Kankakee County Speedway
Shirley captures opening Summer Nationals Headliner
Spalding wins Summit Modified Nationals Main
By Stan Kalwasinski
Kankakee, Ill., June 13—Kankakee County Speedway hosted the first night of the annual DIRTcar UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour Thursday night with Illinois racer Brian Shirley coming home the winner of the $5.000-to-win, 40-lap, late model stock car special at the quarter-mile dirt oval.
Kankakee became the opening-night host after the schedule Hell Tour opener at Illinois’ Peoria Speedway was rained out on Wednesday.
Not planning on running the entire Summer Nationals tour, the 38-year-old Shirley, wheeling his Bob Cullen Racing, Thomason Express/Cheap Cars/KBX Graphix/Kid’s Castle Learning Center-sponsored No.3, took the checkered flag with a 1.776-second margin of victory over Frank Heckenast Jr. Fastest qualifier Rusty Schlenk finished third, followed by Jason Feger, Ryan Unzicker and Billy Moyer. Bobby Pierce, Mike Spatola, Kevin Weaver and Bob Gardner rounded out the top 10 in the 22-car field.
At the drop of the green flag, Shirley, who hails from Chatham, Ill., and Heckenast raced side-by-side for a lap or two until Shirley, using the outside groove, moved into the lead. With six laps in the books, Shannon Babb slowed bringing out the race’s first of three yellow caution flags.
On the restart, Shirley set the pace, chased by Schlenk, Heckenast, Spatola and Feger. Pierce, who started 16th after winning the “B” main, was already up to sixth when the caution lights flashed again with 18 laps complete with Babb stopping off of turn four.
Green flag racing resumed with Shirley showing the way with Heckenast hustling by Schlenk for second. Shirley attempted to build a comfortable lead only to see the final yellow flag fly with 22 circuits complete. Once green flag racing resumed again, Shirley was on his way to victory, building a full straightaway lead over Heckenast as the race wore down.
“The car drove really well,” said Shirley after his victory. “I had a good starting spot. I can’t thank (car owner) Bob Cullen enough. He puts me in great equipment. We’ve already raced forty nights this year.“
The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals also got underway with Michigan veteran driver Curt Splading scoring the victory in the 25-lap main event, which saw a field of 22 take the green flag.
Spalding, from Watervliet, Mich., battled with fellow front row starter Nick Allen for a few laps and then secured the top spot which he never relinquished. Spalding drove his Duco Performance/GT Products/All Star Performance No.5 modified to the win, finishing ahead of Will Krup by 1.004 seconds. Frank Marshall took third followed by Jeffrey Ledford, fast qualifier Allen and Mike McKinney.
“I had a pretty good hot rod all night,” said Spalding. “We won our heat and had a good starting spot. I had a really good run. It’s a lot of hard work. It was a pretty equal field. It took a few laps to get heat in the tires. I had a ball and I’m really happy to be standing on the (victory) stage.”
Other feature winners during the evening included Dakota Ewing (UMP Pro Late Models), Andrew Short (I-Mods) and David Lauritson (four-cylinders).
Next stop on the Hell Tour is Friday evening at the Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill., with $10,000-to-win main event highlighting the program.
The Late Model Finish:
Brian Shirley, Frank Heckenast Jr., Rusty Schlenk, Jason Feger, Ryan Unzicker, Billy Moyer, Bobby Pierce, Mike Spatola, Kevin Weaver, Bob Gardner, Walker Arthur, Gordy Gundaker, Paul Stubber, Lyle Zanker, David Jaeger, Chuck Hummer, Dennis Erb Jr., Allen Murray, Allen Weisser, Glen Thompson, Shannon Babb, Matt Shannon.
The Modified Finish:
Curt Spalding, Will Krup, Frank Marshall, Jeffrey Ledford, Nick Allen, Mike McKinney, Kenny Wallace, Tyler Nicely, Jamie Lomax, Ray Bollinger, Ken Schrader, Steven Brooks, Wade Rookard, Matt Mitchell, Levi Kissinger, Hunt Gossum, Phil Dixon, Donovan Lodge, Nick Hoffman, Nick Clubb, Jason Hastings, Allen Weisser.