Auburn, MI (Friday, September 10, 2021) - This weekend includes the final regular season events of the 2021 season for the Great Lakes Family of Sprint Cars including the Great Lakes Super Sprints Presented by Engine Pro and ARP, the Great Lakes Traditional Sprints Presented by PERFIT, and the Great Lakes Lightning Sprints Presented by Maxima Racing Oil. Teams with all three divisions will unload Friday night at Tri City Motor Speedway in Auburn and Saturday at Merritt Speedway in Lake City.
The Great Lakes Super Sprints suddenly come into the weekend with a tighter points battle than some had expected. Coldwater, Michigan’s Ryan Ruhl had been locked in a tight battle with Max Stambaugh for the better part of the season. That changed after Stambaugh missed a few events allowing Ruhl to enjoy a comfortable points advantage over 2018 Series Champion Dustin Daggett. Last weekend, Daggett cut the deficit down to just 103 points after winning at I-96 Speedway Friday night while Ruhl finished 8th. Daggett is now within striking distance of Daggett with 150 points available for winning another event, plus a maximum of 50 points for Fast Qualifier and Heat Race wins.
Daggett has had performances at Tri City and Merritt to support his run for a championship this weekend. In 2021, Daggett has yet to finish outside of the top five at either race track, with his worst finish coming at Merritt back in July where he finished fifth. As for Ruhl, his success is well known at both tracks. Ruhl picked up a win at Tri City back in May after a late race pass on Brad Lamberson, then went on to win at Merritt Speedway in July, and came back to win again at Tri City in August; Ruhl won the later event with a flat left front tire.
The championship points battle for the Great Lakes Traditional Sprints is even closer than the GLSS battle. Fenton, Michigan’s Steve Irwin holds just an 88 point advantage over Jerome, Michigan’s Keith Sheffer, Jr. Already this season, Irwin has put four Ws in the win column while Sheffer has a solo win. For Irwin, his triumphs this season have come at I-96 Speedway, Hartford Speedway, and a pair of wins at Crystal Motor Speedway. The potential equalizer this weekend for the points battle is that Irwin, in his career, has yet to win at Tri City Motor Speedway - the only dirt track in Michigan Irwin hasn’t conquered. He finished fifth in a visit earlier this season.
As for Sheffer, his one win this season came in July at Merritt Speedway. Sheffer’s worst finish of the year came at Tri City earlier this season, but the performance was possibly his best. Sheffer was battling with Jay Steinebach for the lead when the pair made contact going into turn one. The result of the contact was a “soft” roll for Sheffer. An extended caution following the red allowed Sheffer’s team to examine the car and make any necessary repairs. He returned to the race and came from the rear for the 9th place finish. Sheffer has been close to other wins this season, with four runner up finishes and a number of other top fives.
The Great Lakes Lightning Sprints battle is the most unlikely to change this weekend after a dominating season for Harrod, Ohio’s Jac Nickles. In 14 starts this season, Nickels has pulled 13 top five finishes and nine feature wins this season, allowing him to open up a 146 point advantage over Boyne Falls, Michigan’s Bill Dunham. GLLS drivers will wrap up the season at the track most drivers used to call home, Merritt Speedway, which hosted Lightning Sprints as a weekly division through 2019.
Racing Friday night at Tri City Motor Speedway gets underway at 7:00 PM with gates opening at 4:30 PM. Qualifying for all three divisions begins at 6:30 PM. UMP Modifieds and B-Mods will also race Friday night for an increased purse. For more information on Tri City Motor Speedway, log onto www.TriCityRaceTrack.com or find them on Facebook.
At Merritt Speedway Saturday night, gates open at 4:00 PM with racing at 6:00 PM. In addition to the three Great Lakes classes, UMP Modifieds, B-Mods, and 4/6 Cylinders will also be in attendance. For more information, log onto www.MerrittSpeedwayMI.com or find Merritt Speedway on Facebook.
Story - Zach Hiser, Horsepower Happenings
Photos - Jim DenHamer