Shirley Strikes Again In The Wild West

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Brian Shirley celebrates after winning Friday's Wild West Shootout feature at Arizona Speedway. (Mike Ruefer Photo)
Brian Shirley celebrates after winning Friday's Wild West Shootout feature at Arizona Speedway. (Mike Ruefer Photo)

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. – Brian Shirley came from the fourth row to win Friday’s 30-lap Wild West Shootout Dirt Track Bank Super Late Models feature at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway.

Just like Wednesday, Friday’s night’s show started two hours later than the events held on the weekend days, resulting in slightly cooler temperatures and additional moisture in the track surface.

Ricky Weiss earned overall fast qualifier honors, laying down a 15.231 second lap around FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway.  Weiss also cruised to win his heat race later in the evening, joining Cade Dillard, Mike Spatola and Chris Simpson as heat race winners on Friday night.

All four heat race winners drew for their starting positions, with Simpson claiming the Gorsuch Performance Pole Award and Spatola starting alongside him on the front row.  Simpson took advantage of his inside front row starting position and quickly jumped out to the lead on the initial start of the race. Simpson never enjoyed a large lead throughout the night and primarily stuck to the high line while being consistently challenged by Weiss, who was running the bottom groove, for nearly the entire 30-lap feature.

Simpson continued leading over Weiss, Shirley, Spatola and Ricky Thornton Jr. until the first caution flag was displayed on lap eight, when Dillard spun on the exit of turn four, while avoiding contact with Thornton. By this time, eighth place starting Brandon Sheppard had already advanced two positions and was being scored in sixth.

Weiss continued to pressure Simpson for the lead on the ensuing restart, with Shirley in hot pursuit, while Sheppard advanced two additional positions and found himself in fourth, stalking the three leaders in front of him.

The race remained green for 14 laps after the first caution and featured some of the best racing of the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts.  Simpson was doing his best to keep Weiss pinched on the bottom, as they battled for the lead and began to hit lapped traffic.

Meanwhile, Shirley was making excellent headway on the outside and worked around Weiss, when his momentum would get slowed.  All the while, Sheppard was lurking in fourth position and licking his chops, waiting for his opportunity to pounce.

Simpson, Shirley and Weiss were three-wide for the lead at one point, just past the halfway mark of the feature. Shirley was finally able to complete the pass on the bottom of Simpson and gained the race lead, just after completion of the 20th circuit, pulling Sheppard along with him and into the runner-up position.

Shirley began to stretch his advantage until the second caution flag was displayed on lap 22, for a spin by McLain Beaudoin in turn two.

It was only a few laps after the ensuing restart when the race’s third and final caution flag came out, after Brian Birkhofer tangled with Bobby Pierce, ending both of their chances for a good finish.

Meanwhile, Brian Shirley had proven that he could beat Sheppard on a restart and extend his advantage.  That’s exactly what Shirley did again on the final restart of the night, as Shirley remained committed to the outside groove and stretched his lead over Sheppard, winning by a little over one second.

After leading the first 20 laps of the race, Simpson was able to hold off Weiss in a highly-contested battle, to claim the third and final podium finishing position.  Weiss and Thornton Jr completed the top-five finishers on Friday.

Shirley’s victory was his second visit to Hoker Trucking victory lane during the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts and makes him eligible for some bonus money offered by Keyser Manufacturing, if he is able to win at least one additional feature.

Shirley and Sheppard are both eligible for bonus money and either would be rewarded $10,000 for one additional win or $25,000 if either could sweep the last two races being held this weekend.

Dustin Strand picked up the victory in modified competition, while Josh Cain won the X-Mod main event.

The finish:

1. 3S-Brian Shirley[7]; 2. B5-Brandon Sheppard[8]; 3. 32S-Chris Simpson[1]; 4. 7-Ricky Weiss[3]; 5. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[5]; 6. 1ST-Johnny Scott[11]; 7. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr[17]; 8. 18-Chase Junghans[6]; 9. 2S-Stormy Scott[16]; 10. 97-Cade Dillard[4]; 11. 19R-Ryan Gustin[20]; 12. 74-Mitch McGrath[19]; 13. 77M-Jay Morris[13]; 14. 42S-Don Shaw[9]; 15. 91P-Jason Papich[23]; 16. 32-Bobby Pierce[18]; 17. 2-Garrett Alberson[12]; 18. 17-Mclain Beaudoin[21]; 19. 99-Clay Fisher[24]; 20. 89-Mike Spatola[2]; 21. 15B-Brian Birkhofer[15]; 22. 75T-Terry Phillips[10]; 23. 1-Earl Pearson Jr[14]; 24. 55D-Nick Deal[22]