Updated: May 16
Auburn, MI (Saturday, May 15, 2021) - The Allstar Performance Late Model Challenge Series Supported by Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort opened their 2021 campaign last night with a massive field of DIRTcar UMP Late Models, all racing for a shot at the $5,000 prize to end the night. In total, 37 of the area’s most competitive drivers converged on the Western Michigan facility to kick off the year.
Rusty Schlenk started the party with a blistering lap time in Qualifying, settling in with a 12.530. Just three other cars toughed the 12-second bracket, all of which came during group number one. Eric Spangler led group two with a 13.078, Dave Baker paced group three with a 13.358, and Derrick Hiliker topped group number four (his time was not available).
Through heat race and Last Chance Qualifier racing, the field of 37 was whittled down to 24 who raced for a shot at the first Late Model Challenge Series win of the season. Logan Nickerson and David Mielke led the field to the green flag ahead of 40 rotations around the black and slick Speedway. Nickerson was able to stave off the competition through the first ten laps, but it wasn’t long until he was tracked down by an iconic number 27.
Spangler, coming from his fourth starting spot, rolled the middle to lower groove of the race track to displace the cars committed exclusively to the bottom. By lap 8, Spangler began to show the nose piece of his MasterSbilt chassis to the outside of Nickerson’s number 21. By lap 10, Spangler had taken the lead and, unknowingly to the rest of the field, the race for the win was over.
Nickerson remained patient on the bottom of the track, holding off a variety of attacks from Mielke, Travis Stemler, Brandon Thirlby, and others. Drivers attempted to find speed off the bottom, but struggled to get the momentum needed to compete with the grip on the bottom. It appeared the race would go 40 green flag laps, but that came to a halt with just three laps to go when Greg Goke spun in turns one and two, erasing Spangler’s half-a-track lead.
The restart was a non-issue for Spangler, who picked up right where he left off on the bottom of the track, racing away to his second Friday night win in a row. Nickerson held on for second, with Stemler sneaking onto the podium at the stripe. David Mielke and Dona Marcoullier rounded out the top five. Joey Burch, making his Super Late Model debut Friday night, was the big mover coming from 24th to finish 12th.
Next up for the Allstar Performance Late Model Challenge Series Supported by Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort is the first Challenge Series race of the season from Merritt Speedway. In the track’s season-opening event on May 1st, Thirdly went to victory lane, making him one to watch tonight. Gates open at 4:30 PM with racing at 6:30 PM.
Horsepower Happenings will be on location tonight with behind-the-scenes coverage on Facebook and Twitter.
Story - Zach Hiser, Horsepower Happenings
Photo - Randy Ellen