Pierce Crowned Hell Tour Champ; Ashton Winger Wins Summer Nationals Finale at Merritt Speedway
Lake City, MI (Saturday, August 23, 2021) - The DIRTcar Summer Nationals invaded the grounds of the Merritt Speedway this past Saturday night for the running of a $10,000 to win Super Late Model event. The traveling cars and stars of the “Hell Tour” concluded their 2021 season at the Lake, City Michigan speed plant after running 29 races at 28 different racetracks in nine states over the course of two months. The traveling drivers were matched up against the Merritt Speedway regulars offering some of the best Michigan has to offer. The show also included the season finale of the Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals featuring some of the best DIRTcar Modified drivers in the country. Plus the Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges, Thirlby Automotive Factory Stocks, and XLT Engineering Four & Six Cylinders were on hand. It was also “Pro-Stock” Night where the Auto Value Pro Stocks faced off in a special $3000 to win event to complete the stacked race program.
The Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges kicked off the day’s events. The Restricted division would see Caiden Lechota score the win, as the Clio, Michigan driver finished ahead of Tucker Warner, and Cason Murphy. The Un-Restricted division would run next, and in their feature, it was Stanton, Michigan’s Ryan Read picking up the win. Keeton Cade, and Addy Wade completed the top three. The prelinary heat races went to Murphy (restricted) and Cade (un-restricted).
The Thirlby Automotive Factory Stocks squared off in a 20-lap main event lead onto the track by 2016-track champion Jim Miller Jr. and Justin Miller. Miller Jr. would win the battle for the lead after the opening circuit. Miller would remain at the front of the field for the duration of the race as he would not be denied. This would be the Clio, Michigan native, Miller’s fifth win of the season behind the wheel of his #9. Justin Miller would finish second. 14-year old Katie Robinson, 3-time track champion Rick Spencer, and 17-year old Andrew Bogart rounded out the top five. Spencer won the lone heat race.
The Auto Value Pro Stocks were brought out for their $3000 to win special event. 2020-track champion Nate Murphy and Tim Tabaczka started at the front of the field when the green flag dropped on the 25-lap feature. Murphy pulled away with the lead in the early stages. However Andrew Steele who started fourth worked his way up to challenge and then overtake Murphy for the lead. Steele would go the rest of the way to be the first to the checkered flag. Steele, the native of Twining, Michigan notched his first win of the season in the #19s. Timmy Near finished second. Murphy, Tabaczka, and Jack Emmons finished out the top five finishers. Murphy and Steele won the heats.
The Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals hit the track for a 30-lap main led by Jeff Erickson Jr. and Brandon Bollinger. The green flag waved and the intense battle for position began and it was Bollinger leading after the opening trip around the speedway. Erickson would answer and power past on lap 4 taking the lead for himself. Erickson would look to have victory in sight, but 2011-DIRTcar regional champion Jacob Poel would change that by taking the lead and never looked back from there. The win marked the fourth of the year for the Spring Lake, Michigan driver in his #82. Erickson had to settle for second. 3-time track champion Chad Bauer, Caleb Kill, and 2018-DIRTcar Regional Champion Collin Thirlby finished out the top five. Poel, Bolllinger, and Erickson won the heats. Jacob Flickinger won the last chance showdown. The Overall Fast Qualifier was Poel with a 14.369 lap time.
The 40-lap DIRTcar Summer Nationals $10,000 to win Feature rolled onto the speedway led by a the front row of Hampton, Georgia’s Ashton Winger and Ionia, Michigan’s Travis Stemler who brought the 21-car field down to the green flag. Stemler wasted little time winning the drag race to the lead. Stemler was able to pull away trying to put as much distance between himself and the rest of the field. However, on lap 17, Winger would gain momentum and made the pass for the top position. Winger would hold the lead for the rest of the event despite battling through heavy lapped traffic. Winger A 21-year old Hampton, Georgia native won his first ever event at Merritt Speedway and his sixth of the tour. Devin Moran finished as the runner up. Stemler, 2020-DIRTcar Regional Champion Chad Finley, and Tanner English rounded out the top five. The preliminary heat races were won by; Moran, Stemler, and Winger. Andrew Terrill won the last chance showdown. The overall fast qualifier was Moran with a 13.350 lap time.
The XLT Engineering Four & Six Cylinder division ran a 15-lap A-Main to close out the night. Chad Freeman and 2020-track champion Travis Skaggs brought the field onto the race surface for the start. Skaggs wasted little time in grabbed the lead after the opening lap. That would turn out to be all Skaggs would need to do as he went on to lead every lap of the event. For Skaggs, the native of Mancelona, Michigan this was the first win of the season in his #80s. Chad Freeman would take second. Chris Wassman, Herb Freeman, and Cody Steinley capped off the top five. Wassman, David Harrington, and Herb Freeman won the heat races.
The Merritt Speedway will return to action this Saturday August 28th. The show will include the XLT Engineering Four & Six Cylinders racing for a special $1500 to win. Plus the Troll Smokehouse B-Modifieds will face off for a $1000 to win special event. The Soaring Eagle DIRTcar Late Models, Auto Value Pro Stocks, Thirlby Automotive Factory Stocks, and Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges will all be part of the show as well. The show will also include make up feature from July 31st for the 4 & 6 Cylinders and B-Modifieds. Please Stay Tuned to the Merritt Speedway Facebook Page for all of the latest updates.
Story - Brian Osborne, Horsepower Happenings
Photo - Bobby Pierce Facebook