One night after his return to DIRTcar Summer Nationals Victory Lane, Brian Shirley backed it up with his second win-in-a-row Thursday night at Kankakee County Speedway.
Similar to his performance Wednesday night at Peoria, Shirley – the four-time Hell Tour champion from Chatham, IL – led all 40 circuits around the 1/3-mile oval to bag the $5,000 grand prize, his 40th DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Model Feature win, and expanded his lead in the Week #1 points standings.
After redrawing the outside pole for the Feature, Shirley wrestled the lead away from fellow Summer Nationals champion Jason Feger on the opening lap and soon created a comfortable gap on the field. Shortly after hitting lapped traffic at the tail of the field, Feger began to close in on Shirley, but a quick caution on Lap 12 cooled the intensity and relieved Shirley of his duties in traffic.
“The restarts actually calmed me down because lapped traffic was definitely gonna be nerve-wracking to be out there [with],” Shirley said. “Luckily, the cautions fell when they did and it worked out for us.”
Multiple additional caution periods dotted the second half of the race as Feger continued to track down Shirley, but the race’s start-and-stop nature only seemed to aid in Shirley’s efforts to keep the top spot.
For much of the race, Shirley was running-up the RPMs on the high side of the track, leaning hard on the cushion that laid against the outside wall.
“For us, it’s just where we needed to be,” Shirley said. “I felt like I hurt myself turning in and I hurt myself in the center. That’s the key to making the corner – you’ve gotta be able to turn in to turn off.
“Tonight, I was too tight. When I’d hit the brakes, I would push.”
Feger followed him on the high line as the race dipped down into the final 10 laps. Coming through Turns 3-4 on Lap 33, Shirley forcefully hit the dirt cushion with the right side of his car and made slight contact with the outside wall, cutting his momentum drastically. This opened the door for Feger behind him as he closed the gap instantly and then looked to his inside to pass for the lead.
However, before Feger was able to make the move, the caution was thrown yet again, allowing Shirley to keep the lead and restack the field.
“There was a couple times I definitely hit the cushion wrong and it almost cost me,” Shirley said. “Luckily the good Lord was looking after us tonight.”
Feger and a cast of hungry Illinois Late Model heroes behind him could not catch Shirley after the ensuing restart as he crossed the stripe – victorious for the second time in his Summer Nationals career at Kankakee.
Feger held on for the runner-up spot while Dennis Erb Jr, Shannon Babb and Kevin Weaver completed the top-five.
The Summer Nationals Late Models take on Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, IL, on Friday, June 16. Get a ticket at the gate or stream all the action live on DIRTVision.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 3S-Brian Shirley; 2. 25-Jason Feger; 3. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 4. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 5. B12-Kevin Weaver; 6. 4G-Bob Gardner; 7. T6-Tommy Sheppard Jr; 8. 58-Tyler Clem; 9. 174-Ethan Dotson; 10. 21B-Rich Bell; 11. 12-Ashton Winger; 12. 89-Mike Spatola; 13. 31AUS-Kye Blight; 14. 10S-Taylor Scheffler; 15. 130-Chase Osterhoff; 16. 10J-Jordan Bauer; 17. 4D-Doug Tye; 18. 26H-Daryn Klein; 19. 101-Forrest Trent; 20. 18-Shannon Babb; 21. 19X-Cody Bauer; 22. 9R-Curtis Roberts