LAKE CITY, Mich. — Eric Spangler earned his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series victory Friday night, for the first night of the Keyser Manufacturing Great Lakes Shootout weekend at Merritt Speedway.
The Lake City, Mich., native revved his engine all the way to victory lane in front of his home crowd.
The four-time track champion battled a stout 24-car field and led all 25 laps to capture the win and a $6,000 purse. His No. 27 Spangler Heating & Cooling/ Cyclo Products MasterBilt car led the field into the green flag. Setting the pace on the three-eighths mile oval, he never looked back in the caution-free feature.
“Wow…great,” said Spangler in front of a packed crowd. “We just picked up this bare frame two weeks ago. Me and my dad put a new motor in it, and we brought this out three weeks later for a feature win. [The car] was fast right out of the box.”
In a fast-paced feature, those who followed Spangler jockeyed for position. In the opening laps, Josh Richards took his shot at a podium spot from fourth position, using the middle groove to set up an eventual pass on fellow Outlaw Brandon Overton in turn two of the race’s second lap. Greenville, Mich. native Nick Kurtz joined the party less than five laps later, also breaking into the podium.
Nearing the halfway point, Kurtz overtook Richards to take sole possession of second place in his No. 79 Classic Auto Repair/ Universal Graphic Solutions Barry Wright machine. Thereon, the podium separated itself from the field by more than a 1.6-second margin.
“It’s something I didn’t expect,” said Kurtz about passing Richards. “These guys are the best in the country and anytime you can run side-by-side with them, it’s a good night. We have something to definitely build on next year.”
In order to fend-off Richards in closed-quarters, Kurtz used the lapped traffic to his advantage. Kurtz kept two-or-more cars in-between Richards – until the final few laps in the race. Richards managed to close the gap to one second in his No. 1 Valvoline/ Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket car, but ran out of the real estate he needed to make a move.
“These locals are just tough watching them,” Richards said. “They know how to get around this track. It’s so different than what we’re used to. It’s so small. Eric was running the top there and we were following him. I kind of moved down but not far enough, and then Nick drove by on the bottom. We just needed 50 or 100 more laps to catch them. They were doing a great job.”
Eric Spangler, Nick Kurtz, Josh Richards, Brandon Overton, Shane Clanton, Dale McDowell, Billy Moyer Jr., Bill Bray, Morgan Bagley, Steve Casebolt, Rick Eckert, Eric Wells, Rich Neiser, Chub Frank, Greg Gokey, Dona Marcoullier, Chris Brindley, Boom Briggs, Curtis Spalding, Frank Heckenast Jr., Tyler Erb, Joey Coulter, Brian Shirley, Dave Bowen.