Heck, Reed Jr, Gossum and Montgomery score Feature wins
Weekly rivalries reignited, young talent trumping veterans, first-time event winners and a last-lap pass… opening night of the 26th annual DIRTcar Fall Nationals had a little bit of everything.
Lincoln Speedway was the place to be Friday night to see four of DIRTcar’s finest weekly racing warriors in-action. 24 Pro Late Models, 32 Pro Modifieds, 24 UMP Modifieds and 18 Stock Cars packed the pit area and put on four exciting Features for spectators both in-person and on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
Saturday’s program is scheduled to begin at 5pm CT with Hot Lap/Qualifying sessions for DIRTcar Late Models, Pro Late Models, Pro Modifieds, UMP Modifieds and Sport Compacts.
Pro Late Models – Aaron Heck
Wherever there’s a marquee Pro Late Model race happening in the state of Illinois, Aaron Heck, Jose Parga and Dakota Ewing can all usually be found right in the thick of it, battling it out for the win. Friday night at Lincoln was no exception, and Heck had the upper hand when all was said and done.
While Parga and Ewing have been longstanding teammates, Heck remains one of their biggest competitors. The next chapter of their rivalry was written Friday night, in an exciting 25-lap chase for the checkered.
Heck started third and chased polesitter Devin McLean around in the opening laps before making the pass on a great run he got from a restart on Lap 5. He drove to McLean’s outside in Turns 1-2 and used the top-side momentum to complete the pass down the backstretch.
“I was biding my time the first four or five laps there,” Heck said. “[Bill] Knippenberg got around me in the middle, and I knew it was there the whole race, but I just didn’t want to get out there too early.”
Indeed, Knippenberg did challenge Heck on the middle-outside groove in the opening laps but was unable to secure the spot. Heck was good on the bottom early and stellar on the top when he switched to the lane after the restart.
Meanwhile, Ewing and Parga were both lurking inside the top-five. Ewing got to the leader’s rear bumper on Lap 8. Parga, the 2021 national champion, was unable to get into the podium, but put pressure on the leaders throughout. Ewing spent a few laps behind Heck, but was ultimately passed by McLean after the final restart.
Back out front, Heck went virtually unchallenged the rest of the distance to capture his first career DIRTcar Fall Nationals crown.
Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 59-Aaron Heck; 2. 33-Devin McLean; 3. 25-Dakota Ewing; 4. 6P-Jose Parga; 5. 01-Billy Knippenberg; 6. 14J-Braden Johnson; 7. 134-Guy Taylor; 8. 32M-Chuck Mitchell; 9. 22T-Timmy Dick; 10. 45-Kyle McMahon; 11. 33H-Roben Huffman; 12. 55-Rockett Bennett; 13. 27-Colby Sheppard; 14. 97-Michael Marden; 15. 5B-Brandon Sweitzer; 16. F15-Robert Sidener; 17. 14-Derek Smith; 18. 7Z-Michael Maestas; 19. 34-Eric Doran; 20. 11E-Brandon Eskew; 21. 2-Zac Kuhel; 22. 22-Chris Dick; 23. 11-Ryan Miller; 24. M1-Jeff Motley; 25. (DNS) 74-Russ Adams
Stock Cars – Terry Reed Jr.
Just when it looked as though Nick Macklin was going to win a 12th Stock Car Feature this season, Terry Reed Jr. jumped in and stole the spotlight.
Reed, who started third in the 15-lap affair, trailed Macklin almost the entire race, until a caution flag was displayed with three laps remaining. Reed closed in on the rear bumper of Macklin for the restart and pondered the line he would take to get it done.
He chose to throw it way up top – so far outside that he smacked the retaining wall after he took the white flag. With an abundance of outside momentum, Reed got a big run on Macklin down the backstretch and slammed the door down low on him entering Turn 3. He played defense through Turn 4 and down to the stripe, and beat Macklin to the line by .177 seconds to secure the victory.
“This year, I’ve had about 15 second-place finishes, and I wasn’t getting another one,” Reed said. “So, was either make it work or fall back.”
Feature (15 Laps) – 1. 11-Terry Reed; 2. 16-Nick Macklin; 3. 20-Tanner Sullivan; 4. 22-Darrell Dick; 5. 14-Megan Erwin; 6. 42- Jesse Simmons; 7. 46-Randy Huffman; 8. Z24-Zach Taylor; 9. 53R-Jeffery Reed; 10. 25-Jaret Duff; 11. 67R- Rudy Zaragoza; 12. 127-Matthew Weibel; 13. 53-Richard Reed; 14. 51-Zane Miller; 15. 21R-Dustin Reed; 16. 25G-Brian Gaines; 17. 78B-Brad Peters; 18. 47-John Jackson; 19. 52P-Steve Perkins; 20. 24-Justin Crowell; 21. (DNS) X7-Guy Taylor; 22. (DNS) 36-Jerry Huffman
UMP Modifieds – Hunt Gossum
Hunt Gossum came into DIRTcar Fall Nationals weekend with eight Feature wins on the season. To get his ninth, the 16-year-old sensation from Mayfield, KY, had to go through the six-time national DIRTcar champion Mike Harrison. Which, in the end, he did, making the pass in the closing laps to seal the victory.
Similar to his previous victories this year, Gossum stayed glued to the very bottom of the quarter-mile and ran down Harrison in traffic. Harrison used the very top side, like he does at most venues, but the line appeared to have gone away just slightly past the halfway mark, which opened the door for Gossum down low on Lap 14.
“I knew Mike was gonna be fast tonight,” Gossum said. “I didn’t think there would be a cushion, but he made it work there for a little bit. It took rubber down here in Turns 1-2 through the middle, and I just felt like I was getting a better run coming off the corner than him.”
Gossum took full advantage of the line he ran down low and drove it to a $1,000 paycheck, holding off Harrison to the stripe to collect his first career Fall Nationals victory.
Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 99-Hunt Gossum; 2. 24H-Mike Harrison; 3. 05-Dave Wietholder; 4. 14C-Rick Conoyer; 5. 7-Kelly Kovski; 6. 35-Brandon Roberts; 7. 36-Kenny Wallace; 8. 9-Ken Schrader; 9. 37L-Michael Ledford; 10. 777-Trevor Neville; 11. 242-Brandon Bollinger; 12. 1F-Evan Fink; 13. 66-Jake Griffin; 14. 89-Austin Friedman; 15. 14- Brian Lynn; 16. 52-Billy Knebel; 17. 81K-Trent Ross; 18. M41-Steve Maisel; 19. 12-Briana Sheppard; 20. 77-Ray Bollinger; 21. 5T-Rob Timmons; 22. 14K-Shane Kelley; 23. 19C-Carter Sinkhorn; 24. 25-Bill Kettering; 25. R0-Rory Overmyer Sr; 26. 43-Jared Thomas; 27. 24S-Jacob Steinkoenig; 28. (DNS) 87C-Alan Crowder
Pro Modifieds – Jake Montgomery
Another first-time DIRTcar Fall Nationals victor was found in Pro Modified young gun Jake Montgomery, when he found some speed in the high line and used it to lead all but the first of 15 Feature laps Friday night at Lincoln.
Montgomery wheeled his #21.5 Pro Modified around the top side of the quarter-mile oval and made the pass for the lead on polesitter Ryan Hamilton on Lap 2. He never relinquished the lead once from that point, surviving a single restart en route to the checkers.
“To be honest, I don’t even know what I found. I just tried something, and I told my whole crew, ‘I’ve gotta go to the outside and I’ve gotta make it work,’” Montgomery said.
Feature (20 Laps) – 1. 215-Jake Montgomery; 2. 3W-BJ Deal; 3. 58R-Ryan Hamilton; 4. 5-Owen Steinkoenig; 5. 3-Brian Vinson; 6. 27X-Kyle Helmick; 7. 15G-Rick Conoyer; 8. 14G-Tommy Gaither; 9. 444-Logan Dockery; 10. 74-James Hileman; 11. 22K-Michael Kettler; 12. 121-Deece Schwartz; 13. 52-Billy Knebel; 14. 32-Langdon King; 15. 24-Guy Taylor; 16. 81-Garrett Schumacher; 17. 88-Zayden Bolyard; 18. 15C-Kevin Crowder; 19. 25-Denny Tribout; 20. 24M-Matt Milner; 21. 116-Kevin Rench; 22. 14N-Nathan Lynch; 23. 4-William Lowe; 24. 66K- Kaleb Stephens