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Daily Dirt 03/23/2023 19:07:00

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August 6
Merritt Speedway,
Lake City, MI
Sanction: Allstar Performance Challenge Series (Wood Tic 100) - $34,000
Information provided by: Kyle McFadden and staff reports (last updated August 7, 9:58 pm)
Spangler scores Merritt's $34,000 Wood Tic
Wood Tic 100
  1. Eric Spangler
  2. Devin Moran
  3. Ryan Unzicker
  4. Chad Finley
  5. Greg Gokey
  6. Travis Stemler
  7. Cody Bauer
  8. Dave Baker
  9. Brandon Thirlby
  10. Rich Bell
  11. Jeep Van Wormer
  12. Dona Marcoullier
  13. Rich Dawson
  14. Colin Shipley
  15. Ryan Lanphierd
  16. Andrew Terrill
  17. Ryan Missler
  18. Logan Nickerson
  19. David Hilliker
  20. Steve Fairbanks
  21. Chase Burda
  22. David Mielke
  23. B.J. Gregory
  24. Chad Foster
  25. Rylee Knoll
  26. Logan Love
  27. Brian Speelman
  28. Rusty Schlenk
presented by
Randy Ellen/randyellen.smugmug.com
Eric Spangler celebrates his career-high $34,000 victory.
What won the race: After getting passed for the lead on the final lap in last year's event, 12th-starting hometown driver Eric Spangler sought redemption at Merritt Speedway on Saturday, topping the Allstar Performance Challenge Series field and winning the 34th annual Wood Tic Dan Salay Memorial, collecting $34,000.
Key notes: Spangler utilized the high-line at Merritt, taking the lead for good on lap 28 and pacing the final 47 circuits. ... After leading the first 27 laps from the outside front-row, Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, settled for the runner-up position, 1.597 seconds back. ... Twentieth-starting Greg Gokey of Buckland, Mich., advanced 15 positions and finished fifth. ... Saturday's feature, the 34th annual Wood Tic, an Allstar Performance Challenge Series event was slowed by six cautions and lasted 37 minutes, with 14 competitors completing all 75 laps. ... The Dan Salay Memorial honored the former racer and crew chief of Brandon Thirlby. Salay passed away in 2017 after a short bout with Cancer. Salay spent seven seasons working with Thirlby and his younger brother Collin as a truck driver and mechanic.
On the move: After slowing while leading his heat race on Friday and utilizing a provisional starting position after failing to transfer out of his consolation race, Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., started 22nd and finished third.
Winner's sponsors: Spangler’s MasterSbilt Race Car is sponsored by Spangler Heating & Cooling, Forbes Construction, Senior Insurance Solutions, Fisk Trucking, Atkins Electric, Taco Boy, A&L Trading Post and Babb Ford.
Points chase: Before Merritt: 1. Eric Spangler (457); 2. Dona Marcoullier (452); 3. Travis Stemler (421); 4. Greg Gokey (415); 5. Brandon Thirlby (405).
Current weather: Clear, 75°F
Car count: 50
Fast qualifier: Chad Finley
Time: 13.965 seconds
Polesitter: Jeep Van Wormer
Heat race winners: Rich Bell, Chad Finley, Cody Bauer, Travis Stemler, Ryan Lanphierd, Devin Moran
Consolation race winners: B.J. Gregory, Logan Nickerson
Provisional starters: Rich Dawson, Ryan Unzicker, Colin Shipley, Dave Baker, Rylee Knoll, Steve Fairbanks
Next series race: September 2, Tri-City Motor Speedway (Auburn, MI) $4,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
Kyle McFadden
DirtonDirt.com staff reporter

LAKE CITY, Mich. (Aug 6) — Last year, Eric Spangler made all the right moves in the Wood Tic Memorial at Merritt Speedway minus the literal homestretch, when Rusty Schlenk upended what would have otherwise been a dominant victory by the veteran Spangler in a photo finish. 

Sometimes it’s better to play the part of hunter rather than run frantic as the hunted. On Saturday in the 34th running of the Wood Tic event, Spangler demonstrated just that and in turn starred as the night’s main character, as the veteran surged to the $34,000 prize from the 12th-starting spot in a race he left no doubt.

Spangler stormed by DirtonDirt.com's eighth-ranked driver in Devin Moran on lap 28 and never looked back in the 75-lap main event he won by 1.597 seconds. Moran, who led the first 27 laps, finished second while 22nd-starting Ryan Unzicker placed third.

“I can tell you one thing, the MasterSbilt was extremely well tonight,” Spangler said. “We touched on a few things a few weeks go here. We ran really good and lost it on the last lap a couple times, but not tonight.”

Spangler’s won his share of five-figure paydays before, but nothing of comparison to Saturday’s rich reward. Doing so after a lackluster start to the event — qualifying sixth of nine cars in his group and a 16th-to-sixth drive in Friday’s semifeature — added an extra sense of reward.

Beating the event’s top two invaders in Moran and Unzicker to win the prize on Michigan’s home soil amplified the feat, too.

“This is the biggest payday I’ve ever had. There’s a great field of cars here for this weekend,” Spangler said. “We qualified terrible. Started sixth in our heat and finished sixth. Then we moved up in the (semifeature) and still had to start 12th in this thing. The car was fine. We had 30s (tire compound) on all four corners. I saw a few guys with 40s on, but mostly everyone had 30s on all four corners. Everybody knew the track was going to get prepped before we went out there. It was right on the schedule. I can’t say enough about our crew tonight.”

Nobody seriously threatened Spangler once he raced past Moran off turn four on lap 28. Spangler attributes the unshakable drive to victory to his team’s attentiveness, extolling that  his “car was just perfect.”

“We had all our T’s crossed and our I's dotted,” Spangler said. “I think we got her done well.” 

The first thing Moran thinks of, however, was tire choice. Spangler went with a softer compound as opposed to Moran, who didn’t antiquate track officials to thoroughly water the racing surface moments before showtime. Still, Moran thought he was a runner-up car.

“He had a little bit difference tire choice then what we did,” Moran said. “First and (Unzicker) and both did. Just went out on the track and it was super black. Then they soaked it. It’s just one of them deals. He was better than us anyways. I felt like I couldn’t steer very good, then I was super free on exit. Just the way it goes."

Of the six cautions throughout a feature that spanned 37 minutes, Moran’s best shot to overtake Spangler was on the restart with 18 laps to go. Spangler appeared to fire off slowly, which allowed Moran to draw alongside the eventual winner barreling into turn one. Spangler, as he did all race, aligned his No. 27 machine to the top side and took off.

As for Moran, since the start was jumbled, he thought if he passed Spangler for the lead that the restart would at the very least get flagged back.

Not many other doors opened for Moran or anyone else to enter the winning conversation. Unzicker, on the other hand, salvaged a decent payday in third after needing a provisional just to start the main event.

Unzicker led his heat race Friday until breaking an oil pump four laps into the 10-lap heat that sidelined the rest of his preliminary night. The El Paso, Ill., driver only wished for one thing, and that was to at least have one shot at the lead on Saturday, which never materialized because he started so deep in the field.

“That’s the thing. We were really good in the beginning, throughout the whole race up until 20 to go, it started thinning out,” Unzicker said. “I think if we could have started up there, I think we could have been challenging for the lead. No doubt, 100 percent. We had a lot of speed there through lap 10 through probably 50 or 60, and that’s where we made a lot of our ground up.

“Just like any race, late in the race, it thins out a little bit. It gets harder to pass. But I’m happy to get up to third. I’m glad they let me in for fast-time provisional. It was a good weekend for us to come out here and finish third. I hate to see what happened in the heat race because I would have liked to start up front.”

Notes: Twentieth-starting Greg Gokey of Buckland, Mich., advanced 15 positions and finished fifth. ... After winning the Wood Tic event in 2020, Travis Stemler of Ionia, Mich., advanced eight positions and finished sixth. ... After starting 24th, Dave Baker of Grand Rapids, Mich., advanced 16 positions and finished eighth. ... After making contact with Ryan Unzicker while racing inside the top-five on lap 55, Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Mich., was sent to the back and recovered to finish ninth. ... Six-time Wood Tic event winner Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., had nowhere to go when Unzicker spun and made heavy contact, relegating him to finish 12th. ... Polesitter Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., failed to lead a lap and jumped the cushion in turn one on lap 44, dropping him to finish 11th. ... Defending Wood Tic event winner, Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, broke a distributor belt on his car during pace laps and was unable to start the race, relegating him to finish 28th. ... Saturday's feature, the 34th annual Wood Tic, an Allstar Performance Challenge Series event was slowed by six cautions and lasted 37 minutes, with 14 competitors completing all 75 laps. … The Dan Salay Memorial honored the former racer and crew chief of Brandon Thirlby. Salay passed away in 2017 after a short bout with Cancer. Salay spent seven seasons working with Thirlby and his younger brother Collin as a truck driver and mechanic.

Feature lineup

(75 laps)

Row 1: Jeep Van Wormer, Devin Moran
Row 2: Cody Bauer, Chad Finley
Row 3: Rich Bell, Rusty Schlenk
Row 4: David Mielke, Dona Marcoullier
Row 5: Ryan Missler, Brandon Thirlby
Row 6: Brian Speelman, Eric Spangler
Row 7: Chad Foster., Travis Stemler
Row 8: Ryan Lanphierd, David Hilliker
Row 9: B.J. Gregory, Logan Nickerson
Row 10: Chase Burda, Greg Gokey
Row 11: Rich Dawson, Ryan Unzicker
Row 12: Colin Shipley, Dave Baker
Row 13: Rylee Knoll, Steve Fairbanks
Row 14: Andrew Terrill, Logan Love

Consolation results

(12 laps; top two transfer)

First consolation finish: B.J. Gregory, Chase Burda, Rod Carroll, Steve Fairbanks, Logan Love, Rylee Knoll, Derek Passenier, D.J. Hayes, Kyle Cole, Matthew Chapman, Rod Laney, Josh Hendershott, Randy Holder, Bob Timmer, Chad Hunt, Torrey Ahrens, Joe Pomeroy.

Second consolation finish: Logan Nickerson, Greg Gokey, Andrew Terrill, Colin Shipley, Ryan Unzicker, Dave Baker, Brenden Smith, Brad Eitniear, Steve Nieuwenhuis, Rich Ruff, Rich Dawson, Jim Billett, Rick Gokee Jr., Kevin Juusola, Andrew Reaume, Mike Staszak, Mike Vandermark Jr.

Semifeatures recap

Jeep Van Wormer and Devin Moran each earned preliminary victories at Merritt Speedway on Friday, securing front-row starting positions for Saturday's 75-lap, $34,000-to-win 34th annual Wood Tic Dan Salay Memorial. ... Van Wormer utilized the outside line and took the lead on lap 18, pacing the final eight circuits in the odd semifeature race, winning by 0.520 seconds over Cody Bauer. ... Bauer of Farwell, Mich., led laps 12 through 17, before eventually giving way to Van Wormer when he got held-up by lapped traffic. ... Polesitter Rich Bell of Sheffield, Ill., led the first 11 laps before hopping the cushion in turn four and fading to finish third. ... Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, took advantage of a late-race restart and executed a perfect slide job for the lead in turn one, followed by a cross-over move in turn three on the last lap, beating Chad Finley to the line by 0.118 seconds. ... Finley of Lansing, Mich., led the first 24 laps from the pole before hitting a rut in turn three, allowing Moran to slip underneath him exiting turn four and edging him at the line in a photo finish. ... Defending race event winner Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, traded positions with Dona Marcoullier of Houghton Lake, Mich., on the last lap, as they finished third and fourth in the even semifeature race. … Rich Dawson of Lowell, Ind., caused the lap-23 caution which erased Finley's lead and ultimately allowed Moran the opporunity to make the winning move. Dawson is guaranteed a starting position in Saturday's feature, after winning Thursday's $2,000 tuneup race.

Semifeature results

(25 laps; top eight transfer)

First semifeature: Jeep Van Wormer, Cody Bauer, Rich Bell, David Mielke, Ryan Missler, Brian Speelman, Chad Foster Sr., Ryan Lanphierd, Chase Burda, Matthew Chapman, B.J. Gregory, Rod Carroll, Rod Laney, Rylee Knoll, Logan Love, Bob Timmer, Steve Fairbanks, Josh Hendershott, Joe Pomeroy, D.J. Hayes, Chad Hunt.

Second semifeature: Devin Moran, Chad Finley, Rusty Schlenk, Dona Marcoullier, Brandon Thirlby, Eric Spangler, Travis Stemler, David Hilliker, Logan Nickerson, Greg Gokey, Dave Baker, Andrew Terrill, Mike Vandermark Jr., Brad Eitniear, Brenden Smith, Rich Ruff, Jim Billett, Rich Dawson, Andrew Reaume, Rick Gokee Jr., Colin Shipley.

Semifeature lineups

(25 laps; top eight transfer)

First semifeature
Row 1: Rich Bell, Cody Bauer
Row 2: Ryan Lanphierd, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 3: Steve Fairbanks, David Mielke
Row 4: Ryan Missler, Bob Timmer
Row 5: Joe Pomeroy, B.J. Gregory
Row 6: Rod Carroll, Chad Foster
Row 7: Brian Speelman, Josh Hendershott
Row 8: Matthew Chapman, Chase Burda
Row 9: Rod Laney, D.J. Hayes
Row 10: Rylee Knoll, Chad Hunt
Row 11: Logan Love
Second semifeature
Row 1: Chad Finley, Travis Stemler
Row 2: Devin Moran, Andrew Reaume
Row 3: Rusty Schlenk, Greg Gokey
Row 4: Brandon Thirlby, Rich Dawson
Row 5: Dona Marcoullier, Andrew Terrill
Row 6: Dave Baker, David Hilliker
Row 7: Logan Nickerson, Mike Vandermark Jr.
Row 8: Colin Shipley, Eric Spangler
Row 9: Rick Gokee Jr., Brenden Smith
Row 10: Brad Eitniear, Jim Billett
Row 11: Rich Ruff

Time trials

First group
Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, time
1. Rich Bell (21B), Sheffield, Ill., 14.037
2. Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 14.104
3. B.J. Gregory (56), Swanton, Ohio, 14.115
4. Ryan Missler (50), Bellevue, Ohio, 14.138
5. Chase Burda (18), Columbiaville, Mich., 14.390
6. Rylee Knoll (07), Lake, Mich., 14.408
7. Brian Speelman (22s), Chatham, Ontario, 14.425
8. Kevin Juusola (22j), Muskegon, Mich., 14.783
9. Steve Nieuwenhuis (73N), Manton, Mich., 15.195
Second group
1. Chad Finley *(42), St Johns, Mich., 13.965
2. Brandon Thirlby (m14), Traverse City, Mich., 14.057
3. Andrew Reaume (88), Blenheim, Ontario, 14.064
4. Andrew Terrill (4), Sanford, Mich., 14.080
5. Logan Nickerson (21N), Vestaburg, Mich., 14.120
6. Eric Spangler (27), Lake City, Mich., 14.212
7. Torrey Ahrens (76), Harbor Beach, Mich., 14.593
8. Brad Eitniear (22), Wauseon, Ohio, 14.926
9. Mike Staszak (16), Kawkawlin, Mich., 15.115
Third group
1. Steve Fairbanks (51), Twin Lake, Mich., 14.308,
2. Cody Bauer (19x), Farwell, Mich., 14.386,
3. Rod Laney (75), Kawkawlin, Mich., 14.737,
4. Randy Holder (A44), Anniston, Ala., 14.811,
5. Josh Hendershott (06), Houghton Lake, Mich., 14.868,
6. Bob Timmer (33T), McBain, Mich., 14.945,
7. Rod Carroll (R44), Anniston, Ala., 15.070,
8. Chad Hunt (44), Manton, Mich., 16.977,
Fourth group
1. Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 14.018,
2. Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio, 14.262
3. Rich Dawson (80), Lowell, Ind., 14.351
4. Travis Stemler (4s), Ionia, Mich., 14.426
5. Dave Baker (15), Grand Rapids, Mich., 14.565
6. Mike Vandermark Jr. (41), Cedar Springs, Mich., 14.815
7. Jim Billett (25), McBain, Mich., 14.849
8. Rick Gokee Jr. (31G), Owosso, Mich., 14.931
Fifth group
1. Ryan Lanphierd (11x), Midland, Mich., 14.180
2. David Mielke (33), Gladwin, Mich., 14.370
3. Joe Pomeroy (24P), Cass City, Mich., 14.405
4. Derek Passenier (971) , Muskegon, Mich., 14.590
5. D.J. Hayes (393), Adier, Ala., 14.703
6. Matthew Chapman (9m), Adrian, Mich., 14.955
7. Chad Foster (24), McBain, Mich., 15.067
8. Logan Love (7L), Vestaburg, Mich., 15.067
Sixth group
1. Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 14.183
2. Greg Gokey (50), Buckley, Mich., 14.272
3. Dona Marcoullier (6m), Houghton Lake, Mich., 14.357
4. Colin Shipley (44s), Weston, Ohio, 14.460
5. David Hilliker (21), Midland, Mich., 14.540
6. Brenden Smith (17ss), Dade City, FL, 14.760
7. Rich Ruff (R4), Adrian, Mich., 15.070
8. Kyle Cole (32), Ludington, Mich., 15.214

Feature lineup

Row 1: Van Wormer, Moran
Row 2: Bauer, Finley
Row 3: Bell, Schlenk
Row 4: Mielke, Marcoullier
Row 5: Missler, Thirlby
Row 6: Speelman, Spangler
Row 7: Foster, Stemler
Row 8: Lanphierd, Hilliker
Row 9: Gregory, Nickerson
Row 10: Burda, Gokey
Row 11: Dawson, Unzicker
Row 12: Shipley, Baker
Row 13: Knoll, Fairbanks
Row 14: Terrill, Love
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