PLYMOUTH, Ind. (June 17) — Billy Moyer finally had enough of Shannon Babb hogging the DIRTcar Summer Nationals spotlight.
The 60-year-old Moyer broke through for his first victory of the 2018 Hell Tour in Sunday night’s 40-lap feature at Plymouth Speedway, earning $5,000 for a hard-fought triumph that snapped Babb’s three-race win streak and moved him closer to becoming the first driver to reach the 100-win plateau on the grueling series.
“It would’ve been nice to get one when they paid $10,000 instead of this,” smiled Moyer, who was outdueled by Moweaqua, Ill.’s Babb for wins in back-to-back races at Kankakee (Ill.) County Speedway and Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill., during the opening week of the Summer Nationals. “But we’ll take it. It feels good to get back on top.
“Babb, he’s been on a roll, no doubt,” he added. “Last night we were way off (a sixth-place finish at the Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet, Ill., in a race won by Babb), but other than that, we’ve been right there with him. I changed a bunch of stuff again tonight and we were even better, so we’re gaining.”
The Hall of Famer from Batesville, Ark., mastered the quarter-mile oval’s inside lane to emerge victorious in Sunday evening’s A-main, which began at 9:12 p.m. ET with the sun still setting. He chased pacesetter Timothy Culp of Prattsville, Ark., for nearly 20 laps before poking into the lead on lap 30 and steadily pulling away over the remaining distance.
Moyer’s 97th career Summer Nationals checkered flag came by a 2.099-second margin over the 27-year-old Culp, who settled for runner-up money after leading the race’s first 29 circuits off the outside pole. Culp preserved his second-place result by holding off intense pressure over the final circuits from his good buddy Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, a 21-year-old World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series regular who advanced from the ninth starting spot to finish third by less than a car’s length.
Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, who ran his backup Rayburn house car after his primary machine was sidelined by damage it sustained in a wild series of flips on a feature restart 24 hours earlier at Joliet, righted his week with a fourth-place finish. The 11th-starting Babb completed the top five after he reached fifth place on lap 28 but couldn’t climb any higher.
While Babb fell short of a fourth consecutive win, he did defeat Moyer by five points in the St. Louis U-Pic-A-Part-sponsored Northern Kickoff Week points battle to earn the championship worth $2,000.
Moyer’s win came nearly one year after he finished fifth in Plymouth’s first-ever Summer Nationals event, but he didn’t apply much from that visit to his return. He didn’t have any data from 2017 — and even if he did, he’s not sure it would have made a difference in his approach.
“We got in here today and I guess last year I didn’t write nothing down for some reason,” Moyer said. “I was very particular about (taking setup) notes my whole career, but anymore things change so fast I don’t know if you need to write anything down because by time you come back next time it’s all different. A few notes maybe on tires and other things are OK, but like chassis stuff, if you come a year later with what you did before, it ain’t gonna happen.”
So Moyer effectively winged it — and not surprisingly for the savvy veteran, he got his Moyer Victory Chassis humming. He was especially strong on the inside of the track, which proved to be his hot route to victory lane.
“I kind of set up for the bottom,” Moyer commented. “I did run the top some early and I think I could run the middle pretty good too, but off of (turn) four I lacked a little bit maybe. Anyway, the car was darn good there … it would circle right around that bottom. You just had to discipline yourself and not overdrive it. If I just did it right, it’d go around there pretty darn good.
“When they watered it (before the feature), I knew (the outside lane) was gonna be out there for awhile. But the bottom kind of had some ruts here and there … even in one and two, there’s a berm, like a motorcycle berm, and if you hit that right you could rail right around there. But you’re going in there on like marbles getting to it, so you couldn’t hit it every lap like that.”
Moyer, who started sixth, reached second place with a lap-14 restart pass of Chatham, Ill.’s Brian Shirley. He then patiently worked the low side of Culp, who opted mostly to sail around the track’s extreme outside lip.
Finally, two circuits after the race’s second and final caution flag flew on lap 28 for Shirley’s bout with the turn-two wall while battling for third with Erb, Moyer watched Culp push slightly in turn four, opening the door for him to pull ahead at the start-finish.
“Everything just worked out tonight,” said Moyer, who won his third overall feature of 2018 but first worth more than $2,000.
Culp, meanwhile, was certainly encouraged by his second-place run after a frustrating start to the Summer Nationals — bad luck, including a broken j-bar and driveshaft that knocked him out of the previous night’s feature at Joliet, had left him without a top-10 finish in four races — but felt he might have let his coveted first career Hell Tour victory slip through his fingers.
“I ran real hard at the very first of that race just because the track would allow it, I guess, and my car was good enough,” Culp said of his Mark Bennings-owned XR1 Rocket. “I was just ripping around there (on the top). I don’t know if that cost me the win or not … I think my car was good enough to win, but the driver just didn’t do what he needed to do to win it.
“Right there at the end, Moyer was just circling around that bottom so good, I think if I would’ve just slowed down and protected the bottom I would’ve been fine. It’s just when you’re leading like that, especially with hard how I’d been running, it’s hard to make yourself stop and park it (on the inside) like he was doing.
“And once I fell back to second, then I’m trying to rally back and find a way back around him, and at that point the top had gotten so far around … I could still make it around there in three and four, but in one and two there was nothing around there. I got to moving around there at the end and about let Tyler (Erb) around me (for second).
“I think I about sawed all my tires off at that point trying to find something,” he added. “I’ve never won one of these Summer Nationals … we’ve been close, and hopefully one day it’ll come. Shoot, Billy and Babb, if you can compete with them two out here doing the Summer Nationals stuff, I feel like you’ve got a pretty good piece.”
Culp, who plans to follow the Summer Nationals schedule at least through the June 24 event at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., actually felt fortunate to escape with a runner-up finish after disaster nearly struck him on lap 14. He was leading an increasingly menacing Shirley that circuit when he got too high between turns three and four and slid completely sideways, prompting DIRTcar officials to display a caution flag for safety reasons. Culp was able to continue on without stopping, however, so by rule he was put back in the lead for the restart.
“I’d been lapping a few cars and I’d been going around them on the very outside of three,” Culp explained. “Well, I guess I just got too brave up there and got all four tires over (the cushion). What it did that, it stopped my whole car, it was like so soft, and I about got up on two wheels and it killed my motor. Then I started rolling down the hill there, so I popped it up in low (gear) and took back off.
“They threw a yellow, of course, because I’m sideways in front of the field so they have to, and at that point it’s up to them. I guess I was lucky they made the call they did for me to stay in the lead.”
Erb also wondered whether running a bit cleaner race would have give him a shot at the $5,000 first-place prize.
“I made too many mistakes early,” Erb said. “I qualified bad … made some mistakes and started ninth. I got to make it pretty exciting there for a little bit (charging forward on the outside) but just … coulda-woulda-shoulda. But it’s promising after the last couple days we had (he had to go to a backup car in the previous night’s WoO event at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio, due to a qualifying crash) — the past two, three months, actually, we’ve really struggled.”
Erb said he was happy for Culp to secure a good finish that he badly needed as well, but he felt his XR1 Rocket might have been faster in the final circuits.
“I just wish maybe (there were) like 10 more laps there and I could’ve slid (Culp) and maybe gave something to Big Billy there,” Erb said, before adding with a laugh: “I’ve run fourth (in 2017) and third (at Plymouth), so 2020, you’re looking at your feature winner.”
Preliminary notes and results:
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Timothy Culp
Row 2: Rusty Schlenk, Jon Henry
Row 3: Nick Hoffman, Billy Moyer
Row 4: Tony Jackson Jr., Gordy Gundaker
Row 5: Tyler Erb, Ryan Unzicker
Row 6: Shannon Babb, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 7: Jason Feger, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 8: Ky Harper, Matt Shipley
Row 9: Brandon Thirlby, Paul Stubber
Row 10: Bob Mayer, Eric Spangler
Row 11: Dan Richardson
Timothy Culp led all the way, turning back an early challenge from Billy Moyer before beating his fellow Arkansas resident by 0.844 of a second. Tyler Erb finished third, ahead of Moyer’s son, Billy Moyer Jr.
Finish: Timothy Culp, Billy Moyer, Tyler Erb, Billy Moyer Jr., Ky Harper, Paul Stubber, Dan Richardson.
In a race that saw the leaders run side-by-side for nearly the entire distance, Rusty Schlenk snuck ahead of Nick Hoffman to assume command on lap eight and held on to defeat the Dirt Late Model upstart by 0.170 of a second. Shannon Babb finished a quiet fourth.
Finish: Rusty Schlenk, Nick Hoffman, Gordy Gundaker, Shannon Babb, Frank Heckenast Jr., Brandon Thirlby, Eric Spangler.
Brian Shirley cruised to a flag-to-flag victory, easily beating Jon Henry to the finish line by 2.198 seconds. Tony Jackson Jr. slipped past Ryan Unzicker coming to the white flag to finish third.
Finish: Brian Shirley, Jon Henry, Tony Jackson Jr., Ryan Unzicker, Jason Feger, Matt Shipley, Bob Mayer.
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., was the overall fastest qualifier in the group time trials, turning a lap of 13.503 seconds in the first group to earn the pole position for Heat 1.
Other group quick-timers were Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, and Timothy Culp of Prattsville, Ark., who will start from the pole in Heats 2 and 3, respectively.
Tony Jackson Jr. of Lebanon, Mo., was the slowest qualifier after experiencing mechanical trouble that forced him to limp into the infield and get a push back to the pits.
Conditions for Plymouth’s program are extremely hot for the second consecutive day with temperatures reaching into the upper 90s, though a steady breeze provides a modicum of relief. … The 21-car field is the smallest of this year’s Summer Nationals to date and is down one entry from the track’s 2017 event. … The group of first-time ’18 Hell Tour entrants is headed by World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series regular Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, who finished fourth in last year’s Summer Nationals feature at Plymouth. He arrives after competing in Saturday’s WoO show at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio, where he twisted the rear clip of his primary car when he caught the wall during time trials and had to pull out his backup machine that he’s driving again this evening. Erb plans to head to Rocket Chassis in Shinnston, W.Va., on Monday to have his damaged car repaired before the WoO’s June 21-23 Firecracker 100 at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. … Other drivers making first Summer Nationals appearances include Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio, Eric Spangler of Lake City, Mich., and Ky Harper of Delta, Ohio, who is behind the wheel of Rusty Schlenk’s own No. 91 that Harper recently drove to a runner-up finish behind Schlenk at Ohio’s Oakshade Raceway. … McClure, Ohio’s Schlenk is driving his second Rayburn house car No. CJ1 after flipping his primary machine Saturday night on a feature restart at the Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet, Ill. He said he feels fine in the wake of the accident aside from a swollen tongue (he bit it during the gyrations) and a chipped front tooth. … Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., contemplated dropping off the tour after his miserable start continued Saturday when a broken engine valve spring caused him to retire early from Joliet’s feature while running third, but he decided to make a powerplant swap and enter the evening’s action. … Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., dropped out of Joliet’s A-main after his car’s air cleaner came loose due to a broken stud, but he might have been forced out anyway due to an overheating engine.
For the fifth round of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals the circuit leaves the state of Illinois for the first time in 2018, contesting a 40-lap, $5,000-to-win event at Indiana’s Plymouth Speedway.
The quarter-mile oval hosted its first-ever Hell Tour show last year with Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., nipping Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., for the win in a thrilling finish. Neither driver will be in this evening’s field, however, leaving last year’s third-place finisher, Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., as the highest finisher from that feature who is back to take another shot at reaching Plymouth’s victory lane.
Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT after officials decided to push the first green flag back slightly with afternoon temperatures reaching into the upper 90s.
Group qualifying results/heat lineups
(10 laps; all transfer)
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 13.503
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 13.786
Jon Henry (15H), Ada, Ohio, 13.941
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.954
Matt Shipley (44s), Weston, Ohio, 14.459
Bob Mayer (42*), Holland, Ohio, 14.817
Tony Jackson Jr. (56), Lebanon, Mo., 19.723
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), McClure, Ohio, 13.744
Nick Hoffman (2), Mooresville, N.C., 13.920
Gordy Gundaker (11G), St. Charles, Mo., 13.927
Brandon Thirlby (M14), Traverse City, Mich., 13.929
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 13.999
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 14.074
Eric Spangler (27s), Lake City, Mich., 14.151
Timothy Culp (c8), Prattsville, Ark., 13.621
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 13.828
Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., 13.971
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 13.984
Paul Stubber (31AUS), Bunbury, W. Australia, 14.234
Ky Harper (91H), Delta, Ohio, 14.369
Dan Richardson (8P), Macey, Ind., 15.887