LAKE ODESSA, Mich. — Running a high-speed track with no walls can be tricky for Dirt Late Model racers. Indeed, more than one driver went over the high-banked corners Thursday at I-96 Speedway in DIRTcar Summer Nationals action.
For Devin Moran? No problem.
Accustomed to that style of racing at the Dresden, Ohio, driver's home track of Muskingum County Speedway, Moran hit his marks just right in leading all 40 laps at I-96 Speedway for a $5,000 victory, his second of the tour season and third of his career.
"It's kind of something I'm used to, because my home track has no walls, and we run right up against the berm," the 26-year-old Moran said in victor lane. "So I'm good at places like this when it's like that. To get another another Hell Tour win, this Tye Twarog Racing Longhorn with Bilstein Shocks was just running awesome."
Moran outdueled polesitter and fellow front-row starter Travis Stemler on the first lap, turned back a challenge from series points leader Bobby Pierce with 10 laps remaining, then pulled away from runner-up Tanner English on a restart with two laps to go en route to his flag-to-flag victory.
Benton, Ky.'s English, who rallied from his 10th starting spot, finished 2.127 seconds behind at the finish with Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., in third. Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., was fourth and top home-state finisher Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, rounded out the top five.
Stemler, who held the second spot for 15 laps, slipped back to finish eighth while Oakwood, Ill.'s Pierce retired on lap 38 while running second after smoke began wafting from his car in the final laps, apparently with a broken engine.
Moran, who dove under Stemler on the backstretch of the first lap to take command, ran virtually unchallenged throughout the 40-lapper. He pulled away to lead by as much as a seven-second margin and his only real danger came on lap 30 amid traffic when Pierce closed within seven-tenths of a second when slower cars were running Moran's favored high line.
Moran split a pair of lapped cars exiting turn four and lap and later and pulled away from Pierce, who soon had his own problems to deal with when smoke appeared from behind his No. 32. Despite Pierce's retirement, he's still in firm control of the championship chase with two races remaining.
Moran enjoyed his trip to I-96 Speedway, formerly a half-mile oval cut down to a 4/10-mile layout several years ago.
"This place was cool. This was a track we were excited to come to for this whole tour. Track prep did an awesome job and the fans showed up tonight, so it was awesome," Moran said.
Before the final restart, "I was just trying to observe the track," Moran added. "(The cushion) was getting so close to the top on both ends, so I kind of blasted down through the middle in (turns) one and two, and it stuck pretty good. But I knew as long as I didn't mess up or go over the edge (of the banking), I felt like we had the car to win."
English couldn't catch Devin on the final restart, but he had a solid second-place rally after dropping out of the previous night's race at Butler Motor Speedway in Quincy, Mich.
"I knew maybe if it took him a minute to get wound up, I might be able to sneak by him on the bottom," English said. "But hell, he went into that first corner and put five car lengths on me. So I knew I was just holding on for second then and in defense mode. Still I can't get get going (quickly) on restarts. It just kind of takes me a little bit to get going."
Three cautions slowed the action, two on the 18th lap. Colin Shipley spun in turn four for the first yellow, then Brandon Thirlby's car bicycled in turn two on the restart. His car remained rightside up but he had to restart on the tail.
The final caution appeared on lap 39 when a Thomas Hunziker slid over the turn-two banking and Pierce pulled off the track during the slowdown period.
Notes: Moran's three Summer Nationals victories have come in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. ... Ten drivers completed 40 laps. ... Rusty Schlenk's qualifying time of 15.719 seconds lowered the track record. ... I-96 Speedway hosted the series for the ninth time and first time since 2019.
Row 1: Travis Stemler, Devin Moran
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Rusty Schlenk
Row 3: Jeep Van Wormer, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 4: Ashton Winger, Brandon Thirlby
Row 5: Mitch McGrath, Tanner English
Row 6: Chad Finley, Dona Marcoullier
Row 7: Logan Nickerson, Joe Godsey
Row 8: Mike Vandermark Jr., Ryan VanderVeen
Row 9: Thomas Hunziker, Chad White
Row 10: Jeff Roth, Colin Shipley
Row 11: Garrett Wiles, Brandon Lance
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Finish: Ryan VanderVeen, Thomas Hunziker, Chad White, Andrew Terrill, Colin Shipley, Jamie Grochowski, Dave Baker, Bry Johnson, Brandon Lance, Jeff Roth. Scratch: Justin White, Tim Lance.
Heat race results
(10 laps; top five transfer)
First heat: Devin Moran, Rusty Schlenk, Ashton Winger, Tanner English, Logan Nickerson, Ryan VanderVeen, Thomas Hunziker, Jeff Roth, Garrett Wiles. Scratch: Tim Lance.
Second heat: Bobby Pierce, Jeep Van Wormer, Brandon Thirlby, Chad Finley, Joe Godsey, Andrew Terrill, Colin Shipley, Jamie Grochowski, Chad White.
Third heat: Travis Stemler, Frank Heckenast Jr., Mitch McGrath, Dona Marcoullier, Mike Vandermark Jr., Bry Johnson, Dave Baker, Justin White, Brandon Lance.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
- Rusty Schlenk (1), McClure, Ohio, 15.719
- Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.731
- Travis Stemler (4), Ionia, Mich., 15.771
- Brandon Thirlby (M14), Buckley, Mich., 15.833
- Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 15.857
- Dona Marcoullier (3M), Houghton Lake, Mich., 15.936
- Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., 15.969
- Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 16.000
- Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.023
- Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 16.036
- Chad Finley (42), East Lansing, Mich., 16.045
- Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 16.119
- Logan Nickerson (21N), Vestaburg, Mich., 16.156
- Colin Shipley (44), Weston, Ohio, 16.325
- Bry Johnson (2), Lowell, Mich., 16.387
- Ryan VanderVeen (23v), Six Lakes, Mich., 16.443
- Joe Godsey (14G), Edinburgh, Ind., 16.452
- Mike Vandermark Jr. (41), Cedar Springs, Mich., 16.569
- Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 16.576
- Andrew Terrill (4T), Sanford, Mich., 16.701
- Dave Baker (15), Grand Rapids, Mich., 16.741
- Jeff Roth (14R), Bentonville, Ark., 16.774
- Chad White (20), Stevensville, Mich., 16.861
- Justin White (20W), Stevensville, Mich., 17.020
- Garrett Wiles (16), Hubbardson, Mich, 17.471
- Jamie Grochowski (15G), Toledo, Ohio, 17.512
- Brandon Lance (248), Brimfield, Ill., 17.773
- Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., no time
6:30 p.m. - Drivers' meeting
7:00 p.m. - On-track activity
- Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps/time trials (3 laps)
- Late Model time trials (2 laps)
- Late Model heat races (10 laps)
- Modified heat races (8 laps)
- Cyber stock heat races (8 laps)
- Late Model consolation (10 laps; if necessary)
- Modified consolation (10 laps; if necessary)
- Cyber stock consolation (10 laps; if necessary)
- Late Model feature (40 laps)
- Modified feature (25 laps)
- Cyber stock feature (20 laps)