Two visits to Oakshade Raceway for Ashton Winger, two Feature wins.
The 23-year-old from Senoia, GA, led the final 36 laps of the 25th annual Birthday Race Saturday night, bagging the $10,000 check, his sixth DIRTcar Summer Nationals Feature win of the season and 12th of his career – tying him with Brian Birkhofer for 15th on the all-time Hell Tour Feature wins list.
Winger was also victorious in the marquee event during his first Summer Nationals venture in 2021. With his second win, he joins Shannon Babb (2004, 2006, 2011) and Matt Miller (2008, 2013, 2014) as the only three multi-time winners in main event history.
“It’s cool to come here, cool to see the crowd packed every time I come here – it’s somewhere I enjoy coming,” Winger said.
Starting fifth on the grid, Winger stayed patient in the opening laps, watching a battle for the lead unfold between Ryan Unzicker and Rusty Schlenk. In that time, he found the top side to his liking, but not without a little clue from his competitors.
“Rusty actually showed it to me,” Winger said. “He didn’t go to the top in Turn 1 I don’t think, but he was the first one to go in 3 and when he went up there, I just kept telling myself that if I had an opportunity, I was definitely gonna try to strike first there.”
And strike he did, zooming around the top side of Ryan Unzicker out of Turn 4 to take the lead on Lap 15.
“Rusty actually gave me the top and I was able to keep my speed up enough off of Turn 1 and have enough of a run off of 2 getting into 3 to clear him,” Winger said. “I was able to stay out there long enough for it to clean-up for me to attack and keep my speed up.”
From that point forth, it was all Winger out front. Though Unzicker and Schlenk tried to keep pace with Winger, they were unable to survive through the end of the race. Unzicker slowed to a stop after emitting a puff of smoke on Lap 31, taking a push back to the pits. Schlenk was running second with only 15 laps left when he pulled off the track suddenly under caution and did not return for the ensuing restart.
After a few more cautions in the second half of the race, Colin Shipley and Brian Ruhlman took control of the other two podium spots and stayed there as Winger crossed the finish line a near three seconds ahead of the field.
The 38th edition of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals comes to a close with the final stop of the Hell Tour Sunday, July 16, in the tour’s debut at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, OH. Tickets will be on sale at the gate; streaming available at DIRTVision.com.
Feature (50 Laps): 1. 12-Ashton Winger; 2. 44S-Colin Shipley; 3. 49-Brian Ruhlman; 4. 5M-Ryan Markham; 5. 75-Dusty Moore; 6. 31AUS-Kye Blight; 7. 27-Eric Spangler; 8. 1N-Casey Noonan; 9. 45-Jamie Grochowski; 10. 91-Rusty Schlenk; 11. 51S-Devin Shiels; 12. 8-Rob Anderzack; 13. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 14. 63-Terry Rushlow; 15. 69-Brandon Thirlby; 16. 71DS-Drew Smith; 17. 50-Ryan Missler; 18. 23-Brad Wade; 19. 57-Steve Kester; 20. 4G-Bob Gardner; 21. 71-Rusty Smith; 22. 56-BJ Gregory; 23. 19M-Carter Murday; 24. P3-Jeff Robertson