With the laps winding down and only one car ahead of him, Ashton Winger knew he needed to make a big-time move to take the lead. And fast.
A few car lengths ahead of him ran leader Drake Troutman, who by the halfway point appeared to be well on his way to a first career DIRTcar Summer Nationals Feature win with a lead of over nine seconds in traffic. A few caution flags in the second half of the race erased his gap and restacked the field, playing right into Winger’s hands as he took aim at Troutman in the final laps.
With nine-to-go, Winger threw his first slide job. Troutman denied him.
The very next corner, another slider from Winger. Troutman denied him.
Two laps after that, a third slide job from Winger. Troutman denied him.
Coming across the line to complete Lap 35, Troutman held the inside lane after crossing-over Winger’s last slider in Turn 4. Winger entered Turn 1 on the top as Troutman threw a slider of his own up in front of him, but Winger got the last laugh. He crossed-under Troutman one final time in Turn 2 and sped past him on the backstretch, sealing the pass, which proved to be the race-winning move as Winger crossed under the checkers to bag his second-straight Hell Tour Feature win.
After Victory Lane, a showing of respect for each other by both competitors summed up their hard battle and the clean-yet-competitive relationship they share on track.
“[Troutman’s] fast – he’s gonna win some races and it’s probably not too long before he does,” Winger, 23, of Senoia, GA, said.
“Racing with Ashton is always good, though,” Troutman, 18, of Hyndman, PA, said. “He’s a really good friend of mine, and we race hard together pretty much every night.”
Though the two finished first and second, they both started the 40-lapper from the fourth row. Troutman made his presence felt early, getting up on the top side and riding the cushion, going from seventh the lead in only nine laps and building up over a nine-second lead before a caution on Lap 24.
“They watered it up there, and honestly, it didn’t look like it was gonna be there, but I didn’t have much to lose starting where I was at,” Troutman said. “I figured I might as well go up there for a lap or so, and I felt it really plant. It just kinda worked out in our favor.”
Coming from eighth on the grid, Winger was much more patient and made gains on the top a bit later than did Troutman, moving into second after the Lap 24 restart.
“When I got to second, I actually got to sit behind Drake and see where I was maybe the same speed as him, or he was better than me, or I was better than him,” Winger said. “I actually started to pick the pace up a little bit and I felt like I was a little better than him in a couple areas.
“I just knew that if he messed up, I definitely needed to go in.”
He’d been the fastest car nearly the entire race, but Troutman knew that even with the laps winding down, he wasn’t out of the woods.
“I definitely knew [Winger] was gonna be there,” Troutman said. “I didn’t know if he was gonna be able to pull a slider on me.”
Though Winger was able to execute the sliders and win the battle in the end, Troutman was able to keep his head held high with a runner-up finish.
“I was trying to keep it from bending-up and just be smooth, nothing stupid happening and we could finish out a good night,” Troutman said. “All the stupid stuff we’ve had happen… P2 is pretty good, and we’ll take it.”
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals continues Week 3 action on Friday, June 30 at Paducah International Raceway in Paducah, KY. Tickets will be available at the gate; streaming available on DIRTVision.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 12-Ashton Winger; 2. 7-Drake Troutman; 3. 21J-Billy Moyer Jr; 4. 27M-Rodney Melvin; 5. 25-Jason Feger; 6. 21-Billy Moyer Sr; 7. 58-Tyler Clem; 8. 14M-Morgan Bagley; 9. 4G-Bob Gardner; 10. 94-Austin Rettig; 11. 99-Dylan Thompson; 12. 31AUS-Kye Blight; 13. 30-Mark Voigt; 14. 38-Thomas Hunziker; 15. 15-Clayton Stuckey; 16. 16-Rusty Griffaw; 17. AUS1-Brent Vosbergen; 18. 2-Tyler Stevens; 19. 7P-David Payne; 20. 4D-Doug Tye; 21. 23NZ-Mick Quin; 22. 11-Robby Moore