(Peoria, IL) If the first race of the 10 race “Budweiser Super Late Model Series” at Peoria Speedway is any indicator of things to come, fans should be looking forward to the next event on May 13.
Fans braved frigid conditions, but were rewarded with one of the best feature races of the year so far. Chatham driver Brian Shirley prevailed in a wildly entertaining UMP Late Model feature event which featured 2 and 3 grooves of racing throughout the 30 lap feature, taking home the $2,000 top prize.
Pole sitter Wes Steidinger got the jump at the start of the race, but was pressured early and often by 2nd starting Billy Drake. As Steidinger ran the bottom ,Drake jumped to the high side of the track and nearly passed Steidinger on lap 8. 4th-starting Kevin Weaver was right behind the leaders as they encountered lapped traffic on lap 10, and passed Drake for 2nd on lap 11 in turn 1. Shirley and 5th starting Bobby Pierce drove by a fading Drake on lap 12 as Weaver was putting the pressure on Steidinger for the lead as the top 6 cars battled lapped traffic.
Weaver finally passed Steidinger coming out of turn 4 on lap 14 for the lead, with the top 4 cars running in a pack by lap 15. With Weaver and Pierce on the bottom, Steidinger in the middle, and Shirley on top, the war was raging for positions until lap 18, when the lapped car of McKay Wenger presented a problem for the group.
Like a swarm of bees, the top 4 drivers scrambled to pass Wenger on the front stretch, but with all possible racing lines taken, a logjam developed and Pierce got the worst of it. Pierce moved to the very bottom of the track, but ran into Wenger on the front stretch and damaged the right front suspension as the caution flew.
Weaver was the leader on the re-start, with Steidinger, Shirley and Drake in tow. Shirley put a major-league slide job on Steidinger in turn 2 on lap 23 to take second and set sail for Weaver. Action was fast and furious, with the top 10 running side-by-side for nearly every position. Shirley pressured Weaver until finally making a pass for the lead coming out of turn 2 on the top of the track on lap 26. Positions 3 through 10 ran under a blanket and side-by-side until the end of the race. Weaver fended off a late charge from Dennis Erb, and finished 2nd. Erb ended up 3rd, with 16th starting Mike Spatola and Steiding er completing the top 5.
“It was kinda scary there at the top at the beginning of the feature”, said Shirley in victory lane. “The track was perfect, though, and our decision to go soft on tires won us the race as we could really get going on top there. That was a heckuva race and I want to thank the fans for braving the cold tonight.”
In the UMP Modified feature, Billy Tuckwell got the jump and led for the first 9 laps, but was passed by Erik Bruce as the 2 appeared to make contact on lap 10 in turn 2. Tuckwell looped the car in turn 2 but saved it and kept going but lost several spots in the process. Bruce fended off a late charge by Donovan Lodge for the win. Ray Bollinger, Gary Cook, Jr. and Cody Bauman completed the top 5.
Tuckwell pulled next to Bruce in victory lane as the 2 had a discussion about what happened on the track on lap 10. Cooler heads prevailed but Bruce was unavailable for comment after the win.
Tommy Duncan took the lead at the start from his outside front row starting position in the Limited Late Models and never looked back. Steve Shannon challenged Duncan at the end, but Duncan held on for his first ever win in a Limited Late Model. Shannon, Chuck Barnes, Jr., Carl Feger and Bob Cowell completed the top 5.
“I saw his (Shannon) nose there at the end”, said Duncan. “The car wasn’t real good but it was good enough tonight to get our first win in this car”.
Austin Archdale led flag-flag in the Speedway Motors Illinois Lightning Sprint class, but was challenged repeatedly by rookie Andrew Funk, who ended up 2nd. Jake Sollenberger, Brennan Gregory and John Springer rounded out the top 5.
“Without the wings on, these cars kind of even out a little bit”, said Archdale. “I could hear Andrew back there and knew I had to keep it smooth. Thanks to Speedway Motors for all of their involvement in our series.”
The Street Stock feature was another entertaining race, with 3 different leaders slicing and dicing on the Peoria high banks. Veteran Wally Zander held the lead for the first 5 laps until former Late Model driver Jeff Semmens began to challenge on lap 5. Semmens make the pass stick on lap 6, but Bob Simpson scooted by Zander and was on Semmens’ back bumper by lap 9. Simpson continued to pressure Semmons until taking the lead for good on lap 12 as the 2 crossed the starting line. Simpson held on for the win, followed by Semmens, Zander, Greg Sauder, and John Farris.
Jonathon Schuck took advantage of a collision on lap 9 between Zack Bollinger and Jerry Salley, who were running first and second at the time, and won his first UMP Hornet race of the year. “I want to dedicate this win to my dad”, Schuck said in victory lane.
This weekend at Peoria Speedway will be AMA Hole Shot racing on Saturday and Sunday. The “Budweiser Super Late Model Series” continues at the track on Sunday, May 13.