FALL FINALE: Five Winners Cap DIRTcar Regular Season in Fall Nationals Finale at Lincoln
Gossum and Heck sweep while Unzicker wins after late arrival, Hamilton gets redemption
LINCOLN, IL – Oct. 2, 2021 – Lincoln Speedway saw a display of dominance in Saturday night’s DIRTcar Fall Nationals finale by some of DIRTcar’s brightest stars and up-and-coming weekly racers.
Five divisions took to the quarter-mile oval in search of a coveted Fall Nationals trophy. Dodging the rain all day, the show ran uninterrupted and treated those watching in-person or on DIRTVision presented by Drydene to a show that exhibited the division’s best drivers in attendance in Victory Lane.
DIRTcar Late Models – Ryan Unzicker
When his original Saturday night racing plans were washed out in the afternoon, Ryan Unzicker and his team decided to make the two-hour and thirty-minute truck south to Lincoln Speedway. And it paid off nicely.
Unzicker arrived just in time to tag the tail of the final DIRTcar Late Model Heat Race and hit the track without any Hot Lap/Qualifying time. In just six laps, he drove his RJR Transportation Co. #24 to the lead and the eventual win, placing him on the front row for the 25-lap Feature.
At the drop of the green, Unzicker sped away from the field and ran away with it, leading every lap in a flawless performance to pick up the $3,000 check.
“Believe it or not, this is where I got my very first Super Late Model win,” Unzicker said. “I think this is number 104 or 105 for our team. I’m just happy to be here and put on a good show for the fans.”
Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 2. 2-Mike Chasteen Jr; 3. 6P-Jose Parga; 4. 38J-Jake Little; 5. 77-Blaise Baker; 6. 84- Myles Moos; 7. 32M-Cody Maguire; 8. 27-Greg Kimmons; 9. 27S-Colby Sheppard; 10. 134-Chuck Mitchell; 11. 9Z-Jayme Zider; 12. 11M-Ryan Miller; 13. 33H-Roben Huffman; 14. 5B-Brandon Sweitzer; 15. 12-Steve Fairbanks; 16. 20-Dustin Ingram; 17. 48T-Phil Taylor; 18. 7Z-Michael Maestas
UMP Modified – Hunt Gossum
Make it back-to-back UMP Modified Fall Nationals Feature wins for teenage Modified sensation Hunt Gossum.
The 16-year-old from Mayfield, KY, added a tenth victory on the season Saturday night, leading all 25 laps en route to a $1,500 payday. Rolling his Elite Chassis #99 right through the middle of the racetrack, Gossum put on a clinic, running away from veterans Mike Harrison, Kenny Wallace and young hot-shoe Brandon Bollinger.
For his car’s ability, he credits his well-known UMP Modified chassis builder and DIRTcar national champion.
“This car could not have been better. I felt like Nick Hoffman out there tonight. Rode through the middle,” Gossum said.
Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 99-Hunt Gossum; 2. 242-Brandon Bollinger; 3. 24H-Mike Harrison; 4. 36-Kenny Wallace; 5. 777-Trevor Neville; 6. 05-Dave Wietholder; 7. 14C-Rick Conoyer; 8. 1F-Evan Fink; 9. 35-Brandon Roberts; 10. 66-Jake Griffin; 11. 14-Brian Lynn; 12. 14K-Shane Kelley; 13. 12-Briana Sheppard; 14. M41-Steve Maisel; 15. 52- Billy Knebel; 16. (DNS) 6-Troy Carter; 17. (DNS) 24S-Jacob Steinkoenig
Pro Late Models – Aaron Heck
DIRTcar’s Pro Late Model division is home to some of the nation’s most fierce and passionate competitors in dirt track racing. Among those is the 2019 national champion Aaron Heck, who has not been shy about his desire to finally capture a Fall Nationals trophy. This Friday and Saturday, he won two, in one big sweep of the weekend.
“If you would’ve told me I’d come here and win two Fall Nationals after leading these things for 15 years or so, I’d have called you a liar,” Heck told DIRTVision pit reporter Georgia Henneberry in Victory Lane.
Saturday night, he did it in dominating fashion, leading all 20 laps for the $1,000 victory. However, he nearly lost it when disaster struck right in front of him.
Heck was headed full-bore down the backstretch on Lap 18 with rival Jose Parga right on his heels, when two slower cars ahead of him came together in Turns 3-4. This caused a chain-reaction of several more cars spinning into the accident in attempts to avoid. Heck and Parga slammed on the brakes and were able to sneak past the incident without making contact.
During the cleanup, Heck knew the pressure from Parga would be fierce on the restart, but he kept it cool and drove it to victory.
“I knew Jose was back there, so I just wanted to hit my marks for the next three laps, and we did,” Heck said. “The right-rear was kinda giving up there, so I kinda put my entry a little bit lower than I was earlier on in the Feature.”
Feature (20 Laps) – 1. 59-Aaron Heck; 2. 6P-Jose Parga; 3. 01-Billy Knippenberg; 4. 134-Chuck Mitchell; 5. 33H-Roben Huffman; 6. 11-Ryan Miller; 7. 27-Colby Sheppard; 8. 32M-Cody Maguire; 9. 55-Rockett Bennett; 10. 34-Eric Doran; 11. 7Z-Michael Maestas; 12. 5B-Brandon Sweitzer; 13. 77-Blaise Baker; 14. (DNS) 11E-Brandon Eskew
Pro Modified – Ryan Hamilton
Ryan Hamilton’s drive to victory Saturday night was a story of perseverance. One night after starting on the pole and falling two spots short of a win, the young gun used his resources and came back for redemption on Saturday.
He got that redemption in the final DIRTcar Pro Modified Feature of the regular season, running away from Brian Vinson and BJ Deal to lead all 20 laps and collect a $750 top prize.
His biggest resources came right within the minds of drivers he both looks up to and races with.
“I’ve got to thank Mike Harrison; I spent a lot of time talking to him today about different adjustments to make,” Hamilton said. “Owen [Steinkoenig] – he helped me today, too. Me and him have been racing together all year. He’s the national champion this year, and he and I are pretty good buddies.”
But this was not another caution-free runaway. Hamilton was forced to sit and think about what lay ahead of him under a red flag period for a cleanup from an accident in Turn 1 on Lap 8.
When he hit the throttle for the restart, it appeared he was unshaken by the situation, as he led the field back around to the checkers to collect his first Fall Nationals trophy.
Feature (20 Laps) – 1. 58R-Ryan Hamilton; 2. 3-Brian Vinson; 3. 3W-BJ Deal; 4. 5-Owen Steinkoenig; 5. 121-Deece Schwartz; 6. 74-James Hileman; 7. 15G-Rick Conoyer; 8. 215-Jake Montgomery; 9. 14G-Tommy Gaither; 10. 52-Billy Knebel; 11. 32-Langdon King; 12. 8UP-Ethan Orman; 13. 81-Garrett Schumacher; 14. 28-Justin Durbin; 15. 27X-Kyle Helmick; 16. 116-Kevin Rench; 17. 24M-Matt Milner; 18. BK3-Billy Knippenberg III; 19. 88- Zayden Bolyard; 20. 29-Josh Orman; 21. 4-William Lowe; 22. 66K-Kaleb Stephens; 23. 22K-Michael Kettler; 24. 15C-Kevin Crowder; 25. 14N-Nathan Lynch; 26. 14E-Evan Lynch
Sport Compact – Nick Johnson
Up until the fifth and final Feature rolled to the track Saturday night, there had not been one lead change in any Feature contested all evening. The Sport Compact division changed all that.
Nick Johnson hounded the rear bumper of Allan Harris for each of the opening nine laps, and even attempted a few passes on him in the early going. But when the white flag waved, Johnson knew it was time to go for real.
He dove underneath Harris into Turn 1 and drag raced him down the backstretch. The two remained close at the stripe, but Johnson nosed ahead and took the win by just over three-tenths of a second. Last-lap pass complete, Fall Nationals trophy claimed.
“Allan and I put on a good race; we’ve been racing this hard all year,” Johnson said. “It was a great track – this is second time we’ve picked up a win here this year.”
Feature (10 Laps) – 1. 30J-Nick Johnson; 2. 3H-Allan Harris; 3. 04B-Brandy Burgett; 4. 1-Cook Crawford; 5. (DNS) 40-Adam Webb
FRIDAY NIGHT FURY: Last-Lap Pass, First-Time Winners and More in Lincoln Fall Nationals Night One
Heck, Reed Jr, Gossum and Montgomery score Feature wins
LINCOLN, IL – Oct. 1, 2021 – 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