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Daily Dirt 05/30/2024 05:33:12

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May 15
Fairbury Speedway,
Fairbury, IL
Sanction: MARS Racing Series (Spring Showcase) - $15,000
Information provided by: Series and track reports (last updated May 19, 10:22 pm)
English holds off Erb, wins $15,000 at Fairbury
Spring Showcase
  1. Tanner English
  2. Dennis Erb Jr.
  3. Brian Shirley
  4. Brandon Sheppard
  5. Ryan Unzicker
  6. Ryan Gustin
  7. Donny Walden
  8. Shannon Babb
  9. Billy Moyer Jr.
  10. Chase Junghans
  11. Gordy Gundaker
  12. Mitch McGrath
  13. Trevor Gundaker
  14. Kolby Vandenbergh
  15. Jason Feger
  16. Bobby Pierce
  17. Kevin Weaver
  18. Justin Reed
  19. McKay Wenger
  20. Mike Provenzano
  21. Mike Spatola
  22. Eric Smith
presented by
Ryan Roberts
Tanner English earned a career-high $15,000 at Fairbury.
What won the race: Topping a wild 50-lap Spring Showcase feature at Fairbury Speedway, polesitter Tanner English of Benton, Ky., took the lead back from Brian Shirley on lap 41 and held off Dennis Erb Jr.’s furious charge in the final laps to earn a $15,000 victory on the MARS Racing Series presented by Rip-It.
Key notes: English earned the 15th MARS victory of his career and his first since 2017. ... Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., pulled into the infield with apparent mechanical problems and was unable to complete a lap during qualifying. ... Babb tagged the second heat race and advanced to finish fifth, before winning his consolation race and earning a spot in Saturday's feature. ... The MARS tour wrapped up its lucrative doubleheader weekend in central Illinois with its first visit of the season to Fairbury Speedway. The series kicked off its weekend with a $10,000-to-win event at nearby Farmer City Raceway won by Brandon Sheppard.
On the move: Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., started 18th and finished eighth.
Winner's sponsors: English’s Riggs Motorsports Rocket Chassis has a Pro Power Racing Engine and sponsorship from Riggs Drilling Solutions, Best One Tire & Auto Care, Wiles Racing Driveshafts, Schaeffer’s Racing Oil, Slicker Graphics and Allstar Performance.
Points chase: Tanner English (270 points) of Benton, Ky., leads Brian Shirley (238), Ryan Unzicker (234), Jason Feger (184) and Kolby Vandenbergh (143).
Car count: 35
Fast qualifier: Trevor Gundaker
Time: 12.796 seconds
Polesitter: Tanner English
Heat race winners: Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard, Ryan Unzicker, Tanner English
Consolation race winners: Justin Reed, Shannon Babb
Next series race: May 21, Kankakee County Speedway (Kankakee, IL) $5,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
From staff and series reports

FAIRBURY, Ill. (May 15) — When Tanner English retook the lead from Brian Shirley with nine laps remaining in Saturday’s Spring Showcase feature at Fairbury Speedway, he knew his work was far from over. With Shirley still lurking just behind him and a late-charging Dennis Erb Jr. closing in on the bottom, English of Benton, Ky., had little room for error with two of the best drivers at Fairbury breathing down his neck.

“I felt like I had a pack of wolves behind me,” the pole-starting English said of the dramatic ending to a wild race in Fairbury’s MARS Racing Series presented by Rip-It event. “I felt them I don’t know how many times getting underneath me. I didn’t have the best speed off the corner, so I was kind of like a sitting duck. I just kept moving around trying to find something.”

English found just enough to keep his challengers at bay. After Erb pulled nearly even with him exiting turn two on lap 47, English got a run off of turn four to pull back ahead and moved down to the bottom groove to block Erb’s momentum.

It was the right move at the right time. English remained out front through the final two laps and took the checkers 0.434 seconds ahead of Erb to earn a career-high $15,000 payday for the 15th MARS victory of his career.

“He’s one of the best on the bottom,” English said of Erb. “When I saw him down there I moved down and tried that. I don’t know if it just took his line away or if I was better, but this sure feels awesome.”

Erb of Carpentersville, Ill., settled for second after starting from the sixth spot. The third-starting Shirley of Chatham, Ill., finished third after twice spending time out front as part of a lengthy back-and-forth battle with English through the race’s middle portions. Second-starting Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., was fourth with fourht-starting Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., rounding out the top five.

English, the 27-year-old two-time MARS Series champion, recorded his sixth victory of the season and his second five-figure victory of the month after also scoring a $10,053 Schaeffer's Spring Nationals victory at Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway on May 1.

English and his Riggs Motorsports team started the season chasing the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, but changed their plans to include more Midwest regional races with tours such as MARS and the DIRTcar Summer Nationals. Riggs hopes that his performance on Saturday portends a successful summer ahead.

“These are the guys we’re gonna be racing against most of the year,” said Riggs, who earned back-to-back MARS titles in 2017 and 2018. “To run up front against these guys is pretty awesome.”

Erb, a regular on the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series still looking for his first victory of the season, wished the race would’ve been longer to allow more time for his late charge to pay off, but he was also happy with his improved performance.

“I think if it had been a little bit longer race and we got that track cleaned up a little bit, we definitely would’ve shined then,” said Erb, who earned just his second podium finish in 34 starts this season. “We had a good car. The last couple nights we worked on this thing a lot and got it better. Being up front here is a big plus for us. Hopefully we can keep this going.”

Shirley, the defending MARS champion who won three events on the tour last season, appeared to have the upper hand when he finally cleared English for the lead on lap 31 after the two drivers ran side by side for nearly 10 laps. But Shirley wasn’t as good as English and Erb through slower traffic and faded in the closing laps.

“We were pretty good there early and I felt like for most of the race were were hanging in there pretty tough,” said Shirley, who has three podium finishes in four MARS events this season. “Leading the race there, I didn’t feel as good as I did when I took off. We’ve got to work on it a little bit and get a little better.”

The race was slowed by two cautions in the early going. The first yellow flag appeared with 11 laps complete when Mike Provenzano of Marseilles, Ill., slowed to a stop in turn two, and the second came when Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., spun in turn two on lap 14.

Notes: Saturday’s event wrapped up a doubleheader weekend for the MARS tour. Sheppard won Friday’s $10,000-to-win Farmer City 74 at nearby Farmer City Raceway. … Fifteen of  22 starters were running at the finish of Saturday’s race 12 cars finishing on the lead lap. … English’s 15th MARS-sanctioned victory was his first since 2017, when he won all of his previous 14 series races on his way to the winning the tour’s east division title. … English, who finished third in Friday’s weekend opener, now has six straight podium finishes in the month of May and has finished no worse than third in each of the first four MARS races.

Feature lineup 

Row 1: English, Sheppard
Row 2: Shirley, Unzicker
Row 3: Walden, Erb Jr.
Row 4: Gustin, Pierce
Row 5: Vandenbergh, Moyer Jr.
Row 6: Junghans, Provenzano
Row 7: T. Gundaker, Spatola
Row 8: McGrath, Weaver
Row 9: Reed, Babb
Row 10: G. Gundaker, Wenger
Row 11: Feger, Smith
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