Rothbury, MI (Tuesday, June 22, 2021) - Last Friday night, Winston Speedway played host to the first of two Sunoco American Sprint Car Series races of the weekend, offering up $5,000 to the winner at the end of 40 laps. A total of 26 DIRTcar UMP Late Models rolled onto the property from a number of different states all looking for the top prize. At the end of a rough night on the track, only one local driver would stand as the winner.
Brandon Thirlby started the evening proving he would be a contender, setting fast time with a 13.677. The complexion of the night changed though when after qualifying, the track was completely reworked due to rough conditions. Despite a massive effort on the part of Dean Wilkerson and his staff, the Speedway never truly came to life, with ruts and holes all around the track. Even through heat race action and during intermission, Wilkerson continued to work the track with multiple different machinery and tactics. Unfortunately, the result stayed the same with a soft rough track still present at feature time.
This resulted in a high attrition rate throughout the course of the 40 lap feature. Even though several drivers called it quits early, a fantastic race was still played out before a nice crowd. Thirlby started on the pole of the race, but fell off quickly, losing spots to Greg Goke and Travis Stemler early in the race. Goke appeared he would be the car to beat throughout the first half of the race. Goke did lose the lead momentarily after a lap nine restart to Stemler who found his way by on lap 11, but Goke retook the point by lap 14. This was also when Thirlby made his charge toward the front.
At the halfway point, Thirlby had found a way around Goke and brought Stemler with him. A caution flew on lap 26 when Ryan VanderVeen came to a stop. Just nine laps later, another caution was on the speedway for Eric Spangler and Goke, who appeared to get together on the backstretch. The incident was the end of the night for both drivers.
In the end, Thirlby would hold on to take the win over Rich Bell, Stemler, and Cody Bauer, the final four drivers who crossed the finish line. VanderVeen got credit for fifth. The next night at Oakshade Raceway, Rusty Schlenk collected the win over Devin Shiels, Chris Keller, Bell, and Colin Shipley. With the performance, Bell is likely to have the ALMS points lead after the weekend.
Story - Zach Hiser, Horsepower Happenings
Photo - Just Shoot Me photography by Katie