Thirlby Opens Merritt Season with Win Saturday
Lake City, MI (Monday, May 3, 2021) - Racing action returned to the Merritt Speedway this past weekend with a running of a full show to open the Lake City, Michigan speed plants new season. The high-powered Soaring Eagle UMP DIRTcar Late Models headlined the show competing for a special $3000 to win feature event. They were joined by the Cadillac Tire Center UMP DIRTcar Modifieds, B-Modifieds, Auto Value Pro Stocks, Thirlby Automotive Factory Stocks, XLT Engineering Four and Six Cylinders, and Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges.
The night began with the youngest drivers on the property, in the Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges. Tucker Warner won the feature event in the restricted division over Peyton Cunningham and Karsyn Crosby. The Un-Restricted division saw Hollie Tabaczka pick up the win. Keeton Cade, and Peyton Crawford finishing out the top three. Crosby (restricted) and Cade (un-restricted) were the heat race winners.
The Auto Value Pro Stocks hit the track for a 20-lap feature event. Tim Murphy and Andrew Steele started on the front row. Murphy pulled away after the drop of the green flag. Despite tough competition, Murphy would go from green to checkered to pick up the win. This was the Holland, Ohio native's first win of the year in his #J3. Steele finished second. Merv Hudson, Kyle Hunt, and Rob Putt rounded out the top five. Dustin Weber won the last chance race. Dwight Crawford, 2020-track champion Nate Murphy, and Teri Lynn Murphy won the preliminary heat races.
The XLT Engineering Four- and Six-Cylinder class rolled out led by David Harrington and 15-year old Clay Lachcik for a 15-lap feature event. Harrington was the leader after the opening lap. On the very next lap the lead would change to Ian Travis. 2020-track champion Travis Skaggs took the lead for himself on lap 5. Skaggs and Travis would trade the lead multiple times until on the final lap Travis would burst his way to the front and pull away to take the win. Jason Jones finished second. Lachcik, Brad Wassmann, and Chad Freeman finished out the top five. Wassmann won the last chance race. The heat races were won by Skaggs, Xavier Rizzi, and Freeman.
The $3000 to win Soaring Eagle UMP DIRTcar Late Model feature event rolled onto the racing surface with Rachel Carpenter and 2-time American Late Model Series champion Brandon Thirlby on the front row. The green flag waved and Thirlby wasted no time in taking the early race advantage with the rest of the field battling for position behind him. Thirlby would battle through the entire 30-lap affair holding the lead the entire time and would get the win. Thirlby, the Buckley, Michigan driver scored his first win of the season in the Thirlby Automotive #m14. Six-time track champion Eric Spangler finished second. Curtis Roberts, Travis Stemler, and Cody Bauer completed the top five. The last chance race was won by Mike Staszak. Roberts, Stemler, and Dave Baker won the heats. Rusty Schlenk was the overall fast qualifier with a 13.774 lap time.
The B-Modifieds were up next with the running of a 20-lap A-Main feature. Brian Brindley and 18-year-old Austin Harnick brought the field down to the green flag. The field completed the first circuit and Harnick would be the race leader. He would go on from there to lead every lap and make the visit to victory lane. The native of Clare, Michigan scored his first win of the season in the #15h. Collin Thirlby finished second. 2020-track champion Gary Vandermark, Brenton DeYoung, and Brindley capped off the top five. Calvin Stemler and Vandermark won the heats.
Chuck Powell and Austin Harnick brought the 20-lap feature event for the Thirlby Automotive Factory Stocks to the track. 3-time track champion Rick Spencer would emerge with the lead after the early stages. Spencer would lead until lap 18, that was when a hard-charging Nate Jones would take the lead and go on to pick up the win. The Alma, Michigan driver won behind the wheel of his #72. Spencer settled for second. Eric Lake, Scott Smith, and Powell rounded out the top five. The last chance race was won by Brent Reil. The heat race wins went to Andrew Fidler, 2015-track champion Jim Miller, and 2016-track champion Jim Miller Jr.
The final main event of the night belonged to the Cadillac Tire Center UMP DIRTcar Modifieds who ran a 25-lap feature. 3-time track champion Chad Bauer and Trent Musk kicked the event off bringing the field to the green flag. Musk took the early advantage and held the lead until lap 5. That was when Caleb Kill rose to the front of the pack. Things would not change until lap 22 when Bauer made the pass for the lead. The win was within his grasp, but on the final lap Bauer’s car would break, giving the lead back to Kill who picked up the win. This was the McBain, Michigan native’s first win of the season in his #92. Joe Rokos finished in the runner-up spot. Musk, Jeff Erickson Jr., and Brian Brindley made up the rest of the top five. Rokos and Erickson won the heats.
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Story - Brian Osborne, Horsepower Happenings
Photo - Randy Ellen