WAUSEON, Ohio (July 12) — Kent Robinson played a key role in convincing his buddy Jason Feger to join him last month in campaigning MB Customs chassis.
And on Friday night at Oakshade Raceway, Robinson played the key role in keeping his good pal winless on the 2019 DIRTcar Summer Nationals.
Robinson, 32, of Bloomington, Ind., made his second pass of Feger for the lead stick on lap 23 and controlled the remainder of the distance to capture the 3/8-mile track’s 40-lap Hell Tour feature. He beat his 41-year-old friend from Bloomington, Ill., to the finish line by 1.157 seconds to collect a $5,000 payday and his second career Summer Nationals triumph.
“It’s a lot of fun racing your buddies,” said Robinson, whose only previous Summer Nationals checkered flag also came at Oakshade in the 2017 Birthday Race finale.
Another of Robinson’s friends, Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., finished close behind Feger in third place after starting outside the former Summer Nationals champion on the front row. Fifth-starting Devin Shiels of Britton, Mich., grabbed fourth place on lap eight and held strong to the position for the remainder of the distance while six-time Oakshade champion Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, settled for a fifth-place finish after starting fourth.
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., who entered the opener of Oakshade’s two-day Birthday Race weekend riding a two-race win streak and leading the Summer Nationals standings by 33 points over Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., had to qualify by winning the B-main after losing a transfer spot on the final lap of his heat. But Shirley climbed forward from the 17th starting spot to finish a respectable eighth, one spot behind Pierce, who started sixth but never flashed sufficient speed to gain positions as he was unable to take advantage of Shirley’s off night.
Shirley will carry a 31-point edge on Pierce into Saturday night’s 60-lap, $10,000-to-win series finale. He can assure himself of winning the $25,000 points crown for a second consecutive year by finishing at least ninth.
Feger, whose last Summer Nationals victory came exactly one ago at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., started from the pole position and snatched the lead at the initial green flag of the A-main. He was nipped for the top spot by Robinson on lap 14 but regained command the following circuit with an outside move off turn two while racing through lapped traffic.
After the race’s lone caution flag flew on lap 18 for a spin between turns three and four by Chuck Hummer of Lyons, Ohio, Robinson turned up the wick with his family-owned machine. Track officials had the field restart in single-file formation because they deemed that the racing surface had taken rubber in one lane, but Robinson felt the speedway hadn’t completely latched up and he proved it by slipping underneath Feger to grab the lead for good on lap 23.
“I was just talking to one of the track (prep) guys and he was asking how rubbered up it was or locked down it was, and I told him it was just the front straightaway (that took some rubber) and that didn’t happen until after that restart,” Robinson commented. “I didn’t really know why we went single-file to be honest. It kind of helped me — all I had to do was race (Feger) instead of the third-place car.
“It was starting to streak up on the frontstretch and I was worried about getting around lapped cars in that situation, but I knew if I was good enough and in good enough position if Jason made a mistake, I was gonna be able to capitalize on it.
“But I don’t think he really made a mistake,” he added. “I just think he couldn’t stay on that bottom like I could. I think I could just get in that mud down there and keep turning where it looked like he just pushed the front end across it. He was just too tight to get down there.”
Robinson built a 2-second advantage on Feger by lap 30, but heavy lapped traffic in the closing circuits allowed Feger to close back within striking distance. K-Rob kept his cool, however, and deftly handled the slower cars to preserve the victory.
“The lapped traffic, they have a right to be out there just like everybody else,” Robinson said. “You can’t complain about it, but the closing rate is pretty quick here … and the track got more dirty than locked down, so those last five laps, when I was trying to get around those two (lapped) guys, they’re racing for position and then everywhere but the bottom is kind of dusty, so it made it interesting.
“It definitely got my nerves up. I had to take a deep breath and kind of calm myself down. It’s only $5,000 (to win), but just knowing someone is behind you is a different feeling — especially when you know it’s probably your buddy and you know he’ll probably give you the bumper if need be.”
While Feger was happy to see his friend emerge victorious, he was understandably disappointed to fall short again on the Summer Nationals in a race he was in position to win.
“I just needed to be smarter and protect the bottom down there in one and two,” said Feger, who matched his series-best finish of second on July 8 at Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill. “I just left the door open too much for him.
“It was kind of weird, because there early, they had watered it (before the feature) and it was really slimy on the bottom. Then it turns to traction and then it turns to dust, so it kind of kept changing. Sometimes at this place you’re faster running one lane off the bottom in the black than you are getting down on that bottom, and I just left him too much room.
“It was hard down there, but I was just a little too tight to be down there and get it the way I wanted to so it felt better running out more on the track and I just left the door open for him.
Kent’s had a really good year and we’re good buddies, so I feel good for him,” he continued. “But it’s definitely very frustrating. You’re happy running second, but it’s also tough, especially not having won one of these yet this year.”
Feger did take some solace in the strength he showed throughout the night and was proud of contributing to a sweep of the top-two finishing positions for cars designed by veteran Wisconsin racer Jimmy Mars.
“I feel like the car we’re loading up is a lot better than the car we unloaded today,” Feger said. “I felt like every time we were on the track we made improvements to get better. The track will probably be really similar tomorrow so hopefully we can keep moving forward and get even better.
“Kent and I have been talking all day working on setups and stuff. It’s nice when you have a deal like that to run one-two, but it’s just definitely hard to come in and see the disappointment in the team’s face. They’ve been working real hard and they want to get one of these really bad. I just kind of feel like we gave one away there. Just gotta be smarter than that.”
Robinson doesn’t doubt that Feger is on the right track with his MB Customs car, which he debuted last month at the start of the Summer Nationals schedule.
“I kind of pointed him in the direction of getting these cars, recommended it to him,” said Robinson, who registered his third overall victory of the season. “Every car’s different — it takes so long for a driver to figure out what they want in their car, and that’s what Jason’s going through now. I’ve told him what I’m doing … it’s kind of an open book with Jimmy and all of us that are on this MB Customs team. It’s pretty cool. I’ve never a part of something quite like this. I think it shows, and I think the results are gonna get better.”
Heckenast, 31, was the first driver across the finish line in a car that didn’t come from the Badger State. He authored another solid run — his fifth consecutive Hell Tour finish of fourth or better — but wasn’t able to parlay his prime starting spot into his first win of the 2019 series.
According to Heckenast, a bad start doomed him.
“They watered the top twice on the outside and watered the rest of the track once,” Heckenast said. “I don’t know what they were doing behind me (during the pace laps), but before we went green I was just trying to blow it off, blow it off. I couldn’t get the grease gone. I thought it was good enough that I could fire off with ‘em, and then when we went green I just wheel-spun in the grease, and then we went in the corner and there was a little bit of water down in the bottom that Feger hit and he slid out and I had to check up a little bit and that’s when K-Rob got by me.
“I’ve been wanting to start on the front for like two weeks, and I did and it didn’t happen.”
The Summer Nationals championship contenders, meanwhile, finished close together in consecutive positions after being separated by 11 spots in the starting order.
“We had a bad night there at the beginning …that lapped car just didn’t help anything there,” Shirley said, noting his last-lap fall from a transfer spot in his heat race. “But we did our best, we kept digging, and we was able to pull through there and get a decent finish right behind Bobby.
“Honestly, when I started the race, I just said, ‘Hey, let’s just do the best we can do and we’ll come back strong tomorrow,’ because I felt like we found a better balance on the car. I said, ‘No matter what happens tonight, we’ll just come back tomorrow and try to win the race.’
That’s where we’re at now. I feel like our balance is pretty good where we can fight for the win now, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Pierce mourned a lost opportunity that Shirley had presented him.
“We had a chance to capitalize and my car was just absolutely terrible,” Pierce said. “Setup-wise, we need to be a lot more standard I guess from what we’re doing, but we can’t really do the right stuff because we don’t have the right parts. We might unload the other car (an older Pierce Race Car) and try it (on Saturday). We can’t get (the XR1 Rocket he raced on Friday) to standard because we don’t have the right parts with us.”
Row 1: Jason Feger, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 2: Kent Robinson, Rusty Schlenk
Row 3: Devin Shiels, Bobby Pierce
Row 4: Chris Keller, Gregg Satterlee
Row 5: Andrew Reaume, Chad Finley
Row 6: Travis Stemler, Dan Wallace
Row 7: Ryan Missler, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 8: Brent Miller, Paul Stubber
Row 9: Brian Shirley, Brian Ruhlman
Row 10: Chuck Hummer, Steve Kester
Row 11: Brad Wade, Truck Robertson
C-main finish (10 laps; top 4 transfer to B-main): Dusty Moore, Steve Kester, Colin Shipley, Doug Baird, Ken Hahn, Steve Miller, Chuck Hummer, Bob Mayer, Bill Reeves, Corey Bevard, Jimmie Ward, Truck Robertson, David Scott Jr., Ron Miller (DNS) Rody Schroyer, Brandon Moore, Matthew Chapman.
B-main finish (12 laps; top 2 transfer): Brian Shirley, Brian Ruhlman, Matt Shipley, Jake Rendel, Dusty Moore, Steve Kester, Brad Wade, Matt Lindsey, Hillard Miller, Nick Fenner, Rich Ruff, Doug Baird, Brandon Pralle, Colin Shipley, Jeff Geis, Casey Noonan.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer to B-main)
Row 1: Steve Miller, Bob Mayer
Row 2: Ken Hahn, Steve Kester
Row 3: Dusty Moore, Jimmie Ward
Row 4: Chuck Hummer, Rody Schroyer
Row 5: Ron Miller, Colin Shipley
Row 6: Corey Beard, Truck Robertson
Row 7: Doug Baird, Brandon Moore
Row 8: Bill Reeves, Matthew Chapman
Row 9: David Scott Jr.
(12 laps; top 2 transfer to feature)
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Matt Shipley
Row 2: Casey Noonan, Brad Wade
Row 3: Brian Ruhlman, Jeff Geis
Row 4: Jake Rendel, Hillard Miller
Row 5: Rich Ruff, Brandon Pralle
Row 6: Matt Lindsey, Nick Fenner
Row 7: Dusty Moore, Steve Kester
Row 8: Colin Shipley, Doug Baird
Shooting past Gregg Satterlee on the inside of the backstretch to assume command on lap four, Rusty Schlenk marched on to win the prelim by 1.396 seconds over the first-time Oakshade entrant from western Pennsylvania. Satterlee made several bids to regain the lead using the outside lane but couldn’t make it stick. Dan Wallace finished third and Australian Paul Stubber was the final transfer. Nick Fenner (lap five) and Brad Wade (lap seven) brought out caution flags with spins.
Finish: Rusty Schlenk, Gregg Satterlee, Dan Wallace, Paul Stubber, Brad Wade, Hillard Miller, Nick Fenner, Steve Kester, Rody Schroyer, Truck Robertson, Matthew Chapman.
Shaking off several inside challenges from Bobby Pierce during the race’s second half, Jason Feger emerged victorious by 1.179 seconds over the Summer Nationals title contender. Chad Finley overtook Jeep Van Wormer late in the distance to finish third. Colin Shipley and Bob Mayer tangled between turns three and four on lap five to bring out the race’s lone caution flag.
Finish: Jason Feger, Bobby Pierce, Chad Finley, Jeep Van Wormer, Matt Shipley, Jeff Geis, Brandon Pralle, Bob Mayer, Jimmie Ward, Colin Shipley, Brandon Moore.
Still searching for his first victory of the 2019 Summer Nationals, Frank Heckenast Jr. put himself in prime position to break through with a wire-to-wire heat win. He beat Chris Keller to the finish line by 0.812 of a second, with Travis Stemler and Brett Miller finishing farther back in third and fourth, respectively. The race was slowed on lap one by a tangle between turns one and two involving Chuck Hummer and Bill Reeves.
Finish: Frank Heckenast Jr., Chris Keller, Travis Stemler, Brett Miller, Casey Noonan, Jake Rendel, Matt Lindsey, Ken Hahn, Chuck Hummer, Corey Bevard, Bill Reeves.
Kent Robinson rolled to a flag-to-flag victory, turning back a brief challenge from Devin Shiels to beat the Michigan driver by 1.316 seconds. Summer Nationals points leader Brian Shirley appeared headed to a third-place finish after grabbing the position from Andrew Reaume on lap eight, but a wild, three-wide finish saw Reaume nose into third and Ryan Missler place fourth, leaving Shirley out of a transfer spot. A caution flag flew on lap three when David Scott Jr. spun in turn two.
Finish: Kent Robinson, Devin Shiels, Andrew Reaume, Ryan Missler, Brian Shirley, Brian Ruhlman, Rich Ruff, Steve Miller, Dusty Moore, Ron Miller, Doug Baird, David Scott Jr.
Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., began his chase of a second Birthday Race victory in fine fashion, clocking a lap of 15.749 seconds in time trials to earn overall fast-time honors. He will start from the pole in the first heat.
Other heat polesitters are Chris Keller, Jason Feger and Gregg Satterlee.
Oakshade Raceway’s 21st annual Birthday Race weekend kicks off on a gorgeous Friday night. Skies have been sunny all day with the high temperature settling at a comfortable 80 degrees. … Friday’s 45 entries represents the largest car count of the 2019 Summer Nationals. The previous high was 44 cars on June 27 at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway — the only other race that broke the 40-car threshold. … Oakshade management removed a section of old bleachers in turn one earlier this year; they have erected two 10-row sections of temporary stands to handle this weekend’s anticipated large crowds. … Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., made the haul to tackle Oakshade for the first time in his career. His crew chief, Robby Allen, said his last visit to the track came at least 25 years ago when he was working as a crewman for late Hall of Famer Jack Boggs. … Six-time Oakshade champion Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, parked the Rayburn car he’s campaigned in every Summer Nationals show this season after Thursday’s program at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., in favor of another Rayburn mount he hasn’t raced in more than a month. … Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., the 2017 Birthday Race winner, originally planned to head west this weekend to compete in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series events at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill., and Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., but he altered his schedule to stay closer to home and take another shot at Oakshade glory. … Brian Ruhlman of Clarklake, Mich., who is making his first Summer Nationals start of the week, also has his modified along to pull double duty this evening. … Zack Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., who swept last year’s pair of Birthday Race weekend features, had planned to defend his 2018 performance but called off his trip to Oakshade at mid-week due to a death in his family.
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals begins into its last weekend of points racing with a two-day program at Oakshade Raceway, a series stalwart that will host a pair of complete Hell Tour events for the fourth straight year. Friday night’s $5,000-to-win show leads into Saturday evening’s traditional 60-lap Birthday Race that boasts a $10,000 top prize.
The Summernationals has visited Oakshade every year since 2000. Only once, in 2002, was the event not the finale of the Hell Tour.
Sixteen drivers have won Summernationals features at Oakshade. Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., and Matt Miller of Whitehouse, Ohio, lead the way with three victories apiece. Other former Hell Tour victors include Billy Moyer (two), Kevin Weaver, Don O’Neal, Brian Shirley, Jeep VanWormer, Tim McCreadie, Rusty Schlenk, Ryan Unzicker, Billy Moyer Jr., Jason Feger, Jon Henry, Bobby Pierce, Kent Robinson and Zack Dohm (last year’s victor on both Friday and Saturday nights.
Shirley enters the weekend leading the Summer Nationals standings by 33 points over Bobby Pierce. Last year Shirley had the Hell Tour title clinched before even arriving at Oakshade; with a much slimmer edge this time, he can assure himself the crown by finishing at least fourth in both features.
Friday’s program, which also includes UMP modifieds, is scheduled to begin with hot laps at 6 p.m
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Kent Robinson, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Devin Shiels, Andrew Reaume
Row 3: Dusty Moore, Ryan Missler
Row 4: Brian Ruhlman, Ron Miller
Row 5: Steve Miller, Doug Baird
Row 6: David Scott Jr., Rich Ruff
Row 1: Chris Keller, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 2: Brett Miller, Travis Stemler
Row 3: Matt Lindsey, Casey Noonan
Row 4: Jake Rendel, Ken Hahn
Row 5: Chuck Hummer, Bill Reeves
Row 6: Corey Beard
Row 1: Jason Feger, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Colin Shipley
Row 3: Matt Shipley, Chad Finley
Row 4: Brandon Moore, Jeff Geis
Row 5: Brandon Pralle, Bob Mayer
Row 6: Jimmie Ward
Row 1: Gregg Satterlee, Rusty Schlenk
Row 2: Dan Wallace, Paul Stubber
Row 3: Steve Kester, Hillard Miller
Row 4: Brad Wade, Truck Robertson
Row 5: Rody Schroyer, Nick Fenner
Row 6: Matthew Chapman
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 15.749
Chris Keller (67), Adrian, Mich., 15.931
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 15.991
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.017
Devin Shiels (51), Britton, Mich., 16.018
Brett Miller (10), Metamora, Ohio, 16.074
Andrew Reaume (88), Blenheim, Ont., 16.255
Travis Stemler (2s), Ionia, Mich., 16.293
Dusty Moore (75), Swanton, Ohio, 16.435
Matt Lindsey (49L), Adrian, Mich., 16.474
Ryan Missler (50), Bellevue, Ohio, 16.52
Casey Noonan (1N), Sylvania, Ohio, 16.525
Brian Ruhlman (49), Clarklake, Mich., 16.635
Jake Rendel (06), Adrian, Mich., 16.713
Ron Miller (35), Lambertville, Mich., 16.808
Ken Hahn (27), Oregon, Ohio, 16.848
Steve Miller (95), Toledo, Ohio, 16.947
Chuck Hummer (25H), Lyons, Ohio, 17.014
Doug Baird (69R), Alvada, Ohio, 17.300
Bill Reeves (22Jr), Sherwood, Ohio, 17.350
David Scott Jr. (72M), Grover Hill, Ohio, 18.240
Rich Ruff (R4), Adrian, Mich., 16.924 (DQ - didn't report to scales)
Corey Bevard (97), Litchfield, Mich., no time
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 16.018
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 16.183
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 16.196
Rusty Schlenk (CJ1), McClure, Ohio, 16.205
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 16.221
Dan Wallace (x3), Toledo, Ohio, 16.251
Colin Shipley (44s), Weston, Ohio, 16.310
Paul Stubber (31AUS), Bunbury, W. Australia, 16.325
Matt Shipley (44), Weston, Ohio, 16.425
Steve Kester (77), Holland, Ohio, 16.499
Chad Finley (42), Saint Johns, Mich., 16.500
Hillard Miller (53), Defiance, Ohio, 16.537
Brandon Moore (39), Pioneer, Ohio, 16.557
Brad Wade (23), Dundee, Mich., 16.666
Jeff Geis (17), Wauseon, Ohio, 16.669
Truck Robertson (P3), Centerville, Ind., 16.738
Brandon Pralle (56), Ashkum, Ill., 16.788
Rody Schroyer (28), Ottawa Lake, Mich., 16.845
Bob Mayer (42x), Holland, Ohio, 16.884
Nick Fenner (22F), Morenci, Mich., 17.006
Jimmie Ward (6), Temperance, Mich., 17.620
Matthew Chapman (39c), Tecumseh, Mich., no time