Chris Simpson crossed underneath the start/finish line with six laps remaining, over two seconds behind leader Bobby Pierce. It didn’t appear to him that he was going to catch Pierce before the checkered. And then, snap.
The driveshaft yoke had busted on Pierce’s car, and he slowed suddenly in Turns 1-2, coasting into the Davenport Speedway infield and surrendering the top spot.
“I was just hoping he pulled into the pits and didn’t cause a caution,” Simpson, of Oxford, IA, said. “I knew there were some good boys behind me.”
Simpson raced into the lead down the backstretch with Jason Feger and Ryan Unzicker two seconds behind him, only five-and-a-half laps away from his first DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory in almost seven years (July 2015).
Smooth and steady on the bottom, Simpson wheeled his Longhorn Chassis #32 around the quarter-mile without a hiccup to claim his third career Hell Tour victory in front of his home state crowd.
“We probably had a second-place car, but I’ll take a first any day,” Simpson said.
Back in the pits, Pierce’s car sat atop the pneumatic lift in in front of his hauler, the culprit parts leaning up against the back door. In reflection, the reigning Summer Nationals champ said the yoke may have actually broken before he got to Turns 1-2.
“I was basically on cruise control there at the end, but I hit that hole really bad in Turn 3,” Pierce, of Oakwood, IL, said. “The right-rear just sat in it – the only hole in the racetrack, really. It was right where everyone was going in and setting their right-rears and planting their cars.
“At the time, I thought I had dirt in my wheel or something because I felt something slightly off. And then bam, she just went.”
Pierce was credited with a 17th-place finish, effectively knocking him out of the Hell Tour points lead and back into third, 21 points behind.
Starting third on the grid, Simpson led the first 15 circuits of the race before Pierce got by him on the top. With 15-to-go, Pierce was checked-out, maintaining a two-plus-second lead, but it was slowly shrinking.
“I felt like I was running Bobby down, and then they moved him down in Turns 3-4,” Simpson said. “That’s kinda where it was really good. They moved him down both corners and he’d slip-up off of Turn 2 a little bit, then I’d get a run, then I’d mess-up a little bit.”
This quenches a big thirst for Simpson, who’s been searching for a night of success in front of a big crowd all season long.
“It feels good just to be in any Victory Lane,” Simpson said. “We’ve been struggling. We wrecked a car at Eldora and had a long couple of days. Bought [this car] from one of my customers that just came back from Longhorn on the jig.”
“It’s been hectic.”
Jason Feger earned his third-straight top-five finish with a runner-up to Simpson, while Ryan Unzicker drove from 16th up to third to complete the podium. Trevor Gundaker advanced five spots in his drive from 9th to finish fourth, and Missourian Logan Martin recorded his best finish on tour so far to complete the top-five.
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Models are back in action Friday night at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, IL, for the first $10,000-to-win show of the season. DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals is also back in action.
If you can’t be at the track, watch every lap live with a FAST PASS subscription to DIRTVision.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature 40 Laps | 00:19:28.634
- 32S-Chris Simpson; 2. 25-Jason Feger; 3. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 4. 11T-Trevor Gundaker; 5. 36-Logan Martin; 6. 4G-Bob Gardner; 7. 3S-Brian Shirley; 8. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 9. T6-Tommy Sheppard Jr; 10. 11- Gordy Gundaker; 11. 25S-Chad Simpson; 12. F1-Payton Freeman; 13. 15-Justin Duty; 14. 21B-Rich Bell; 15. 22-Daniel Hilsabeck; 16. 14G-Joe Godsey; 17. 32-Bobby Pierce; 18. 51-Matt Furman; 19. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 20. 15K-Justin Kay; 21. 7-Drake Troutman; 22. 10K-Daryn Klein; 23. 9R-Curtis Roberts