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Daily Dirt 06/19/2024 17:53:25

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May 10
Spoon River Speedway,
Banner, IL
Sanction: Castrol FloRacing Night in America (Illinois Speedweek) - $23,023
Information provided by: Robert Holman, series and track reports (last updated May 16, 11:15 am)
Erb Jr. thrills in Spoon's Speedweek opener
Illinois Speedweek
  1. Dennis Erb Jr.
  2. Bobby Pierce
  3. Jonathan Davenport
  4. Brian Shirley
  5. Tanner English
  6. Hudson O'Neal
  7. Ryan Gustin
  8. Brandon Sheppard
  9. Gordy Gundaker
  10. Ashton Winger
  11. Tim McCreadie
  12. Mike Marlar
  13. Chase Junghans
  14. Ross Robinson
  15. Garrett Smith
  16. Devin Moran
  17. Mike Harrison
  18. Drake Troutman
  19. Tyler Erb
  20. Kolby Vandenbergh
  21. Shannon Babb
  22. Garrett Alberson
presented by
Josh James/joshjamesartwork.com
Jonathan Davenport (left) congratulates winner Dennis Erb Jr. (right).
What won the race: Leveraging patience along the bottom, seventh-starting Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., overtook race-long leader Bobby Pierce with five laps remaining to win Wednesday's Illinois Speedweek opener at Spoon River Speedway. Erb's second career Castrol FloRacing Night in America victory paid $23,023.
Key notes: The Illinois Speedweek opener marked Erb Jr.'s third career win at Spoon River, adding to Aug. 12, 2005 (Northern Allstars) and June 23, 2016 (Summer Nationals) triumphs. ... Two cautions slowed the 50-lap feature that lasted 18 minutes. ... Round two of Illinois Speedweek continues Thursday at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway. ... Watch live on FloRacing.
On the move: Tanner English of Benton, Ky., started 12th and finished fifth.
Winner's sponsors: Erb’s Rocket Chassis is powered by a Clements Racing Engine and sponsored J.R. McBride Leasing, McBride Mack, VoMac Truck Sales and Service, Ideal Ready Mix, Tool’s Auto Sales, Keyser Mfg., Integra Racing Shocks, Collins Signs, Hoosier Racing Tire, VP Racing Fuels and Performance Rod & Custom.
Points chase: After Spoon River: 1. Mike Marlar (219); 2. Bobby Pierce (207); 3. Jonathan Davenport (201); 4. Tim McCreadie (198); 5. Hudson O'Neal (195); 6. Brandon Sheppard (192); 7. Tanner English (189); 8. Devin Moran (171); 9. Ricky Thornton Jr. (161); 10. Dennis Erb Jr. (159).
Current weather: Clear, 73°F
Car count: 48
Fast qualifier: Jonathan Davenport
Time: 12.887 seconds
Polesitter: Bobby Pierce
Heat race winners: Bobby Pierce, Mike Marlar, Jonathan Davenport, Garrett Alberson
Consolation race winners: Chase Junghans, Tim McCreadie
Next series race: May 16, Marshalltown Speedway (Marshalltown, IA) $23,023
Editor's note: Updates winner’s sponsor list.
From staff reports

BANNER, Ill. — As race-long leader Bobby Pierce searched for the fastest way around Spoon River Speedway in the closing laps of Wednesday’s Illinois Speedweek opener, Dennis Erb Jr. didn’t have to think twice.

The quarter-mile oval that kicked off the four-race miniseries played right into Pierce’s high-flying ways for much of the 50-lap feature, but in the end, it was Erb’s steadiness around the bottom from the seventh-starting spot that led to the big check. Leveraging patience around the very bottom of the Banner, Ill., bullring, Erb upended the pole-starting Pierce in the final stages of the Castrol FloRacing Night in America main event for a thrilling $23,023 victory.

While Pierce led 44 of the first 45 laps, it was Erb Jr. that led the final five laps to reap his first career national touring victory at Spoon River. It’s Erb’s third career Spoon River victory, adding to triumphs with the Northern Allstars Late Model Series on Aug. 12, 2005 and DIRTcar Summer Nationals on June 23, 2016.

“I’ve always liked these longer races. Usually the longer it is, the better my car gets,” an often-succinct Erb Jr. said in victory lane. “A little bit of moisture down there on the bottom, we took advantage of that tonight.”

The turning point Wednesday came right inside 10 laps to go, as Pierce’s 1.5-second lead and momentum around the top of the quarter-mile vanished when navigating lapped traffic. Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., ran second for much of the main event before Erb quickly came onto the scene at the end.

After dispatching Shirley for second with 13 laps left, Erb caught the backpedaling Pierce five laps later, and pulled alongside the Oakwood, Ill., superstar at the line on lap 43. Erb narrowly led 44 by 0.091 of a second before Pierce countered around the top to barely lead lap 45.

“I knew he was going to go back up there,” Erb said of Pierce. “I was watching him, and he really couldn’t hook the bottom like I could. That was my shot there. Once I got out in front, I thought I could him off, use enough of the racetrack and momentum to keep things going.”

Erb finished Pierce off on lap 46, when the slower car of Ross Robinson stymied Pierce’s momentum. As Pierce let off the gas to avoid a collision, Erb rolled the bottom, and then to victory. Pierce ended up finishing 2.122 seconds behind.

“Yeah, I mean, (the lap 46 hiccup in traffic) definitely didn’t help me. But the lapped cars, you just have to work with them and try to pass them,” Pierce said. “I didn’t think he was going to move up that much. You want them to hold their lane, but it is what it is. Dennis was so quick on that bottom.

“Even if that didn’t happen (the lapped car holdup), I don’t know … Dennis was so quick down there. I’m glad we finished the race. Second is really good; it’s not really a heartbreak. It’s good for the points for this deal and everything. Got to keep plugging away at it. We have three more races. A lot of races coming up where we’re really good; tracks we’re really good at. Looking forward to it.”

Pierce added that his tire selection wasn’t conducive to success around the bottom of Spoon River on Wednesday. He also admitted he’s not all that comfortable tiptoeing the inside of the quarter-mile to begin with.

“I’m never really great on the bottom here. I don’t know what it is. A few guys like Erb and Unzicker … they just know how to run (the bottom here). … Spoon was a little more tacky tonight than what we’ve seen in the past. Every time it’s different. Once again, we’re happy with it.”

Davenport, meanwhile, rounded out the podium in third. The Blairsville, Ga., driver started second and ran no worse than fourth all night. While he was in striking in distance of Pierce most of the race, he could never generate enough long run speed to make a move at the lead.

Last year’s top-ranked Dirt Late Model driver got up to speed quickly following the race’s two restarts on laps four and 11 — going from third to second each time — but couldn’t conjure up anything special thereafter.

“I just never gave up. We couldn’t steer very good to the bottom there,” Davenport said. “I was a little harder on the right-front tire than these other two cars. That might’ve helped a little bit, I don’t know. We just couldn’t get through the holes very good in three and four on the bottom. I just had to stay committed to the top. Luckily it stayed there just long enough.

“Once everybody started to leave the top there and started moving back to the bottom, the top got crummy again,” Davenport added. “It actually helped. There was a lot of traction in the crumbs. We started running through them and got back to them. I was hoping to sneak back up on them there, but Bobby moved back up about the same time I got there. Dennis was just really good on the bottom like he always is.”

Notes: Pole-starting Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., led laps 1-43 and 45 before Dennis Erb Jr. cleared the race-long leader for good with five laps to go. ... Wednesday marked Erb Jr.'s third career win at Spoon River, adding to Aug. 12, 2005 (Northern Allstars) and June 23, 2016 (Summer Nationals) triumphs. ... Last year's Castrol winner at Spoon River, Brandon Sheppard, started 16th and finished eighth. ... April 18’s Castrol victor at Eldora Speedway, Mike Marlar, was the last car on the lead lap in 12th. … Ricky Thornton Jr., fresh off a $15,000 Lucas Oil victory last weekend at Florence Speedway, failed to qualify for the main event … Among others failing to make the feature lineup: Brandon Overton, Max Blair, Billy Moyer, Spencer Hughes, Kyle Beard, Ryan Unzicker, Daulton Wilson, Jason Feger, Mike Spatola, Stormy Scott and Dustin Sorenson. ... Tim McCreadie, driving a second Kevin Rumley-owned Longhorn Chassis entry for the first two Illinois Speedweek events, started 18th and finished 11th on Wednesday ... Pierce, Marlar, Jonathan Davenport, and Garrett Alberson won heats. ... Two cautions slowed the 50-lap feature that lasted 18 minutes.

Feature lineup

Row 1: Pierce, Davenport
Row 2: Marlar, Alberson
Row 3: Shirley, O'Neal
Row 4: D. Erb Jr., Harrison
Row 5: Troutman, Vandenbergh
Row 6: Moran, English
Row 7: T. Erb, G. Gundaker
Row 8: Gustin, Sheppard
Row 9: Junghans, McCreadie
Row 10: Smith, Babb
Row 11: Robinson, Winger
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