PEORIA, Ill. (June 16) — Bobby Pierce is off to a red-hot start on the DIRTcar Summer Nationals.
Finally overtaking race-long pacesetter Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., on the 32nd circuit, the 24-year-old star from Oakwood, Ill., controlled the remainder of the distance to capture Wednesday night’s 40-lap DIRTcar Summer Nationals feature at Peoria Speedway.
It was the second $5,000 triumph in as many evenings for Pierce, who kicked off 2021’s super-sized 36-race series with a victory Tuesday at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway.
“I’m not Brandon Overton, but 2-for-2 so far is pretty good,” Pierce said, referring to the Georgia driver who swept all four nights of the June 9-12 double Dreams at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. “Hopefully we keep it going.”
Pierce’s hard-fought victory in the caution-free headliner came by 1.101 seconds over reigning Summer Nationals champion Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., who slipped past Unzicker for second on lap 33 but wasn’t able to mount a serious challenge on Pierce. Unzicker settled for a third-place finish after leading laps 1-31 while Tanner English of Benton, Ky., placed fourth and Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, was fifth.
At points during the race’s middle stages, the top-four cars — Unzicker, Pierce, Shirley and Moran — ran close together through lapped traffic with English just a couple car lengths behind. Pierce was able to pull away slightly once in command, but the battle behind him remained tight and English snatched fourth from Moran on the next-to-last circuit.
The polesitting Pierce was outgunned his front-row mate Unzicker for the lead at the initial green flag. The three-time Summer Nationals champion the relentlessly chased Unzicker, looking high and low to make a pass on the quarter-mile oval.
After Pierce’s slider attempt off turn four on lap 25 was countered by Unzicker’s crossover move to maintain command, Pierce settled into a top-side bid. His winning maneuver came when he surged to the outside of Unzicker heading down the backstretch and was in the lead for good as lap 32 was scored.
“My dad kind of gave me the idea,” Pierce said when asked about running the outside. “He showed me with the (signal) sticks there to possibly try it out, (but) I mean, I wasn’t gonna ride in second, that’s for sure. I was gonna end up trying it."
Shirley said he was commited to the top late in the race also.
“I was coming on top and then they moved Bobby up there, which is what you do. It’s not like he cut me off or nothing,” said Shirley. “He got around Unzicker and then I got around Unzicker and the rest was just racing through traffic to get home. … Luckily we made the right moves we just ended up coming up one spot short.”
A dejected Unzicker regretted not moving up the track as well.
“I don’t know. I just never would have guessed that (the preferred groove) was that high. When my stick guy was telling me to go up and was telling me it was up top, I figured it was the middle or just that top little momentum line. I just picked the wrong time to stay down there I guess. I don’t know. I kinda feel dejected right now to come home third. I would have felt a lot better if (Shirley had not) got by me.”
Pierce was simply biding his time, searching for an opening.
“Ryan was doing a good job," said Pierce. "I could tell he was watching his (crew) guys too, and anytime I got some momentum built up on the top he would move up to the middle and block a little bit. Hopefully I raced him clean. He left the door open and I decided to shoot in there … after I gave him a love-tap to let him know I was there a little bit.
“I think his tires kind of went away a little bit,” he added. “Luckily it stayed green for a long time and we were able to pull it off.”
Pierce hailed the Peoria track surface for providing the conditions for a “fun race.”
“This place always provides tight racing, and tonight the track was phenomenal. I was kind of worried earlier how the top was crowning off, but it ended up being a perfect racetrack. We could race about anywhere and make moves. To do that on such a tight track, hat’s off to these guys at Peoria.”
Notes: Pierce recorded his 29th career Summer Nationals victory — breaking his tie with Scott Bloomquist for fifth on the circuit’s all-time win list — and became the fourth driver and first in 11 years to capture the first two events of the Hell Tour. The hot start puts him alongside Billy Moyer (winner of the first two races in 1993, first six in ’94 and first three in 2010), Bloomquist (first four in ’90) and Dennis Erb Jr. (first two in ’07). … Pierce previously won Peoria's Summer Nationals event in 2016. ... Wisconsin’s Paul Parker slid past English to reach fourth on lap six, but he slipped out of the top five by lap 11 and finished ninth. … The nonstop feature was completed in just under 10 minutes and ended at 10:37 p.m.
Wednesday’s 40 entries is tied with the 2008 event as the fourth most DIRTcar Summer Nationals entries at Peoria in the last 14 years. The 2015 race, won by Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., drew 48, the most over the last 14 seasons. Next were 2010 (44) and 2012 (41). … Brian Shirley, Jason Feger, Bobby Pierce and Billy Moyer Jr. are the only four drivers signed in Wednesday who have a previous Summer Nationals win at Peoria. … Pierce, of Oakwood, Ill., isn’t using the same car he won with on Tuesday at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway, opting instead to pull out his fresher machine that he hopes is more suited to shorter tracks. … Shirley, of Chatham, Ill., is attempting to become only the second four-time Peoria Summer Nationals winner. There’s 15 years between Shirley’s first series win here (2004) and his last (2019). He also won the event in 2012. … Only one father-son duo has won in Summer Nationals competition at Peoria and oddly enough, they are not named Pierce or Sheppard. Instead Hall of Famer Billy Moyer (2001) and his son Billy Moyer Jr. (2017), both of Batesville, Ark., each have a single Summer Nationals win at the third-mile oval. … Feger’s only Summer Nationals win at Peoria came in 2009 and was also the first career Super Late Model triumph at Peoria for the Bloomington, Ill., driver, who was prolific in the track’s sportsman division in his younger days. … Six of 24 drivers — Devin Gilpin, Chad Finley, Richard Frost, Jared Bailey, Britan Godsey and Brayton Laster — who entered Tuesday’s opener at Brownstown are not entered at Peoria. … Thomas Hunziker of Bend, Ore., had to replace the transmission in his new Rocket Chassis during the day Wednesday after experiencing trouble with the piece Tuesday at Brownstown. … Peoria’s Allen Weisser had trouble during time trials, getting his No. 61 machine almost on its lid after hitting a hole and folding the nose under. The damage to the new car ended his night. ... Allen Murray broke a driveshaft after hitting the wall during qualifying. With Rick Eckert crewing for him, the team made repairs, and Murray managed to climb from 10th to fourth in the consolation race, but was still two spots shy of tranferring to the feature.
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Ryan Unzicker
Row 2: Brian Shirley, Tanner English
Row 3: Rich Bell, Paul Parker
Row 4: Jason Feger, Devin Moran
Row 5: Jefferey Ledford, Austin Simpson
Row 6: Kevin Weaver, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 7: Donny Walden, Joe Godsey
Row 8: Tim Lance Sr., Jake Little
Row 9: Ashton Winger, Bob Gardner
Row 10: Mitch McGrath, Rusty Griffaw
Row 11: Todd Bennett, Dean Carpenter
Finish (top two transfer): Ashton Winger, Bob Gardner, Jordan Bauer, Allen Murray, Todd Bennett, Myles Moos, Rusty Griffaw, Dean Carpenter, Graham Fate, Tim Lance Jr., Curtis Radke, Torin Mettille, Brayton Wallace, Greg Cantrell, Blaze Burwell, Brandon Carpenter.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Bob Gardner, Dean Carpenter
Row 2: Ashton Winger, Jordan Bauer
Row 3: Todd Bennett, Greg Cantrell
Row 4: Tim Lance Jr., Myles Moos
Row 5: Rusty Griffaw, Allen Murray
Row 6: Grahm Fate, Torin Mettille
Row 7: Brayton Wallace, Curtis Radke
Row 8: Brandon Carpenter, Blaze Burwell
Finish (top four transfer to consolation): Brayton Wallace, Curtis Radke, Brandon Carpenter, Blaze Burwell, Jeff Roth, Jake Miller, Russ Adams, David Marlow, Brandon Lance. DNS: Thomas Hunziker, Allen Weisser, Mitch McGrath.
(10 laps, top four transfer to consolation)
Row 1: Curtis Radke, Brayton Wallace
Row 2: Jeff Roth, Thomas Hunziker
Row 3: Brandon Lance, Brandon Carpenter
Row 4: Blaze Burwell, David Marlow
Row 5: Allen Weisser, Russ Adams
Row 6: Jake Miller, Mitch McGrath
Heat race results
(10 laps; top-four transfer)
First heat: Ryan Unzicker, Rich Bell, Jeffrey Ledford, Donny Walden, Bob Gardner, Todd Bennett, Rusty Griffaw, Curtis Radke, Brandon Lance. DNS: Allen Weisser.
Second heat: Brian Shirley, Jason Feger, Kevin Weaver, Tim Lance, Dean Carpenter, Greg Cantrell, Allen Murray, Brayton Wallace, Brandon Carpenter, Russ Adams.
Third heat: Tanner English, Paul Parker, Austin Simpson, Joe Godsey, Ashton Winger, Tim Lance Jr., Graham Fate, Jeff Roth, Jake Miller, Blaze Burwell.
Fourth heat: Bobby Pierce, Devin Moran, Billy Moyer Jr., Jake Little, Jordan Bauer, Myles Moos, Torin Mettille, Thomas Hunziker, David Marlow, Mitch McGrath.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps, top four transfer)
Row 1: Rich Bell, Jeffrey Ledford
Row 2: Ryan Unzicker, Donny Walden
Row 3: Todd Bennett, Bob Gardner
Row 4: Rusty Griffaw, Curtis Radke
Row 5: Brandon Lance, Allen Weisser
Row 1: Jason Feger, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Kevin Weaver, Dean Carpenter
Row 3: Tim Lance, Greg Cantrell
Row 4: Brandon Carpenter, Russ Adams
Row 5: Allen Murray, Brayton Wallace
Row 1: Tanner English, Paul Parker
Row 2: Austin Simpson, Joe Godsey
Row 3: Ashton Winger, Tim Lance Jr.
Row 4: Blaze Burwell, Jake Miller
Row 5: Jeff Roth, Graham Fate
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Bobby Pierce
Row 2: Mitch McGrath, Devin Moran
Row 3: Jordan Bauer, Myles Moos
Row 4: Jake Little, Thomas Hunziker
Row 5: David Marlow, Torin Mettille
Time trials (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Rich Bell (21B), Sheffield, Ill., 12.396
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 12.421
Jeffrey Ledford (18), Pontiac, Ill., 12.569
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 12.578
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 12.631
Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill., 12.760
Donny Walden (1w), Towanda, Ill., 12.838
Dean Carpenter (51), Coldwater, Miss., 12.879
Todd Bennett (T2), Peoria, Ill., 12.993
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 13.084
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 13.185
Greg Cantrell (01jr), Dekalb, Ill., 13.249
Rusty Griffaw (16), Festus, Mo., 13.295
Brandon Carpenter (51B), Coldwater, Miss., 13.360
Curtis Radke (61), Milford, Ill., 13.430
Russ Adams (74), Princeville, Ill., 13.565
Brandon Lance (248), Brimfield, Ill. , 13.704
Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, no time
Allen Weisser (61w), Peoria, Ill., no time
Brayton Wallace (B6), Peoria, Ill., no time
Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 12.576
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 12.635
Paul Parker (10), Kaukauna, Wis., 12.651
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 12.745
Austin Simpson (35), Bartonville, Ill., 12.785
Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 12.826
Joe Godsey (14G), Edinburgh, Ind., 12.904
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 13.001
Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga. , 13.059
Jordan Bauer (10J), St. Jacob, Ill., 13.105
Tim Lance Jr. (148), Brimfield, Ill., 13.177
Myles Moos (84), Lincoln, Ill., 13.178
Blaze Burwell (44), Mount Vernon, Ill., 13.202
Jake Little (38J), Springfield, Ill., 13.207
Jake Miller (28M), Mendota, Ill., 13.227
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 13.393
Jeff Roth (14R), Bentonville, Ark., 13.499
David Marlow (M14), Heyworth, Ill., 13.738
Graham Fate (1), Peoria, Ill., 13.774
Torin Mettille (116), Cullom, Ill., 15.597
3 p.m. - Pit gates open
4 p.m. - Grandstands open
5:30 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m. - On-track action begins
- Crate mod hot laps
- Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps/time trials
- Late Model time trials
- Crate mod heats
- Late Model heats (10 laps)
- Modified heats (8 laps)
- Crate mod consolation
- Late Model consolation (10 laps)
- Modified consolation (10 laps)
- Crate mods
- Late Models (40 laps)
- Modifieds (25 laps)