Auburn, MI - After over a month off, the Allstar Performance Late Model Challenge Series Supported by Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort leaped back into action in a big way on Friday night at Tri City Motor Speedway. The return not only paid a huge $10,000 to the victor, but it was also a joint event for the Sunoco American Late Model Series.
David Hilliker and Logan Nickerson led the field to green, with Nickerson jumping out to the early lead. Overall Fast Qualifier Brandon Thirlby showed his muscle early, when he worked around Nickerson on lap 10. Several laps later, Thirlby seemed to slow with a mechanical issue, allowing Nickerson and Rusty Schlenk to take up the battle. That battle was short lived, as Schlenk worked around the Vestaburg, Michigan youngster a few laps later and set sail.
At the halfway point, it was all Schlenk, who had opened up a 1.5 second lead over Dona Marcoullier, who was making a charge to the front from his 9th starting position. At lap 32, Marcoullier pulled to Schlenk’s back bumper, as the duo navigated through lapped traffic. Schlenk extended his lead through traffic, as Marcoullier fell slightly back. Once Marcoullier cleared traffic, he set his sights on Schlenk once again.
As the laps wound down, Marcoullier got back to Schlenk, setting up a classic finish. With the white flag in the air, the duo was nose to tail. Off of turn 2, Schlenk seemed to move up the race track as the pair charged down the backstretch. As Schlenk arched his 91 machine into turn 3, Marcoullier sailed his 6M to the bottom. The two made contact, with Marcoullier muscling his way off turn 4 and charging to the checkers.
On any other night, that would be the end of it, but cooler heads did not prevail in the Technical Inspection Area after the event. Schlenk initially walked up to the 6M and addressed the lap corner pass, with Marcoullier still in his car. By the time it was over, Schlenk was disqualified, with Travis Stemler and Greg Gokey completing the podium.
The Allstar Performance Late Model Challenge Series is back at it on Sunday, for another 50 lap, $10,000 to win event at Merritt Speedway, following a regular show at Lake City bullring tonight.
Story - Rich Frantz, Horsepower Happenings
Photo - Randy Ellen