LINCOLN, IL — It has been four weeks since the teams and drivers of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals and Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals first took the green at Peoria Speedway for the first event of the 2018 tour. Since that night there have been 10 different winners in 18 races across four states in the Summer Nationals and seven winners in 17 events for the Summit Modified Nationals. There have been first-time winners and winning streaks, last-lap passes and dominant performances, and all of it has happened in front of massive crowds of the greatest race fans on earth.
Looking ahead towards Champions Week let’s step back and reflect at the 2018 tour and the moments that brought us to where we are.
The tours began with Northern Kickoff Week, presented by U-Pic-A-Part, back on June 13 at Peoria Speedway. The first event saw veteran driver Billy Drake return to Summer Nationals Victory Lane for the first time since 2003. The week that followed saw Shannon Babb score a dominant three wins in a row and the points victory for Northern Kickoff Week. Not to be outdone, the legendary Billy Moyer picked up the week’s closing event at Plymouth, IN. The week set up Babb and Moyer for a provocative tour that could still see one of the two — or even both — score their 100th career Summer Nationals victory.
Week two was Legends Week, presented by DIRTonDIRT. The fist part of the week was heavily hampered by rain setting up a make-up race for Spoon River’s June 21 race on June 25. The first event not effected by rain was Tri-City Speedway on June 22. Ryan Unzicker picked up the $10,000-to-win event, earning his first tour win of 2018. Billy Moyer picked up the win at Fairbury Speedway after 2017 Tour Champion Bobby Pierce saw late-race cooling problems while leading. Shannon Babb would continue his strong 2018 campaign to pick up the remaining events at Tri-State Speedway and Spoon River, giving him his second weekly point victory.
Challenge Week, presented by Algaier Shocks and Midwest Speed Expo, opened with another rainout at Charleston Speedway. The remainder of the week saw three different winners in three nights. Brian Shirley picked up his first 2018 tour win at LaSalle Speedway, setting on his march towards the points lead going into Champions Week. During the DIRTcar Summer Nationals versus World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series Shoot-Out Weekend, Devin Moran picked up his first career Summer Nationals victory at Terre Haute (IN) followed by Brandon Sheppard’s return to Victory Lane at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55. The week’s finale at Lincoln Speedway (IL) will take place on July 9 after late-day thunderstorms ended the original Sunday evening event. Brian Shirley holds the weekly points lead going into the make-up event.
Independence Week, presented by FK Rod Ends, saw five winners in six nights — along with a brewing points battle going into Champions Week. Tanner English picked up the win at Clarksville Speedway (TN) after point leader Shannon Babb lost a tire with three laps remaining. Babb’s bad luck would plague the driver for the remainder of Independence Week as he would fall out while leading during many of the week’s events. This string of bad luck allowed Shirley to take the points lead by 51 points going into the final week, starting with his victory at Fayette County Speedway (IL) on July 4.
The week saw it’s first of two emotional victories on July 5 with Gordy Gundaker bringing home his first career tour win. Billy Moyer returned to Victory Lane at Farmer City on July 6 with his 99th career Summer Nationals victory. However, the highlight of the week was hometown hero Chad Zobrist’s win at Highland Speedway (IL) on July 7. It was Zobrist’s first career tour victory and the largest win of his career. Brian Shirley saw the checkered flag once more at Quincy Raceways, earning him the weekly points bonus and setting the stage for Champions Week.
Following the Lincoln Speedway make-up race on July 9, Champions Week, presented by VP Racing Fuels, will begin on July 10 at Shadyhill Speedway (IN). The week will see a trip to the North with two stops in Michigan at Thunderbird Raceway and I-96 before the two-night finale at Oakshade Raceway in Ohio. Fans should look for a tight points race between a charging Brian Shirley and Shannon Babb, who is looking for redemption after an Independence Week filled with bad luck and sub par finishes. We also have Shannon Babb and Billy Moyer sitting on the edge of the 100-win mark.
Champions Week begins July 10 at Shadyhill Speedway, Indiana. Visit thehelltour.com/schedule to view the entire 2018 tour schedule. Follow @Summernationals on Twitter and Facebook for updates during and between race seasons.