20-Year-Old Winger Banks $20,000

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Ashton Winger (Trent Gower photo)

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. — Rookie late model racer Ashton Winger outdueled the best in the business to earn his first World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series victory Friday at Cedar Lake Speedway.

Navigating lapped traffic, trading sliders, and going wheel-to-wheel with $20,000 on the line, the 20-year-old racer never cracked once with Brandon Sheppard’s Rocket1 Racing No. 1 breathing down his neck.

A misleading box score shows Winger led all 40 laps of the three-eighths-mile track. Dealing with Sheppard’s immense presence over the final half of the race, Winger was up to the challenge time-and-time again. Withstanding a lap-37 slider, Winger went right back at B-Shep into turn three with his own massive slide job to retain the top spot.

“This is so awesome man,” Winger shouted. “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I never wanted to NASCAR or anything like that. I always wanted to be at the top level of the Dirt Late Model Racing and here we are. I’m so glad we got to do this in front of a full crowd. This is so badass! I’m speechless.”

The feature redraw gave fans 20-year old Ashton Winger vs. 50-year-old Darrell Lanigan  starting pole and outside pole. Running off to a steady advantage through lap 15, Winger’s challenge began on lap 16 when sixth-starter Brandon Sheppard overtook Lanigan for the runner-up spot. Reaching the cross flags on lap 20, the battle for the lead heated up as Sheppard applied pressure on Winger.

Stalking him over the final ten laps, a side-by-side affair with seven laps left brought the fans to life as Winger had Sheppard hounding him for a win that was worth $20,000. On the 37th circuit, with just three to go, Sheppard launched a turn one slider and cleared Winger for the top spot, but the 20-year old kid wasn’t done, nowhere close.

Winger came firing back down the backstretch and tossed his own turn three slider at Sheppard, retaking command of the lead as they saw the two-to-go signal. Over the final two laps, Winger ran the race of his life and held off Sheppard for a huge first career World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature win. What followed was an emotional victory lane which sent the Cedar Lake Speedway crowd crazy.

“Sheppy was showing me a nose that whole time and this race track moved around so much that I just didn’t know where to be,” noted Winger. “This is a dream come true. I have to thank so many people: my mom, my dad, Billy Franklin, Colby, Todd Pruett, everybody who has ever turned a wrench on any of my race cars since I was nine years old. This is all for them. I’m so thankful.”

Falling short of stealing the win in the closing laps, Sheppard ended up with a second-place finish in Friday’s show aboard the Rocket1 Racing, Valvoline No. 1. That makes 16 top-10 finishes in 17 races this season.

“He did a really great job, congrats to those guys,” Sheppard said. “They’ve been working hard out on the road with us and they deserve this. We were right there with them and had a great car all night, just missed it there at the end. Hats off to all my guys Mark, Dan, Austin, Joel, Steve Baker, Rocket Chassis. This thing is so good right now. It means the world to me to be standing up here on the top three night-in and night-out with these guys. I’m excited for tomorrow. Thank you to all the fans for coming out!”

Ricky Weiss, Dennis Erb Jr. and Lanigan rounded out the top five.

The finish:

Feature (50 laps): 1. 12-Ashton Winger [1][$20,000]; 2. 1-Brandon Sheppard [6][$7,000]; 3. 7-Ricky Weiss [3][$4,000]; 4. 28-Dennis Erb [9][$2,500]; 5. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [2][$2,000]; 6. 28m-Jimmy Mars [7][$1,700]; 7. 0-Scott Bloomquist [4][$1,500]; 8. 99jr-Frank Heckenast [11][$1,400]; 9. 97-Cade Dillard [5][$1,350]; 10. 18-Chase Junghans [12][$1,300]; 11. 20rt-Ricky Thornton [15][$1,250]; 12. 20-Rodney Sanders [10][$1,200]; 13. 99b-Boom Briggs [16][$1,150]; 14. B1-Brent Larson [14][$1,100]; 15. 16-Rusty Griffaw [20][$1,050]; 16. 71-Rick Hanestad [22][$1,000]; 17. 15h-Steve Hucovski [24][$1,000]; 18. 56-Colton Horner [13][$1,000]; 19. 11g-James Giossi [18][$1,000]; 20. 6m-Jeff Massingill [17][$1,000]; 21. 11-Pat Doar [19][$1,000]; 22. 71jr-Buddy Hanestad [21][$1,000]; 23. 58-A.J. Diemel [8][$1,000]; 24. 10-Paul Parker [23][$1,000]. Lap Leader(s): Winger 1-40. Hard Charger Award: 15h-Steve Hucovski[+7]