Monday, April 14th, 2014
Pierce makes history
By Mike Ernst
ROSSBURG - Seven months after nearly pulling off one of the biggest upsets in late model racing by challenging the top late model drivers in the country for a victory in Eldora Speedway's prestigious World 100, 17 year-old Bobby Pierce proved it was no fluke by putting his name in the Eldora record books Saturday night becoming the youngest late model winner in the 61-year history of the high-banked, one-half mile oval.
The second-generation driver from Oakwood, Illinois dominated Saturday night's 25-lap, $5,000 to-win main event, leading flag-to-flag to win the UMP Spring Nationals presented by All Star Performance. Bobby Pierce's father, Bob Pierce, also had won the event in 1993, prior to Bobby's being born.
"Oh man, you can only dream of days like this," the younger Pierce said from victory lane. "It is a really special day when you pick up your first win at Eldora."
Despite leading the entire distance, the race was not without its drama.
Following an accident in turn two involving Jerry Bowersock, Aaron Scott and Greg Johnson at the race's midway point, Pierce began frantically signaling to his father in the pit area that something was amiss with his machine. Not wanting to pit and give up the top spot, Piece soldiered on with his car clearly sounding as if something were wrong with the power plant in the car.
"There was something missing in the motor. We aren't sure what it is, but we will have to get home and check it out, but it made it to the finish," Pierce said.
The problem actually seemed to clear up following a red flag for another accident on lap 18 that eliminated former track champion Jeep VanWormer, Chris Keller and Andrew Reaume.
With Pierce out front the battle for positions behind him was intense with the positions within the top five changing hands several times. Duane Chamberlain, driving a car owned by St. Henry's Bill Dues, methodically worked his way through the field and eventually finished in the runner up position, while Brian Ruhlman, Dona Marcoullier and defending track champion and fast qualifier Matt Miller completed the top five.
"We were just biding our time and working our way through there and then when we got second-place something went wrong with the steering and the car got really hard to drive," Chamberlain, who started 10th, said. "Until then I really think we had something for him but after that I was just holding on."
Jacob Hawkins, driving a second Dues entry finished in sixth-place while Jason Riggs, Brandon Thirlby, Jon Henry and Phil Ausra completed the top ten. Heat wins were shared by Marcoullier, Pierce, Ruhlman and Dusty Moore, while Keller captured the B-main.
Ruhlman appeared to be cruising to victory in the UMP DIRTcar Modified 25-lap main event, which also paid $5,000 to-win, when he momentarily lost control in turn two on lap 15 and bounced off the outside retaining wall.
Matt Mevert took advantage of the opportunity and powered by into the lead and went unchallenged over the final 10 laps to pick up the biggest win of his career.
"Holy cow! I can hardly talk," a choked-up Mevert, from Steeleville, Illinois said from the Eldora victory stage, "This win here means everything. My crew had this car perfect. We could hold it wide open."
Pennsylvania youngster Jonathan Taylor finished in the runner-up position while St. Marys'-based Best Performance Motorsports driver Matt Westfall and Jeff Babcock finished in third and fourth, while Chad Kinder rounded out the top five.
"Our car was perfect and if we just could have gotten a yellow flag there late in the race, I think I may have had something for them," Westfall said after his run to third-place from 11th starting position.
Wapakoneta's Jerry Bowersock, Jimmy Payne, Ruhlman, Zach Schroeder and Travis Stealer completed the top ten.
"We hooked a rut down there in turn and hit the wall pretty hard," Ruhlman said. "I hit so hard it broke the head support in my seat and it hit my head a pretty good one."
Coldwater's Ryan Sutter finished 17th after qualifying for the main event with a runner-up finish in the B-main. Mercer County's Cody Timmerman and St. Marys' Casey Lucedale failed to qualify for the main event.
The modified portion of the main event was the conclusion of last fall's UMP Nationals event, which was postponed by rain.
Eldora will host the United States Auto Club (USAC) AMSOIL National Sprint Cars this Saturday night. They will be joined by the UMP Modifieds and the Eldora Stock Cars.