Shirley Wins Independence Day Event at Fayette County Speedway
BROWNSTOWN, IL — JULY 4, 2018 — One by one the challenges came. But with a fast car and a little help from Lady Luck, Brian Shirley systematically repelled them. Shirley, of Chatham, IL, won his second DIRTcar Summer Nationals feature of the season, but it wasn’t without a few tense moments.
Shirley started from the pole position and led 33 of 40 laps at Fayette County Speedway on Wednesday, winning by nearly a straightaway ahead of runner-up Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, IL. Fourth-starting Jason Feger of Bloomington, IL, improved one spot to finish third, while 12th-starting Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, MO, finished fourth. Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, IL, complete the top five after starting eighth.
Shirley had to defend the top spot from a handful of would-be challengers, chief among them Tyler Erb of New Waverly, TX, and Sheppard. Erb, making a guest appearance in the backup car of Jesup, Ga.’s Steven Roberts, started alongside Shirley on the front row, and it didn’t take long for Erb to get the high side rolling. He nosed ahead of Shirley to lead laps 14 and 15.
But as the leaders knifed their way through heavy lapped traffic, Erb and third-running Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, IL, were collected in a crash when they caught the slower car of West Virginia’s Freddie Carpenter. All three cars went to the rear of the field, with Babb retiring from the race before another lap could be completed. Shirley had just retaken the lead from Erb when the scrum happened behind him.
“I didn’t know what the right move was,” said Shirley. “I was just trying to bide my time. I was nervous because Turbo (Tyler Erb) has nothing to lose. All he can do was just go for the win. For me I just wanted to finish the race in a good position, so when we were sliding each other back I appreciate that there was a lot of respect there for the slide jobs. All in all, we’re just thankful to come out of here with the win.”
Shirley wasn’t quite in the clear just yet, however. The departure of Erb and Babb gave Sheppard a clear shot at the leader and the 2017 World of Outlaws champion took advantage. Sheppard grabbed the lead on a restart and paced the field for five circuits before Shirley finally powered back ahead on the high side.
“(Sheppard) tried to move up there right at the last minute and luckily we were fortunate that we were just far enough ahead to hold him at bay and have that high line come back to us,” said Shirley.
Sheppard, behind the wheel of his family-owned No. B5, knew he trusted the bottom groove a little too long.
“I knew the top’s usually the best place to be here,” Sheppard said, “but it was real dirty up there and my car really wasn’t as good as it needed to be up top and I was really good around the bottom, so I kinda stuck down there and was hoping that the top wouldn’t clean up like it did. It ended up cleaning up and getting real black. It was just better up there and I didn’t move up in time.
“Our car was really good. We took the lead, so no complaints. (I) just should’ve moved up sooner,” added Sheppard. “I knew we were pretty good on the bottom. It was hard to hit your marks ‘cause there were a lot of slick spots and my car was really tight. I got in a pretty good rhythm down there and I heard ‘em on my outside. It’s hard to see the signal guys when they’re in the infield here. It’s usually better when they’re on the outside. But the hot pit was in the infield and that’s where they had to go. I knew better. It’s my own fault, but just … go on to the next one.”
Feger had a perfect view of the action just in front of him. He said he would’ve been happy for it to have continued for a few more laps.
“I didn’t want to see that yellow because we were slicing and dicing with the lapped cars there and I think it was gonna be really good,” said Feger. “(My) car’s handling real good. We had a right rear tire going down. When we came in it was almost to the rim. I was really struggling there the last five or 10 laps, but the car (has been) handling good. If the driver can figure out how to qualify we might can win a race.”
Feature Finish: Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard, Jason Feger, Gordy Gundaker, Ryan Unzicker, Tim Manville, Frank Heckenast Jr, Rusty Schlenk, Dean Carpenter, Steven Roberts, Brian Diveley, Paul Stubber, Shannon Kuhn, Allen Weisser, Brent McKinnon, Chuck Hummer, Freddie Carpenter, Tyler Erb, Shannon Babb, Daryn Klein, Mike Hammerie, Tanner English
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals rolls on to Macon Speedway(IL) on July 5 for night 3 of Independence Week presented by FK Rod Ends. 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.