With three wins in the last five DIRTcar Summer Nationals Features, Ashton Winger is Week 3 champion of the 38th annual Hell Tour.
The 23-year-old Georgian scored his fourth victory of the season Monday night in the Summer Nationals Late Models’ debut at Lake Cumberland Speedway, making the move around polesitter Tyler Clem in the final laps and holding on to bank the $7,500 grand prize and his 10th career Hell Tour victory.
Winger also bagged an additional $10,000 points fund check as champion of the Week 3 points standings, which he topped by 57 over Billy Moyer Jr. With three wins and no finishes outside the top-five throughout the week, Winger hit his stride in Week 3 and has enjoyed the progress he and the Jeff Mathews Motorsports team have made thus far.
“[I’m] just able to finish races – it’s pretty simple,” Winger said. “Whenever we finished them without any trouble and put ourselves in a good spot I felt like, we won them this week.”
He capped a winning week on the tour with an exciting chase through lapped traffic with fellow youthful Southern driver Tyler Clem, who garnered his first career Summer Nationals fast qualifier honor and Heat Race win during preliminary action, earning him the pole for the 40-lap main event.
Clem scampered out to a one-second lead that he maintained through the first half of the race, but soon came the wrath of Winger. Both drivers were ripping the top side of the 3/8-mile oval, sailing around traffic as it came to them and putting on a show as the laps began to wind down.
Winger tried a few times to take a swipe at Clem down low in a bid for the lead but was unsuccessful.
“I actually tried to sit there and just keep showing him a nose, and I could never get far enough for him to see me,” Winger said. “I just tried to put as much pressure [on him] as I could, and I could really never get there.”
That was, until Clem crossed the stripe to complete Lap 34 and entered Turn 1 behind the lapped car of Morgan Bagley. Clem decided to swing it to the bottom in a slide-job pass attempt, but came up short, leaving the door open for Winger on the top, which he went right through to take the lead down the backstretch.
“[Clem] just moved off the top, and that was my one shot,” Winger said. “I was able to make it stick, and then I turned across and slid Bagley. Then, that caution came out and I was able to run my own pace.”
From there, it was Winger’s race to lose. Clem gave chase after a restart with four laps left but was unable to get close enough to make a move as Winger led the field back around to the checkers.
Having battled for position with Clem frequently throughout the summer, Winger gave the 21-year-old Floridian respect after the show, reflecting a bit on their relationship as friendly competitors.
“That team has made leaps and bounds as far as [Tyler] goes,” Winger said. “He’s done a really good job at not tearing stuff up. I’ve told him, ‘If you just keep on keeping-on on this deal, you’re gonna get better.’”
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals Late Models are back in action Tuesday, July 4 with the kickoff to Week 4 at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, IL. Tickets will be available at the gate; streaming available at DIRTVision.com.
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 12-Ashton Winger; 2. 58-Tyler Clem; 3. 21J-Billy Moyer Jr; 4. 88-Greg Johnson; 5. 17SS-Brenden Smith; 6. 31AUS-Kye Blight; 7. 6JR-Parker Martin; 8. 14M-Morgan Bagley; 9. 33AJ-Austin Lay; 10. 4G-Bob Gardner; 11. 30-Mark Voigt; 12. 1-Shane Bailey; 13. 23NZ-Mick Quin; 14. 13-David Webb