KANKAKEE, Ill. — On the DIRTcar Summer Nationals, it helps to have the racing gods on your side.
And that's where Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, found himself Thursday at Kankakee County Speedway, getting a timely caution to survive a challenge from polesitter Tanner English, then narrowly fighting off Ryan Unzicker's pressure in the final laps for a $5,000 victory.
Moran ended the two-race winning streak of series points leader Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., and tallied his second career series victory while taking the checkers a half-second ahead of Unzicker at the checkers.
"To be honest, I don't know if I should've won," Moran admitted in victory lane. "That caution came out right when Tanner got by me. I actually drove in too hard and got into him. That car was stuck up there (and drew a caution) but the racing gods or someone was looking out for us tonight.
"(The surface) started rubbering and I just kept moving down a little bit. I probably should've just went to the very bottom, because I didn't think anyone could've passed (on the outside). I was just so free when I went down there. But we got our first Summer Nationals win of the week, so that's pretty cool."
Unzicker, gunning for a victory after leading most of Wednesday's series event at Peoria (Ill.) Speedway, settled for second with Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., crossing the line third. Shirley, however, was disqualified for failing to report to the scales postrace, elevating Pierce to the third spot with Benton, Ky.'s English in fourth. Former Kankakee series winner Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., ended up fifth.
Moran got the jump on English from outside the front row and led by two seconds after just five laps, but as the frontrunners entered traffic English closed in and began showing strength on the high side.
Moran's moves in lapped traffic kept English at bay, but the battle tightened as the race entered the second half of the race, and English's backstretch charge on the outside edged his car slightly ahead of Moran on lap 27 heading into the turn three.
The cars of the frontrunners were hung up with Shirley slipping underneath both of them, but Mike Provenzano had gotten into the turn-four wall, drawing a caution that erased Shirley's move and put Moran back in front for the restart.
English got the worst of the ensuing restart, slipping back to fifth as Shirley grabbed the second spot, but it was Shirley losing a spot on a lap-29 restart as the fifth-starting Unzicker began pressuring Moran heavily in the low groove.
Unzicker was just under Moran's left-rear quarterpanel in virtually every corner the rest of the way, pulling fully alongside exiting turn four on the 35th lap with the frontrunners crossing under the flagstand at a near dead heat with Moran inches ahead.
Unzicker took a few more shots at Moran, but the race-long leader held on in the final laps.
"Really, we didn't do a ton to the car," Moran said. "This Tye Twarog Racing Longhorn was pretty good all night. You know, (we set) fast time and won our heat. We just did a little bit of adjustment. They tried working the track, but I think it was just a little too dry from the start. At least they tried. We'll definitely take it and move on to tomorrow."
Unzicker wanted the victory, but he made sure to avoid contact in chasing Moran in the final laps.
"Any time you're up underneath a guy like that, you're like, 'I've got it' ... you're always licking your chops just to get a tire under him," Unzicker said. "We were able to get a run and get up underneath of him. I could've dirtied him. I'm not going to lie, I'm hungry for a win. I could've pushed up in there and got him out of the groove. But at the end of the day, I don't race like that. Never have, never will. And I wouldn't want my guys to have to redo the right front (and body) tomorrow and make us work extra hard. We'll take (second) and we'll run."
Notes: Moran's previous series victory came June 29, 2018, at Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in an event co-sanctioned with the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series. ... Besides the lap-27 caution for Mike Provenzano, the only other yellow fell on lap 29 when Glen Thompson's car came to a halt at the top of the frontstretch. ... Thirteen drivers completed 40 laps. ... Taylor Scheffler of Waukesha, Wis., ran fourth in the first half of the race but was shuffled back at halfway and retired a few laps later. ... Austin McCarty of Bradley, Ill., won the night's Crate Late Model feature, the first of his career.
Polesitter Tanner English of Benton, Ky., is chasing his second career DIRTcar Summer Nationals wins. His previous victory came July 3, 2018 at Clarksville Speedway, a bullring English considers one of his home tracks. … Outside front row starter Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, is chasing his second career Summer Nationals win also. Moran’s previous win was June 29, 2018 at Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in an event co-sanctioned by the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series. … Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill., has five career Summer Nationals wins, including three last season. Heckenast, who is making his first series appearance this season, won series races at Kankakee in 2020 and 2015. … Oakwood, Ill.’s Bobby Pierce winner of the first two races this season, starts 10th, the first time he hasn’t started on the front row. … Former Kankakee winners in the starting lineup include Heckenast, Pierce, Shirley and Mike Spatola. … Five provisionals were given out, three by DIRTcar (Tim Lance, Rusty Griffaw and Joe Godsey) and two by the track (Glen Thompson and Torin Mettille), bring the starting field to 23 cars. … Dean Carpenter had motor trouble in his heat and scratched for the night. … Tim Lance Jr. missed his heat when he failed to get his tires marked. … Mitch McGrath didn’t make the feature after losing his left front wheel on the warmup lap of his heat. McGrath finished fifth in the consolation race, two spots short of transferring. … With Shanon Rush, Oval Track Dirt Product Manager for Hoosier Tire on hand to address drivers, there was much talk during Thursday’s drivers’ meeting about a seemingly unavoidable shortage of Hoosier Tires. The series is already limiting competitors to five tires per event and may soon go to a four-tire limit while also exploring other compound options if necessary to keep the tour moving along.
Row 1: Tanner English, Devin Moran
Row 2: Frank Heckenast Jr., Brian Shirley
Row 3: Ryan Unzicker, Taylor Scheffler
Row 4: Kevin Weaver, Ashton Winger
Row 5: Jason Feger, Bobby Pierce
Row 6: Mike Spatola, Paul Parker
Row 7: Cody Bauer, Jeffrey Ledford
Row 8: Bob Gardner, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 9: Allen Murray, Mike Provenzano
Row 10: Tim Lance, Rusty Grifffaw
Row 11: Joe Godsey, Glen Thompson
Row 12: Torin Mettille
Finish (top three transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Allen Murray, Mike Provenzano, Rusty Griffaw, Mitch McGrath, Glen Thompson, Torin Mettille, Brandon Lance, Jeff Roth, Tim Lance Jr., Brandon Carpenter, Blaze Burwell, Tim Lance, Joe Godsey. DNS: Thomas Hunziker.
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Billy Moyer Jr., Blaze Burwell
Row 2: Allen Murray, Mike Provenzano
Row 3: Thomas Hunziker, Tim Lance
Row 4: Rusty Griffaw, Dean Carpenter
Row 5: Brandon Carpenter, Joe Godsey
Row 6: Mitch McGrath, Torin Mettille
Row 7: Glen Thompson, Tim Lance Jr.
Row 8: Jeff Roth, Brandon Lance
Heat race results
(10 laps; top-five transfer)
First heat: Devin Moran, Brian Shirley, Kevin Weaver, Bobby Pierce, Cody Bauer, Billy Moyer Jr., Mike Provenzano, Rusty Griffaw, Joe Godsey, Glen Thompson. DNS: Brandon Lance.
Second heat: Tanner English, Ryan Unzicker, Ashton Winger, Mike Spatola, Jeffrey Ledford, Blaze Burwell, Thomas Hunziker. DNS: Mitch McGrath, Tim Lance Jr.
Third heat: Frank Heckenast Jr., Taylor Scheffler, Jason Feger, Paul Parker, Bob Gardner, Allen Murray, Tim Lance, Brandon Carpenter, Torin Mettille, Jeff Roth.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps, top five transfer)
Row 1: Devin Moran, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Kevin Weaver, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Cody Bauer, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 4: Rusty Griffaw, Joe Godsey
Row 5: Mike Provenzano, Glen Thompson
Row 6: Brandon Lance
Row 1: Tanner English, Ashton Winger
Row 2: Ryan Unzicker, Mike Spatola
Row 3: Mitch McGrath, Blaze Burwell
Row 4: Dean Carpenter, Jeffrey Ledford
Row 5: Tim Lance Jr., Thomas Hunziker
Row 1: Frank Heckenast Jr., Taylor Scheffler
Row 2: Jason Feger, Paul Parker
Row 3: Bob Gardner, Tim Lance
Row 4: Allen Murray, Torin Mettille
Row 5: Jeff Roth, Brandon Carpenter
Time trial results (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 14.238
Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 14.463
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 14.537
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 14.537
Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., 14.578
Taylor Scheffler (10s), Waukesha, Wis., 14.679
Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill., 14.697
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 14.719
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 14.758
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.773
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 14.782
Paul Parker (10), Kaukauna, Wis., 14.820
Cody Bauer (19x), Farwell, Mich., 14.868
Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 14.897
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 14.932
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.048
Blaze Burwell (44), Mount Vernon, Ill., 15.179
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 15.218
Rusty Griffaw (16), Festus, Mo., 15.229
Dean Carpenter (51), Coldwater, Miss., 15.231
Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, 15.232
Joe Godsey (14G), Edinburgh, Ind., 15.307
Jeffrey Ledford (18), Pontiac, Ill., 15.311
Torin Mettille (116), Cullom, Ill., 15.312
Mike Provenzano (27), Marseilles, Ill., 15.331
Tim Lance Jr. (148), Brimfield, Ill., 15.385
Jeff Roth (14R), Bentonville, Ark., 15.418
Glen Thompson (14), Buckingham, Ill., 15.584
Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Ore., 15.699
Brandon Carpenter (51B), Coldwater, Miss., 15.880
Brandon Lance (248), Brimfield, Ill., 18.166
3 p.m. - Pits cleared
4:30 p.m. - Pits gates open
5:30 p.m. - Grandstands open
6 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6:30 p.m. - On-track action begins
- Crate Late Model hot laps
- Super Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps/time trials (3 laps)
- Super Late Model time trials
- Stock car hot laps
- Crate Late Model heats
- Super Late Model heats (10 laps)
- Modified heats (8 laps)
- Stock car heats
- Super Late Model C-main (10 laps; if necessary)
- Modified consolation (10 laps)
- Super Late Model B-main (12 laps; if necessary)
- Crate Late Model B-main (if necessary)
- Stock car B-main (if necessary)
- Crate Late Model feature
- Super Late Model feature (40 laps)
- Modified feature (25 laps)
- Stock car feature