SPRING VALLEY, Minn. (Sept. 2) — Bobby Pierce’s return to victory lane after a brief two-race respite was a bit more difficult than it might have looked.
That became clear when 26-year-old star from Oakwood, Ill., drifted his car to a stop in turn four on his cool-down lap after capturing Saturday night’s 50-lap Labor Day Duel at Deer Creek Speedway. He took off his helmet, slithered out of his seat to sit on the left-side window, and signaled to World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series officials that he needed a push to the scales in the pit area outside the first corner.
Pierce’s Longhorn Chassis was without brakes. It was a problem that he had to overcome to lead all but the caution-free race’s first lap and fend off a late-race challenge from Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., to claim the $20,000 top prize by 0.508 of a second over his fellow Land of Lincoln driver.
Dustin Sorensen of Rochester, Minn., who outgunned Pierce at the initial green flag to lead lap one, finished third in the MB Customs house car. Sixth-starter Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., reached fourth on lap 21 and finished there in his second outing piloting a new Longhorn car and Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa, improved two spots to complete the top five in his Rocket machine.
Pierce appeared to be in control for most of the distance en route to his series-leading 11th victory of 2023, but he spent the late stages dealing with brake trouble that threatened to cost him his second checkered flag this season at the 3/8-mile oval.
“There towards the very end, it was probably like 16, 15 laps to go, I lost brakes completely and I had no brakes at all,” said Pierce, who earned a $50,000 prize for winning July 8’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned NAPA Gopher 50 at Deer Creek. “It’s super tough to drive these cars with no brakes because you’re on ‘em constantly around the whole racetrack, especially when it’s like that.
“It was tough. I was throwing the car in there (the turns), trying to use the gas pedal, just anything I could do. I got really lucky that (the surface) took some rubber at the very end because I wouldn’t have been able to keep ‘er (running) on the top like that. I would’ve ended up out of the ballpark like (Shane) Clanton the last time (when the Georgia cleared the turn-three wall in a Gopher 50 preliminary feature).”
Before his car’s brakes stopped working, Pierce, who started from the pole position, was able to slice through lapped traffic and turn back a few brief bids from Sheppard.
“I wanted to keep a good distance on Brandon,” Pierce said. “He was pretty quick. And just like the last time we were here, he was quick in that (Kevin Rumley-owned) 5 car — the other 5 car, the black one — so I wanted to get the lead and get going.”
Pierce largely stuck to the extreme outside of the track for more than half the A-main, often throwing sparks up as he grazed the concrete off the corners. But when Sheppard nosed underneath the pacesetter exiting turn two on lap 42, Pierce made a sudden shift to the inside lane that would carry him to victory.
Sheppard, 30, stayed close to Pierce through the final circuits — and Pierce certainly knew he was there.
“Yeah, because my dad was going nuts on the backstretch,” Pierce said of his crew chief father Bob. “He was, like, throwing his arms up in the air, like, ‘What are you doing? Slow down.’ And I couldn’t … I had no brakes. So I did the best I could and somehow we held on.”
Sheppard, who overtook Sorensen for second on lap five and only relinquished the spot once over the remaining distance (lap 39 when Sorensen snuck ahead at the start-finish line), wasn’t able to beat Pierce to the rubber on the inside of the track.
“Bobby got the lead early like I kind of figured he would, and I was trying to keep pace with him and move around and figure out where the best line was,” said Sheppard, who was bidding for his third straight WoO victory after going back-to-back with a $30,000 score on Aug. 26 at Davenport (Iowa) Speedway and a $20,000 success on Friday at Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wis. “We got to lapped traffic and he was sliding them guys and getting ahead of them pretty quick there so I was having to try and keep up, and then Dustin was showing me a nose on the bottom, the middle-bottom.
“At some point when we were in lapped traffic I started feeling it streaking up (with rubber) a little bit on the bottom, so I just kind of moved down … and Bobby turned down right at the right time there.”
Pierce’s triumph was his sixth in nine WoO starts since the beginning of August. It also pushed his overall 2023 win total to 26 and his earnings for the season to roughly $750,000.
“I gotta give a huge shout out to this team,” said Pierce, who leads the WoO standings by 138 points — over the tied Sheppard and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C. — with nine races remaining on the schedule. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity through the year, especially a lot of these World of Outlaws nights, and somehow we manage to still finish up front a lot of nights. So thanks to them guys for their hard work.
“I’m still in shock how the year’s went so far,” he added. “It’s been my best year by far really. But we stay motivated, we treat every day like it’s a new day. I wanna win ‘em all, I get greedy sometimes, but it’s been an awesome year.”
The 22-year-old Sorensen enjoyed one of the best runs of his young career in Super Late Model competition, sticking with the pacesetters throughout the race to finish a WoO career-best third.
“It was a blast,” said Sorensen, who started second. “We changed a couple things here a couple weeks ago and this car’s been bad-fast since then. I can’t thank the Mars guys (MB Customs’s Jimmy and Chris Mars) enough and Bill Schlieper at Pro Power for giving me a great race car that’s competitive with these guys. Brandon and Bobby have been two of the best all year long so I was having a blast just racing there with ‘em.”
There was one moment when Sorensen thought he might be able to steal the race in dramatic fashion, but his hopes of an upset at his home track were dashed when he bobbled in turn one on lap 44 while running the outside with Pierce and Sheppard tucked low.
“With like six, seven to go they both moved down and I was still running the top, and I was like, ‘I might have a chance to win this,’” Sorensen said. “But then I hit a hole down here (in turn one) and lost a bunch of ground and then I just moved down with them.”
Notes: Pierce’s 15th career WoO victory served as a birthday present for his girlfriend Abby Foster, who turned 27 on Saturday. “I don’t think I’ve ever won a race on Abby’s birthday so I’m glad to get that win for her,” Pierce said of Foster, who didn’t make the trip to the race. … Pierce is planning to enter Sunday’s $10,000-to-win Wiener Nationals at Moberly (Mo.). Motorsports Park before returning home to prepare for the World 100 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. … Missing from the weekend’s WoO action was rookie contender Johnny Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., who remained sore in the wake of an Aug. 25 accident at Davenport Speedway that forced him to skip the next night’s finale of the Quad Cities 150. His twin brother, Stormy, competed in the WoO doubleheader, finishing 14th at Mississippi Thunder and 11th at Deer Creek. … The event marked the WoO tour’s first visit to Deer Creek since July 6, 2019, when Brandon Sheppard was victorious. The series ran at least one race at the track every from 2005-19.