MAPLE PARK, Ill. (June 16) — Racing at an unfamiliar track proved to be no problem for Billy Moyer on Friday night.
The Hall of Fame driver from Batesville, Ark., quickly made himself comfortable at Sycamore Speedway, grabbing the lead from Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., on lap eight and controlling the remainder of the 40-lap distance to capture the historic third-mile oval’s first-ever UMP DIRTcar Summernationals event.
Moyer, 59, pocketed $7,500 for his second victory in the first three races of the 2017 Hell Tour. His record 95th career win on the series combined with his triumph in Wednesday night’s opener at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway to sandwich a subpar performance on Thursday evening at Kankakee (Ill.) County Speedway — where he plummeted from the third starting spot to a 15th-place finish — that fueled his Sycamore effort.
“For as terrible as we was last night,” Moyer said, “I had to redeem ourselves.”
The six-time Summernationals champion did just that with a virtually flawless outing in his self-designed Victory Race Car. He cooly handled two restarts during the race’s second half to cross the finish line 1.376 seconds in front of El Paso, Ill.’s Ryan Unzicker, who slipped past Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., for the runner-up spot heading to the white flag.
Babb, who reached second place from the eighth starting spot by lap 21, settled for a third-place finish. Billy Drake of Bloomington, Ill., who on June 13, 2013, won the last Super Late Model special event at Sycamore before the Hell Tour’s inaugural visit, moved forward from the ninth starting spot to finish fourth and 15th-starter Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., placed fifth one night after winning at Kankakee.
Cody Mahoney of Hanover, Ind., who entered the evening leading the Summernationals points standings, finished sixth after climbing as high as fourth.
While Sycamore has been a family-run operation for 54 years, Friday night’s Summernationals stop was by far the richest Super Late Model event ever contested there. It’s also a track that was unknown to all prospective 2017 Hell Tour regulars.
Moyer spoke like he was one of those drivers who had never previously competed at Sycamore.
“We never been here before so we don’t know the dirt, nothing about it, and they don’t run our kind of cars here to where you can even talk to people about tires,” Moyer said following the feature. “So everything was a big guess.”
According to Dirt Late Model historian Bob Markos, however, contrary to Moyer’s recollections, he had raced at Sycamore before Friday night. Markos told DirtonDirt.com that he attended a NASCAR Busch All-Star Series event at Sycamore on Aug. 6, 1986, and Moyer was in the field that night.
A lot has changed in the nearly 31 years since that NASCAR-sanctioned tour visited Sycamore — and even if Moyer had remembered running that event, there was little practical knowledge he could apply to his return. He relied on his natural ability to carry the evening on Friday.
Surging forward from the fourth starting spot, Moyer rocketed underneath Shirley, who had led from the opening circuit, to assume command on lap eight.
“Shirley kind of went high maybe to block and he messed up and I got him in the bottom (off turn two),” Moyer said.
Shirley and Babb drew within striking distance of Moyer as the leader worked lapped traffic near the halfway point, but a caution flag on lap 21 — for Shirley, who spun around between turns three and four due to a flat right-rear tire and was hit by Dustin Nobbe of Batesville, Ind. — changed the feature’s complexion. Moyer pulled away on the restart and again after a final caution flag on lap 37 for Nobbe’s spin between turns three and four, mastering the middle line around the speedway.
“One and two was really good right there in the middle,” analyzed Moyer, who hasn’t ruled out chasing the full Summernationals slate of 29 races in 32 days. “I could tell once I got the lead, when I moved my line around just a little bit … yeah, there it is, right there (in the middle of the track).
“When the yellows come out you for sure think, they’re gonna be up there (challenging on the outside) if there’s anything up there. But I get up there and do it with them when I need to. I tried it a little bit and really, one and two, it was there. But I’m a middle man my whole life, a momentum thing, and it just felt so good there and it all worked out.”
Moyer was impressed with his stop at Sycamore, which drew a big crowd for its major event.
“It’s a neat place,” Moyer said. “Nice grandstands, and a nice grandstand area, concession stands and all that for the people. It’s neat being back here under a shade tree too (the pit area features numerous trees that teams park their haulers under).”
Unzicker, 35, spent the race’s second half in a heated battle for second with Babb. He finally gained the position after Babb slipped high through turns one and two on lap 38, allowing Unzicker to use his low line to lurch ahead and beat Babb to the finish line.
A runner-up finish that kept his clean start to the Summernationals going pleased Unzicker.
“We just kept being patient on the bottom and trying to keep our tires underneath of us and not spin the wheels,” said Unzicker, who started from the outside pole in his Pierce Race Car. “Babb was pretty smooth too (running higher on the track), but he might have messed up there on that (lap-37) restart … maybe his tire didn’t fire like he thought it would. Ours took off and we got a run there the last lap (to grab second).”
The 43-year-old Babb enjoyed his first visit to Sycamore but wasn’t happy about relinquishing second place.
“We only had a few laps to go and these guys were telling me to ring the top,” Babb said of the lap-37 restart. “I didn’t know if Little Bobby (Pierce) was up there making hay or what, so I went up there. In them long runs we was able to run that top, but it seemed like the right-front gave up a little bit on that restart and I went up there and just got flat pushed and gave up a lot of ground.
“Just throw it away,” he continued, shaking his head. “But second sucks too. I was trying to win the race.”
The race was red-flagged on the opening lap for a multi-car tangle in turn four that involved Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., Taylor Scheffler of Waukesha, Wis., Mark Voigt of Marine, Ill., and Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark. Feger’s newly-acquired Longhorn was towed off with what was later found to be mostly body damage while Moyer Jr. pitted to fix a right-rear shock bracket and returned.
Three caution flags slowed the feature, including a lap-two yellow for a homestretch spin by David Jaeger of Sussex, Wis.
Preliminary results and notes:
The Late Model feature got the call to begin lining up shortly after 9:30 p.m. CT. ... Bob Gardner is keeping an even-keel about starting from the pole in the 40-lap feature. “It feels good being on the pole, but I know there are a lot of top guys behind me,” said Gardner, whose career-best Summernationals finish is the third he logged last year at Macon (Ill.) Speedway. “I feel good, but I just keep saying, ‘Every race on this tour is a stepping stone. Just stay calm and keep trying to knock out top fives.” Gardner did tell his team members to make sure they wore their good crew shirts — just in case he’s able to stay up front and enjoy a victory lane celebration. … Coming off a Thursday-night Summernationals win at Kankakee, Ill., Bobby Pierce starts 15th in the 40-lap feature. Pierce said he thinks if the track slicks off he’ll have a shot at victory from mid-pack; he also said his left ring finger was smarting and swollen because it was hit by a rock as he pulled a tearoff from his helmet shield during his heat race. … Summernationals first-timer Dustin Nobbe thought he had grabbed the final transfer spot in the second heat with a late restart pass, but officials ruled that he jumped the green flag and penalized him one spot, forcing him to the B-main. … Kolby Vandenbergh was able to make a temporary fix of his car’s broken left-front A-frame mount to run the C-main. He won that race but didn’t transfer through a B-main and declined a provisional spot. … Second place in the B-main was a photo finish for the final transfer spot between Taylor Scheffler and Kevin Weaver; while Weaver was ahead by a mere 0.006 of a second on the transponders, all scorers had Scheffler in front visually and he was given the ticket to the A-main. … Provisional starters are Brent Larson, who will use his backup car to accept the Summernationals spot after crashing hard during the B-main after his machine's carburetor broke and hung the throttle wide-open in turn three; Mike Spatola (UMP national points); Jay Brendle (track); and Nobbe.
Row 1: Bob Gardner, Ryan Unzicker
Row 2: Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer
Row 3: Cody Mahoney, Toby Kuntzelman
Row 4: Mike Mataragas, Shannon Babb
Row 5: Billy Drake, Mark Voigt
Row 6: Gordy Gundaker, Spencer Diercks
Row 7: Billy Moyer Jr., David Jaeger
Row 8: Bobby Pierce, Jason Feger
Row 9: Chase Junghans, Taylor Scheffler
Row 10: Brent Larson, Mike Spatola
Row 11: Jay Brendle, Dustin Nobbe
B-main finish (12 laps; top 2 transfer): Chase Junghans, Taylor Scheffler, Kevin Weaver, Mike Spatola, Rich Bell, Dustin Nobbe, Jay Brendle, T.J. Markham, Kolby Vandenbergh, Charlie Olson, Jose Parga, Mark Rose, Paul Stubber, John Provenzano, Brent Larson.
C-main finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer to B-main): Kolby Vandenbergh, Mark Rose, Paul Stubber, John Provenzano, Dan White, Jason Wagner.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer to B-main)
Row 1: Dan White, Mike Provenzano
Row 2: John Provenzano, Mark Rose
Row 3: Jason Wagner, Victor Benedetto
Row 4: Paul Stubber, Roger Markham
Row 5: Adam Bowman, Kolby Vandenbergh
(12 laps; top 2 transfer to feature)
Row 1: Kevin Weaver, Dustin Nobbe
Row 2: Mike Spatola, Taylor Scheffler
Row 3: Jose Parga, Brad Stewart
Row 4: Rich Bell, Chase Junghans
Row 5: Jay Brendle, Brent Larson
Row 6: Charlie Olson, T.J. Markham
Row 7: Kolby Vandenbergh, Mark Rose
Row 8: Paul Stubber, John Provenzano
Billy Moyer led the final qualifier from wire-to-wire, beating Shannon Babb by just over a second. Spencer Diercks and Jason Feger also transferred to the feature.
Finish: Billy Moyer, Shannon Babb, Spencer Diercks, Jason Feger, Taylor Scheffler, Chase Junghans, T.J. Markham, Mark Rose, Roger Markham.
Brian Shirley dominated the action, leading from flag-to-flag to defeat local favorite Mike Mataragas by 1 second. Gordy Gundaker and Bobby Pierce completed the transfers.
Finish: Brian Shirley, Mike Mataragas, Gordy Gundaker, Bobby Pierce, Mike Spatola, Rich Bell, Charlie Olson, John Provenzano, Paul Stubber (DNS) Kolby Vandenbergh.
Ryan Unzicker emerged triumphant, coming from the third starting spot to capture a race slowed by two caution flags. He took the lead on lap seven after a scrape with pacesetter Brent Larson, who spun in turn two; officials then called a caution on Larson when he stopped in turn four.
Finish: Ryan Unzicker, Toby Kuntzelman, Mark Voigt, David Jaeger, Dustin Nobbe, Brad Stewart, Brent Larson, Mike Provenzano.
Bob Gardner got the jump from his outside pole starting spot and went the distance in front to win the prelim. Summer nationals points leader Cody Mahoney chased him across the finish line while polesitter Billy Drake settled for a third-place finish.
Finish: Bob Gardner, Cody Mahoney, Billy Drake, Billy Moyer Jr., Kevin Weaver, Jose Parga, Jay Brendle, Dan White, Jason Wagner (DNS) Adam Bowman.
Taking advantage of his experience at Sycamore, Billy Drake of Bloomington, Ill., turned the fastest overall lap of the split qualifying sessions with his circuit of 13.654 seconds. The run will put him on the pole position for the evening’s first of four 10-lap heat races.
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., was quickest in Group 2 with a lap of 14.039 seconds, giving him the pole for the third heat.
Other polesitters will be Brent Larson of Lake Elmo, Minn., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.
Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., recovered from problems during hot laps — he tossed a left-front wheel of his car between turns three and four and had to be towed to the pits — by clocking the eighth-fastest lap in the second group.
Kolby Vandenbergh of Ashland, Ill., was unable to participate in time trials after breaking the upper A-frame mount on the left-front corner of his car during hot laps. He doubted that he would be able to repair the damage to compete tonight; he said he would probably need to take the car to a friend's shop in Peoria, Ill., to have the mount welded in place before Saturday night's Hell Tour stop at Peoria Speedway.
Track regular Victor Benedetto of Marengo, Ill., scratched from further competition after sustaining terminal engine trouble during hot laps. "I've been waiting for this race all year," Benedetto said while checking in with UMP DIRTcar director Sam Driggers.
Some rain hit Sycamore Speedway overnight, but the skies have cleared to bring on a beautiful afternoon (temperatures nearing 90) for the track’s highly-anticipated first-ever Summernationals event. … There’s a definite special-show vibe in the air around the Sycamore facility, a family-run operation for 54 years. Pete Fabrizius, the son of track co-founder Nick Fabrizius, said fans and competitors at the oval “have been waiting a long time for a race like this.” … In addition to a throwback atmosphere, one of the unique aspects of the speedway is the trees that are interspersed throughout the pit area. Haulers are parked amid the trees, providing welcome shade on a hot day. … The 38-car turnout is the largest so far on the 2017 Hell Tour. … In Friday night’s field is former Summernationals champion Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., who was expected to be off running a pair of Canadian events on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series but decided this week to drop off the national tour while ranked eighth in the points standings. He will likely enter many Summernationals events over the next month. … With virtually every opening-week Summernationals traveler never having raced at Sycamore — including veterans Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill. — one driver who is getting plenty of attention due to his knowledge of the track is Mike Mataragas of DeKalb, Ill. He’s won the feature in both of his ’17 Sycamore appearances but isn’t kidding himself about holding a home track advantage. “I think I know this place,” said Mataragas, who lives six miles from the track, “but tonight we’ll find out.” ... One of the few Sycamore outsiders in tonight's action with experience at the track is Billy Drake of Bloomington, Ill., who won Sycamore's last special Super Late Model event four years ago. He earned $3,000 for winning a UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned race on June 13, 2013 — the day between Summernationals shows at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway and Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. — that was promoted by La Salle (Ill.) Speedway promoter Tony Izzo Jr.
The 2017 UMP DIRTcar Summernationals makes its third of 29 scheduled stops with a first-ever visit to Sycamore Speedway, a track located in farm country about an hour’s drive west of Chicago. A $7,500 first-place prize ranks this event as the richest Super Late Model show in the facility’s 54-year history.
Built by brothers Joe and Nick Fabrizius, Sycamore is now being operated by a third-generation of Fabrizius family members.
The program, which will be topped by a 40-lap Super Late Model feature, is scheduled to begin with hot laps at 6:30 p.m. Also on the card are UMP modifieds, street stocks and hornets.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Billy Drake, Bob Gardner
Row 2: Cody Mahoney, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 3: Kevin Weaver, Jose Parga
Row 4: Jason Wagner, Jay Brendle
Row 5: Dan White, Adam Bowman
Row 1: Brent Larson, Dustin Nobbe
Row 2: Ryan Unzicker, Mark Voigt
Row 3: Toby Kuntzelman, Brad Stewart
Row 4: Mike Provenzano, David Jaeger
Row 5: Victor Benedetto
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Gordy Gundaker
Row 2: Mike Mataragas, Rich Bell
Row 3: Mike Spatola, John Provenzano
Row 4: Bobby Pierce, Charlie Olson
Row 5: Paul Stubber, Kolby Vandenbergh
Row 1: Billy Moyer, Shannon Babb
Row 2: Spencer Diercks, Chase Junghans
Row 3: Jason Feger, Taylor Scheffler
Row 4: T.J. Markham, Roger Markham
Billy Drake (75), Bloomington, Ill., 13.654
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 13.901
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 13.907
Dustin Nobbe (5N), Batesville, Ind., 13.961
Cody Mahoney (4), Hanover, Ind., 13.976
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 14.063
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 14.090
Mark Voigt (30), Marine, Ill., 14.120
Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill., 14.155
Toby Kuntzelman (65), Peratonica, Ill., 14.247
Jose Parga (6P), New Berlin, Ill., 14.327
Brad Stewart (3), Milledgeville, Ill., 14.356
Jason Wagner (J12), Morton, Ill., 14.415
Mike Provenzano (27M), Grand Ridge, Ill., 14.511
Jay Brendle (25B), Kirkland, Ill., 14.641
David Jaeger (13J), Sussex, Wis., 14.905
Dan White (03), Elgin, Ill., 15.184
Victor Benedetto (14B), Marengo, Ill., no time
Adam Bowman (77), Seymour, Ind., no time
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 14.039
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.107
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 14.126
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 14.157
Mike Mataragas (1m), DeKalb, Ill., 14.193
Spencer Diercks (29D), Davenport, Iowa, 14.232
Rich Bell (21B), Sheffield, Ill., 14.232
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 14.24
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 14.311
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 14.327
John Provenzano (5), Grand Ridge, Ill., 14.328
Taylor Scheffler (10s), Waukesha, Wis., 14.329
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.516
T.J. Markham (21M), Sycamore, Ill., 14.550
Charlie Olson (2c), Kingston, Ill., 14.556
Roger Markham (11m), Virgil, Ill., 14.612
Paul Stubber (31AUS), Bunbury, WS, 14.884
Mark Rose (0), Dorchester, Wis., 14.905
Kolby Vandenbergh (15), Ashland, Ill., no time