QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — With his third miniseries victory, Brian Shirley on Saturday grabbed a piece of the Keyser Quarter-Million Challenge — and he’s looking for more.
The Chatham, Ill., driver captured another $5,000 victory at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, guaranteeing him a $10,000 bonus at the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout with the possibility of a $25,000 bonus if he can capture Sunday’s 50-lap finale.
“It’s overwhelming. I can’t think my wife and kids (enough), my dad. It’s really special,” Shirley said, thanking his sponsors and crew amid a 50-day racing trip away from family and friends. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work and we’re just fortunate that things are going our way.”
Shirley overtook outside front-row starter Johnny Scott on the 10th lap and led the rest of the 40-lap feature in the second-to-last miniseries event, taking the checkers 1.091 seconds ahead of runner-up Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba. Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. — a two-time miniseries winner and only other driver to win besides Shirley — was fourth with Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., rounding out the top five.
Two contenders fell by the wayside late with flat tires. Scott, of Las Cruces, N.M., was running fifth when his left-rear tire went flat on lap 35 and polesitter Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., had a flat right rear on lap 38 while running third.
Once Shirley overtook Scott, he ran mostly unchallenged until Weiss took a few peeks underneath him on the late restarts.
“Man, I just, I didn’t want to see that caution with two (laps) to go,” Shirley said. “I could see my crew guys telling me I was pretty good, so I was riding around, but there was a bump there in (turns) three and four and I hit it, I think right on that restart, so it messed me up.”
The $10,000 bonus was welcomed and Shirley liked the idea that a fourth victory on Sunday would give him $25,000 on top of the $15,000 winner’s purse. His miniseries could potentially pay him more than $58,000 in all.
“Shoot, it’d be great. Everything we (win) goes back into the team. (Team owners) Bob and Lisa (Cullen), they spend a lot of their hard-earned money — all of our sponsors, do — they spend their hard-earned money to keep this race team going up and down the road,” Shirley said. “Bob puts every penny of it back into the team and it would just be a real testament to help us (stay) out there. We’re obviously going to start off on the (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series), and any time you can put some money in the bank to get the team rolling, it’s real nice.”
Weiss, who started fifth and took the second spot from Scott on the lap-27 restart, posted his fourth top-five finish on the miniseries but couldn’t keep up with Shirley in the final laps.
“We could restart real good and almost get next to him,” Weiss said. “You got to try something, go somewhere where he’s not, and I would dive down. He’s always raced me clean so I wasn’t going to go stuff him in the wall or nothing, but I was definitely going to be there if he slipped up any. We had a real good car. We’ve been tweaking on it all week and we found a little speed tonight. Hopefully we can (carry) that on to tomorrow.”
Sheppard, who won back-to-back miniseries events earlier in the week, said his heat-race struggles that left him starting outside the sixth row in the main event cost him a chance to grab a third feature victory.
“Definitely we just needed to start a little farther up front,” said Sheppard, who hasn’t finished worse than fourth in five feature starts. “Our car is really awesome night in and night out. So congratulations to Brian. He did a really good job.”
The 40-lapper was slowed by three cautions, first for Justin Duty’s lap-27 slowdown and again for flat-tire cautions for Scott (lap 35) and Junghans (lap 38). While Junghans started on the pole, he quickly slipped back to fifth when he brushed the wall in turns three and four on the first lap.
Notes: Officials announced next year’s miniseries dates for Jan. 9-10, 13, 15-17 at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway; practice will be scheduled for Jan. 8. … Don Shaw of Ham Lake, Minn., won the Pro Power Dash for non-qualifiers and elected to take the $1,000 purse instead of tagging the tail of the main event. … Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa, blew a tire on the second lap of his heat race, sustaining significant body damage that forced him to scratch for the rest of the night. … Nick Deal of Walnut, Iowa, broke a transmission in Friday’s feature that caused other damage, ending his miniseries that started with a fiery turn-two accident his team never recovered from; he didn't enter Saturday's action. … Steve Stultz, driving a former Brian Birkhofer car, spun out of a transfer spot in the first consolation.
Preliminary results and updates:
Main event lineup
Row 1: Chase Junghans, Johnny Scott
Row 2: Cade Dillard, Brian Shirley
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Brian Birkhofer
Row 4: Chris Simpson, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 5: Garrett Alberson, Kyle Beard
Row 6: Earl Pearson Jr., Brandon Sheppard
Row 7: Terry Phillips, Stormy Scott
Row 8: Mike Spatola, Jimmy Mars
Row 9: Tony Toste, Bobby Pierce
Row 10: McLain Beaudoin, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 11: Jay Morris, Clay Fisher
Row 12: Justin Duty, Jason Papich
(12 laps; top four transfer)
First consolation: Tony Toste, McLain Beaudoin, Jay Morris, Justin Duty, Mitch McGrath, Matt Sparby, Casey Skyberg, Jimmy Whisler, Steve Stultz, Rick Ortega, Allen Murray. Scratched: Terry Carter.
Second consolation: Bobby Pierce, Frank Heckenast Jr., Clay Fisher, Jason Papich, John Cornell, Blair Nothdurft, Don Shaw, Thomas Hunziker, Lyndon Bolt, Richard Wallace, Dan Deibele. Scratched: Ryan Gustin.
Pro Power Dash (nonqualifiers): Don Shaw, Mitch McGrath, John Cornell, Casey Skyberg, Blair Nothdurft, Matt Sparby.
(12 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Tony Toste, Jay Morris
Row 2: Steve Stultz, Allen Murray
Row 3: McLain Beaudoin, Justin Duty
Row 4: Mitch McGrath, Casey Skyberg
Row 5: Jimmy Whisler, Rick Ortega
Row 6: Matt Sparby, Terry Carter
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Clay Fisher
Row 2: Jason Papich, John Cornell
Row 3: Blair Nothdurft, Thomas Hunziker
Row 4: Richard Wallace, Dan Deibele
Row 5: Don Shaw, Lyndon Bolt
Row 6: Ryan Gustin, Frank Heckenast Jr.
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Chase Junghans, Ricky Weiss, Garrett Alberson, Terry Phillips, Tony Toste, Steve Stultz, McLain Beaudoin, Mitch McGrath, Jimmy Whisler, Matt Sparby.
Second heat: Cade Dillard, Brian Birkhofer, Kyle Beard, Stormy Scott, Bobby Pierce, Jason Papich, Blair Nothdurft, Richard Wallace, Don Shaw, Ryan Gustin.
Third heat: Brian Shirley, Chris Simpson, Earl Pearson Jr., Mike Spatola, Jay Morris, Allen Murray, Justin Duty, Casey Skyberg, Rick Ortega. Scratched: Terry Carter.
Fourth heat: Johnny Scott, Ricky Thornton Jr., Brandon Sheppard, Jimmy Mars, Clay Fisher, John Cornell, Thomas Hunziker, Dan Deibele, Lyndon Bolt, Frank Heckenast Jr.
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Ricky Weiss, Garrett Alberson
Row 2: Chase Junghans, Terry Phillips
Row 3: Tony Toste, McLain Beaudoin
Row 4: Matt Sparby, Jimmy Whisler
Row 5: Steve Stultz, Mitch McGrath
Row 1: Cade Dillard, Brian Birkhofer
Row 2: Kyle Beard, Don Shaw
Row 3: Stormy Scott, Bobby Pierce
Row 4: Blair Nothdurft, Ryan Gustin
Row 5: Jason Papich, Richard Wallace
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Chris Simpson
Row 2: Earl Pearson Jr., Mike Spatola
Row 3: Allen Murray, Jay Morris
Row 4: Casey Skyberg, Justin Duty
Row 5: Terry Carter, Rick Ortega
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Johnny Scott
Row 2: Frank Heckenast Jr., Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 3: Jimmy Mars, Clay Fisher
Row 4: Thomas Hunziker, John Cornell
Row 5: Lyndon Bolt, Dan Deibele
Time trials (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 15.440
Garrett Alberson (2), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.466
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 15.629
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., 15.720
Tony Toste (91T), Pismo Beach, Calif., 15.798
McLain Beaudoin (17), Lebanon, Ore., 16.262
Matt Sparby (81), Bemidji, Minn., 16.557
Jimmy Whisler (28), Otis, Ore., 16.606
Steve Stultz (78), Peoria, Ariz., 16.959
Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., no time
Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 15.321
Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa, 15.642
Kyle Beard (86), Trumann, Ark., 15.739
Don Shaw (42s), Ham Lake, Minn., 15.750
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.789
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.801
Blair Nothdurft (76), Sioux Falls, S.D., 16.069
Ryan Gustin (19), Marshalltown, Iowa, 16.138
Jason Papich (91P), Nipomo, Calif., 16.301
Richard Wallace (7m), Gold Coast, Ore., 17.201
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 15.593
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 15.638
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.760
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 15.842
Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, 15.879
Jay Morris (77M), Watseka, Ill., 15.889
Casey Skyberg (6), Rapid City, S.D., 16.009
Justin Duty (15), Mulino, Ore., 16.126
Terry Carter (6T), Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, 16.419
Rick Ortega (24), Las Cruces, N.M., 17.315
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.389
Johnny Scott (1st), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.448
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 15.557
Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 15.948
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 16.090
Clay Fisher (99), DeWitt, Ark., 16.115
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 16.239
John Cornell (28), Phoenix, Ariz., 16.370
Lyndon Bolt (3x), Rapid City, S.D., 16.822
Dan Deibele (74), Lebanon, Ore., 17.199
Miniseries competitors on Saturday will try to stop the 1-2 Illinois punch of Brandon Sheppard and Brian Shirley in the fifth round of the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout.
Sheppard, of New Berlin, Ill., and Shirley, of Chatham, Ill., own two victories apiece through four races on the six-race miniseries, leaving scraps for more than 40 other desert drivers including Bobby Pierce, Ricky Weiss, Earl Pearson Jr., Jimmy Mars, Terry Phillips and more.
In Saturday’s $5,000-to-win program, Shirley and Sheppard have a chance at a $10,000 offered for three-race miniseries winners in the Keyser Quarter-Million Challenge. Both drivers also have a shot at the bonus program’s $25,000 to any four-race winner.
Saturday afternoon’s Super Late Model field will be split into four groups for time trials with officials employing combination hot-lap/time trials to set the lineups for four heat races. Drivers start heats straightup by time.
The top four finishers in each of four heats transfer to the 30-lap main event with the winners redrawing for the first two rows of the feature lineup. Consolation races will transfer four drivers apiece to the 24-car main event. The 10-lap Pro Power Dash for nonqualifiers pays $1,000 or a tag-tailing spot in the main event.
The miniseries wraps up with Sunday’s $15,000-to-win Super Late Model finale sponsored by Shaw Trucking with hot laps scheduled for 3 p.m. MST.
12:30 p.m. - Pit gate opens
2 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
2:30 p.m. - Grandstands open
3 p.m. - On-track action
- X-mod hot laps
- Modified hot laps
- Late Model (combo hot laps/time trials)
4:20 p.m. - National anthem
4:25 p.m. - Racing begins
X-mod heats (eight laps)
Modified heats (eight laps)
Late Model heats (eight laps)
X-mod consolations (10 laps)
Modified consolations (12 laps)
Late Model consolations (12 laps)
X-mod feature (20 laps)
Pro Power Late Model dash (10 laps)
Modified feature (25 laps)
Late Model feature (40 laps)