11) Randy Sellars, (12) Bobby Pierce, (13) Shannon Babb, (14) Dennis Erb Jr., (15) Tanner English, (16) Klint Byars, (17) Jason Papich, (18) Terry English, (19) Jason Riggs, (20) Billy Moyer, (21) Jon Henry, (22) Brandon Sheppard. Fast qualifier (among 35 cars): Moyer, 16.170 seconds. Heat race winners: Moyer Jr., Babb, James, Moyer. B-main winner: Terry English. Provisional starters: Unzicker, Henry, Riggs, Erb.

Preliminary results:

Provisionals and notes

Ryan Unzicker and Dennis Erb Jr. will use series provisionals to start the main event while Mike Spatola will use the UMP nationals points provisional and Jason Riggs will use the track provisional. ... When he realized he was on the outside of a three-wide battle early in his heat race, Billy Moyer Jr. was worried for a brief moment. “I saw that red nose (of Tanner English) down there under Birky, and I thought ‘I hope that red nose knows I’m up here,’” Moyer said. After surviving the close racing and winning his heat, Moyer’s crew was busy removing his radiator to clean it out after his engine ran slightly hot during the heat race. “It’s a precautionary measure,” he said. … Tanner English was impressive in using the low groove to over take Brian Birkhofer and run down Billy Moyer Jr. in his heat race. After coming came up just short of passing Moyer on the final lap, he’s hoping some track prep during intermission will allow him to make another low-side run from his fifth-starting spot in the main event. “This place can get dominant on the top a lot of times, but hopefully what they’re doing out there will help the bottom,” he said. “If it’s good, I think we can run with them.” … When he planned his trip east to compete in eight Summernationals events, California driver Jason Papich’s goal was to make just one feature lineup on the competitive tour. He reached that goal his first night out by finishing fourth behind Moyer Jr., English and Birkhofer in the first heat. The strong run was a bit of surprise for Papich, who said he’d never seen, much less raced on a track with nearly as much banking as Paducah. “It was intimidating when I first looked at it,” he said of the fast 3/8-mile oval. … After turning a qualifying lap more than a second slower than fast qualifier Billy Moyer and finishing sixth in his heat race, Jimmy Owens was hoping to find something amiss on his Bloomquist Race Car. “We ain’t found nothing yet, but God I hope so,” Owens said when asked if there was anything wrong with his car. If there had been a problem, it wasn’t fixed for the B-main. Owens started eighth and finished seventh in the 10-lapper, missing a feature starting spot.

B-main

Leading every lap from the outside pole, Terry English won by nearly a straightaway in the caution-free 10-lapper. Mike Spatola used the low groove to charge from seventh to second and claimed the final transfer spot. Polesitter Kyle Logue ran second for much of the race but faded in the closing laps. Eighth-starting Jimmy Owens moved up as high as fifth early, but fell back to seventh at the finish.

Finish: Terry English, Mike Spatola, Frank Heckenast Jr., Kyle Logue, Jason Riggs, Wendell Wallace, Jimmy Owens, Jason McBride, Nick Bartels, Jerry Lierly, Chris Shelton, Troy Gay, Dennis Erb Jr., Jon Henry

Redraw and notes

Shannon Babb will lead the 22-car feature starting field to green after drawing the pole in a redraw among heat race winners. Billy Moyer will join Babb on the front row with Billy Moyer Jr. and Scott James sharing row two. ... Race officials decided to cut the C-main from the program. All cars scheduled to start the C-main will tag the tail of the B-main.

B-main lineup

10 laps; top two transfer to main event
Row 1: Kyle Logue, Terry English
Row 2: Ryan Unzicker, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 3: Jason McBride, Jason Riggs
Row 4: Mike Spatola, Jimmy Owens
Row 5: Chris Shelton, Wendell Wallace
Row 6: Nick Bartels, Jerry Lierly
Row 7: Jarryd Holshouser, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 8: Rodney Melvin, Tony Toste
Row 9: Troy Gay, Jon Henry
Row 10: Caleb Ashby

Fourth heat

Finding a groove a half-car higher than any of the other heat race winners, Billy Moyer cruised to nearly a straightaway victory in the caution-free fourth heat race. Kevin Cole topped a three-wide battle on the final lap to beat Tim Brown and Randy Sellars for the runner-up finish. Brown was inches ahead of Sellars for third in a race that transferred the top four finishers to the main event. Jimmy Owens was never a factor in finishing sixth.

Finish: Billy Moyer, Kevin Cole, Tim Brown, Randy Sellars, Frank Heckenast Jr., Jimmy Owens, Jerry Lierly, Tony Toste.

Third heat

Leading every lap from the pole, Shannon Babb pulled away from Jason Feger on his way to victory. Feger finished roughly 10 car lengths back of Babb to claim second in the caution-free race. Second-starting Klint Byars faded back as far as fifth early in the race, but recovered to overtake Greg Johnson and Ryan Unzicker for the third position. Johnson topped Unzicker in a close battle for the fourth and final transfer spot.

Finish: Shannon Babb, Jason Feger, Klint Byars, Greg Johnson, Ryan Unzicker, Mike Spatola, Nick Bartels, Rodney Melvin, Caleb Ashby.

Second heat

Scott James grabbed the lead over polesitter Brandon Sheppard on the start and held the Rocket Chassis house car driver at bay in leading every lap of the caution-free race. After looking under James a few times early, Sheppard faded back a bit after the halfway point and had to hold off a hard-charging Brian Shirley. The two drivers crossed the finish line side by side for the second spot with Sheppard holding a slight edge. Bobby Pierce claimed the fourth and final transfer spot.

Finish: Scott James, Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley, Bobby Pierce, Terry English, Jason Riggs, Wendell Wallace, Dennis Erb Jr., Jon Henry

First heat

Outside polesitter Billy Moyer Jr. outdueled Brian Birkhofer and Tanner English in a three-wide battle during the first two laps and held off English's final-lap challenge for the win. English charged pass the polesitting Birkhofer midway through the 10-lapper and ran down Moyer in the closing laps. He dove under Moyer in turn three on the final lap, but came up just short in settling for second. Birkhofer was third with Californian Jason Papich taking fourth to transfer to the feature in his first Summernationals apearance. Troy Gay went for a spin with two laps complete, ruining the three-wide battle between Moyer, Birkhofer and English that had raged from the start.

Finish: Billy Moyer Jr., Tanner English, Brian Birkhofer, Jason Papich, Kyle Logue, Jason McBride, Chris Shelton, Jarryd Holshouser, Troy Gay.

Time trials

Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., posted a lap of 16.170 seconds around Paducah International Raceway to top 35 qualifiers for the Friday’s UMP DIRTcar Summernationals event.

Moyer, who won a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at Paducah in May, will start from the pole of one of four 10-lap heat races coming up. Other heat race polesitters after group qualifying: Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa; Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.; and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.

The top four finishers in each heat race transfer to tonight’s $12,000-to-win main event with the remainder of the 22-car field made up of B-main transfers and provisional starters.

Pre-race notes

Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., leads the series standings with 908 points to second-place Shannon Babb’s 902 points. Jason Feger (813) is third followed by last night’s winner Brandon Sheppard (768) and Ryan Unzicker (687). … Reigning Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., is making his first Summernationals appearance in a number of years. While he’s not completely sure, Owens believes his last Summernationals start came in 2005 at the now-closed Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway. He won that race, claiming his only series victory. Owens had planed to compete in Lernerville (Pa.) Speedway’s Firecracker 100 this weekend, but decided to stay closer to home due to crew member Chad Bryant’s father being ill. If all goes well tonight, the team may also enter the tour’s event tomorrow night at Federated I-55 Speedway in Pevely, Mo. … Hot temperatures have been a hot topic among drivers and crew members this afternoon. California driver Nick Bartles is accustomed to 100-plus degree weather from trips to the Arizona dessert, but he says 110 degrees in Kentucky is different that 110 degrees out West. “I’d take that heat over this any day,” Bartels said. … Owens also noted the hot temperatures. “We decided to come up here, but we forgot to look at the weather. I don’t think we’d be here if we’d known it was gonna be this hot.” … Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, said that the heat makes working in the pit area torture, but isn’t so bad while he’s racing. “You don’t notice it while you’re out there on the track, but you get done and you’re drenched with sweat.” … Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., retired early from Thursday’s series race at Clayhill Motorsports Park in Atwood, Tenn., but said there were no mechanical issues to blame. “We just tried some things that didn’t work, so we pulled off,” he said. Moyer scored a $10,000 victory in a Lucas Oil Series race at Paducah in May. ... Bartels is no longer the lone Californian competing on the Hell Tour. Tony Toste of Arroyo Grande, Calif., and Jason Papich of Nipomo, Calif., have made the nearly 2,000-mile trek across country to make their first Summernationals appearances at Paducah. The two teammates plan to enter eighth series events. ... The weekend races for the Hell Tour typically mean stouter competition. That’s something series regular Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., isn’t exactly thrilled about. “I love racing against better competition more than anybody, just not on this series,” Feger said. “We’re all wore out and our equipment’s beat up from racing every night, and you have guys like Moyer and Owens and Birkhofer coming in fresh. It almost isn’t fair”

Qualifying order

First group

  1. Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa 16.293
  2. Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr) Batesville, Ark. 16.481
  3. Tanner English (96), Benton, Ky. 16.594
  4. Jason McBride (77), Carbondale, Ill. 16.669
  5. Jason Papich (91), Nipomo, Calif. 16.726
  6. Jarryd Holshouser (41), Boaz, Ky. 16.773
  7. Kyle Louge (21k), Oreana, Ill. 16.778
  8. Chris Shelton (16), Paducah, Ky. 17.105
  9. Troy Gay (00), Goodlettsville, Tenn. 17.531

Second group

  1. Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill. 16.226
  2. Scott James (81), Lawrenceburg, Ind. 16.238
  3. Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill. 16.244
  4. Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill. 16.37
  5. Terry English (33), Benton, Ky. 16.447
  6. Jon Henry (15) Ada, Ohio 16.896
  7. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill. 16.914
  8. Wendell Wallace (6m), Batesville, Ark. 17.011
  9. Jason Riggs (81jr), Harrisburg, Ill. 17.063

Third group

  1. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill. 16.283
  2. Klint Byars (5), Carrolton, Miss. 16.586
  3. Jason Feger (25) Bloomington, Ill. 16.601
  4. Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill. 16.691
  5. Greg Johnson (24H), Bedford, Ind. 17.115
  6. Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill. 17.298
  7. Rodney Melvin (27), Benton, Ill. 17.545
  8. Nick Bartels (27), El Segundo, Calif. 17.614
  9. Caleb Ashby (61) 18.122

Fourth group

  1. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark. 16.170
  2. Randy Sellars (3), Mayfield, Ky. 16.351
  3. Tim Brown (14), Benton, Ky. 16.703
  4. Kevin Cole (81c), Christopher, Ill. 17.022
  5. Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill. 17.064
  6. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn. 17.233
  7. Jerry Lierly (7L), Camp Point, Ill. 17.721
  8. Tony Toste (91), Arroyo Grande, Calif. 18.062

Feature lineup

Row 1: Babb, Moyer
Row 2: Moyer Jr., James
Row 3: Ta. English, Sheppard
Row 4: Feger, Cole
Row 5: Birkhofer, Shirley
Row 6: Byars, Brown
Row 7: Papich, Pierce
Row 8: Johnson, Sellars
Row 9: Te. English, Spatola
Row 10: Unzicker, Henry
Row 11: Riggs, Erb

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