Photo By Brendon Bauman
Babb Holds Off Shirley for Spoon River Speedway Victory
BANNER, IL — If rubbin’ is racing, Spoon River Speedway fans certainly saw plenty of racing in the final eight laps of Monday’s DIRTcar Summer Nationals main event.
Series points leader Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, IL, turned back a stiff challenge from Brian Shirley on a late restart to capture his tour-leading fifth victory of the season and 97th of his career with a $5,000 payday at the high-banked 3/8-mile oval.
Babb kept the polesitting Shirley winless on the tour as the Chatham, IL, driver finished 0.406 seconds behind at the checkers in what was essentially a two-car race. Tyler Erb of New Waverly, TX, was a distant third with Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, IL, and Chase Junghans of Manhattan, KS., rounding out the top five.
Afterwards, Babb and Shirley chalked the tight battle up to hard racing, but there were clearly a few bruised feelings when Shirley and Babb’s crew had a heated discussion about the outcome in the middle of the pits.
“I felt him get into me coming off (turn) two and I thought maybe he got in a push and got into me, no big deal,” Babb said. “But he stayed into me on the front straightaway … he put the squeeze on me pretty tough, more than I would’ve liked. It was good hard racing. We had a good finish and we’re happy to get out of here with a win.”
Shirley labeled the eight-lap duel “two guys trying to race hard for the lead” after he roared back into contention on the lap-32 restart of the 40-lapper.
“We’re trying to win every race we compete in. Babb’s a hard-nosed racer, I’m a hard-nosed racer, I’m going to give it to him as much as he can give it to me,” Shirley said. “He went in there and bumped me to take the lead, so I felt like I could lean on him a little bit there when, obviously, we were trying to take the lead back.
And lean on him he did, especially on lap 37 when the frontrunners crossed under the flagstand in a near dead-heat. Babb inched back ahead over the final three laps to turn back Shirley’s charge.
Shirley, running a higher line with Babb in the middle of the track, led the first eight laps before Babb went by on the frontstretch to take command on the ninth lap. From there, Babb pulled out to a comfortable lead and had a cushion of three lapped cars on Shirley when he put Billy Moyer a lap down on lap 27. A lap-32 caution bunched the field and set up the late-race duel.
Babb questioned Shirley’s assertion that he made contact with his lap-nine pass.
“I didn’t think I had a problem getting by him. He messed down there in (turns) three and four like two or three laps in a row,” Babb said. “I got under him and drove in beside him going down the frontstraightaway. I turned in (to turn) one. I don’t know. I ran around the bottom and passed him, didn’t I?”
Babb never saw Shirley again until the late-race duel, but Babb said he had plenty left to fight off his challenger.
“I believe we were the best car,” Babb said. “I mean, my (car) was really good. Even at the end, I didn’t have to run that hard. We were good.”
Shirley won’t argue with that after watching Babb win for the fifth time in nine series races.
“Babb’s found something that’s really stepped his game up, and I don’t feel like we’re slow by any means,” said Shirley, whose fast time at Spoon River was his fifth of the tour. “Out there when I was leading, I just needed to change my line a little bit, and obviously you could see, once I was able to change my line, we could run with Babb. You can’t take nothing away from Shannon Babb. He’s a helluva race car driver. We’re just going to battle hard and we’ll race tooth and nail and see what goes on.”
Feature Finish: Shanoon Babb, Brian Shirley, Frank Heckenast Jr., Chase Junghans, Bobby Pierce, Billy Drake, Jason Feger, Kolby Vandenbergh, Gordy Gundaker, Brian Diveley, Billy Moyer, Bob Gardner, Rusty Schlenk, Cole Swibold, Timothy Culp, Jose Parga, Ruse Adams, A.J. May, Myles Moos, Nick Hoffman, Allen Weisser, Chuck Hummer
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals wiil head to LaSalle Speedway on June 28 for the first event of Challenge Week presented by Algaier Shocks and Midwest Speed Expo. See the complete schedule at the helltour.com/schedule. Follow @SummerNationals on Twitter or Facebook for updates during and between race seasons. The DIRTcar Late Models will be joined by the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds as the Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals runs parallel to the DIRTcar Summer Nationals. Information on the Modifieds can be found at modifiednationals.com.