FAIRBURY, Ill. (June 22) — For 21 laps, Brian Shirley rolled around top the top of Fairbury Speedway with a comfortable lead. With his closest pursuers, namely Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., stuck behind the lapped machine of Jonathan Braun of Muscatine, Iowa, Shirley was on cruise. Then the caution waved. And things changed.
With Gundaker and a host of others finally getting a clear track of their own, Shirley, who had taken the lead from Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., on lap 16, had to get up on the wheel. So he did. Holding off Frank Heckenast Jr.’s furious late rally, Shirley, of Chatham, Ill., won Saturday’s 50-lap DIRTcar Summer Nationals feature.
“The race track was amazing. It had a top, it had a bottom,” said Shirley. “I was really comfortable on top. Until that caution came out, I felt like I was doing pretty good. You know how cautions are. Cautions change the pace of the race, change things. You get a little bit of thought in your head.”
Whatever thoughts he may have had, Shirley pushed them aside long enough to win his third Summer Nationals race in four starts this season. He finished 0.400 seconds ahead of Heckenast, of Frankfort, Ill., in winning $10,000. Sixth-starting Tanner English of Benton, Ky., finished third, while Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., improved 11 positions to finish fourth. Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., rallied from 19th to complete the top five.
“There was just a little confusion. I didn’t really know how well I was (while leading),” said Shirley. “I didn’t know how good my tire was for being that long of a run. All in all it made it exciting. Frankie was good. I mean everybody was good. It’s just good that our Thomason Express, Kid’s Castle XR1 was just a little bit better and made it to the finish.”
During the longest green flag stretch, it seemed as though Gundaker, who earlier in the night set the fast time in his group and won his heat, had the best shot to wrangle the lead away from Shirley. Showing good speed around the hub, he reeled in the leader until he found himself stuck on Braun’s back bumper.
“I hated to force the issue with like 20 laps to go,” said Gundaker. “I think if could have gotten by (Braun) I could have passed Brian. But if I did, then he probably would got raced up and we probably would have raced door to door. I don’t know.”
Instead of challenging for the lead after the lap-37 caution however, Gundaker faded. He faulted a leaking left front tire for his demise. That left a charging Heckenast and English. Heckenast stayed the course until diving low and pulling alongside the leader on lap 35. Unable to get by, Heckenast got back in line. He took a peek to Shirley’s inside one more time with three laps to go before settling for second.
“I don’t want this interview to be too depressing, but I’m pretty hard on myself,” a disappointed Heckenast told DirtonDirt.com’s Derek Kessinger afterwards. “We should have won that race. There’s really no excuse for it. Shirley was good. I’m not gonna knock that … and everybody else. I kinda rode there for awhile and, I mean, it worked out, but I rode way too long.
“And it worked out there at the end, with 13 laps to go I got the outside, it was great. It’s perfect, it all played out great. With five laps to go I moved down, which everybody probably thought was a slider. I lifted for Squirrel (Shirley). That wasn’t a slider. That was just a check to see if the middle would be good to slide him with closer laps to go to the end. And then I just thought well heck, I could pass him without siding him or wrecking him and it just didn’t play out that way.”
Heckenast, who started fourth and has yet to finish outside the top four in Summer Nationals action this year, struggled with the decisions he made in the waning laps.
“It’s probably a bad comparison, but when I was gonna ask my fiancé to marry me, I had months to think about it. On that last lap, you have absolutely no time … high or low , high or low. And then he can turn at the last second and go down and then you’re left hanging in the middle. It’s not a very good excuse, but maybe I go down in the bottom in (turns) one and two and get a run and then I could slide him in (turns) three and four.
“He was screwing up at the end. I don’t know if it’s because he went so hard early and his tire was dying or ‘cause he knew I was there, one of the two. I just really thought I was gonna get him by just putting pressure on him. I feel terrible I let all my guys down. I told ‘em tonight, if we don’t win, if I’m not on the roof then I”m just not happy. If I’m not standing on the roof at the end of the night, it wasn’t a good night.”
English was another driver, like Gundaker, who was fast around the bottom. But like Heckenast, we was left wondering if there wasn’t something more he could do.
“We decided before we went out there what we were gonna do, marry the bottom,” said English. “That’s how we went on tires. It took a little bit to get going it seemed liked and then I finally got a groove worked in and started rolling. I just can’t take off on them restarts. Three nights in a row I’ve got passed on a late restart … like I’m sitting still. So I don’t know what’s going on there. We gotta look at what we’re doing, or you know, just do a little homework. We’ll go from here and just see what tomorrow brings.”
Notes: Shirley earned his 22nd career Summer Nationals victory, tying him with Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., for seventh on the tour’s all-time win list. … Bronson led the first 15 laps from outside the front row, but fought a tight condition after giving up the lead. He finished 17th after drawing a caution on lap 37 as he struggled to keep his ill-handling car out of the cushion. “I just got tight and got over the cushion that’s all,” Bronson said. … The race was slowed by three cautions: a spin by Paul Stubber of Bunbury, Australia, on the first lap; Bronson on lap 37; and Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., who spun after contact with Mike Glassock on the lap-37 restart. Unzicker had to replace a ball joint and a spindle on his damage machine. … Fifteen of the 22 starters finished the race, all still on the lead lap. … Billy Drake of Bloomington, Ill., was the first out of the race due to a driveshaft failure. … Saturday’s 38 entries was tops on the tour thus far, eclipsing Wednesday’s 35 at Spoon River.
Preliminary notes and results:
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Kyle Bronson
Row 2: Gordy Gundaker, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 3: Mike Spatola, Tanner English
Row 4: Mike Glasscock, Scott Schmitt
Row 5: Allen Weisser, Kevin Weaver
Row 6: Bobby Pierce, Jonathan Brauns
Row 7: Jeff Herzog, Kent Robinson
Row 8: Donny Walden, Billy Drake
Row 9: Shannon Babb, Jason Feger
Row 10: Rusty Schlenk, Ryan Unzicker
Row 11: McKay Wenger, Paul Stubber
Shannon Babb won the caution-filled consolation race ahead of Jason Feger. Both transfer to the main event. Michael Kloos, Derek Chandler and David Doherty completed the top five. The race was slowed by six cautions. The first was on lap two for Walker Arthur, who spun in turn two. A caution for a spin by Brent McKinnon on the restart was followed by a caution on lap six for Jimmy Miller. Paul Stubber and Daniel Flessner got together in turn one on lap seven; Jeff Curl spun on the restart; and Greg Wagner brought out the sixth caution when he stopped on the backstretch.
Finish (top two transfer): Shannon Babb, Jason Feger, Michael Kloos, Derek Chandler, David Doherty, Billy Hough, Brandon Pralle, Daniel Flessner, Rusty Schlenk, Jeff Curl, Paul Stubber, Greg Wagner, Brent McKinnon, Jimmy Miller, Walker Arthur, Rusty Griffaw.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Michael Kloos, Shannon Babb
Row 2: Walker Arthur, David Doherty
Row 3: Derek Chandler, Jason Feger
Row 4: Paul Stubber, Rusty Griffaw
Row 5: Daniel Flessner, Rusty Schlenk
Row 6: Greg Wagner, Billy Hough
Row 7: Brent McKinnon, Jeff Curl
Row 8: Brandon Pralle
(10 laps; top three transfer to consolation)
Row 1: Brandon Pralle, Brent McKinnon
Row 2: Jimmy Miller, Jay Sparks
Row 3: Dustin Vandermeir, Jeff Curl
Row 4: Brian Dunn, Ryan Unzicker
Row 5: Chuck Hummer, McKay Wenger
Finish (top three transfer to consolation race): Brent McKinnon, Jeff Curl, Brandon Pralle, Jimmy Miller, Dustin Vandermeir, Chuck Hummer. DNS: Jay Sparks, Brian Dunn, Ryan Unzicker, McKay Wenger.
With his car trailing smoke over the final seven laps, Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., turned back challenges from Ryan Unzicker and Scott Schmitt to win the final heat. Schmitt finished second after Unzicker departed with a flat right front tire. Jonathan Brauns finished third ahead of polesitter Billy Drake.
Finish (top four transfer): Kyle Bronson, Scott Schmitt, Jonathan Brauns, Billy Drake, David Doherty, Rusty Griffaw, Billy Hough, Jay Sparks, Ryan Unzicker.
Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., led flag-to-flag to win the third heat. Heckenast finished comfortably in front of the battle for second between Tanner English and Kevin Weaver. English just nipped Weaver at the line for the runner-up spot. Kent Robinson finished fourth. The caution waved on lap six for Brent McKinnon
Finish (top four transfer): Frank Heckenast, Tanner English, Kevin Weaver, Kent Robinson, Shannon Babb, Jason Feger, Rusty Schlenk, Brent McKinnon, Jeff Curl, McKay Wenger.
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., pulled ahead of polesitter Mike Glasscock as they raced into turn one and led all the way to win the caution-free second heat. Glasscock finished second ahead of Bobby Pierce, who tried to get rolling on the outside. Donny Walden finished fourth, despite some contact from Walker Arthur on the first lap. Shirley finished 1.982 seconds ahead of Glasscock.
Finish (top four transfer): Brian Shirley, Mike Glasscock, Bobby Pierce, Donny Walden, Walker Arthur, Paul Stubber, Greg Wagner, Jimmy Miller. DNS: Brian Dunn.
Polesitter Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., grabbed the lead on the opening lap, then held off Mike Spatola at the line by 0.211 seconds to win the first heat. Allen Weisser finished third, with Jeff Herzog taking the final transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Gordy Gundaker, Mike Spatola, Allen Weisser, Jeff Herzog, Michael Kloos, Derk Chandler Daniel Flessner, Branson Pralle, Dustin Vandermeir, Chuck Hummer.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps, top four transfer)
Row 1: Gordy Gundaker, Mike Spatola
Row 2: Jeff Herzog, Allen Weisser
Row 3: Derek Chandler, Michael Kloos
Row 4: Daniel Flessner, Brandon Pralle
Row 5: Dustin Vandermeir, Chuck Hummer
Row 1: Mike Glasscock, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Walker Arthur, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Donny Walden, Paul Stubber
Row 4: Greg Wagner, Jimmy Miller
Row 5: Brian Dunn
Row 1: Frank Heckenast Jr., McKay Winger
Row 2: Kevin Weaver, Kent Robinson
Row 3: Tanner English, Jason Feger
Row 4: Shannon Babb, Rusty Schlenk
Row 5: Jeff Curl, Brent McKinnon
Row 1: Billy Drake, Kyle Bronson
Row 2: Scott Schmitt, Ryan Unzicker
Row 3: Jay Sparks, David Doherty
Row 4: Billy Hough, Jonathan Brauns
Row 5: Rusty Griffaw
After two straight nights of bad luck, Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., isn’t in attendance at Fairbury. Moyer, who won here last year and had a series-best eight tour wins at Fairbury, was caught up in early wrecks at both Jacksonville and Spoon River. ... Rodney Melvin didn't make the trip to Fairbury after running at both Jacksonville and Spoon River. … Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, took advantage of Friday’s rainout at Tri-City to head north, where he competed in the American Ethanol Late Model Tour event at Hartford (Mich.) Speedway. He finished third. … McKay Wenger of Fairbury also traveled to Hartford, finishing fourth in the AELMT feature. … Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., is among drivers joining the tour for the first time. Gundaker, a series regular a year ago, was set to enter Friday’s race at his home track, Tri-City Speedway, which is operated by his parents Tammy and Kevin Gundaker. … Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., a three-time Farmer City Summer Nationals winner, is back behind the wheel of Jay Morris’s No. 77. Weaver won the event in 1991-’92 and 2002.
Going out 17th in the second group — 36th overall among the 38 entries — Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., cut the overall quickest lap in qualifying. Heckenast’s fast lap of 12.631 seconds earned him the pole position for the third heat. Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., turned a quick lap of 12.694 seconds to set the fast time in first group, earning the pole for the first heat. Gundaker was the first driver to hit the track in qualifying.
The other two heat race polesitters are Mike Glasscock of LeRoy, Ill., and Billy Drake of Bloomington, Ill. Glasscock, the final qualifier in the first group, turned a lap of 12.868 and will lead the second heat to the green. Drake’s lap of 12.705 seconds earned the 11-time Summer Nationals winner the pole in the fourth heat. Each heat winner will redraw for their feature starting positions.
Brian Dunn of Fairbury and Ohio’s Chuck Hummer had mechanical trouble and neither received a qualifying time. Brent McKinnon’s time of 13.252 seconds (18th in the second group) was disallowed after the Carlyle, Ill., driver’s car was light at the scales. Series points leader Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., qualified fourth fastest in Group A and will start the second heat alongside Glasscock on the front row.
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., leads the rain-plagued DIRTcar Summer Nationals to Fairbury, where, for the second year in a row, the tour looks to use the popular fairgrounds oval to regain its footing. With six rainouts in the first nine races, the drivers have yet to enjoy back-to-back series events.
Shirley, who has won two of the three events this season, is eyeing back-to-back victories following Thursday’s win at Spoon River Speedway near Banner, Ill. Shirley lead the tours points, with Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., his closest pursuer. Heckenast, who hasn’t finished worse than fourth thus far, is chasing his first series win of the season and second of his career.
The Super Late Model program starts with 5:45 p.m. hot laps followed by group time trials broken down by heat races. If the track draws 32 cars or more, there’ll be four heat races with four drivers transferring apiece followed by C- and B-mains. If there’s 31 cars or fewer, three heats will transfer five drivers apiece with a B-main setting the rest of the 22-car field.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 12.694
Mike Glasscock (30), LeRoy, Ill., 12.868
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 12.908
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 12.917
Jeff Herzog (11H), Festus, Mo., 12.957
Walker Arthur (87), Forest, Va., 13.028
Allen Weisser (25W), Peoria, Ill., 13.123
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 13.132
Derek Chandler (35), Pontiac, Ill., 13.264
Donny Walden (1W), Towanda, Ill., 13.275
Michael Kloos (6K), Trenton, Ill., 13.291
Paul Stubber (31aus), Bunbury, Australia, 13.357
Daniel Flessner (9D), Roberts, Ill., 13.425
Greg Wagner (79W), Polo, Ill., 13.585
Brandon Pralle (56), Ashkum, Ill., 14.032
Jimmy Miller (18M), Highland, Ill., 14.145
Dustin Vandermeir (20), Joliet, Ill., 14.495
Chuck Hummer (25), Lyons, Ohio, no time
Brian Dunn (5), Fairbury, Ill., no time
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 12.631
Billy Drake (75), Bloomington, Ill., 12.705
McKay Wenger (42), Fairbury, Ill., 12.802
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 12.804
Kevin Weaver (77M), Gibson City, Ill., 12.831
Scott Schmitt (10), Tonica, Ill., 12.837
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 12.844
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 12.851
Tanner English (96), Benton, Ky., 12.958
Jay Sparks (7), Metamora, Ill., 12.995
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.023
David Doherty (25D), New South Wales, Australia, 13.032
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 13.060
Billy Hough (33H), Thomasboro, Ill., 13.151
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), McClure, Ohio,13.189
Jonathan Brauns (22B), Muscatine, Iowa, 13.221
Jeff Curl (12), Fairbury, Ill., 13.221
Rusty Griffaw (16), Festus, Mo., 13.276
Brent McKinnon (26M), Carlyle, Ill., DQ
5:15 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
5:45 p.m.: Hot laps
- Late Model hot laps
- Modifieds hot laps/time trials
- Sportsman hot laps/time trials
- Late Model time trials (2 laps)
- Modified heats (8 laps)
- Late Model heats (10 laps)
- Sportsman heats (8 laps)
- Late Model B-main (12 laps; if needed)
- Modified B-main (10 laps; if needed)
- Late Model feature (50 laps)
- Modified feature (30 laps)
- Sportsman feature (15 laps)