By Alli Collis
LINCOLN, Ill. (July 2) —Slipping ahead of race leader Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., on lap 24 of 40, third-starting Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., led the remaining distance for his third staight UMP DIRTcar Summernationals victory and a $5,000 payday at Lincoln Speedway.
“With about 15 to go, I started seeing some smoke come out of the left front,” Sheppard said. “I wasn’t really sure what to do. I just kept an eye on my oil pressure and I never totally lost oil pressure. The last lap, I started losing a lot more than what I had been. We’re probably going to have to change it, but the motor’s almost lapped out. We got real lucky. If it had been 50, we’d have been blown up and loading her up and going home. Luck’s been on our side.”
Starting outside the front row of Sunday’s feature, Bronson edged ahead of polesitter Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., to take an early lead. The pair battled side-by-side through the opening laps, with a yellow flag slowing the race on the third circuit when Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., slowed off the frontstretch.
Bronson held his lead on the restart, with Sheppard advancing to run in second with fewer than 10 laps complete. As Unzicker and Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., battled for third, the race leaders caught up with the rear of the field on lap 11.
Navigating lapped traffic, Sheppard began closing in on Bronson on lap 22. Two circuits later, Sheppard edged ahead of of the race leader in turns three and four, leading the remaining circuits for his 14th career Summernationals victory.
“We didn’t start on the front row tonight, so I had to work for it a little bit,” Sheppard said. “Bronson had a really good car there at the beginning. I was quite a bit too tight there at the beginning and then towards the end it started to rubber-up a little bit and I was a little bit tight then. But right there in the middle I got to rolling really good.”
Bronson finished runner-up, with Frank running third. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., rallied from the 14th starting spot to finish fourth, with Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, rounding out the top five.
“(Sheppard) was definitely a little better there at the end,” Bronson said. “I’ve got to thank him a lot. He’s been helping me all day. We’re getting a little bit better here. We’ve just got to put these finishes together. Our car’s been really fast.”
Dropping in with the Summernationals tour before heading out west with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series, Frank was pleased with his podium finish after fighting the setup on his car.
“We were way too tight to run up there,” Frank said. “Early on the car was pretty good. The longer we ran, the tighter it got. It got to the point where it wouldn’t even turn through the corners. I couldn’t even pass a couple of them lapped cars at the end. It started to take on a little bit of rubber up on the high side, so it got a
little harder to pass. But for a while there I thought we might be able to get up in there and race for the lead.”
Notes: Sheppard notched his 14th career Summernationals victory. He was also the winner of the 2015 and 2011 Hell Tour stops at the Illinois oval. … Each have of Sheppard’s three straight victories has come in a different state (Indiana, Missouri and Illinois). … The lone caution fell on lap three when Billy Moyer slipped off the frontstretch with rear-axle problems. … Fourth-place finisher Bobby Pierce won last year’s Hell Tour stop at Lincoln, which ran as a non-points event in August. … Lincoln hosted a Summernationals event for the 11th straight season.
FEATURE: 1. Brandon Sheppard; 2. Kyle Bronson 3. Chub Frank; 4. Bobby Pierce; 5. Tyler Erb; 6. Michael Kloos; 7. Ryan Unzicker; 8. Jason Feger; 9. Brian Shirley; 10. Brent Laron; 11. Shannon Babb; 12. Rusty Schlenk; 13. Billy Moyer Jr.; 14. Gordy Gundaker; 15. Bob Gardner; 16. Spencer Diercks; 17. Jordan Bauer; 18. Dustin Nobbe; 19. Paul Stubber; 20. Brent McKinnon; 21. Kolby Vandenbergh; 22. Billy Moyer.