Story By: JORDAN DELUCIA / DIRTCAR – MUSKEGON, MI – For as hard as he and his team worked to get their first win, Ashton Winger made his second career DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory look like he’d done it a hundred times before with a clean sweep of Thursday night’s visit to Thunderbird Raceway.
The 21-year-old Hell Tour rookie was fastest in Hot Laps, set quick time in Qualifying, won his Heat Race and the 40-lap Feature to collect his second $5,000 check of the season in front of a packed house, watching him emerge victorious in Victory Lane to his signature Hulk smash-like roof dance celebration.
Winger also topped all of the Michigan DIRTcar Late Model regulars in the field, who showed up in full-force to help create a stacked 42-car field. Despite their best efforts to defeat the Summer Nationals regulars, they were unable to best the Georgia boy, who crossed the line a near five seconds over second-place Bobby Pierce.
Winger started on the outside pole and trailed polesitter Tanner English, of Benton, KY, in the early going. And unlike most tour rookies, Winger did not need a caution to track down the leader. In fact, not a single yellow flag was displayed in the race that took just under 10 minutes to complete.
“I was a little worried on the start. Anytime we’re going to a racetrack with a little bit harder tire, it’s a gamble,” Winger, of Hampton, GA, said in Victory Lane.
Winger held onto the middle-high groove around the third-mile oval and got a great run to English’s outside on Lap 15. A smooth exit off of Turn 4 was enough to nip English at the line and give him his first lap led in the race. From there on out, it was domination time in any lane he chose.
“I moved around a little bit whenever Tanner [English] had to move around some of them guys. I found a line that was good for me, and really I could maneuver all over, but I was just lucky the cards fell the way they did… shoot, three or four cautions there and we could be looking at a different scenario,” Winger said.
Behind him, a war was waging for the runner-up spot between English and Pierce. Pierce, of Oakwood, IL, began pounding the high side of the speedway, working his way toward English’s bumper. His first pass for second came in a cluster of slower cars on Lap 26, just barely crossing the stripe before English to be scored second on that lap. But English had the clearer lane around the bottom and drove away with the spot.
Pierce reeled him back in as traffic cleared up, and with just seven laps remaining, he put a big slide job on English in Turns 3-4 to take the spot back for good and increase his points lead yet again. English finished right behind in third, but lost another five points in the standings as he chases his first career Summer Nationals crown.
The Summer Nationals Late Models are back in action Friday night at Hartford Raceway for the first $10,000-to-win show of the weekend.
Feature (40 Laps) 1. 12-Ashton Winger; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce; 3. 81E-Tanner English; 4. 55-Jeep Van Wormer; 5. 4-Travis Stemler; 6. 91-Rusty Schlenk; 7. M14-Brandon Thirlby; 8. 21N-Logan Nickerson; 9. 23V-Ryan Vanderveen; 10. 74-Mitch McGrath; 11. 14G-Joe Godsey; 12. 6M-Dona Marcoullier; 13. 27-Eric Spangler; 14. 48-Tim Lance; 15. 15-Dave Baker; 16. 16-Garrett Wiles; 17. 87-Rich Neiser; 18. 1S-Andrew Sprague; 19. 19X- Cody Bauer; 20. 21S-Tom Sprague Jr; 21. 14R-Jeff Roth; 22. 148-Tim Lance Jr
Hoffman Breaks Single-Season Wins Record with Thunderbird Checkers
When Nick Hoffman set out on the trail of the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals this year, it wasn’t just to try and win his third-straight, fourth career championship – he was also aiming to break his own record of 13 wins in a single season.
After Thursday night’s dominating exhibit at Thunderbird Raceway, he can consider it done and history made, as he’s now the sole owner of 14 wins in one season. As if that weren’t impressive enough, he did it in exactly that many starts, too. And he’s not done yet.
“I don’t actually know how many races are left, but I’d like to get into the 20s,” Hoffman, of Mooresville, NC, said in Victory Lane. “Just take it one night at a time and go from there.”
Similar to Wednesday night at Circle City, Hoffman started third and did not lead the opening laps. Polesitter Curt Spalding jumped out to the early lead with Jacob Poel behind him. While Poel rolled the low-middle groove of the super slick, third-mile oval, Hoffman dug to his inside and took the spot away as they clicked off Lap 5.
It wasn’t five laps later before Hoffman did the same thing to Spalding for the lead.
“I was trying to roll Jacob through the middle and just couldn’t get by him, so I chose to get back to the bottom,” Hoffman said. “When I was riding behind Curt, I was like, ‘well this race is probably going to be won in lapped traffic,’ and then he slipped up in Turns 3-4.”
Now with the lead and a preferable glass-smooth track underneath him, Hoffman cruised to the checkers with a whopping 8-plus second gap to Spalding at the line. Jeffrey Erickson finished third, Hunt Gossum ran fourth while Poel slipped back to fifth.
The Summit Modifieds are back in action Friday night at Hartford Raceway for another battle against Michigan’s finest UMP Modified talent.
Feature (25 Laps) 1. 2-Nick Hoffman; 2. 5CS-Curt Spalding; 3. 1E-Jeffery Erickson; 4. 99-Hunt Gossum; 5. 82-Jacob Poel; 6. 38- Mitchell Hunt; 7. 8C-Corey Bevard; 8. 65-Todd Sherman; 9. 92-Caleb Kill; 10. 25-Josh Lolmaugh; 11. 19- Chad Bauer; 12. 4-Logan Beckwith; 13. 1*-Wyatt Baker; 14. 14-Mark Shook; 15. 26P-Nathan Patrick; 16. 21-Tom Sprague Jr; 17. 81-Rick Swartout; 18. 42-Bob Baldwin; 19. 0-Darrick Guikema; 20. 9-Garrett Rons; 21. 4M-Tim Monroe; 22. 12M-John McClure