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Shirley holds off Heckenast for $10,000 DIRTcar Summer Nationals Win

Brian Shirley

Brian Shirley

Mike Harrison

Mike Harrison

Tommy Duncan

Tommy Duncan

Harrison Rides Cushion to $2,000 DIRTcar Summit Modified Nationals Victory

Results | Story by Ruben Mireles/DIRTcar & Rocky Ragusa | Pictures by Rocky Ragusa

shirley lmTwo-time and defending DIRTcar Summer Nationals Champion Brian Shirley is on a roll, but Saturday night in the 30th Summer Nationals event at Fairbury Speedway Frank Heckenast Jr. kept the pressure on him. Shirley, of Chatham, IL, was able to fend off Heckenast to win his 22nd all-time DIRTcar Summer Nationals feature and get his second win at Fairbury Speedway in tour history, this one worth $10,000.

The 50-lap feature started with outside pole sitter Kyle Bronson leading early as Shirley gave chase. Bronson surged to a straightaway lead until he jumped the cushion in turn four on Lap 13. Bronson had a big enough lead to remain out front, but Shirley closed the gap, trying every groove on the speedway to get around Bronson. Their battle for the lead allowed Gordy Gundaker to inch closer and make it a three-car battle for the lead. Eventually, on Lap 18, Shirley went to the top to get around Bronson, then Gundaker went to the bottom to slide past Bronson into second. As Shirley continued to pound the cushion, Gundaker was fast on the bottom and it looked as if he would get Shirley, but a lapped car held him up. Once a caution flew, it cleared the traffic and Gundaker couldn't capitalize on the restart with Shirley proving the top was fastest.

Frank Heckenast Jr. later jumped to second after getting around Shannon Babb, Tanner English and Gundaker. Shirley continued his march on the top, but left the door open a couple times as he moved to the bottom. Heckenast ramped up the pressure and caught Shirley’s #3s machine and attempted slide jobs in turns three and four in the closing laps, but it wasn't enough as Shirley took the checkers for his third DIRTcar Summer Nationals Feature victory this season. “My crew told me to run the bottom the last 15 laps,” an exhausted Shirley said. “I tried to run it after that caution. Frankie was good on the bottom and about got me. I just put it to the floor and do what I did on the highside and we were able to come out on top.”

harrison mdDIRTcar UMP Modified legend Mike Harrison started fourth on Saturday night in Fairbury Speedway’s DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals Feature, fought his way to the front in the 30-lap race and held off Nick Hoffman down the stretch for the $2,000 checkered flag.

Early on it looked like the battle to win would be between Mike McKinney and Nick Hoffman, who looked untouchable in the opening stages of the race before a caution erased his lead. Hoffman ran the bottom all night allowing McKinney to get by on the top, but Hoffman didn't surrender the lead easily. Finally, Harrison joined the party to make it three-wide for the top spot. Harrison grabbed the lead on the top while Hoffman continued to roll the bottom, where he drove to a runner-up finish. Tyler Nicely made a late surge for a top-three finish but faded just a bit after his rear quarter panel rubbed on his tire. Harrison, the six time and defending DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals Champion, won for the first time on tour in 2019, making it the fourth different winner through four races. “We come out and focus on our equipment, our night, and let the finishes fall into place with the points,” said Harrison, of Highland, IL. “Fairbury, you have to live or die by the cushion and nine times out of ten, I live by it. We have been struggling with this car. We have been working and working on it and hopefully, I think we have found something. The Modified class is tough. Every win you have to cherish like it could be your last win. You just never know."

duncan spThe 15-lap CR Towing Sportsman race drew 15 entries for their $400 to win special. Points leader Tommy Duncan toured the track at 15.052 seconds for fast time. Michael Ledford and Tyler Roth won their respective heat races. Polesitter Ledford took the lead at the drop of the green flag, followed by Roth, Duncan, Wes Odell, and Brian Albus. After a caution on the third lap, Duncan showed his muscle on the restart and quickly wrestled the lead away from Ledford. Duncan wasted little time and pulled away from the field. With four laps to go, Roth overtook Ledford for second and was able to gain on the race leader. As Jim Whittington waved the checkered flag, Duncan secured his fourth straight feature win. “My car has been great all year and I can’t thank my crew and sponsors enough. We have gotten lucky a few times, but it’s been a good year,” said Duncan. Following Duncan to the line were Roth, Ledford, Albus, Steve Mattingly, Amber Crouch, Lyndon Whitfill, Odell, Matt Ramer, and Scott Williams.


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