Three-time champ throws late slide job for the lead, extends points lead over English
Bobby Pierce knew the top would be there at the end – he’d driven it to DIRTcar Summer Nationals Victory Lane many times before. With just seven trips left around the Spoon River Speedway, he knew it was time to crack the whip and make a move for the lead.
Pierce wound it up on the lip and reeled-in leader Ryan Unzicker, who had led since the drop of the green. With one great run off the top in Turn 2 and a deep dive to the bottom in Turn 3, Pierce slid up in front of Unzicker and grabbed the lead. Five laps to go.
Unzicker came back at him on the bottom and returned the favor with a slide job of his own in Turns 1-2. Pierce crossed underneath him and took the lead back into Turn 3. This time, Unzicker was unable to get the speed on the bottom to challenge again, and Pierce drove off on the top to his sixth Hell Tour Feature win of the season.
“These guys make a great racetrack. It’s one of the best tracks in Illinois. It’s so fun, and tonight just showed how good of a racetrack it can be,” Pierce, of Oakwood, IL, said in Victory Lane.
But to get there, Pierce took his Pierce Platinum Race Car through several grooves getting by the three cars ahead of him earlier in the race. He started outside Row 2 and worked his way by Brian Shirley and Garrett Alberson by using the low and middle-to-high grooves.
A caution with 13 laps remaining put Brandon Sheppard to his outside for the restart. Sheppard, of New Berlin, IL, used the high side momentum to challenge Pierce for second and hung tough on the outside for two entire laps. But Pierce was too good on the bottom and finally slid up in front of the #B5 with just over 10 laps remaining.
From there on out, Pierce had one focus – catching Unzicker. Which he did with some top-side momentum of his own, and two clean sliders.
“I was trying some different lines. I couldn’t quite do the line Ryan [Unzicker] was doing, but we ended up finding a way around him that worked for me,” Pierce said.
His 33rd career Hell Tour victory came with his team being a man down. His father Bob, a two-time Summer Nationals champion himself, was away from the track Wednesday night recovering from a surgical procedure. But that didn’t stop Bobby and his team’s resiliency – or from calling dad on the phone for advice.
“I guess it works good that way,” Pierce said. “He can watch DIRTVision all night and kinda give us some pointers on what to do. I wore the telephone out. This is for sure a team effort, having these guys work their butts off.”
Unzicker held on for second, his best finish of the season thus far, while Sheppard completed the podium. Shirley, back in action after skipping Knox County on Tuesday, climbed back from a transmission swap before qualifying to finish fourth while Jason Feger rounded out the top-five.
The Summer Nationals Late Models are back in action Thursday night at the fifth-mile Macon Speedway for one of the most iconic events on the schedule – the 41st running of the Herald & Review 100. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (40 Laps) 1. 32-Bobby Pierce; 2. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 3. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 4. 3S-Brian Shirley; 5. 25-Jason Feger; 6. 81E-Tanner English; 7. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 8. 74-Mitch McGrath; 9. 15-Kolby Vandenbergh; 10. 12-Ashton Winger; 11. 11T-Trevor Gundaker; 12. 14G-Joe Godsey; 13. 4G-Bob Gardner; 14. 19X-Cody Bauer; 15. 14R-Jeff Roth; 16. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 17. 10J-Jordan Bauer; 18. 59-Garrett Alberson; 19. 2-Mike Chasteen Jr; 20. 14-Paul Kuper; 21. 18-Shannon Babb; 22. 48-Tim Lance