MAGNOLIA, Miss. (Oct. 31) — The return of Pike County Speedway’s Jambalaya 100 was just what Tyler Erb needed to return to his winning form. Overtaking race-long leader Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., on lap 31, Erb of New Waverly, Texas, cruised through the remainder of the 70-lap race on his way to a dominating victory in the unsanctioned special event that was held of the first time since 2010.
The third-starting Erb was never challenged after taking the lead. With the final 47 laps running caution free, Erb deftly handled traffic during the race’s closing laps to cross the finish line 5.031 seconds ahead of Feger, who held off Spencer Hughes of Meridian, Miss., in a close battle for the runner-up spot. Michael Arnold of Hattiesburg, Miss., and Luke Bennett of Ethel, La., rounded out then top five in a race slowed by four cautions.
The victory marked the 23-year-old Erb’s first victory since winning in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series action at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill., on July 3 and helped ease the disappointment from one week ago when he broke while leading late in another of Mississippi’s unsanctioned late-season specials, the $15,000-to-win Coors Light Fall Classic at Whynot Motorsports Park.
“We’ve been running really good and just needed to get a win,” said Erb, who notched his sixth overall victory of the season. “I’m happy to get a win. I’ve been so close and last week we lost a lot of money because of a part failure. We’re getting a little bit of it back.
“This is pretty cool. I think I came here when I was like 10 years old and watched a guy that raced for my dad drive here. It’s a super fun track. It’s different. One end is different from the other.”
After settling into third on the race’s initial start, Erb quickly found his groove around Pike County’s 3/8-mile oval and overtook Hughes for second after a brief back-and-forth battle. Using the low groove in turns one and two and the high side on the track’s opposite end, Erb set up Feger for a high to low crossover move exiting turn four on lap 30 and shot ahead for the lead going into turn one. Feger battled back down on the low side to pull even on the back straightaway, but Erb used high-side momentum through turns three and four to pull ahead for good.
The race-winning move was set up by Erb’s time spent following Feger leading up to that moment. He chased the Illinois veteran for 30 laps both in Friday’s weekend opener, which saw Feger score a $3,000 victory over Erb and Hughes, and again in Saturday’s race before completing the pass.
“I got to follow Jason for 100 laps this weekend. That made it a little bit easier,” Erb said. “I kind of saw what he was doing and tried to figure out where I could pass him. I knew it was probably gonna rubber. I could feel it. I didn’t want to show him my nose so when I got around the outside, so I just kept ducking down low and made it work. Congrats to him and Spencer. We all ran top three two nights in a row, so that’s pretty cool.”
After making the more than 10-hour trek from his home in Illinois to compete at Pike County, Feger was happy to come away with a solid weekend at the track just north of the Louisiana border.
“Overall it was a great weekend and I can’t complain at all. A win last night and second tonight, so it was a good weekend,” Feger said. “I felt really good early. The car was really good, but once it started rubbering up, that’s not my specialty there. We didn’t have the grip we needed. I was just struggling to hold on. (Erb) drove a good race. Sometimes it’s better to be in second and see what’s going on than it is to lead.”
Hughes finished the weekend with a pair of third-place finishes, giving him three straight podium finishes in his home state after also finishing third in Whynot’s Fall Classic.
“We weren’t bad right there in the bottom, but I wasn’t quite good enough through one and two to run with Jason, much less Tyler. I couldn’t even seen Tyler anymore. Congrats to him. He was really good,” Hughes said. “It’s just part of it. We didn’t have a bad weekend, we’re just not where we need to be. We’ll work on this thing and get a little better.”
The race was slowed by four cautions. The first appeared early in the race when Dean Carpenter of Coldwater, Miss., slowed in turn two. Nearly to lap 20, a pileup in turns one and two left six cars spun including Arnold, who was running fifth before the incident and was given his spot back. Robbie Stuart of DeRidder, La., was among the other cars involved and retired from the race.
The third caution appeared with 22 laps complete when Mike Collins of Council Bluffs, Iowa, went or a spin in turn four. A turn-two scrape involving Wayne Murphy of Meridian, Miss., Mason Jordan of Baton Rouge, La., and Noah Daspit of Kiln, Miss., caused the fourth and final caution one lap later.