BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 15) — Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., brought a satisfying end to his career-long frustration at Volusia Speedway Park.
After qualifying for just three A-Mains in his 15 starts at the half-mile oval from 2011-13 and never finishing better than 20th, the 28-year-old driver finally found the fast way around the half-mile oval to score a flag-to-flag victory in Monday night’s 30-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned feature that kicked off the Dirt Late Model portion of the 45th annual DIRTcar Nationals.
“We’ve never ran good here in a feature ever,” said Moyer, who opted to skip the DIRTcar Nationals altogether the last three years but returned in 2016 because he is looking to chase the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series. “We always just run to the back and would just pull in, so to finally win … I’m just tickled to death to win at Speedweeks.”
Moyer was flawless in his march to the $7,000 top prize, vaulting into the lead off the outside pole at the initial green and maintaining firm command throughout the caution-free distance. His high-water mark edge of over two seconds shrank to just a couple car lengths over Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., in the closing circuits, but he held on to defeat the former UMP DIRTcar Summernationals and national champion by 0.860 of a second.
The 43-year-old Erb’s runner-up finish came after he finally wrestled second place from Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., on lap 19. It was Erb’s best finish of Speedweeks, topping the third-place run he authored in Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Winternationals finale at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla.
Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., also recorded a Speedweeks-best finish, advancing from the eighth starting spot to place third after overtaking Clanton on lap 24. The former World of Outlaws Late Model Series rookie of the year bettered the fourth-place performance he had in Saturday night’s WoO event at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., and logged his third straight top-five finish overall, backing up his fifth-place run in Sunday night's Lucas Oil Series program at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Clanton, who won an unprecedented four of five DIRTcar Nationals features in 2015, climbed from the fourth starting spot to second place and battled hard with Erb throughout the race’s middle stages. But as the outside lane Clanton was running slowed down and his right-rear tire wore out he lost contact with Erb and ultimately settled for a fourth-place finish.
Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., completed the top five after starting sixth and running in fourth place for much of the race’s first half.
The race was a true milestone for Moyer, who put his name on a DIRTcar Nationals all-time win list that is topped by his Hall of Fame father Billy Moyer’s 19 career wins. The elder Moyer announced his retirement from full-time racing last fall and is serving as his son’s crew chief during Georgia-Florida Speedweeks rather than competing for the first time in many years.
“I never got to have my dad with me all the time,” said Moyer, who has been driving a Dirt Late Model for a decade. “Just having him here means more than anything. Growing up he wasn’t always gonna be there because he had to go make a living.
“This has got to be the biggest competition level I ever beat. I’ve won some (UMP DIRTcar) Summernationals races, some other races, but I’ve never even come close to winning a Speedweeks race. There’s been some of them day shows at East Bay when it gets slick that I ran pretty good, but never like this. This is a hell of a crowd here … and to win and to just be with my dad, it’s so cool.”
Moyer credited his father’s guidance for playing a key role in turning around his moribund Volusia fortunes.
“Dad helped me to not dial myself out,” Moyer said. “I tend to over-tighten the car a lot because if I get loose, I suck. But this was my kind of track — when we were sitting there on the backstretch lining up, I said, ‘There isn’t much of a cushion up there and there’s not gonna be stuff blowing across the track for people to lean on and what not.’ I’m thinking, ‘All right, buddy.’ I mean, I drew the perfect number — the outside pole — and I was telling myself, ‘If you don’t run good, you’re in trouble.’
“That there (track condition), you drive straight — there’s no ass-jacking, no backing in, stabbing and steering. That’s not my forte. That out there, that slick stuff, that’s my forte. You drive off the right-front instead of the ass. I don’t drive with my back wheels very good, and tonight you had to drive it my way.
“If I could race that stuff right there every day, I don’t think I’d get as many gray hairs as I’m gonna have,” he added with a smile. “That’s the most fun — the track’s slick, there’s not a big cushion. You don’t have to have that to have a good track.”
Completely comfortable circling the Volusia clay in his Billy Moyer Victory Race Car, Moyer was ready when Erb closed in.
“I couldn’t ‘x’ off turn two to save my life and I knew I was losing time there,” Moyer said. “I knew that (crewman) Steve (Norris) was signaling me that I had a lot of room, but then he closed it up and was pointing to the bottom and I seen (on the scoreboard) it was Erb, and I’m like, ‘I know where Erb’s at.’ I knew he’d be on the bottom, so I changed my line. I just didn’t want to let Dennis have that lane to dive in there and pass me, so I just started protecting the bottom and slowed down.”
Erb, who started from pole position, couldn’t quite summon the speed to mount a serious bid for the lead.
“We definitely got a little bit better there in the middle of the race, and then later towards the end there we started getting a little tight in the corner and not being able to rotate as good,” said Erb, who recorded the lone win of his career at Volusia in 2012. “But Billy, he’s doing a good job out there … he held on for the win. I thought I was gonna be able to close on him there and at least be able to try and challenge, but I got a little tight there at the end and started pushing up and I couldn’t keep in my line like I wanted to. We just had to settle in for second.”
Heckenast, 27, was pleased to begin his week at Volusia on a high note but wasn’t entirely satisfied with his finish.
“It’s a lot better than last year — it took us until the end of the week last year to get going,” Heckenast said. “I think we found something here and we’ll work on it, but I’m kind of mad at myself. I think I could’ve maybe finished a little better. I messed up with like six to go when I caught Erb and Little Billy … I stepped out to the outside thinking I could do something but I actually lost a lot of ground.”
Clanton, meanwhile, fell short in his attempt to win the DIRTcar Nationals opener for the second consecutive year.
“We burned our stuff up,” Clanton said. “We went a little softer on right-rear tire than everybody else and I bided my time as best as I could and finally I said, ‘It’s time to go,’ and I went … and it went for about six or seven laps and then it just died.”
Preliminary results and notes:
First B-main finish (top four transfer): Morgan Bagley, Ricky Weiss, Billy Ogle Jr., Chub Frank, Paul Wilmoth Jr., Justin Rattliff, Vic Coffey, Stacy Boles, Nick Kurtz, Reid Millard, Mike Hammerle (DNS) Steve Casebolt, Chase Junghans, Jordan Yaggy.
Second B-main finish (top four transfer): Brian Shirley, Rick Eckert, Mark Whitener, Kyle Bronson, Michael Norris, Eric Wells, Tyler Clem, Chad Hollenbeck, Pancho Lawler, Austin Rettig, Freddie Carpenter, Charles LaPlant, Chuck Julien (DNS) Coleby Frye.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Ricky Weiss, Billy Ogle Jr.
Row 2: Paul Wilmoth Jr., Morgan Bagley
Row 3: Vic Coffey, Chub Frank
Row 4: Nick Kurtz, Stacy Boles
Row 5: Mike Hammerle, Steve Casebolt
Row 6: Chase Junghans, Reid Millard
Row 7: Jordan Yaggy, Justin Rattliff
Row 1: Mark Whitener, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Kyle Bronson, Rick Eckert
Row 3: Chad Hollenbeck, Michael Norris
Row 4: Tyler Clem, Pancho Lawler
Row 5: Eric Wells, Freddie Carpenter
Row 6: Charles LaPlant, Austin Rettig
Row 7: Chuck Julien, Coleby Frye
Shane Clanton led the entire distance to take the win over Frank Heckenast Jr., who closed to within 0.461 of a second at the finish. Steve Francis and Tim McCreadie completed the transfers.
Finish (top four transfer): Shane Clanton, Frank Heckenast Jr., Steve Francis, Tim McCreadie, Brian Shirley, Rick Eckert, Michael Norris, Pancho Lawler, Freddie Carpenter, Austin Rettig, Coleby Frye.
Billy Moyer Jr. controlled the action, pulling away to a healthy lead before beating the late-charging Josh Richards to the finish line by 0.345 of a second. Richards settled for second after slipping by Brandon Sheppard on lap four, leaving Sheppard third and Kenny Pettyjohn fourth.
Finish (top four transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Josh Richards, Brandon Sheppard, Kenny Pettyjohn, Mark Whitener, Kyle Bronson, Chad Hollenbeck, Tyler Clem, Eric Wells, Charles LaPlant, Chuck Julien.
Jason Feger advanced from the sixth starting spot to take the lead from Jared Landers on lap two and never looked back, winning by 0.202 of a second over the late-charging Landers. Rodney Sanders and Gregg Satterlee completed the transfers in a race that saw three different leaders in the first three laps; Sanders led lap one and Landers paced lap two.
Finish (top four transfer): Jason Feger, Jared Landers, Rodney Sanders, Gregg Satterlee, Billy Ogle Jr., Morgan Bagley, Chub Frank, Stacy Boles, Steve Casebolt, Reid Millard, Justin Rattliff.
Charging forward from the fifth starting spot, Dennis Erb Jr. passed Boom Briggs for the lead on lap three and marched away to beat the Pennsylvania driver by 2.465 seconds. Donny Schatz and Tyler Bruening completed the top five.
Finish (top four transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Boom Briggs, Donny Schatz, Tyler Bruening, Ricky Weiss, Paul Wilmoth Jr., Vic Coffey, Nick Kurtz, Mike Hammerle (DNS) Chase Junghans, Jordan Yagg.
Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., registered the fastest overall lap during time trials, turning a circuit of 15.537 seconds to nip the 15.582-second lap authored by Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.
After a four-car invert from the qualifying results for each group, heat polesitters are Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville, Tenn., Kenny Pettyjohn of Millsboro, Del., and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga.
Three incidents dotted the qualifying session. During the first group Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., lost control of his car and slammed head-on into the outside wall off turn four; he wasn’t injured. In the third group Chad Hollenbeck of Kingsley, Pa., slapped the wall between turns one and two and limped to the infield. Finally, in the fourth group, Freddie Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va., had his car’s left-rear wheel fly off as he rounded turn four; the wheel and tire bounced off the inside fence, flew high into the air and eventually came to rest on the homestretch.
More pre-race notes
The well-known Gator Pond behind the backstretch that is surrounded by race haulers has two 6- to 7-foot-long alligators prowling very visibly through the water this week. There were many pitside observers seen checking out the gators and taking pictures with their phones on Monday. … Coleby Frye of Dover, Pa., has served as a pit-crew member during past DIRTcar Nationals, but this year he’s getting his first chance to circle the track. His car owner, fellow Pennsylvanian Larry Baer, has brought the teams two Rocket by Frye cars south for Speedweeks events last weekend at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., and now at Volusia. “I’m excited to get out there,” Frye said. “It’s kind of like Port Royal (Pa.) and Selinsgrove (Pa.) — just turn left and hammer-down.” … Frye’s second car will be driven tonight by Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., Tim McCreadie’s Sweeteners Plus teammate and a former WoO regular who now concentrates on DIRTcar Northeast big-block modified racing. Coffey will compete in the DIRTcar Nationals big-block modified action from Wednesday-Saturday. … WoO rookie aspirant Paul Wilmoth Jr. of Clarksburg, W.Va., is tackling the Volusia oval for the first time in his career. “I’m going to have a lot of ‘firsts’ this year,” smiled Wilmoth, a veteran driver who is getting his first chance to hit the road extensively in 2016. … Kentucky racer Shannon Thornsberry is providing Speedweeks pit assistance to Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., as he often does, but this year he’s doing it with a bit of a handicap. He’s hobbling around with a crutch under his arm after aggravating an injury to his left knee on Saturday night at Screven when he took off running to his four-wheeler upon seeing Frank spin during a heat race. … Reid Millard of Jefferson City, Mo., is in the Volusia field for the first time in nearly a decade. He’s hoping that he doesn’t have a DIRTcar Nationals experience like he had during one of his last visits to the track — a trip that ended when he lost control of his car in turn three, vaulted over the guardrail and barrel-rolled into the pine tree. Millard said the accident happened after he didn’t realize his car’s right-front brake was still turned off after it was driven the previous night by current NASCAR star Carl Edwards, who hails from Millard’s hometown.
The Dirt Late Model portion of the DIRTcar Nationals begin under overcast skies with temperatures near 70 and a chance of rain increasing as the night progresses. Weather forecasts indicate that after this evening’s threat of rain the remainder of the week should be sunny and warm. … A 44-car field is signed in to compete in the UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned DIRTcar Nationals opener. … Drivers in the pit area but not planning to compete include Clint Bowyer Racing teammates Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Rambo Franklin of Gaffney, S.C. … Fleet Georgia-Florida Speedweeks racers Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and 2015 WoO Rookie of the Year Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., are also taking the night off; they’re not even in the Volusia pit area with their haulers. … Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D., who won Saturday night’s WoO Craftsman Sprint Car Series A-Main at Volusia, has his Dirt Late Model unloaded and ready to compete for the remainder of the week. … When past DIRTcar Nationals winner Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., was asked in the pit area if he planned to compete in tonight’s program, he replied, “I don’t know.” He had a sly smile, of course — few drivers enter more races each season than Erb, so there’s little doubt that he would be in tonight’s field. … Rodney Sanders of Happy, Texas, whose first Volusia attempt with a Dirt Late Model last year ended early after he broke an engine and flipped during a B-Main, is back to tackle the half-mile again. He’s behind the wheel of the MB Customs Race Car he debuted during last month’s Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout in Tucson, Ariz., and has MB chassis builder Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., along to help him make setup calls. Mars might even make a few laps later in the week — Sanders's backup car is the machine that his girlfriend's father, Jason Krohn of Slayton, Minn., owns and raced last month in Arizona, and Krohn said it's possible he'll have Mars jump in it to try it out. ... Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, is set for action after putting in some serious work on his Rocket Chassis machine following six nights of Lucas Oil Series racing at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. “We changed motors and rebuilt the body,” he said. “We didn’t get much of a day off.” … Chad Hollenbeck of Kingsley, Pa., is racing with a very sore left thumb after he jammed it in his car’s steering wheel when he slapped the wall during Saturday night’s racing program at East Bay. Hollenbeck’s wife said his swollen thumb “looks like a sausage,” but it’s getting better after initially appearing to be dislocated and he’s OK to hit the track. …
The six-night DIRTcar Nationals begins with a 30-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned event paying $7,000 to win. Two more evenings of UMP action will follow before the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series takes the spotlight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Monday night’s program includes group qualifying, four heat races, B-Mains and the 30-lap headliner. Group qualifying by heat races will be utilized; results from time trials will be used to align the heats with a top-four invert, and the four heat winners will redraw for starting spots in the first two rows of the feature.
Heat race lineups/qualifying results
(8 laps; top 4 transfer)
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingly, Manitoba, 16.284
Vic Coffey (0c), Caledonia, N.Y., 16.194
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.194
Paul Wilmoth Jr. (B1), Clarksburg, W.Va., 16.116
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.303
Tyler Bruening (16T), Decorah, Iowa, 16.303
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 16.44
Nick Kurtz (79), Greenville, Mich., 17.19
Mike Hammerle (16H), St. Charles, Mo., 17.953
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., N/T
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., N/T
Billy Ogle Jr. (201), Knoxville, Tenn., 16.062
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 15.998
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.57
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.537
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 16.11
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 16.125
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 16.18
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.364
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.502
Stacey Boles (11B), Claxton, Tenn., 16.793
Reid Millard (14), Jefferson City, Mo., 17.702
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 15.939
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.932
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.882
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.582
Mark Whitener (5W), Middleburg, Fla., 16.285
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 16.405
Tyler Clem (14), St. Petersburg, Fla., 16.621
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Minn., 16.68
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.709
Chuck Julien (57), Apopka, Fla., 17.712
Chad Hollenbeck (4Ds), Kingsley, Pa., N/T
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 16.1
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 16.028
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.975
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 15.808
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.23
Rick Eckert (7), York, Pa., 16.383
Colby Frye (0), Dover, Pa., 16.392
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 16.434
Pancho Lawler (93), Hanover, Pa., 16.439
Freddie Carpenter (K), Parkersburg, W.Va., 16.792
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 16.888