AUBURN, Mich. (Aug. 20) — Cautions worked in Ashton Winger’s favor throughout much of Friday’s DIRTcar Summer Nationals feature at Tri-City Motor Speedway, but one last caution on the final lap nearly cost him the race.
After multiple well-timed yellow flags kept Winger of Hampton, Ga., in front of a charging Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, earlier in the 40-lap feature, a caution that appeared as the leaders approached the checkered flag forced Winger to survive Moran’s last-ditch effort to steal the win in a one-lap run to the finish.
Winger did just that, turning back Moran’s slide job attempt in turns three and four on the final lap to earn $10,000 for his fifth victory on this year’s Summer Nationals tour.
“We definitely had some luck on our side tonight,” Winger said after emerging in victory lane. “The cautions came at a really good time there. Devin Moran drove by my like three different times. He probably should be standing here right now. I’m thankful to him for racing me clean because he could’ve roughed me up there because he drove by me like three times.”
The fourth-starting Winger topped third-starting Moran by just 0.197 seconds in winning the next-to-last event on this year’s Summer Nationals tour. Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., was third after leading the race’s first 18 laps from the outside pole. Polesitter Tanner English of Benton, Ky., slid back to fourth at the finish, while Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., advanced from the 12th starting spot to round out the race’s top five finishers.
The race’s pivotal moment came on a lap-18 restart, when second-running Winger choose to restart in the bottom lane. Restarting on the outside, third-running Moran drove around both Winger and Heckenast to take the lead on the restart only to have his impressive move negated by a caution before the lap was completed.
Back in second for another try at the restart, Winger choose the outside this time around in hopes of using it to replicate Moran’s move. Just like Moran had done the restart before, Winger charged around Heckenast and into the lead in what would end up being the race-winning pass.
“Devin got beside me and it wasn’t even a race,” Winger said of the first attempt at the lap-18 restart. “Devin cleared me and drove by Frankie for the lead, then the caution came out. I actually think I had fell back to fourth. We got lucky. When the stars line up, it’s hard to give them away. Luckily the stars lined up for us tonight.”
With his runner-up finish, Moran logged his third straight podium finish on the series after he finished third in Wednesday’s race at Butler Motor Speedway in Quincy, Mich., and won Thursday’s race at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich. With the final-lap caution, Moran thought he had a shot at another win, but his bid came up just short.
“Man, I thought I had a chance,” said Moran, a none series regular who joined the tour for its season-ending four-race swing through Michigan. “I probably should’ve used him up a little more than what I did, but I can’t make myself do that for a $10,000-to-win show. I felt like we had the best car. I felt like I was really good. Just cautions kept killing me and killing me. The last one helped me and gave me a shot, but it just wasn’t quite enough.”
The race was slowed by seven cautions with six of the seven coming between laps 10 and 18. None of the yellow flags were for serious accidents.
Summer Nationals points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. was running fourth on lap 11 when contact from fifth-place Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., sent Pierce spinning and resulted in both drivers being sent to the tail of the field. Pierce recovered to finish 10th and is still in line to wrap up his fourth Summer Nationals championship in the tour final Saturday at Merritt Speedway in Lake City, Mich.
Notes: With his victory, Winger unofficially moved into a tie with English for second in the series standings. … Both Winger and Moran were racing at Tri-City for the first time. … Winger won for the second time on the tour in Michigan. He also won Thunderbird Raceway in Muskegon, Mich., on July 15. … Friday’s race took 27 minutes to complete and finished just after 11 p.m.
Row 1: Tanner English, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 2: Devin Moran, Ashton Winger
Row 3: Bobby Pierce, Cody Bauer
Row 4: Jeep Van Wormer, Travis Stemler
Row 5: Chad Finley, Eric Spangler
Row 6: Brandon Thirlby, Dona Marcoullier
Row 7: David Hillier, Derrick Hilliker
Row 8: Ryan Lanphierd, Mitch McGrath
Row 9: Joe Godsey, Logan Nickerson
Row 10: Jeff Roth, J.C. Witherspoon
Row 11: Andrew Terrill, Brandon Lance
Row 12: Mike Staszak, Thomas Hunziker
Consolation race results
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Finish: Joe Godsey, Logan Nickerson, Tyler Norton, Thomas Hunziker, Andrew Terrill, Dan Wallace, Rod Laney, Scott James, Jeff Roth, Carl Ries, J.C. Witherspoon, Mike Staszak, Jamie Grochowski, Brandon Lance, Jim Billett.
Heat race results
(10 laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Devin Moran, Bobby Pierce, Chad Finley, David Hilliker, Joe Godsey, Tyler Norton, Carl Ries, Tim Lance, Brandon Lance.
Second heat: Ashton Winger, Jeep Van Wormer, Brandon Thirlby, Ryan Lanphierd, Jeff Roth, Jamie Grochowski, Scott James, Jim Billett.
Third heat: Tanner English, Cody Bauer, Eric Spangler, Derrick Hillier, Logan Nickerson, Andrew Terrill, J.C. Whiterspoon, Torrey Ahrens.
Fourth heat: Frank Heckenast Jr., Travis Stemler, Dona Marcoullier, Mitch McGrath, Dan Wallace, Thomas Hunziker, Rod Laney, Mike Staszak
- Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 12.786
- Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., 12.862
- Chad Finley (42), East Lansing, Mich., 12.879
- Joe Godsey (14G), Edinburgh, Ind., 13.062
- Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 13.116
- Brandon Thirlby (M14), Buckley, Mich., 13.129
- Scott James (83), Bright, Ind., 13.208
- Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 13.419
- David Hilliker (21D), Midland, Mich., 13.449
- Jeff Roth (14R), Bentonville, Ark., 13.585
- Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 13.796
- Ryan Lanphierd (11X), Midland, Mich., 13.804
- Carl Ries (6R), Blanchard, Mich., 13.857
- Jamie Grochowski (15G), Toledo, Ohio, 14.081
- Tyler Norton (14N), Midland, Mich., 14.213
- Jim Billett (25JB), Mcbain, Mich., 14.468
- Brandon Lance (248), Brimfield, Ill., no time
- Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 12.858
- Travis Stemler (4), Ionia, Mich., 12.881
- Logan Nickerson (21N), Vestaburg, Mich., 12.977
- Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 13.061
- Cody Bauer (19X), Farwell, Mich., 13.082
- Dona Marcoullier (3M), Houghton Lake, Mich., 13.220
- Eric Spangler (27), Lake City, Mich., 13.322
- Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 13.433
- Derrick Hilliker (19), Midland, Mich., 13.467
- Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 13.494
- Andrew Terrill (4T), Sanford, Mich., 13.606
- Dan Wallace (T18W), Toledo, Ohio, 13.649
- J.C. Witherspoon (03), Kinde, Mich., 13.835
- Rod Laney (75), Kawkawlin, Mich., 13.931
- Torrey Ahrens (76), Harbor Beach, Mich., 13.997
- Mike Staszak (16), Kawkawlin, Mich., 14.096
6:00 p.m. - Drivers' meeting
6:45 p.m. - On-track activity
- Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps/time trials (3 laps)
- Late Model time trials (2 laps)
- Factory stock heat races (8 laps)
- Modified heat races (8 laps)
- Late Model heat races (10 laps)
- Four-cylinder heat races (8 laps)
- Pro stock heat races (10 laps)
- Modified consolation (10 laps; if necessary)
- Late Model consolation (10 laps; if necessary)
- Factory stock feature (20 laps)
- Modified feature (25 laps)
- Late Model feature (40 laps)
- Four-cylinder feature (15 laps)
- Pro stock feature (25 laps)