In his return to the DIRTcar Summer Nationals roster, Bobby Pierce reminded the packed Tri-City Speedway crowd he hadn’t forgotten how to win with the series he’s ruled over for the past two years.
Pierce, the five-time Hell Tour champion from Oakwood, IL, bagged the first $10,000 check of the 38th Summer Nationals season Friday night, passing fellow Illinoisan Frank Heckenast Jr. for the lead before the halfway point and driving off to his 48th career tour victory.
2023 is the first in several years Pierce has missed the start of a Summer Nationals season, electing to join the national ranks of the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series for the first time in his career. With his schedule booked for the remainder of the year, Pierce decided on a pick-and-choose slate of Summer Nationals races, including Tri-City, and made a grand first entrance with the win Friday night.
“Missing them first two races was a little hard to watch while we were working in the shop – we were watching on DIRTVision,” Pierce said. “It was definitely hard to see that because I’m used to being at all the Hell Tour races.”
At the drop of the green, Pierce dropped back to fifth from his third starting spot on the grid and began his search for a lane with the grip he needed to get to the front. He tried the risky top side first but soon found the bottom lane to his liking and began to reel in his competition.
A slide job in Turns 1-2 on Jason Feger got him the third spot on Lap 10. A slide job in 1-2 on Billy Moyer moved him into second two laps later. Two laps after that, Pierce set up outside polesitter Frank Heckenast Jr. with a big run to his inside out of Turn 4 before a third and final slide job in 1-2 put him away.
“Found out the bottom was working well for me, and I was able to get below some guys,” Pierce said. “It gave me a run and I could slide them and get past them.”
From there on out, it was all Pierce out front. He hit the jets and stretched his lead out to over three full seconds at its largest as Heckenast fended off Brian Shirley for second. Once Heckenast cleared Shirley, he was able to run the gap to Pierce down to slightly under two seconds in the closing laps, but that was as close as he came.
Pierce was rarely slowed by traffic and cruised across the stripe to bag the big check in his first Summer Nationals start of 2023.
Heckenast held on for second while Shirley completed the podium. Polesitter Gordy Gundaker came home fourth and Jason Feger rounded out the top five. Tour regular Ashton Winger earned Hard Charger honors in his drive to sixth from 17th on the starting grid.
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals action continues Saturday night with a visit to Fairbury Speedway in Fairbury, IL. Get a ticket to watch in person at the gate or stream all the action live on DIRTVision.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 32-Bobby Pierce; 2. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 3. 3S-Brian Shirley; 4. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 5. 25-Jason Feger; 6. 12-Ashton Winger; 7. 96V-Tanner English; 8. 33-Mike Harrison; 9. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 10. 21-Billy Moyer Sr; 11. 174-Ethan Dotson; 12. 31AUS-Kye Blight; 13. 86-Kyle Beard; 14. T6-Tommy Sheppard Jr; 15. 21B-Rich Bell; 16. 4G-Bob Gardner; 17. 26H-Daryn Klein; 18. (DNF) 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 19. (DNF) 14G-Trevor Gundaker; 20. (DNF) 16-Rusty Griffaw; 21. (DNF) 18-Shannon Babb; 22. (DNF) 10J-Jordan Bauer