MUSKEGON, MI – For as hard as he and his team worked to get their first win, Ashton Winger made his second career DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory look like he’d done it a hundred times before with a clean sweep of Thursday night’s visit to Thunderbird Raceway.
The 21-year-old Hell Tour rookie was fastest in Hot Laps, set quick time in Qualifying, won his Heat Race and the 40-lap Feature to collect his second $5,000 check of the season in front of a packed house, watching him emerge victorious in Victory Lane to his signature Hulk smash-like roof dance celebration.
Winger also topped all of the Michigan DIRTcar Late Model regulars in the field, who showed up in full-force to help create a stacked 42-car field. Despite their best efforts to defeat the Summer Nationals regulars, they were unable to best the Georgia boy, who crossed the line a near five seconds over second-place Bobby Pierce.
Winger started on the outside pole and trailed polesitter Tanner English, of Benton, KY, in the early going. And unlike most tour rookies, Winger did not need a caution to track down the leader. In fact, not a single yellow flag was displayed in the race that took just under 10 minutes to complete.
“I was a little worried on the start. Anytime we’re going to a racetrack with a little bit harder tire, it’s a gamble,” Winger, of Hampton, GA, said in Victory Lane.
Winger held onto the middle-high groove around the third-mile oval and got a great run to English’s outside on Lap 15. A smooth exit off of Turn 4 was enough to nip English at the line and give him his first lap led in the race. From there on out, it was domination time in any lane he chose.
“I moved around a little bit whenever Tanner [English] had to move around some of them guys. I found a line that was good for me, and really I could maneuver all over, but I was just lucky the cards fell the way they did… shoot, three or four cautions there and we could be looking at a different scenario,” Winger said.
Behind him, a war was waging for the runner-up spot between English and Pierce. Pierce, of Oakwood, IL, began pounding the high side of the speedway, working his way toward English’s bumper. His first pass for second came in a cluster of slower cars on Lap 26, just barely crossing the stripe before English to be scored second on that lap. But English had the clearer lane around the bottom and drove away with the spot.
Pierce reeled him back in as traffic cleared up, and with just seven laps remaining, he put a big slide job on English in Turns 3-4 to take the spot back for good and increase his points lead yet again. English finished right behind in third, but lost another five points in the standings as he chases his first career Summer Nationals crown.
The Summer Nationals Late Models are back in action Friday night at Hartford Raceway for the first $10,000-to-win show of the weekend. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (40 Laps) 1. 12-Ashton Winger; 2. 32-Bobby Pierce; 3. 81E-Tanner English; 4. 55-Jeep Van Wormer; 5. 4-Travis Stemler; 6. 91-Rusty Schlenk; 7. M14-Brandon Thirlby; 8. 21N-Logan Nickerson; 9. 23V-Ryan Vanderveen; 10. 74-Mitch McGrath; 11. 14G-Joe Godsey; 12. 6M-Dona Marcoullier; 13. 27-Eric Spangler; 14. 48-Tim Lance; 15. 15-Dave Baker; 16. 16-Garrett Wiles; 17. 87-Rich Neiser; 18. 1S-Andrew Sprague; 19. 19X- Cody Bauer; 20. 21S-Tom Sprague Jr; 21. 14R-Jeff Roth; 22. 148-Tim Lance Jr