FAIRBURY, Ill. — Brgandon Sheppard was convinced the high groove was the fast way around at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway. And despite twice losing the lead on the top side, the New Berlin, Ill., driver finally proved it, roaring back into the lead with 13 laps remaining and earning a $10,000 UMP DIRTcar Summernationals victory.
Sheppard went around Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., on lap 38, then turned back a final challenge from Fairbury’s seven-time Summernationals race winner Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., for his 11th career tour victory.
“The cushion was pretty treacherous, especially at the start of the race," Sheppard said. "It was throwing a lot of (mud) chunks (on to the track) … once they cleaned that up, I was able to roll that top getting into the corner and I could keep a little bit more speed. It took me until late in the race to get it cleaned off.”
Moyer, who twice regained the lead from his fellow front-row starter on laps four and 28 after Sheppard went around him on two occasions to lead three laps (three and 26-27), finished 0.975 seconds behind for his third straight runner-up finish on the tour while Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., was third. Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill., improved nine positions for fourth and 11th-starting Joe Harlan rounded out the top five.
Moyer led most of the way, but wide-ranging traffic over the tight quarter-mile oval gave him fits in trying to repel Sheppard.
“I’ve just gotta get a little bit better. I just got beat," Moyer said. "It’s the same for everybody, there’s just a lot of lapped cars … it’s tough, there’s nowhere to go there. You just try to bide your time."
Babb, winless since last August, appeared to be in control when he blasted past Moyer on lap 35, but he retired with apparent rear-end problems shortly after Sheppard took the lead.
Series points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., had his first off-night of the series, hampered by a flat tire and finishing eighth in failing to crack the top five for the first time in eight Summernationals races. But his closest pursuer in the points, Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., also struggled, finishing 13th.
Moyer and Sheppard battled side-by-side early with Sheppard, inching ahead to lead the third lap before Moyer’s low groove helped him ease out to a half-straightaway lead by lap eight. Shortly after Moyer hit lapped traffic on lap 14, Babb and Mars both went past Sheppard as the top four cars dueled on the same straightaway.
But Sheppard came alive after a pair of mid-race restarts, rolling around Mars and Babb to regain second and tracking down Moyer on lap 25. A lap later, Sheppard zipped into the lead, but with the slower car of Brent Larson in his high groove he ceded the point once again to Moyer, who suddenly had his hands full with a charging Babb as Sheppard dropped back to third.
Digging hard in the low groove, Babb roared off turn four to take the lead from Moyer on lap 35, just before a caution appeared for the slowing Larson. After another quick yellow, Sheppard restarted fourth and got rolling again on the high side.
“I knew I just had to hit my marks and not bobble," Sheppard said. "The cushion was like a 1-foot tall brick wall all the way around the top. It was really hard. And the tire rule that we’re on, my left-rear (tire) would die after about five laps and I’d just have to run sideways all the way around the corner and hope not to push, because my right-front wouldn’t steer either. We just tried to hit our marks and keep everything together, and we did."
He took third from Mars, second from Moyer and then blitzed past Babb off turn four. Babb pulled his No. 18 to the infield on lap 39 and Moyer took up the charge, gaining ground on Sheppard in the closing laps. But Sheppard’s high groove didn’t disappoint this time as he grabbed his first Summernationals victory since last July in Lincoln, Ill.
The 50-lapper was slowed by a pair of mid-race cautions for flat tires — Marlar slowed on lap 20 and Pierce on lap 22 — as well as the lap-35 yellow for Larson's flat and a lap-36 caution for turn-three debris.
The month-long Summernationals carry on Sunday at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., for a $5,000-to-win event before giving drivers a break on Monday.
Notes: Sheppard is competing in DIRTcar action after appealing his disqualification from June 9-11's Dream XXII at Eldora Speedway. A Sheppard tire sample failed to meet manufacturer specifications in lab tests; his appeal of a three-month suspension and loss of purse money is expected to be heard Monday. ... Sheppard won on the tour for the fifth straight season. ... Thirteen drivers completed 50 laps.
Correction: Fixes lap leaders.
Preliminary results and notes:
Seventh-starting Derek Chandler's low-groove charge gave him a victory as he worked under race-long leader Ashley Newman on the 11th of 12 laps for the victory. Newman got the other transfer spot while Tim Manville was outside looking in with a third-place finish. Jason Feger was battling Manville for third early when they tangled on the backstretch and Feger spun in front of nearly everyone, sending Matt Furman spinning in the scramble. Feger retired.
Finish (top two transfer): Derek Chandler, Ashley Newman, Tim Manville, Ryan Unzicker, Gordy Gundaker, Steve Thorsten, Matt Furman, Riley Hickman, Daniel Flessner, Joseph Hughes, Paul Parker, Jason Feger, Taylor Scheffler, Jim Moon.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Ashley Newman, Gordy Gundaker
Row 2: Tim Manville, Jason Feger
Row 3: Matt Furman, Daniel Flessner
Row 4: Derek Chandler, Ryan Unzicker
Row 5: Taylor Scheffler, Kolby Vanderbergh
Row 6: Riley Hickman, Scott Bull
Row 7: Steve Thorsten, Jim Moon (C-main winners)
Row 8: Paul Parker, Joseph Hughes (C-main runners-up)
(10 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Steve Thorsten, Bo Brockway
Row 2: Lyle Zanker, Paul Parker
Row 3: Snooky Dehm, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 4: Billy Hough, Terry Starks
(10 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Chris Cowling, Jim Moon
Row 2: Alan Stipp, Don Hammer
Row 3: Glen Thompson, Joseph Hughes
Row 4: Daniel Hopper, Brian Diveley
Billy Moyer got a great start from outside the front row and pulled away from a stacked field. Kevin Weaver quickly got under Mike Marlar for second but wasn't able to catch Moyer. Marlar ran a strong third — nearly getting around Weaver at halfway — while Timothy Culp got the final transfer spot, keeping Jason Feger in check. the heat race caution-free but Brian Diveley pulled to the infield on the final lap.
Finish (top four transfer): Billy Moyer, Kevin Weaver, Mike Marlar, Timothy Culp, Jason Feger, Ryan Unzicker, Scott Bull, Jim Moon, Don Hammer, Joseph Hughes, Brian Diveley.
Outside front-row starter emerged from a three-car battle with Scott Schmitt and Joe Harlan for a 10-lap victory. The polesitting Schmitt held off Harlan to grab second while Harlan and Jay Morris rounded out the transfer spots. The first start had a turn-two pileup triggered when Gardner dove to the inside groove and created an accordion-style stackup that eventually left Daniel Flessner, Glen Thompson and Daniel Hopper in a heap; Thompson and Hopper were eliminated.
Finish (top four transfer): Bob Gardner, Scott Schmitt, Joe Harlan, Jay Morris, Gordy Gundaker, Daniel Flessner, Kolby Vandenbergh, Chris Cowling, Alan Stipp, Glenn Thompson, Daniel Hopper.
Mike Spatola got the jump from outside the front row, but charging polesitter Brandon Sheppard went by exiting turn two on the eighth lap and led the rest of the way. Brent Larson was a distant third with Spencer Diercks getting the final transfer spot. Fourth-starting Dennis Erb Jr. got sideways in turn two on the first lap and collected Bo Brockway. Erb was able to limp to the pits with significant right-side damage and the rubber pulled off both rims on that side; Brockway was able to restart.
Finish (top four transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Mike Spatola, Brent Larson, Spencer Diercks, Tim Manville, Derek Chandler, Riley Hickman, Bo Brockway, Paul Parker,, Dennis Erb Jr.
Fast qualifier Shannon Babb fought back on the second lap, regaining the lead from Jimmy Mars and edging away for a 10-lap victory. Mars got second while series points leader Bobby Pierce couldn't keep up with the frontrunners in finising third. Michael Kloos got the final transfer spot. Billy Hough, who rolled over in time trials but wasn't injured, scratched.
Finish (top four transfer): Shannon Babb, Jimmy Mars, Bobby Pierce, Michael Kloos, Ashley Newman, Matt Furman, Taylor Scheffler, Steve Thorsteon, Lyle Zanker, Snooky Dehm. Scratched: Billy Hough.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Shannon Babb, Jimmy Mars
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Michael Kloos
Row 3: Taylor Scheffler, Matt Furman
Row 4: Ashley Newman, Lyle Zanker
Row 5: Steve Thorsten, Billy Hough
Row 6: Snooky Dehm
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Mike Spatola
Row 2: Brent Larson, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Derek Chandler, Spencer Diercks
Row 4: Tim Manville, Bo Brockway
Row 5: Riley Hickman, Paul Parker
Row 6: Terry Starks
Row 1: Scott Schmitt, Bob Gardner
Row 2: Joe Harlan, Gordy Gundaker
Row 3: Kolby Vandenbergh, Jay Morris
Row 4: Daniel Flessner, Chris Cowling
Row 5: Glen Thompson, Alan Stipp
Row 6: Daniel Hopper
Row 1: Mike Marlar, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Kevin Weaver, Timothy Culp
Row 3: Ryan Unzicker, Jason Feger
Row 4: Scott Bull, Brian Diveley
Row 5: Dan Hammer, Jim Moon
Row 6: Joseph Hughes
First qualifier Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., topped 44 entrants at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway in time trials for the eighth round of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. Babb tripped the clock in 12.651 seconds at the quarter-mile oval to earn a pole starting spot in one of four heat races.
Other heat race polesitters: Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.; Scott Schmitt of Tonica, Ill.; and Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., the final qualifier.
Series points leader Bobby Pierce was fifth quick in his group, putting him inside row two in the first heat.
Billy Hough had a rollover accident in turn two on his second time trial lap, but he checked out OK. ... Kevin Weaver, a three-time Summernationals winner at Fairbury, is two features shy of Roger Long’s track record of 66 victories. Weaver has more than 300 feature victories overall in his career. … Long is on hand signing autotgraph cards behind the frontstretch grandstands earlier in the day. ... Three-time series champ Dennis Erb Jr. made an engine swap in his No. 28 after powerplant issues in Friday’s consolation race at Tri-City; Erb drove Don Hammer’s car briefly in the Tri-City feature. … Last year's race winner Shannon Babb broke a motor in a Tri-City heat race, but he elected to pull out his backup car. “It’s too hot to do any work,” Babb said with a laugh after using a water bottle first to top off his radiator, then to take a drink. … Timothy Culp of Prattsville, Ark., has switched to his 2015 Bob Pierce Car. It was without an engine after the team moved it to his newer car, but his father-in-law delivered a Kuntz & Co. 430 c.i. to install Saturday. … First-time Fairbury visitors include Riley Hickman of Ooltewah, Tenn., and Ashley Newman of Ripley, Tenn. …. Tennesseans have had success in Summernationals races at Fairbury with Scott Bloomquist (1991) and Mike Marlar (2007) having one apiece.
Time trials (unofficial)
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 12.651
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 12.763
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 12.862
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 12.881
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 12.953
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 13.063
Michael Kloos (6k), Trenton, Ill., 13.128
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 13.162
Taylor Scheffler (74), Waukesha, Wis., 13.252
Derek Chandler (35), Pontiac, Ill., 13.279
Matt Furman (51), Portland, Ore. , 13.305
Spencer Diercks (29), Davenport, Iowa, 13.413
Steve Thorsten (7T), Woodworth, Ill., 13.413
Ashley Newman (73), Ripley, Tenn., 13.437
Tim Manville (33), Highland, Ill., 13.443
Lyle Zanker (9), Rockford, Ill., 13.509
Bo Brockway (16B), Glasford, Ill., 13.531
Riley Hickman (R1), Ooltewah, Tenn., 13.713
Billy Hough (33), Thomasboro, Ill., 13.983
Paul Parker (10), Depere, Wis., 14.044
Snooky Dehm (D2), Chatsworth, Ill., 14.110
Terry Starks (13), Joliet, Ill., 14.243
Scott Schmitt (10), Tonica, Ill., 12.826
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 12.934
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 12.952
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 12.954
Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill., 12.969
Joe Harlan (Z), El Paso, Ill., 12.969
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 12.975
Timothy Culp (c8), Prattsville, Ark., 13.050
Kolby Vandenbergh (15), Ashland, Ill., 13.122
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 13.226
Jay Morris (77m), Watseka, Ill., 13.228
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.264
Daniel Flessner (9D), Roberts, Ill., 13.392
Scott Bull (83), Fairbury, Ill., 13.415
Chris Cowling (27c), Tauranga, New Zealand, 13.442
Brian Diveley (11D), Springfield, Ill., 13.489
Glen Thompson (14), Buckingham, Ill., 13.536
Don Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill., 13.537
Alan Stipp (88), Forrest, Ill., 13.703
Jim Moon (1M), New Florence, Mo., 13.822
Daniel Hopper (1x), Peru, Ill., 14.814
Joseph Hughes (7H), Springfield, Ill., no time
The UMP DIRTcar Summernationals makes one of its most popular stops Saturday at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway with a $10,000-to-win purse on the line as series points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., tries to continue rolling along.
Pierce, winner of four of seven series starts heading to Fairbury, comes to a track where his father and car builder Bob Pierce had much success, but a track where the younger Pierce has had a few scrapes and controversies.
Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., a two-time series winner in 2016 and the tour’s all-time winningest driver, has a track-high seven series victories at Fairbury while Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., last year’s winner, have three apiece. Roger Long of Fithian, Ill., is the only other multiple-race series winner at Fairbury with two victories.
Single-race series winners at Fairbury are Ryan Unzicker, Brian Shirley, Rodney Melvin, Don O’Neal, Rick Aukland, Scott Bloomquist, Bob Pierce, Dick Taylor and the driver currently second in series points, Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn.
The field is expected to be split into two groups for qualifying. Drivers in the first group will be aligned in heats 1-2 and those in the second group will race in heats 3-4. Four heats, two C-mains, one B-main and a 40-lap event should complete the program with modifeds and street stocks also on the card.
(Unofficial and tentative)
Drivers’ meeting: 5:30 p.m.
- Late Models
- Street stocks
- Late Models
- Late Models
- Street stocks
- Late Models
- Street stocks
- Late Models (50 laps)
- Street stocks