HIGHLAND, Ill. — Admittedly, Shannon Babb’s 2019 DIRTcar Summer Nationals campaign did not start out as well as he would have hoped. But the Moweaqua, Ill., driver’s dry spell ended on Saturday night with a $10,000 victory at Highland Speedway.
After a lead-swapping battle, fourth-starting Babb overtook outside polesitter Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., for good on the 18th circuit, outrunning Hall of Famer Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., for his 98th career Summer Nationals victory.
“I’m definitely tickled to death,” Babb said. “I’m probably hard-headed and stuck it out too long with that other car. It’s a good car, just probably had something wrong. We got this fresh piece out and it was really good. We ran it last night at Terre Haute and it was really good and tonight it was amazing. I’m just happy to be able to get back to victory lane.”
It was a tight battle for the lead in the early running, with front-row starters Brandon Sheppard and Rusty Griffaw of Fetus, Mo., taking turns at the front of the field. Pulling ahead out of turn four to lead the fourth lap, Babb fell to Sheppard on the following circuit. The pair raced nearly side-by-side for a handful of laps, with Babb powering back to the front of the field on lap 18 of 50 en route to his fifth career series victory at Highland.
“With Brandon (Sheppard) starting front-row, outside, I figured he was going to roll around the top,” Babb said. “When I hit that middle, my right-rear tire bit and we went forward. I was like, ‘Wow, I haven’t felt that in a while.’ It was really good. We were able to get by him. I probably made a mistake, went to the top and let Brandon get back by me. I just told myself, ‘I’ve got to slow down and drive this place like you normally have to.’ Low and slow around the tires down there is what usually wins the race.”
Advancing from the ninth starting spot, Moyer finished runner-up, with sixth-starting Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, running third. Charging from the 15th starting position, Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., finished fourth, with Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., rounding out the top five. After leading early, Sheppard retired with a flat tire on lap 29 to record a 15th-place finish.
After a slow start to the evening, Moyer rallied in Saturday’s 50-lap feature, joining Sheppard, Schlenk and Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., in a mid-race four-car battle for second. While he was able to close the gap between himself and Babb late in the distance, Moyer decided not to attempt a pass for the lead. He was pleased to come away with a runner-up finish.
“He was being very conservative, maybe slowing himself down a little bit,” Moyer said. “When I seen I had a little room from the guy behind me to where I could just approach the corner a little different, I made up a little time. But even if I was right on his bumper, there wouldn’t have been no passing him without being real dirty.
“From where we started, where we buried ourselves qualifying to get to where we was … We threw a bunch of things at the car. We’re just kind of learning this thing, at least in that condition. The last couple of nights, we’ve got a lot of promise going on now finally.”
Schlenk too found himself in a tight race for position, fighting back a charging Feger in the final laps to close the night with a podium finish.
“I knew I had to be perfect there,” Schlenk said. “Jason (Feger) looked like he found something up top there about 10 to go. I kept hearing him up there and then I started seeing him and I’m like, ‘Crap.’ I knew I had to hit my marks. I was actually trying to shove them yuke tires in the last three or four laps. I kept trying to knick them and shove them in. I knew it was going to come down to a race for the line. I finally got them knicked in where I could get a little traction off of four. If it wasn’t for that, I think Jason would have got around me.”
Notes: Babb has a series-leading five career Highland victories. He sits second on the series all-time win list with 98 career Summer Nationals victories. ... Series title contender Bobby Pierce ran as high as second before slipping back and pitting on lap 39; he returned to finish eighth. ... Polesitter Rusty Griffaw led early but faded and retired on lap 14. ... Piloting his family-owned No. B5, Brandon Sheppard led 13 laps early but faded and retired just past halfway with a flat tire. ... Rodney Melvin was sent pitside for retaliating against Gordy Gundaker under a lap-10 caution. … Paul Stubber spun in turns three and four to draw the race’s final caution on lap 40.
Row 1: Rusty Griffaw, Brandon Sheppard
Row 2: Tanner English, Shannon Babb
Row 3: Bobby Pierce, Rusty Schlenk
Row 4: Brian Shirley, Rodney Melvin
Row 5: Billy Moyer, Daryn Klein
Row 6: Tim Manville, Chad Zobrist
Row 7: Frank Heckenast Jr., Gordy Gundaker
Row 8: Jason Feger, Daniel Jacober
Row 9: Michael Kloos, Brent Larson
Row 10: Paul Stubber, Mike Hammerlee
Row 11: Mark Voigt, Chuck Hummer
A yellow flag waved on the initial start for a backstretch pileup involving Trent Workman, Paul Stubber, Dave Jacober, Jason Zobrist, Mark Oller and Travis Horner. Polesitter Michael Kloos shot to the lead as the race went green, with another yellow flag flying on the first lap for a tangle in turns three and four involving Stubber, Jacober and Workman. Kloos held his lead on the restart, with Rick Salter charging to third on lap three. With Kloos holding a comfortable lead at the halfway mark, Salter attempted to reel in second-running Larson. Using lapped traffic to his advantage, Salter nosed ahead of Larson on the white flag lap, the pair racing side-by-side down the backstretch. Kloos won the consolation, with Larson edging out Salter at the line to run second and transfer to the feature.
Finish (top two transfer): Michael Kloos, Brent Larson, Rick Salter, Shannon Kuhn, Jason Zobrist, Mark Voigt, Jimmy Miller, Paul Stubber, Mark Oller, Mike Hammerlee, Travis Horner, Dave Jacober, Chuck Hummer, Paul Kuper, Brent McKinnon, Adam Tischhauser, Trent Workman. Scratched: Trevor Gundaker.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Michael Kloos, Brent Larson
Row 2: Adam Tischhauser, Mark Voigt
Row 3: Shannon Kuhn, Rick Salter
Row 4: Jason Zobrist, Jimmy Miller
Row 5: Travis Horner, Trent Workman
Row 6: Mark Oller, Paul Kuper
Row 7: Dave Jacober, Paul Stubber
Row 8: Brent McKinnon, Trevor Gundaker
Row 9: Chuck Hummer, Mike Hammerlee
With the front-row starters racing side-by-side down the backstretch, outside polesitter Rusty Griffaw pulled ahead out of turn four to lead the first lap. As Highland regulars Chad Zobrist and Mark Voight battled for second, polesitter Rodney Melvin challenged Griffaw for the lead, the top two cars distancing themselves from the field at the halfway mark. With Melvin shooting ahead down the backstretch on the final lap, Griffaw charged back to the front out of turn four to win the heat race.
Finish (top four transfer): Rusty Griffaw, Rodney Melvin, Chad Zobrist, Daniel Jacober, Mark Voight, Jimmy Miller, Paul Kuper. Scratched: Trevor Gundaker.
Rolling around the top side, outside polesitter Tanner English took an early lead, as Brent Larson and Daryn Klein battled for the fourth and final transfer spot. At the halfway mark, English stretched his lead, with Klein charging to join Rusty Schlenk and Gordy Gundaker in the battle for second. English won the heat, with Schlenk running second. Klein edged Gundaker at the line to run third.
Finish (top four transfer): Tanner English, Rusty Schlenk, Daryn Klein, Gordy Gundaker, Brent Larson, Rick Salter, Trent Workman, Paul Stubber, Mike Hammerlee.
Charging ahead down the backstretch when fellow front-row starter Brian Shirley tagged the wall, polesitter Shannon Babb took an early lead. With Shirley powering back to second after his miscue, a yellow flag flew on the third lap when Mark Oller spun in turns one and two. It was a three-car battle for second on the restart, with Tim Manville challenging Shirley and Jason Feger for position. Fending off Shirley, Babb won the heat, with Manville rounding out the podium in third.
Finish (top four transfer): Shannon Babb, Brian Shirley, Tim Manville, Jason Feger, Adam Tischhauser, Jason Zobrist, Mark Oller, Brent McKinnon.
As second-starting Bobby Pierce slipped up the track in turn four, polesitter Brandon Sheppard edged ahead to lead the opening lap. It was a three-car battle at the front of field in the early running, as Billy Moyer challenged Pierce for second, the pair running close behind Sheppard. Holding off Pierce, Sheppard won the heat, with Moyer and Frank Heckenast Jr. grabbing feature transfer spots.
Finish (top four transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce, Billy Moyer, Frank Heckenast Jr., Michael Kloos, Shannon Kuhn, Travis Horner, Dave Jacober, Chuck Hummer.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Bobby Pierce
Row 2: Frank Heckenast Jr., Billy Moyer
Row 3: Shannon Kuhn, Michael Kloos
Row 4: Dave Jacober, Travis Horner
Row 5: Chuck Hummer
Row 1: Shannon Babb, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Tim Manville, Jason Feger
Row 3: Adam Tischhauser, Mark Oller
Row 4: Jason Zobrist, Brent McKinnon
Row 1: Rusty Schlenk, Tanner English
Row 2: Daryn Klein, Gordy Gundaker
Row 3: Brent Larson, Rick Salter
Row 4: Paul Stubber, Trent Workman
Row 5: Mike Hammerlee
Row 1: Rodney Melvin, Rusty Griffaw
Row 2: Chad Zobrist, Mark Voigt
Row 3: Daniel Jacober, Paul Kuper
Row 4: Trevor Gundaker, Jimmy Miller
After a string of early rainouts, the DIRTcar Summer Nationals moves to Highland (Ill.) Speedway for its fifth consecutive night of action. The quarter-mile oval, located at the Madison County Fairgrounds, hosts Hell Tour competitors for the 16th straight season.
Rocket Chassis house car driver Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., was the winner of Friday’s World of Outlaws Morton Building Late Model Series co-sanctioned event at Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. He returns to the seat of his family-owned No. B5 on Saturday at Highland.
Recent Summer Nationals winners at Highland include hometown driver Chad Zobrist (2018), Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. (’17), and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. (’16). Zobrist is the reigning track champion, while Daryn Klein of Fairview Heights, Ill., has captured multiple victories at the fairgrounds oval this season.
Saturday’s program will include hot laps, time trials, preliminary races and the 50-lap, $10,000-to-win main event. Modifieds and pro modifieds will also be in action.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 13.444
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 13.532
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 13.613
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 13.646
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 13.647
Tim Manville (33), Highland, Ill., 13.809
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 13.819
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.917
Shannon Kuhn (11K), Highland, Ill., 14.048
Adam Tischhauser (T4), Mulberry Grove, Ill., 14.061
Michael Kloos (6K), Trenton, Ill., 14.280
Mark Oller (67), Highland, Ill. 14.399
Dave Jacober (5), Highland, Ill., 14.513
Jason Zobrist (87), Highland, Ill., 14.602
Travis Horner (9T), Marine, Ill., 15.210
Brent McKinnon (26M), Carlyle, Ill., 15.258
Chuck Hummer (25), Lyons, Ohio, 15.661
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), McClure, Ohio, 13.602
Chad Zobrist (78), Highland, Ill., 13.671
Tanner English (96), Benton, Ky., 13.678
Rusty Griffaw (16), Festus, Mo., 13.783
Daryn Klein (10), Fairview Heights, Ill., 13.900
Rodney Melvin (33), Benton, Ill., 13.956
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 14.047
Mark Voigt (30), Marine, Ill., 14.112
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 14.137
Daniel Jacober (22), Highland, Ill., 14.287
Rick Salter (1S), Highland, Ill., 14.565
Paul Kuper (14), Aviston, Ill., 14.599
Paul Stubber (31aus), Bunbury, Australia, 14.905
Trevor Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 14.939
Trent Workman (18W), Highland, Ill., 14.953
Jimmy Miller (18M), Highland, Ill., 15.438
Mike Hammerle (16), St. Charles, Mo., 15.686
5:45 p.m.: Drivers meeting
6:15 p.m.: Hot laps/time trials
- Late Model hot laps
- Modifieds (3 laps)
- Pro modifieds
- Late Model qualifying (2 laps)
- Modified heat races (8 laps)
- Late Model heat races (10 laps)
- Pro modified heat races (8 laps)
- Consolations (if needed)
- Late Model feature (50 laps)
- Modified feature (25 laps)
- Pro modified feature (20 laps)