MAPLE PARK, Ill. (June 25) — Brian Shirley may be hitting his stride and that could be trouble for the rest of his DIRTcar Summer Nationals foes. After a lackluster opening week, the four-time and defending series champion from Chatham, Ill., has finally found his footing during the second week of the grueling two-month long chase.
Leading every lap from the pole at Sycamore Speedway on Friday, Shirley won his second straight DIRTcar Summer Nationals race, surviving a late challenge from Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., for his second series win of the season and 35th of his career. His first series win at Sycamore was worth $10,000 and helped the reigning champion chip into the points lead of Pierce, who finished a half second behind.
Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., finished third, right where he started, putting together the most productive night of his tour effort thus far. Eighth-starting Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., improved four positions to finish fourth, while Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., slipped three spots from second to complete the top five.
It was the second straight feature that Shirley led from start to finish. But while he dominated Wednesday’s tour stop at La Salle (Ill.) Speedway, Friday’s win was a bit more challenging, in part because of Pierce’s relentless pursuit and in part because of a heavy track that made making consistent laps a bit tricky.
“It was a little bit of both,” said Shirley. “I felt like I couldn’t shake (Pierce) there. I got away a little bit and then he would catch back up, so I was just trying to find something to see if I could get some distance on him. You know the 32 is good for a reason and we're just lucky that we was able to stay ahead of him.”
Shirley repeatedly banged his right rear tire off the thick cushion in turns three and four, upsetting his Durham-powered Rocket Chassis while allowing Pierce to close in. Meanwhile, Pierce, who grabbed the second position from Winger on the lap-13 restart, had trouble of his own.
Just four laps after looking to the inside of Shirley in turn two, a big push sent Pierce’s car up the track, allowing Shirley to gain a bit of breathing room. Pierce wasted no time trekking the leader back down but was never in position to complete a pass.
After the opening week of the series failed to produce a victory with Shirley managing just two podium finishes — including a disqualification at Kankakee for failing to go straight to the scales post-race — Shirley’s second week couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Each of the second week’s venues are within a three-hour drive of Shirley’s shop, with Sunday’s race at Jacksonville less than an hour from home. The veteran driver realizes this is his best opportunity to make move in the tour standings.
“It's huge for my team and all my sponsors and (car owners) Bob and Lisa Cullen and my crew, just them, my wife, my dad, my kids …” said an emotional Shirley in victory lane. “Everybody, like, they just don't understand, you know, I'm going home tonight (and) I'm stopping and picking up one kid, going to get ‘em home. It’s just a lot of emotion, but we keep digging and maybe we'll get another win here or there.”
Notes: The race was slowed by three cautions, all in the first half of the 40-lapper. … The first caution waved on lap three when 13th-running Lyle Zankler of Rockford, Ill., got over the cushion and stopped in turn one. Joe Godsey pulled pit side during the lap-three yellow but returned to action. … The second yellow was on lap 18 when Sycamore’s T.J. Markham slowed on the front stretch. … The final caution came on the lap-18 restart, a result of Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., getting out shape in turn three, collecting Rich Bell, Titus Sneed, Doug Tye and Godsey in the process. … Seventeen of the 22 starters finished the race, with 10 completing 40 laps. … This was the seventh event of the tour’s 36-race slate and the fifth time the series has stopped at Sycamore. … There hasn’t been a repeat winner at Sycamore as Summer Nationals stalwarts Billy Moyer (2017), Shannon Babb (’18), Bobby Pierce (’19), Brandon Sheppard (’20) and now Shirley each have a tour win at the track located about an hour west of Chicago.
Preliminary notes and results
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Jason Feger
Row 2: Ashton Winger, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Tim Lance, Shannon Babb
Row 4: Tanner English, Ryan Unzicker
Row 5: Mike Mataragas, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 6: Mike Spatola, Mike Provenzano
Row 7: Mitch McGrath, Lyle Zanker
Row 8: Titus Sneed, Mark Voigt
Row 9: Joe Godsey, Rich Bell
Row 10: Brandon Lance, T.J. Markham
Row 11: Jeff Roth, Doug Tye
(10 laps; top two three transfer)
Finish: Mark Voigt, Joe Godsey, Rich Bell, Jake Miller, T.J. Markham, Jeff Roth, Doug Tye, Tim Lance Jr., Brandon Lance, Jeff Riddell. Scratch: Thomas Hunziker, Toby Kuntzelman, Greg Cantrell.
Heat race notes
Tim Lance Jr. had to be towed to the pit area in the first of three heat races after losing his left-rear wheel. … Bobby Pierce used the high side to move around Tanner English for second midway through the 10-lap prelim, but he couldn’t run down winner Ashton Winger. … Brian Shirley ran unchallenged in winning the second heat. … Rich Bell caused a lap-eight caution after contact with Ryan Unzicker while battling for third flattened Bell’s left-rear tire. … Jason Feger’s victory in heat three came after two lengthy red-flag periods. The first came when Greg Cantrell got into the back straightaway wall on lap five, and the second was for Toby Kuntzelman’s wild rollover wreck on lap eight. Both drivers appeared to be uninjured.
Heat race results
(10 laps; top five transfer)
First heat: Ashton Winger, Bobby Pierce, Tanner English, Billy Moyer Jr., Mitch McGrath, Mark Voigt, Joe Godsey, Jeff Roth, Thomas Hunziker, Tim Lance Jr.
Second heat: Brian Shirley, Tim Lance, Ryan Unzicker, Mike Spatola, Lyle Zanker, Jake Miller, Jeff Riddell, Doug Tye, Rich Bell.
Third heat: Jason Feger, Shannon Babb, Mike Mataragas, Mike Provenzano, Titus Sneed, T.J. Markham, Toby Kuntzelman, Greg Cantrell. Scratch: Brandon Lance.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top five transfer)
Row 1: Ashton Winger, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Mitch McGrath
Row 3: Tanner English, Mark Voigt
Row 4: Thomas Hunzicker, Tim Lance Jr.
Row 5: Joe Godsey, Jeff Roth
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Tim Lance
Row 2: Rich Bell, Lyle Zanker
Row 3: Ryan Unzicker, Mike Spatola
Row 4: Jeff Riddell, Jake Miller
Row 5: Doug Tye
Row 1: Jason Feger, Shannon Babb
Row 2: Mike Mataragas, Titus Sneed
Row 3: Greg Cantrell, Mike Provenzano
Row 4: T.J. Markham, Toby Kuntzelman
Row 5: Brandon Lance
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time (unofficial)
- Ashton Winger (12), Senoia, Ga., 13.740
- Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 13.823
- Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 13.863
- Billy Moyer Jr. (21JR), Batesville, Ark., 13.949
- Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 13.959
- Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 14.036
- Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.152
- Rich Bell (21B), Sheffield, Ill., 14.155
- Mike Mataragas (1M), Dekalb, Ill., 14.227
- Mitch McGrath (74), Waukesha, Wis., 14.228
- Lyle Zanker (9), Rockford, Ill., 14.310
- Titus Sneed (76), Justice, Ill., 14.311
- Tanner English (81), Benton, Ky., 14.319
- Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 14.343
- Greg Cantrell (01JR), Dekalb, Ill., 14.394
- Mark Voigt (30), Marine, Ill., 14.426
- Mike Spatola (89), Manattan, Ill., 14.439
- Mike Provenzano (M27), Marseilles, Ill., 14.472
- Thomas Hunziker (38), Bend, Org., 14.570
- Jeff Riddell (09), Steward, Ill., 14.624
- T.J. Markham (15), Sycamore, Ill., 14.662
- Tim Lance Jr. (148), Brimfield, Ill. 14.685
- Jake Miller (28M), Mendota, Ill., 14.738
- Toby Kuntzelman (65), Winnebago, Ill., 15.015
- Joe Godsey (14G), Edinburgh, Ind., 15.190
- Doug Tye (4D), Collinsville, Ill., 15.449
- Brandon Lance (248), Brimfield, Ill., 16.082
- Jeff Roth (14R), Bentonville, Ark., no time
Noon - Pits open
2:30 p.m. - Grandstands open
5:30 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6:00 p.m. - On-track action begins
- Super Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps/time trials (3 laps)
- Super Late Model time trials (2 laps)
- Crate Late Model hot laps
- Super Late Model heats (10 laps)
- Modified heats (8 laps)
- Super Late Model consolation (10 laps; if necessary)
- Modified consolation (10 laps)
- Crate Late Model heat races (8 laps)
- Vintage car heat races (8 laps)
Intermission/track prep (if needed)
- Super Late Model feature (40 laps)
- Modified feature (25 laps)
- Crate Late Model feature (20 laps)
- Vintage car feature (12 laps)