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Daily Dirt 06/23/2024 12:11:38

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June 15
Merritt Speedway,
Lake City, MI
Sanction: American Ethanol Late Model Tour (DIRTcar) (Merritt Showdown) - $10,000
Information provided by: Series reports (last updated June 16, 1:30 pm)
Spangler rules at Merritt for career-high $10,000
Merritt Showdown
  1. Eric Spangler
  2. Dona Marcoullier
  3. Brandon Thirlby
  4. Ryan VanderVeen
  5. Rusty Schlenk
  6. Curtis Roberts
  7. Rich Neiser
  8. Brian Ruhlman
  9. Travis Stemler
  10. Greg Gokey
  11. Kyle Borgman
  12. Nick Kurtz
  13. Bill Bray
  14. Mike Luberda
  15. Derek Thebo
  16. Chad Foster
  17. Jesse Playter
  18. Matt Shipley
  19. Jason Playter Jr.
  20. Rich Bell
  21. Bob Timmer
  22. Mike Staszak
  23. Chris Brindley
  24. Steve Fairbanks
  25. Todd Roseburgh
  26. Josh Knoll
presented by
Randy Ellen/randyellen.smugmug.com
Eric Spangler climbed atop his car to celebrate at Merritt Speedway.
What won the race: Five-time track champion and hometown driver Eric Spangler led all but two laps laps Thursday at Merritt Speedway for a career-richest $10,000 payday in the Ethanol Tour-sanctioned Merritt Showdown. Spangler, who started outside the front row, took the checkers eight-tenths of a second ahead of Dona Marcoullier in the 50-lapper.
Key notes: The feature, showed by three cautions, started about 9:30 p.m. ... Seventeen starters completed 50 laps. ... Thursday's non-qualifiers' race was scrapped and all 26 returnees started the main after Wednesday night rain postponed the original scheduled time for the feature. ... Fans not holding rain checks paid $5 for Thursday's action. ... Merritt fans are mourning the loss of long-time employee and fan Steve Bowman, who died after a brief battle with ALS. ... Don's Auto Clinic was presenting sponsor.
On the move: Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Mich., started 11th and finished third.
Winner's sponsors: Spangler's MasterSbilt Race Car is sponsored by Spangler Heating & Cooling, Cyclo Products, Forbes Construction & Excavation, Mark Mitchell P.C., Atkins Electric, Taco Boy, A&L Trading Post, Babb Ford, Goodman H&C and Xtreme GrafX.
Points chase: Dona Marcoullier entered the race leading the Ethanol Tour points.
Car count: 36
Fast qualifier: Curtis Roberts
Time: 15.345 seconds
Polesitter: Ryan VanderVeen
Heat race winners: Dona Marcoullier, Rich Neiser, Bill Bray, Eric Spangler
Consolation race winners: Curtis Roberts, Greg Gokey
Next series race: June 21, Mount Pleasant Speedway (Mount Pleasant, MI) $4,000
Editor's note: Corrects car count to 36 and lap leaders; adds Rich Neiser as seventh-place finisher and corrects Josh Knoll to 26th.
From staff reports

LAKE CITY, Mich. — In more than 30 years of racing at Merritt Speedway, Eric Spangler has a laundry list of impressive success at his hometown track, including five track championships and a World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series victory.

The list is one item longer after Thursday night, and it’s a major addition.

The 48-year-old Spangler collected his richest victory, leading all but two laps of the third annual Merritt Showdown for a $10,000 payday on the American Ethanol Late Model Tour. The outside front-row starter fought off repeated challenges from Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., taking the checkers eighth-tenths of a second ahead of the runner-up at the finish of the 50-lapper.

Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Mich., charged from his 11th starting spot to finished third while polesitter Ryan VanderVeen of Six Lakes, Mich., and Michigan native Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, rounded out the top five finishers in a race postponed 24 hours by rain.

Spangler wasn’t surprised to have his hands full with Marcoullier, another former track champion who battled side-by-side with the winner early, edging ahead to lead a couple of laps while working the low groove.

“I seen him there many, many times. I knew he has a real fast car,” Spangler said. “If he was ahead of me, he probably would’ve won this race. … he probably didn’t (screw) up any laps, and I didn’t either.”

Spangler was quick to thank his family, crew along chassis manufacturer “MasterSbilt for all the updates on this thing and making it go fast,” he said in victory lane.

“I grew up here 32 years ago and been running here ever since,” Spangler said. “I’d really like to thank my dad tonight. He helps out. He’s 76 years old. He doesn’t come all the time but he helps out all week during the week. I’d like to thank Roxanne, Brett and everybody else that came tonight that came and helped out on the car.”

Spangler, who has 14 career track championships at three tracks overall, concluded his victory lane interview by whooping it up in victory lane at the track where he’s a three-time Wood Tic winner.

Marcoullier, the reigning Ethanol Tour champion, had a couple of opportunities to be aggressive with Spangler, but ended up settling for a second-place finish that solidified his 2017 points lead on the series.

“It’s just a respect deal. I could’ve went and slid him, but I want to race him another day,” said Marcoullier, who had to go to a backup car after problems in his primary machine Wednesday. “I’m happy. Second place. Good point night. Hat’s off to Merritt Speedway, I know we had some bad weather and stuff.”

Thirlby never got close enough to the frontrunners to mix it up for the victory, but he was pleased with advancing eight positions at the 3/8-mile oval.

“I screwed up qualifying and (we) started deep, and just used my stuff up coming from 11th to third,” Thirlby said. “Congratulations to Eric and Dona, they ran a great race. I’m really looking forward to the next couple of weeks. We’ve got a lotta racing going on, and hopefully (we’ll) get a W.”

The race was slowed by three cautions, none for serious incidents. An early caution appeared when Nick Kurtz went around in turn two while battling with Rich Neiser. Chris Brindley spun to the high side of turn one on lap 29 and the final yellow appeared on the 44th lap for Jason Playter Jr.’s spin off turn four.

Feature lineup

Row 1: VanderVeen, Spangler
Row 2: Marcoullier, Kurtz
Row 3: Ruhlman, Schlenk
Row 4: Neiser, Bray
Row 5: Thebo, Brindley
Row 6: Thirlby, Je. Player
Row 7: Bell, Luberda
Row 8: Roberts, Gokey
Row 9: Ja. Player, Borgman
Row 10: Shipley, Fairbanks
Row 11: Foster, Stemler
Row 12: Knoll, Roseburgh
Row 13: Timmer, Staszak

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