Shirley Keeps Rolling In Wild West Shootout

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Brian Shirley takes a winning ride at Arizona Speedway. (Mike Ruefer photo)
Brian Shirley takes a winning ride at Arizona Speedway. (Mike Ruefer photo)

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. — For the second time in as many years, a late model driver has pulled into Hoker Trucking victory lane at least three times during the Wild West Shootout, earning them a piece of the Keyser Manufacturing Quarter-Million Challenge bonus money.

And with a third victory on Saturday at Arizona Speedway, Brian Shirley still has one more race to stake claim to even more money being offered by Keyser.

Shirley’s night picked right up where he left Friday, as he dominated his heat race, winning by over three seconds.

Cade Dillard ripped a 15.321 lap around FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway earlier in the evening, earning him the $100 fast qualifier award, courtesy of SportTruck RV and Screven Motor Speedway. Dillard also won his heat race, joining Chase Junghans., Johnny Scott and Shirley as heat race winners.  Junghans would collect $100 after his heat race win, as he drew the pole position and earned the Gorsuch Performance Pole Award.

Unfortunately for Junghans, his time spent up front would not last long in the 40-lap feature, as he overshot the entrance of turn three and hopped the cushion, handing the lead to outside front row starter, Johnny Scott.

Junghans recovered in fifth place, by the completion of the race’s first circuit. Scott proceeded to lead the next nine laps, with Shirley hot on his tail and showing his nose on the inside of the FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway track surface. It was the 10th lap where Shirley was finally able to find the traction he needed to complete the pass on Scott and he immediately began to stretch his lead.

The race remained green until just after the halfway mark, when Justin Duty slowed on lap 25, bringing out the first Midwest Sheet Metal caution flag of the night. This erased Shirley’s growing advantage and setup a series of restarts and short sprints to the finish.  Third and seventh place drivers, Ricky Weiss of Headingley, Manitoba and Chase Junghans both executed flawless restarts, advancing to second and third position, behind Shirley.

However, Shirley continued to stretch his lead over Weiss and Junghans, until fourth place running Johnny Scott suffered a failed right rear tire on lap 34, ending his night and bringing out the second caution flag.

Weiss attempted to keep pace with Shirley on the next restart, but “Squirrel” continued to flex his muscle and quickly opened his lead.  This happened to be only a four-lap stint, as third place running Chase Junghans lost his right rear tire on lap 38, also ending his night and bringing out the final Midwest Sheet Metal caution flag of the race.

Weiss gave it all he could on the final restart, with two laps to go.  He stuck to the bottom and showed Shirley his nose, nearly driving even with him in turns one and two. However, Shirley was simply too strong, as he cruised to win his second consecutive Wild West Shootout feature victory, which marked his third win of the entire event.

Weiss settled for runner-up, his fourth top-five finish in the five events that have been completed.

Brandon Sheppard charged from his 12th starting position to claim the third and final finishing position on the podium. Dillard remained in the top-five throughout the entire 40-lap feature and earned his best finish of the event, coming home in fourth, while Bobby Pierce advanced from his 18th starting position and finished fifth.

Brian Shirley (Mike Ruefer photo)

Shirley’s third victory of the event has earned him a $10,000 bonus, courtesy of Keyser Manufacturing.  He can make it $25,000 in bonus money, if he happens to win the final event on Sunday.

Saturday night’s Mesilla Valley Transportation/Border Tire and Arizona Differential Modified feature not only featured its fifth different winner in as many races, it will likely go down as one of the best modified finishes in the history of the Wild West Shootout.

The 25-lap race started rough, as outside polesitter Trevor Anderson was spun on the fourth lap and hit driver-side into the turn three wall.  Anderson’s car did a pirouette and landed facing the infield, with his driver’s side toward traffic, but was then struck by Matt Gilbertson, when he had nowhere to go.

According to statistics, polesitter Matt Leer led the entire race, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story. Tyler Peterson, Lucas Schott and Rodney Sanders were all quicker than Leer in the closing laps and they were all running nose-to-tail.

However, entering turn one of the final lap, Peterson threw a slider that somehow stuck and he grabbed the lead by the exit of turn two.  Leer saved his run for corner exit and he was able to get underneath Peterson in turns three and four, coming to the checkered flag.  Leer let his car drift wide on corner exit, making contact with Peterson and putting him into the wall, as the two cars drag raced for the finish line.

The contact killed their momentum, allowing Schott and Sanders to draw even closer, on the exit of turn four.  Leer was just able to nip Peterson at the line, winning his first career Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout feature victory by .034 seconds.

Peterson was hit from behind by Schott just after they crossed the finish line and he was spun nearly into the infield at the entrance of turn one, but held on to finish runner-up.  Schott sustained significant front-end damage in the collision with Peterson, but he took third position, a scant .240 seconds behind Leer.

Saturday night started with a first career winner at the 2020 Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts. Skeeter Estey earned his third top-five and fifth top-ten finish of the event, narrowly holding off the 2019 RHRSwag.com Barnett Harley-Davidson X-Mod champion Cole Searing.

The finish:

Feature (40 Laps): 1. 3S-Brian Shirley[4]; 2. 7-Ricky Weiss[5]; 3. B5-Brandon Sheppard[12]; 4. 97-Cade Dillard[3]; 5. 32-Bobby Pierce[18]; 6. 15B-Brian Birkhofer[6]; 7. 2S-Stormy Scott[14]; 8. 32S-Chris Simpson[7]; 9. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr[20]; 10. 1-Earl Pearson Jr[11]; 11. 86-Kyle Beard[10]; 12. 91T-Tony Toste[17]; 13. 17-Mclain Beaudoin[19]; 14. 99-Clay Fisher[22]; 15. 77M-Jay Morris[21]; 16. 89-Mike Spatola[15]; 17. 18-Chase Junghans[1]; 18. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[8]; 19. 1ST-Johnny Scott[2]; 20. 2-Garrett Alberson[9]; 21. 28M-Jimmy Mars[16]; 22. 15-Justin Duty[23]; 23. 75T-Terry Phillips[13]; 24. 91P-Jason Papich[24]