LAKE CITY, Mich. (Aug. 22) — Jason Feger closed out the 2020 DIRTcar Summer Nationals in dominating fashion Saturday night at Merritt Speedway, leading all 50 laps of tour's season finale for a $10,000 payday.
The second-starting Feger of Bloomington, Ill., pulled ahead of polesitter Travis Stemler of Ionia, Mich., on the race's initial start and cruised through most of the race unchallenged. Fifth-starting Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa, closed in on Feger during the race's final 10 laps but was unable to make a serious bid for the lead.
Feger took the checkereds 0.394 seconds ahead of Gustin to earn his second Summer Nationals victory of the season and the 21st of his career.
Gustin settled for second, earning his third straight podium to close out his part-time run on the series. He was followed closely by Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., who also logged his third straight top-three finish, which included a victory Friday night at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, Mich.
Greg Gokey of Buckley, Mich., was fourth at the finish with David Mielke of Cadillac, Mich., rounding out the top five. The pole-starting Stemler was sixth at the finish. He ran second until a lap-19 restart when contact with Marcoullier entering turn one sent his car up the track and dropped him out of the top five.
Feger's victory gives him two $10,000 paydays on the this year's tour and marks the first time since 2016 that he's won multiple series events in a season.
"It feels really good to get out of here with another win," said Feger, whose other victory on this year's tour came July 18 at Highland (Ill.) Speedway. "I sure wanted to win more than two of these things. But at least the two we won were $10,000s.
"We're a small team still and we have a couple good sponsors, but for the most part this is how I make my living. It's real important to get the big wins like this. One of two of these can really be a difference maker at the end of the season."
Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., moved up two positions from his ninth starting spot to finish seventh and wrap up his fourth overall and third straight Summer Nationals title. With a 130-point lead over second-place Frank Heckenast Jr., Shirley had already clinched the $25,000 championship entering Saturday's race. Heckenast of Frankfort, Ill., was one spot behind Shirley in Saturday's feature in eighth.
Shirley finished the tour with seven victories and 18 top fives in 24 series events, but was disappointed the finale didn't go better.
"We hadn't been here for a long time and really didn't know how it would go," said Shirley, who earned his first series title in 2012 before starting his current stretch of three straight titles in 2018. "It would've been better to end on a little higher note, but all in all, to get it done and be able to go home with another championship, I'm definitely happy with it."
The race was slowed by four cautions with the first occurring when Mike Staszak of Kawkawlin, Mich., and Mike Nelson Jr. of Cadillac, Mich., spun off the top of turn three on lap 19.
The yellow flag waved again on the restart when Bob Gardner, Drake Troutman, Chad Finley and Rusty Schlenk all piled up in turn two. Andrew Terrill of Sanford, Mich., spun to cause a lap-27 yellow, and the final caution came with 38 laps compete when Nelson slipped over the banking between turns three and four.
Notes: Saturday's race marked the first time since 2000 that the Summer Nationals did not contest its final points race at Ohio's Oakshade Raceway. The track gave up its traditional position tour's ending points because of coronavirus restrictions. The Mike Blackmer-owned Merritt Speedway stepped in to host the $10,000-to-win event, giving the state of Michigan four series races for the first time. ... Jeep Van Wormer of Pinnconning, Mich., was a scratch after qualifying due to damage when he made heavy contact with the wall. ... Shirley's seven series victories matches his career high in one season set during his title season in 2019.
Row 1: Stemler, Feger
Row 2: Gokey, Marcoullier
Row 3: Gustin, Mielke
Row 4: Schlenk, Gardner
Row 5: Shirley, Harden
Row 6: Nickerson, Thirlby
Row 7: Terrill, Finley
Row 8: Heckenast Jr., Bauer
Row 9: Hilliker, Troutman
Row 10: Spangler, Staszak
Row 11: Nelson, Lanphierd
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Cody Bauer, David Hilliker, Drake Troutman, Ryan Lanphierd, Kyle Roberts, Dave Bowen, Carter Murday, Mike Nelson Jr., Steve Nieuwenhuis, Mike Staszak, Robert Lewis, Scott Gonion, Eric Spanger, J.C. Witherspoon, Derrick Hilliker, Jeep Van Womer (DNS)
Heat race results
(10 laps; top five transfer)
First heat: Greg Gokey, Dona Marcoullier, Rusty Schlenk, Brad Harden, Andrew Terrill, J.C. Witherspoon, Ryan Lanphierd, Drake Troutman, Dave Bowen, Mike Nelson Jr., Scott Gonion.
Second heat: Jason Feger, Ryan Gustin, Bob Gardner, Logan Nickerson, Chad Finley, David Hilliker, Derrick Hilliker, Carter Murday, Robert Lewis, Eric Spanger.
Third heat: Travis Stemler, David Mielke, Brian Shirley, Brandon Thirlby, Frank Heckenast Jr., Cody Bauer, Kyle Roberts, Mike Staszak, Steve Nieuwenhuis
Drake Troutman (7), Hyndman, Pa. 13.984
Greg Gokey (50), Buckley, Mich. 14.138
Dona Marcoullier (3M), Houghton Lake, Mich. 14.330
Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio 14.341
Andrew Terrill (4), Sanford, Mich. 14.569
J.C. Witherspoon (03), Kinde, Mich. 14.569
Brad Harden (52), Ovid, Mich. 14.657
Dave Bowen (87x), Sterling, Mich. 14.702
Ryan Lanphierd (11x), Midland, Mich. 14.945
Mike Nelson (42jr), Cadillac, Mich. 15.030
Scott Gonion (26r), Smith Creek, Mich. No time
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill. 13.882
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill. 13.991
Ryan Gustin (19), Marshalltown, Iowa 14.069
Logan Nickerson (21n), Vestaburg, Mich. 14.154
Chad Finley (42), DeWitt, Mich. 14.213
Eric Spangler (27), Lake City, Mich. 14.323
David Hilliker (21d), Midland, Mich. 14.523
Derrick Hilliker (19), Midland, Mich. 14.702
Robert Lewis (00) Traverse City, Mich. 14.946
Carter Murday (19m), Adrian, Mich. 15.517
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill. 13.839
Travis Stemler (4), Ionia, Mich. 13.854
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill. 14.257
David Mielke (87), Gladwin, Mich. 14.296
Brandon Thirlby (M14), Traverse City, Mich. 14.358
Cody Bauer (19x), Farwell, Mich. 14.478
Kyle Roberts (3), Beaverton, Mich. 14.935
Steve Nieuwenhuis (73n), Manton, Mich. 15.727
Mike Staszak (16s), Kawkawlin, Mich. No time
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich. No time
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals moves to Merrit Speedway on Saturday night for the final race of the tour's 2020 season. The night's program is headlined by a 50-lap feature paying $10,000 to the winner.
Points leader Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., heads into Saturday's event with his fourth overall and third striaght series title already wrapped up. In fact, all points positions are settled among the top five with Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., Bob Gardner of East Peoria, Ill., and Tim Lance of Brimfield, Ill., set to finish the points chase in that order.
The event was moved to Merritt after Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio, bowed out of its traditional position as the points finale for the DIRTcar Summer Nationals because of coronavirus restrictions. Track owner Mike Blackmer also operates Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, Mich., where the track visited on Friday. Dona Marcoullier earned $10,000 for his first series victory at that event.
Saturday's program features the same slate of divisions as Friday night with modifieds, pro stocks, street stocks and 4-6 cyliders also in action.
Merritt Speedway has previously hosted two series races. Ryan Unzicker won in 2016 and Billy Moyer Jr. won in 2017; neither driver is competing in Saturday's race. ... Saturday's event is the fourth race in an expanded Michigan swing that concludes the season. In previous series seasons, no more than two races had been held at Michigan venues. ... Tim Lance and Tim Lance Jr. elected not to compete at Merritt, ending their 2020 Summer Nationals once race short of perfect attendence. ... Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich., is back for the final event after skipping Friday's race to attend a wedding. ... With his breakthrough series victory Friday night at Tri-City Speedway, Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., became the first Michigan driver to win a series race since VanWormer won at Quincy (Ill.) Speedway on July 11 2010. His victory also marked just the second time a Michigan driver won a series race in Michigan. VanWormer accomplished that at Hartford Motor Speedway in 2002. ... Travis Stemler of Ionia, Mich., scored a $10,000 victory at Merritt's Wood Tic Weekend on Aug.8. ... While most folks following the tour have had breaks to head home throughout the tour, series announcer Ruben Mireles hasn't returned to his home in New Mexico since leaving on June 15 to begin his summer racing trip with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. The 21-year-old college student is looking forward to returning home and resuming his marketing studies at New Mexico State University.
5:30 p.m. - Drivers' meeting
6 p.m. - Hot laps
- Super Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps/time trials
- Super Late Model time trials
- Pro Stock heats (8 laps)
- Modified heats (8 laps)
- Super Late Model heats (10 laps)
- Cyber stock heats (10 laps)
- Super Late Model consolation (10 laps)
- Street Stock heats (8 laps)
- 4-6 Cylinder heat races (8 laps)
- Support division consolations as needed
- Super Late Model consolations (12 laps)
- Modified consolation (8 laps)
Intermission/track prep (if necessary
- Pro Stock feature (20 laps)
- Modified feature (25 laps)
- Super Late Model feature (50 laps)
- Street Stock feature (20 laps)
- 4-6 Cylinder feature (15 laps)