Kyle Moore Wins First Feature, Ashton Winger First Championship at Wayne County

Though it was the last race on the schedule, the 38th annual DIRTcar Summer Nationals season finale at Wayne County Speedway was a night full of firsts.

A first-time champion was crowned in 23-year-old Ashton Winger, the resilient racer from Senoia, GA, who met his summer’s ultimate goal and clinched his first career Hell Tour championship, becoming the first driver from outside the State of Illinois to win the overall points title since Don O’Neal (Martinsville, IN) in 2004.

A first-time Feature winner later emerged in Kyle Moore, the 32-year-old local star from Mansfield, OH, who led all 40 laps and held off the wrath of Winger for the entire race to score his first career Summer Nationals victory in front of a massive gathering of friends and family.

“As far as a big race like this, for sure, it’s the biggest one of my career,” Moore said. “I just can’t believe it. It’s unreal.”

Jim DenHamer Photo

Moore – who in 2021 had a dominant season of UMP Modified racing in Ohio, winning 14 Features at Wayne County en route to the Ohio Region championship and a sixth-place finish in national DIRTcar points – took the lead on the opening lap and immediately began his defense of the top spot from Winger, who was already putting pressure on the leader.

As they dipped into lapped traffic with the halfway point nearing, Winger closed the gap to Moore’s rear bumper. With a good run off Turn 4 to complete Lap 20, Winger drove it straight to the bottom in Turn 1 and pinned the throttle, throwing a big slide job up the banking on Moore in a try for the lead. Moore crossed him over out of Turn 2 to retain the lead.

For the next five consecutive laps, Winger threw the slide job in Turn 1 but was unable to make any of them stick as Moore turned it back underneath him each time out of Turn 2. After the sixth slider-crossover combo, the race’s first caution flag was displayed, 26 laps in, cooling the intense battle out front.

“When [Winger] was throwing sliders, coming out of Turn 2 every time, he was getting better at keeping up beside me,” Moore said. “He was really figuring it out. It takes a driver to figure out how to throw a slider coming out of Turn 2 and keep momentum up here.”

Moore got a great launch on the ensuing restart and dipped away from Winger a bit, but only for a short time. Drake Troutman and Rod Conley had caught the leaders and began to put the pressure on as the race entered the final 10 laps.

With three cars under a blanket behind him, Moore stepped it up and began to widen the gap to Winger behind him. He crossed under the flag stand and met the two-to-go signal and could begin to taste victory, but his heart quickly sank as the caution flag flew once more.

“When the yellow came out on Lap 38, the scoreboard looked like it said Lap 30, and I’m in there panicking like, ‘Aw man, I got 10 more laps to go,’” Moore said. “We go back to green, we come around another lap and they threw the white, and I’m like, ‘Holy shoot, this is really happening.’”

Green, white, checkered. So many races won and lost on the notorious motorsports phenomenon, but Moore had little to worry about. A great launch out of Turn 4 when the green dropped put him in command as he came back around to collect the white, then holding off Winger and the rest of the field as he came back around one final time to capture the checkered flag and the biggest win of his career.

Moore and Winger embracing in Victory Lane. (Jim DenHamer Photo)

Winger. Troutman. Unzicker. Conley. Shiels. Moore had defeated the hard-nosed travelers and his fellow weekend warriors in the area to bank the $5,000 grand prize – a testament to his crew and car, both of which rolled in the pit gate on an open trailer.

“The competition out there… to beat Ashton Winger and Drake Troutman and all the locals here,” Moore said. “I said it all week – there’s a good chance a local’s gonna win here. Our locals here, they get overlooked. They’re good.”

Winger crossed the stripe in second, also clinching the Week 5 points championship and the $10,000 points fund check – his second of the summer. His real victory was found in clinching the overall Late Model points championship earlier in the evening – the first for he and Floridian car owner Jeff Mathews.

“To be able to do the whole deal and have the awesome equipment and people around to do it, it’s awesome,” Winger said, reflecting on the work he and his new team at Jeff Mathews Motorsports have put in during their first full season together. “It’s really cool to be able to go across the country and see so many new faces, new fans, new racetracks.”

Since coming up one spot short in the chase for the 2021 Summer Nationals title, Winger had the urge to come back and try the full Hell Tour once more. He decided 2023 was the year for his return, back to battling on the tracks he’s come to know and love six-days-a-week.

Jim DenHamer Photo

“I just think the Midwest has the best racetracks,” Winger said. “I enjoy coming out here. It’s nothing against the south, I just prefer coming out to the Midwest. I feel like there’s some really good guys that come out of there, and we’ve got a lot of really good competition down south.”

ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)

Feature (40 Laps): 1. 1*-Kyle Moore[2]; 2. 12-Ashton Winger[4]; 3. 71R-Rod Conley[5]; 4. 4G-Bob Gardner[6]; 5. 31AUS-Kye Blight[19]; 6. 24-Ryan Unzicker[20]; 7. 51S-Devin Shiels[13]; 8. 27-Eric Spangler[12]; 9. 19-Cody Scott[8]; 10. 27W-Eric Wilson[17]; 11. 38-Thomas Hunziker[22]; 12. 5M-Ryan Markham[1]; 13. 14-JR Gentry[21]; 14. 7T-Drake Troutman[3]; 15. 20B-Todd Brennan[14]; 16. 28-Tyler Carpenter[18]; 17. 24A-Jerry Aber[15]; 18. 50-Ryan Missler[11]; 19. 94-Mike Bores[7]; 20. 71-Dave Hornikel[16]; 21. 91-Rusty Schlenk[10]; 22. 113-Brandon Francis[9]