GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 7) — It seemed to be only a matter of time that Ashton Winger would win his first feature with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series based upon his first few starts this Georgia-Florida Speedweeks.
On Tuesday in night two of the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park, the 23-year-old put it all together in a flag-to-flag victory versus runner-up Hudson O’Neal and third-place finisher Brandon Sheppard.
Winger’s first win with the Lucas Oil Series was worth $5,000 while also marking his second career Georgia-Florida Speedweeks victory, adding to last year’s Feb. 16 triumph with the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series at Volusia Speedweek Park in Barberville, Fla. Winger crossed the checkers 1.833 seconds ahead of O'Neal on Tuesday.
“This is awesome, (to win) in front of all these people. I feel like we were really close this year. We were really close last year,” Winger said. “It’s hard not to get emotional, man. My mom and dad have given up a lot to get me here. I know it’s just $5,000-to-win, but to be racing with these guys being competitive … Hudson (O’Neal) and (Sheppard) are two of the best in the country.”
Though Winger officially led all 30 laps, his perfect box score didn’t come without a lead change. On lap nine, one circuit following a caution period for Dustin Mitchell, third-starting Kyle Bronson slipped underneath Winger through turns one and two and vaulted ahead. As Bronson tried shaking free on the bottom, Winger throttled his No. 12 Jeff Mathews Motorsports entry around the top of turns three and four with enough oomph to edge out Bronson at the line as lap 10 was scored.
“When we had them restarts, I thought I messed it up real bad (on lap nine),” Winger said. “Kyle got by me, then I pretty much went into three and four and held it to the floor. I said, 'The hell with it.' If I crashed, I crashed. It’ll be what it is. I came too close, too many times, not to give it my all.”
Unfortunately for Bronson, a rear-end failure foiled his race with six laps to go, as the malfunction served as the race’s third and final caution. The stoppage gave O’Neal his best shot of the night to put Mark Richards’s Rocket Chassis house car in victory lane, but even then, Winger never fell into the clutches of the Martinsville, Ind., driver who settled for second for the second night in a row.
“I gave it all I had. I drove my heart out. I just couldn’t quite get to him there,” said O’Neal, who now has five top-five finishes in his last seven races. “There was one time the last couple laps, I tried getting around that bottom, and thought, ‘OK, maybe if I get to him I can burn it one more time (around the top).’ About that time, I was driving so hard trying to get back to him that I got my tires hot and started fading back a little there.
“Second sucks, man. We’re so, so close. It hurts so bad. This team is so capable of winning. I can’t quite get the job done at the end of the night. Tonight wasn’t a lack of effort. We’ll see what we can do and come back tomorrow. Maybe we’ll put it up front and lead some laps.”
The race’s second caution of the evening occurred for Eddie Carrier Jr. on lap 21, which ended the 13-lap run that allowed Winger to finally settle in.
“I felt like, once I got into a rhythm, I was good there,” Winger said. “The racetrack was so treacherous, and the longer and longer we went … I don’t know. As I said, I got into a rhythm."
When asked if he ever second-guessed how he needed to attack the racetrack, Winger said, “A little bit. That’s how this racetrack is no matter what. Even under caution, it’s packed in and you can run the top. I heard somebody up there one time (being) really aggressive. That’s why I started laying out and Kyle got by me. It’s a high-speed chess match. That’s all it is. You go out there rod-checking. This is so awesome. I still don’t know what to say."
The third-place-finishing Sheppard, meanwhile, got back on track after uncharacteristically missing a transfer spot for Monday’s $5,000-to-win feature. Optimistically speaking, it’s Sheppard’s second podium in the last three races, adding to his third-place run on Saturday at All-Tech Raceway in Ellisville, Fla.
“The car was really good tonight. Glad to be in the hunt and in the race tonight,” Sheppard said. “Big strides from last night. I can’t thank all my guys enough for working their tails off on this thing, and not giving up on us after missing the show last night.”
Notes: Ashton Winger is the sixth different winner in eight Lucas Oil Series events this season. Winger's win is also the second of his Georgia-Florida Speedweeks career, adding to last year's Feb. 16 triumph at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. ... The turn two infield lights shut off just before the start of the third heat race, causing a 90-minute delay in action. … Monday's $5,000 winner Tyler Erb started 20th and finished 16th. … Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., finished fourth for the second straight night driving John Henderson's No. 2X Warrior Chassis. ... The six-day Wieland Winternationals resumes Wednesday and Thursday in a pair of $7,000-to-win features. Finally, the purse increases to $12,000-to-win for Friday’s fifth round before culminating with Saturday’s $15,000-to-win finale.
Tuesday’s second round of Wieland Winternationals action brings more perfect weather: sunny skies with an afternoon high in the upper 70s. … After Monday's heat races were run on a track that was taking rubber, pit-area observers noted that the surface appeared to have more moisture in it before the start of Tuesday's hot laps. ... The car count is up two with 60 entries signed in to chase the $5,000 top prize in Tuesday’s 30-lap feature. … Making their first starts of the week are Tim McCreadie, Ricky Thornton Jr., Jimmy Owens (driving the Rocket No. 21H piloted on Monday by Kenneth Howell of Inez, Ky.), Max Blair, Boom Briggs, Payton Freeman and Bill Boyd Sr. … Thornton's evening was short-lived, however; after slipping over the cushion and brushing the outside wall during qualifying — leaving him 19th in his time-trial group — he opted to withdraw from further Tuesday competition to save his equipment for the upcoming Lucas Oil Series points race from Thursday-Saturday. ... Joining Howell in the group of drivers who are sitting out after racing on Monday are Chase Junghans, who repaired his Longhorn car following a heat-race accident but decided to forego action until Wednesday; Allen Murray, whose Viper Motorsports-affiliated ride sustained significant front-end damage in a B-main accident; G.R. Smith; and Dustin Walker. … Bypassing racing for a second straight night are Jonathan Davenport and Shane Clanton. … Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., will again drive sponsor John Henderson’s Warrior Race Car, which he steered to a fourth-place finish in Monday’s feature. … Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Kan., experienced a rough outing in his Dirt Late Model debut at East Bay, failing to qualify after timing in second-slowest in his group. “I ran a mod here like 13 years ago but this place doesn’t seem nothing like it was then,” he said. “At least it wasn’t as much of an oddball track as it is now.” … Blake Spencer of St. Augustine, Fla., had to decline a fast-time provisional for Monday’s A-main after a B-main tangle left his car with a broken driveshaft and other damage. … Garrett Smith of Eatonton, Ga., retired from Monday’s feature due to a broken driveshaft.
Row 1: Ashton Winger, Hudson O'Neal
Row 2: Garrett Smith, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Brandon Overton
Row 4: Dennis Erb Jr., Ryan Gustin
Row 5: Daulton Wilson, Wil Herrington
Row 6: Mark Whitener, Blair Nothdurft
Row 7: Devin Moran, Tim McCreadie
Row 8: Eddie Carrier Jr., Ross Bailes
Row 9: Spencer Hughes, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 10: Brian Shirley, Tyler Erb
Row 11: Logan Roberson, Ross Robinson
Row 12: Doug Drown, Tanner English
Row 13: Dustin Mitchell, Jason Riggs
Consolation race results
(10 laps, top two transfer)
First consolation: Brian Shirley, Ross Robinson, Garrett Alberson, Rusty Schlenk, Mason Zeigler, Payton Freeman, Kenny Collins, Brenden Smith, David McCoy, Mike Benedum, Tyler Bruening, Todd Brennan. Scratched: Ricky Thornton Jr., Max Blair.
Second consolation: Tyler Erb, Doug Drown, Larry Grube, Freddie Carpenter, Seth Daniels, Daniel Adam, Jack Riggs, Jason Riggs, Billy Moyer Jr. Scratched: Kerry King, Dustin Mitchell, Danny Snyder, Blake Spencer, Benji Hicks.
Third consolation: Logan Roberson, Tanner English, Josh Putnam, Mike Spatola, Kyle Beard, Tyler Millwood, Logan Zarin, Boom Briggs, John Tweed, Jimmy Owens, Tyler Riggs, Jensen Ford. Scratched: Perry Brown, Billy Boyd.
Heat race recap
Ashton Winger narrowly repelled Dennis Erb Jr. to win the first heat race, with the two making slight contact early while battling for the lead. … Rusty Schlenk, Max Blair and Todd Brennan each got above the cushion in separate incidents during heat race two, drawing caution flags. Blair and Brennan made contact with the wall and were unable to continue, while Schlenk recovered to finish sixth. All three will need to transfer through a consolation race. … Heat three was delayed 90 minutes due to the infield lights going out in turn two. Benji Hicks pulled off before the start and finished 10th. Jack Riggs spun in the early laps, collecting Kerry King and Blake Spencer. Spencer was unable to continue and finished ninth while Riggs and King recovered to finish fifth and sixth. Dustin Mitchell led the early laps of heat race three before bicycling at the entrance of turn three, on the third lap and slowed due to suspected suspension damage. All five drivers will need to transfer through a consolation race. … Brandon Overton won the sixth heat race aboard John Henderson’s Warrior Chassis.
Heat race results
(Eight laps, top three transfer)
First heat: Ashton Winger, Dennis Erb Jr., Devin Moran, Brian Shirley, Ross Robinson, Tyler Bruening, Mason Zeigler, David McCoy, Mike Benedum. Scratched: Ricky Thornton Jr.
Second heat: Garrett Smith, Daulton Wilson, Eddie Carrier Jr., Garrett Alberson, Payton Freeman, Rusty Schlenk, Kenny Collins, Brenden Smith, Todd Brennan, Max Blair.
Third heat: Kyle Bronson, Mark Whitener, Spencer Hughes, Tyler Erb, Jack Riggs, Kerry King, Dustin Mitchell, Danny Snyder, Blake Spencer, Benji Hicks.
Fourth heat: Hudson O'Neal, Ryan Gustin, Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer Jr., Jason Riggs, Doug Drown, Seth Daniels, Larry Grube, Freddie Carpenter, Daniel Adam.
Fifth heat: Brandon Sheppard, Wil Herrington, Ross Bailes, Tanner English, Mike Spatola, Tyler Millwood, Tyler Riggs, Jimmy Owens, Boom Briggs, Perry Brown.
Sixth heat: Brandon Overton, Blair Nothdurft, Earl Pearson Jr., Logan Roberson, Josh Putnam, Jensen Ford, Kyle Beard, Logan Zarin, John Tweed. Scratched: Billy Boyd.
1. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.797
2. Garrett Smith (10), Eatonton, Ga., 14.841
3. Dustin Mitchell (D8), Pine Level, N.C., 14.852
4. Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., 14.873
5. Max Blair (111B), Centerville, Pa., 14.880
6. Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 14.890
7. Devin Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 14.960
8. Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., 15.030
9. Mark Whitener (89J), Middleburg, Fla., 15.032
10. Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 15.060
11. Eddie Carrier Jr. (66Jr), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.061
12. Spencer Hughes (11H), Meridian, Miss., 15.089
13. Ross Robinson (7R), Georgetown, Del., 15.092
14. Todd Brennan (20B), Zanesville, Ohio, 15.119
15. Jack Riggs (81J), Nolensville, Tenn., 15.121
16. Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 15.123
17. Garrett Alberson (58), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.129
18. Kerry King (KB), Delmar, Del., 15.161
19. Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 15.191
20. Payton Freeman (22*), Commerce, Ga., 15.198
21. Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 15.209
22. Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.214
23. Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio, 15.254
24. Blake Spencer (6S), St. Augustine, Fla., 15.264
25. Mike Benedum (25), Salem, W.Va., 15.275
26. Kenny Collins (1C), Colbert, Ga., 15.316
27. Benji Hicks (55), Mount Airy, N.C., 15.343
28. David McCoy (187), Franklin, N.C., 15.418
29. Brenden Smith (17SS), Dade City, Fla., 15.582
30. Danny Snyder (4S), Green Lane, Pa., 15.859
1. Hudson O'Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., 14.860
2. Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., 14.924
3. Blair Nothdurft (76), Sioux Falls, S.D., 15.090
4. Ryan Gustin (19R), Marshalltown, Iowa, 15.103
5. Ross Bailes (79), Clover, S.C., 15.113
6. Brandon Overton (2x), Evans, Ga., 15.126
7. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.154
8. Wil Herrington (19M), Hawkinsville, Ga., 15.168
9. Earl Pearson Jr. (46), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.175
10. Jason Riggs (81), College Grove, Tenn., 15.183
11. Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 15.219
12. Logan Roberson (89), Waynesboro, Va., 15.232
13. Billy Moyer Jr. (21M), Batesville, Ark., 15.271
14. Tanner English (96V), Benton, Ky., 15.296
15. Jensen Ford (83), Johnson City, Tenn., 15.306
16. Doug Drown (12d), Wooster, Ohio, 15.316
17. Tyler Millwood (31), Kingston, Ga., 15.394
18. Josh Putnam (212), Florence, Ala., 15.430
19. Larry Grube (29), Maulten, S.C., 15.510
20. Tyler Riggs (47W), New Matamoras, Ohio, 15.523
21. Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 15.566
22. Seth Daniels (S21), Jackson, Ohio, 15.596
23. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.658
24. Freddie Carpenter (C4), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.704
25. Logan Zarin (1z), Moon Township, Pa., 15.704
26. Jimmy Owens (21H), Newport, Tenn., 15.808
27. John Tweed (5T), Greeneville, Tenn., 15.816
28. Daniel Adam (75), Wade, N.C., 15.919
29. Perry Brown (22B), Riverview, Fla., 16.328
30. Bill Boyd Sr. (3B), Riverview, Fla., no time
(All times local)
2 p.m.: Pits and grandstands open
5 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
5:30 p.m.: Hot laps
- Super Late Models
- Super Late Models
- Super Late Models (8 laps)
- Super Late Models (10 laps)
- Super Late Models (30 laps)
Correction: Fixes Jensen Ford hometown.