GRANITE CITY, Ill. – Billy Moyer charged to the front late to grab his 44th career Lucas Oil MLRA victory in a classic battle with Bobby Pierce, on Saturday night at Tri-City Speedway.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah Hurst overcame adversity to survive the 40-lap main event to capture both the MLRA championship and Sunoco Race Fuels Rookie of the Year title.
In a back and forth points battle all race long, Hurst scored the title by a single position (five points) over two-time series champion Chad Simpson. The drama started early for as both title contenders had to use series provisions. They started side-by-side in row 12 with an uphill battle to overtake four-time series winner Payton Looney.
Jason Papich led the field to the green from the pole for the first time this season alongside Pierce. Pierce took the lead at the start and set sail along the top side of the speedway. The race would go green for the first 25 circuits, with Pierce battling through slower traffic ahead of Shannon Babb and Ryan Gustin.
A lap-25 caution for Friday night’s winner Mason Oberkramer slowed the pace and nearly ended the night for Pierce as he made contact with the Oberkramer machine as it sat idle at the top of turn one. Another quick caution would mix up the order on lap 27 as the pressure began to mount on Pierce, with Moyer racing into contention from his sixth starting position.
As the field raced off turn four to complete lap 29, Moyer drove to the bottom and found just enough grip to seize the top spot, just seconds before the caution waved for Rick Eckert, who spun off the exit of turn four. On the restart, Tim Manville made contact with the frontstretch wall and rolled onto his top at the end of the front stretch bringing out the red flag. Manville would walk away from the incident.
With the battle up front in Moyer’s control, the championship was up for grabs as title leader Looney found himself diving to the hot pit for repairs to the right front of his Capital Chassis. The multiple cautions allowed Tony Jackson Jr. to race inside the top five while Simpson worked towards the top-10 in pursuit of the title, all the while Hurst was quietly doing what he had to do to take back the top spot.
Moyer would take control on the final restart and stretched out the lead only to see Pierce come charging back in the closing laps. Pierce tapped the wall exciting turn two on the final lap, which allowed Moyer to pull away for the win and the $7,000 payday with Pierce and Gustin completing the podium. Jackson and Simpson would complete the top-five.
“We made some changes to the car and hit it pretty good,” said Moyer. “Early in the race I was a little bit concerned, but I guess it kind of come to us the longer we went. The bottom was kind of wore out more but I could make better time down there.
“Down both strait-a-ways even the back there it felt like way low there I could get a little bit of grip to get ahold of. That’s where I worked hard to try to adjust the car where I could kind of hit that little strip there and it worked out for us. It was a fun race and the track the last two nights has been really good race wise with a good top and bottom on it.”
As Moyer collect the winner’s check in victory lane, MLRA staff was busy tabulating the final standings, which found the series top four drivers separated by 20 points at the finish. Hurst catured the $15,000 MLRA series title by five points over Simpson, 10 over Looney, and 20 over Jackson.
“Its hats off to my guys, it just goes to show you how hard they work,” Hurst said. “I was pretty down in the dumps, this points racing gets to you man it’s nerve racking and I think I’m still in shock. I can’t thank my car owner Ken (Roberts) and all my sponsors Nutrien Ag, and Done Right and all those guys behind me. My guys busted their tails off on this thing today and we were still a little off. This place is a tough race track. It’s hard to get ahold of and I was just trying to ride around and get the best finish I could.”
“It’s all thanks to my car owner Ken, he gave me this shot and I’m just trying to live up to it,” Hurst added.
1. 21M-Billy Moyer Sr; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce; 3. 19-Ryan Gustin; 4. 21-Tony Jackson Jr; 5. 25-Chad Simpson; 6. 99-Frank Heckenast Jr; 7. 18B-Shannon Babb; 8. 91-Rusty Schlenk; 9. 42F-Chad Finley; 10. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 11. 58- Jeremiah Hurst; 12. 59-Garrett Alberson; 13. 91P-Jason Papich; 14. 91T-Tony Toste; 15. 11T-Trevor Gundaker; 16. 15LPayton Looney; 17. 56W-Brennon Willard; 18. 15-Justin Duty; 19. (DNF) 0E-Rick Eckert; 20. (DNF) 33-Tim Manville; 21. (DNF) 6K-Michael Kloos; 22. (DNF) 49T-Jake Timm; 23. (DNF) 0K-Dewayne Kiefer; 24. (DNF) 93-Mason Oberkramer; 25. (DNF) 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 26. (DNF) 1B-Brent Larson; 27. (DNF) 33F-Rickey Frankel; 28. (DNF) 32S-Chris Simpson