DAVENPORT, Iowa — Unlike the last time he showed up to Davenport Speedway, basically everything went Dennis Erb Jr.’s way Wednesday at the quarter-mile oval
The Carpentersville, Ill., veteran faced little resistance on his way to the $23,023 victory on Castrol FloRacing Night in America thanks to his knack for rolling the bottom groove to perfection.
Last August, Erb wrecked out of the World of Outlaws feature at the track while Tanner English stormed to victory that brought the series title race to fewer than 100 points entering the season's home stretch.
Of course, all turned out OK in the end for Erb, who captured his first WoO title last year. As the spring season ramps up, Erb’s appeared to have raised the bar a little more this year, as Wednesday marked his second Castrol Series victory in eight days.
“We’re just back where we need to be right now,” Erb said. “It’s good to have these races close to home, a place that we run at a lot. Our car’s just been working really good. We’ve had some good runs here; off a little bit a couple nights. All in all, I think our car is right back in shape.”
Additionally, it’s now just the third time in Erb’s career that he's won two races worth at least $20,000 in a single season. Erb accomplished the feat last year in winning the Castrol Series event at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway’s (worth $22,022) and with the World of Outlaws at Federated Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. (worth $20,000). He also fulfilled the accomplishment in 2016 in the $100,000 Dream at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway and $20,000 National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway.
On Wednesday, Erb led 30 of 50 laps and topped a red-hot Hudson O’Neal by 1.145 seconds as early leader Mason Zeigler (20 laps led) faded to finish eighth.
“It looks good for the summer months, and I think we’ll be right up in there,” Erb added.
Chalk Hill’s, Pa. Zeigler, finding instant success with a new Rocket Chassis, sprung to the lead from the outset looking strong around Davenport’s top side. Mike Marlar actually developed as Ziegler’s first challenger on lap 14, which lasted only for a brief moment. Marlar, riding directly behind Zeigler transitioning to lap 15, ran out of room barreling through turn one, thus thwarting his race car into the runoff area and effectively dooming his race.
Marlar went from 0.116 of a second behind Zeigler to 21st — more than five seconds behind — in that unfortunate turn of events. All told, Zeigler led the opening 18 laps, but was quickly met by Erb in a side-by-side battle for the lead that lasted from laps 15 to 21. Erb edged Zeigler by 0.047 of a second to lead 19 before Zeigler countered to lead laps 20 and 21 by 0.254 and 0.020 of a second.
But Zeigler, perhaps running too hard, too soon, couldn’t keep up with Erb, who in a four lap span snatched the lead and built a 1.7-second cushion by lap 25. Erb at one point mounted a 2.7-second lead, which O’Neal trimmed to as little as 0.764 with three laps to go.
Erb, however, only focused on biding his time amid slower traffic and hitting his marks on the bottom.
“I was kind of pacing myself, not trying to get to lapped traffic early; to get real tight so I can keep my speed up without having to back down a little bit,” Erb said. “I was starting to worry if someone would try that outside. Doing my own thing right there, trying to keep the car underneath, and listen if anyone was coming. It all worked out.”
O’Neal tried everything he could to win his third straight Castrol Series feature and would-be eighth victory of the season, but he too was no match for Erb around the bottom. He’ll accept the result as it extends his Castrol Series lead to 33 points over Bobby Pierce.
“That bottom was just so good. I tried the middle. I tried the top a little bit,” O’Neal said. “I didn’t really get up there for a long time. I figured as much as I tried it, it wasn’t very good. I didn’t figure running third or fourth was as good as second. Yeah, Dennis did a great job. He got out front early. It paid to be the winning move at the end of the race. We’re happy with it. We’ll take anything we’re standing out here on this front stretch. It’s a really good night.”
Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., started to the inside of Erb in the second row and couldn’t replicate his eventual race-winning pace. Pierce did finish third, which is a valuable points night considering he’s not far behind O’Neal in the series championship race.
“Erb snookered us on the bottom there. He’s really good at doing that,” Pierce said. “All in all, the tires weren’t really all the different. … The track was alright tonight. They missed it a little bit. We all miss it from time to time. Next time we come back, I’m sure they’ll be a little more lip up there so we can race a little better. A really good night, consistent like you said. We’re happy with i. We’ll move on to these World of Outlaws shows we got in the Northeast and hopefully we’ll be consistent with that because I’m trying to gain some points with that deal.”
Notes: Dennis Erb Jr.’s third career Castrol Series win ties Bobby Pierce, Jonathan Davenport and Hudson O’Neal for most all-time through the tour’s three-year history. … Wednesday’s win was also the third of Erb’s 2023 season, adding to May 10’s Castrol victory at Spoon River Speedway in Banner, Ill., and March 10’s Tuckasaee Toilet Bowl Classic triumph at Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway, worth $3,000. … Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., set a track record in qualifying with his lap of 13.321 seconds and ran as high as second in the 50-lap main event before a lap-15 incident with leader Mason Zeigler spiraled him down the leaderboard; Marlar finished 19th and was the lone caution of the evening. … Among those that failed to qualify: Boom Briggs, Daulton Wilson, Garrett Alberson, Ross Robinson, and Tyler Erb. … Marlar, Pierce, Erb and Zeigler won heats. … The feature lasted 15 minutes, with 15 cars completing 50 laps.