PARK CITY, Kan. — With one of the biggest World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series paydays of the season on the line, Dennis Erb Jr. returned to form Saturday at 81 Speedway. The defending series champion stormed past Ryan Gustin on the 22nd lap and held off a hard-charging Nick Hoffman to win the $30,000 Wichita Late Model Showdown.
“To get out here and win again is a really good feeling,” said the Carpentersville, Ill., driver whose previous series victory came 364 days earlier at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. “Things haven’t been going well this year. The car’s been good, but we’ve been caught up in some things. To get back here and get a win really feels good.”
Hoffman, of Mooresville, N.C., finished 0.982 of a second behind at the checkers while Tanner English of Benton, Ky., finished third. Gustin, of Marshalltown, Iowa, settled for fourth while Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., a $4,000 semifeature winner on Friday, rounded out the top five. Polesitter and early leader Kyle Bronson retired on lap 24 with a broken rear end.
At the outset, Bronson led for six laps, but after a caution for a slowing Dustin Walker, Gustin took over on the restart and pulled away from the field while the sixth-starting Hoffman and seventh-starting Erb headed for the front.
Hoffman closed on Gustin before slipping up on the 20th lap, allowed Erb to sneak past for the second spot. Erb pressured Gustin in traffic and found the daylight he needed on the bottom, diving under Gustin and taking the lead down the backstretch on the 22nd lap.
From there, Erb held off a challenge from Hoffman and was cruising to victory until a caution for Chase Junghans flew on the final lap, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Hoffman tried to go around Erb in turn two, but Erb pulled away down the backstretch and held on for his 14th career WoO victory.
Erb said he took a patient approach despite only needing 22 laps to move from seventh to the lead.
“The car was running really good, and I was trying to pace myself and watch what them guys were doing,” Erb said. “I was able to get underneath them and get a clean track, and everything was really good there until that last lap. That caution at the end got me a little nervous. Luckily, everything fired off good, and we were able to hold them off.”
Hoffman earned his fourth straight top-five finish and and 10th consecutive top-10 finish.
“No one remembers who runs second,” Hoffman said. “But we were really good, and I feel like we were keeping pace with Gustin. But obviously, Dennis just slipped by me. We missed the bottom one time, and he never misses the bottom.
“I tried the middle for quite a bit of time, and with like 10 to go, I went and blitzed the top and almost wadded her up. So, I thought I just better cut my losses here and run second.”
Hoffman’s runner-up finish broke a three-way tie for second in points between himself, Bobby Pierce, and Bronson. The driver of the Tye Twarog Racing entry moved within 16 points of tour leader Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., who finished a lap down in 14th.
English went to third from fifth on the race's final restart, taking advantage of a battle between Gustin and Pierce.
“Gustin went in there and missed the bottom, and Bobby went underneath him in the next corner and got a little tight,” English said. “Both of them missed the bottom then, and I got a really good run off and just snuck up underneath Bobby. Then I got a run on Gustin on the backstretch, and it all worked out perfectly. I needed a restart earlier. ... I felt like I was faster with them but couldn’t do anything with them. It just didn’t fall my way.”
Notes: Ethan Dotson of Bakersfield, Calif., finished ninth in his World of Outlaws debut. ... David Breazeale advanced five positions and finished 10th. ... Brandon Sheppard’s WoO title chase took a hit when electrical issues sidelined him 11 laps into the main event; the New Berlin, Ill., driver encountered similar issues when his car randomly shut off Friday on the drive back to the pits from victory lane: “I think this is an extension what we thought we fixed last night,” Sheppard said. … Saturday's feature, the second of a seven-race stretch in nine days that continues Sunday at Off Road Speedway in Norfolk, Neb., was slowed by three cautions and lasted 33 minutes, with 13 drivers completing 61 laps.
Row 1: Kyle Bronson, Ryan Gustin
Row 2: Tanner English, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Brian Shirley, Nick Hoffman
Row 4: Dennis Erb Jr., Chris Madden
Row 5: Johnny Scott, Cade Dillard
Row 6: Ethan Dotson, Shane Clanton
Row 7: Brandon Sheppard, Dustin Sorensen
Row 8: David Breazeale, Gordy Gundaker
Row 9: Kip Hughes, Daniel Hilsabeck
Row 10: Chase Junghans, Dusty Leonard
Row 11: Jesse Sobbing, Delbert Smith
Row 12: Brent Larson, Todd Cooney
Row 13: Dustin Walker
Consolation race results
(10 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Kip Hughes, Chase Junghans, Jesse Sobbing, Tad Pospisil, Brent Larson, Dustin Bolster, Chris Kratzer, Blair Nothdurft. Scratched: Colby Moore, Bob Bills.
Second consolation: Daniel Hilsabeck, Dusty Leonard, Delbert Smith, Todd Cooney, Scott Crigler, Dustin Walker, Tyler Smith, TeeJay Janousek, Damian Patocka, Braxton Berry, Jacob Magee, Rayce McCord.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Kyle Bronson, Chris Madden, Johnny Scott, Brandon Sheppard, Kip Hughes, Jesse Sobbing, Dustin Bolster, Chris Kratzer, Colby Moore, Bob Bills.
Second heat: Ryan Gustin, Brian Shirley, Ethan Dotson, David Breazeale, Chase Junghans, Blair Nothdurft, Tad Pospisil, Brent Larson. Scratched: Damian Patocka.
Third heat: Bobby Pierce, Nick Hoffman, Cade Dillard, Dustin Sorensen, Daniel Hilsabeck, Jacob Magee, Delbert Smith, Dustin Walker, Braxton Berry, Rayce McCord.
Fourth heat: Tanner English, Dennis Erb Jr., Shane Clanton, Gordy Gundaker, Todd Cooney, Dusty Leonard, Scott Crigler, TeeJay Janousek, Tyler Smith.
(All times local)
4 p.m.: Pits open
5 p.m.: Grandstands open
6:30 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
6:30 p.m.: On-track activity
- Super Late Model hot laps
- Modified hot laps
- Mini stock hot laps
- Super Late Model heat races (8 laps)
- Modified heat races
- Mini stock heat races
- Super Late Model consolation (10 laps)
- Modified consolation
- Super Late Models (60 laps)
- Mini stocks