BROWNSTOWN, Ill. — Whatever you throw at him, the pressure just never seems to get to Brian Shirley. Racing only 90 minutes from home with his car owners in attendance, Shirley romped to his sixth DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory of the season Friday at Fayette County Speedway.
Shirley fended off challenges from Brandon Sheppard, Frank Heckenast Jr. and Shannon Babb throughout the second half of the 50-lap contest further padding his points lead on the quest for his fourth Hell Tour championship.
“It’s one of those things where we were lucky; better to be lucky than good,” Shirley said. “In the heat race, [Shannon] Babb got in the wall, let us get by, and then we drew the pole and had a good enough car to hang on.”
While drawing the inside front row for the Feature gave him a great start on his path to the $10,000 victory, Shirley had work to do over the next 50 laps.
Shirley jumped out to a commanding lead in the opening stages and held it through the first 30 laps, maneuvering lapped traffic with ease before the first caution flag flew on lap 31. The ensuing restart brought on his first defense of the lead as Heckenast had a big run on the bottom.
Heckenast’s challenge didn’t last long, however, as Sheppard went around him on the top side for the spot one lap later. Another caution for a smoking Jason Feger on lap 38 restacked the field one last time before a big turning point in the battle for second going on behind Shirley.
Shirley gassed it up on the high side off of turn two on the restart and made contact with Sheppard, who was looking for the lead to his inside down the backstretch. This turned him down into Heckenast, who was to his inside, and both went spinning into the infield in turn three.
Sheppard retired to the infield with a broken right-front tie-rod while Heckenast rejoined the field at the tail, ahead of the lapped cars. Before the race was done, Heckenast made it back up to fourth after losing a great deal of track position.
Back out front, it was Shirley’s race to lose. Shannon Babb pulled a great move to the low side of Dennis Erb Jr. for second on the final restart and gunned it for Shirley’s rear bumper. After a valiant effort to catch him, it just wasn’t enough for Babb to make the pass.
Feature (50 Laps) 1. 3S-Brian Shirley ; 2. 18-Shannon Babb ; 3. 28-Dennis Erb ; 4. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr ; 5. 33R-Rodney Melvin ; 6. 6K-Michael Kloos ; 7. 4G-Bob Gardner ; 8. 10J-Jordan Bauer ; 9. 48-Tim Lance ; 10. 16-Rusty Griffaw ; 11. 15-Kolby Vandenbergh ; 12. 21-Billy Moyer ; 13. B5-Brandon Sheppard ; 14. 25-Jason Feger ; 15. 91-Rusty Schlenk ; 16. C9-Steve Casebolt ; 17. 26M-Brent McKinnon ; 18. 48L-Tim Lance Jr ; 19. 10-Daryn Klein ; 20. 14K-Paul Kuper ; 21. 30-Mark Voigt ; 22. 78-Chad Zobrist  Hard Charger: 33R-Rodney Melvin[+12]