Winger finishes top-10 after flip in Qualifying, Pierce 19th-to-ninth in provisional start
It was only a matter of time before the reigning DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion Brian Shirley scored his first win of the season.
On Wednesday night at LaSalle Speedway, he did just that, leading all 40 laps green-to-checkered for his 34th career Hell Tour victory. With this win, Shirley has now won the last three tour visits to the quarter-mile oval.
But as dominant as the drive was, Shirley reflected on some of his recent performances and struggles in his Victory Lane interview and made it a point to show his determination for the rest of the races heading forward.
“I feel like we’ve been a little bit off, and this is definitely nothing to get excited about. We’re gonna grind this week out – it’s in our backyard and we need to get some wins,” Shirley said.
To do it, Squirrel was forced to work his way through lapped traffic and hold off a hard-charging Garrett Alberson for 40 non-stop laps. Shirley jetted out to the lead at the drop of the green and opened up a sizable advantage over second-place Billy Moyer Jr. as he worked through traffic.
Alberson had been gaining on Moyer through the first half of the race, and as he began to fade slightly just past the halfway point, Alberson cracked the whip on the bottom lane, made the pass underneath for second and set his sights on leader Shirley.
Out front, Shirley was moving through traffic well, but was having to sweat for it.
“I was a little nervous because I didn’t know how much they could catch me, as far as when I got stuck behind them guys,” Shirley said. “There were times when I had to make my own lane, and then when I got to guys running as good as me, it was a little tougher.”
The race then became a similar situation to the previous DIRTcar Late Model race contested at LaSalle earlier in the year, where Alberson passed Shirley for the $12,000 victory in the 10th annual Thaw Brawl. But this time, Shirley was not going to be denied.
Alberson closed the gap to Shirley by one second in the final laps, but it was not enough to catch the Bob Cullen Racing #3s. Shirley crossed the stripe with plenty of room to spare for his first $5,000 check of the season over Alberson, Ryan Unzicker, Moyer Jr. and Chris Simpson who rounded out the top-five.
Ashton Winger had a great rebound night after barrel rolling his car in Qualifying, crossing the stripe in eighth with a backup car. Points leader Bobby Pierce also had a rough start to his night but finished strong, being forced to take a provisional after blowing a tire in his Heat Race. The three-time champion advanced 10 spots over 40 laps to go 19th-to-ninth.
The Summer Nationals Late Model action continues Thursday night, June 24, at the high banks of Spoon River Speedway for Round #8 of the 2021 Hell Tour campaign. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (40 Laps) 1. 3S-Brian Shirley; 2. 59-Garrett Alberson; 3. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 4. 21JR-Billy Moyer Jr; 5. 32S-Chris Simpson; 6. 74-Mitch McGrath; 7. 81E-Tanner English; 8. 12-Ashton Winger; 9. 32-Bobby Pierce; 10. B12-Kevin Weaver; 11. 25-Jason Feger; 12. 97-Cade Dillard; 13. 4G-Bob Gardner; 14. 48-Tim Lance; 15. 29-Spencer Diercks; 16. 14G-Joe Godsey; 17. 30-Mark Voigt; 18. 21B-Rich Bell; 19. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 20. 1M-Mike Mataragas; 21. 18-Shannon Babb