First-Time Winners At Eldora

Matt Mevert and Bobby Pierce won Saturday night's UMP races at Ohio's Eldora Speedway. (Mike Campbell photo)
Matt Mevert and Bobby Pierce won Saturday night's UMP races at Ohio's Eldora Speedway. (Mike Campbell photo)
Matt Mevert and Bobby Pierce won Saturday night’s UMP races at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway. (Mike Campbell photo)

ROSSBURG, Ohio — At only 17 years of age, second-generation driver Bobby Pierce used Saturday’s UMP DIRTcar Spring Nationals win to propel him into his second century of late model wins.

Joining Pierce on Eldora’s coveted stage to celebrate win number 101 was fellow Prairie State hotshoe Matt Mevert who earlier in the night captured the modified leg of the doubleheader on a night presented by Allstar Performance..

For both them, this marked their first Eldora wins.

Dogged determination and commanding restarts played key ingredients for Pierce, who was greeted in victory lane by the man who had captured this event 21 years ago in 1993, Bob Pierce. Bobby had no recollection of that ceremony as he hadn’t even been born yet.

By virtue of his second heat race win, Pierce started on the outside pole of the 24-car, $5,000 to win 25-lap chase, with Heat one winner Dona Marcoullier inside of him on the pole.  As the green flag dropped, Pierce took it right to the limit by running full throttle within inches of Eldora’s oft-intimidating concrete walls and stealing top spot away from Marcoullier.

Several minor caution periods slowed the pace and with the double-file restart rule, it would put the entire field back within the shadows of Pierce. His restart approach let the field know that at 17 he was already a veteran in his own right. He would choose the outside lane and when the green flag was unfurled to resume racing, he would shoot off of turn four right down in front of the field to shut off their momentum.

Marcoullier remained in contention as the field approached lapped traffic, but behind them Ryan VanderVeen, Brian Ruhlman, Jeep VanWormer and Duane Chamberlain were engaging in a see-saw battle for positioning among the top five.  VanderVeen and VanWormer eventually fell victim to crashes which allowed Ruhlman and Chamberlain to take on their own battle while Matt Miller soon entered the scene.

Through it all, Pierce remained undaunted and charged to his second feature win of the weekend. Saturday’s win came at the expense of Chamberlain, Ruhlman, Marcoullier and Miller who completed the top five.

Ruhlman was trying to salvage a disappointing run in the modified A-feature just moments before, wheere he appeared to be locked into the $5,000 victory.

His pole starting position was to his liking and he made the most of it by enduring three attempts by the 32-car field to get under green flag conditions and opened nearly a straightaway lead over the field.  Devin Gilpin was the first to try and reel him in, but had his hands full fending off Mevert and Jonathan Taylor and host of others including Eldora stalwarts Jeff Babcock and Jerry Bowersock.

Ruhlman’s vast Eldora experience played right into his hand to make it look like the balance of the 31 cars were merely racing to determine an order behind him.   Yet Mevert and Taylor had other thoughts, with Mevert learning the Eldora track more and more with every lap.

A rare lap-16 miscue by Ruhlman and near-collision with the concrete wall was all Mevert needed to not only knock on the door, but walk right in. As he rallied to regain his composure, Taylor took advantage to advance forward as well.

The slight contact was enough to drop Ruhlman somewhat off the pace being enjoyed by Mevert and Taylor, and found team mates Matt Westfall and Jeff Babcock now looking towards the checkered flag. Mevert wasn’t about to be denied and took advantage of a long green-flag run in the closing stages to score the win.

Taylor, Westfall and Babock waged a battle to the end and finished in that order, while Chad Kinder slid up into fifth.