HAUBSTADT, Ind. — Tri-State Speedway was in hurry-up mode Sunday trying to beat approaching rain. It turns out hurry-up mode is Shannon Babb’s modus operandi when he visits one of his favorite tracks.
The Moweaqua, Ill., driver roared from from his fifth starting spot and quickly into a battle for the lead, stalking Tyler Erb for a dozen laps before making the winning pass for a 40-lap DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory at the high-banked quarter-mile oval.
Rain sprinkles that started with 10 laps remaining didn’t slow Babb as he withstood Erb’s late-race challenge for a $5,000 payday. The victory was the fourth in eight series races, the 96th of his series career and his sixth on the tour at Tri-State as he stretched his points lead in pursuit of his fifth series title.
“It was a ball. We were having a lot of fun,” Babb said. “There was tons of traffic and it could go either direction. When I was running second I was able to get slowed down and get turned in that traffic and get by, and everything worked out good for me to get the lead.”
Erb, last year’s race winner from New Waverly, Texas, driver who started outside the front row and led 13 laps, finished 0.304 seconds behind Babb as his last-lap bid fell just short. Surviving an infield foray in the early laps, Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., improved six positions to finish third while Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, rounded out the top five.
Babb’s winning move came on the 14th lap when he pressured Erb down the backstretch. Erb dove into turn three and was forced to check up for the slower car of Paul Stubber, allowing Babb to zip underneath and take control.
Erb wasn’t in touch with Babb through the 40-lapper’s middle stages — most of Erb’s attention was centered on Brian Shirley, who had a back-and-forth battle of slide jobs as they battled for second on restarts — but Erb got rolling again late as Babb ran conservatively a few feet off the outside wall.
“I just knew I needed to move back to the top and try to get something going,” said Babb, who ran down low in the first half of the race. “I was just trying to stay out of the fence. It was hairy up there.”
Erb drew close enough to consider a last-lap slide job, but a slower car — again Stubber — didn’t give the runner-up enough racetrack to take a shot at Babb.
“Definitely the lapped car helped me, and I knew the slider was coming from Tyler. He puts 110 percent effort into it all the time,” Babb said.
Erb would’ve like to had more racing room but consciously decided not to throw a Hail Maryl.
“I hated to see that lapped car there that last corner. I really turned it on that last five, six, seven laps, and ran Babb back down,” Erb said. “I was sizing it up pretty good. … I was contemplating jumping that infield tire and (passing) Stubber, but I just gotta make smarter decisions and have more consistent results, and that’s what we’re shooting for.
“There’s a lot of woulda, coulda, shoulda … I think they definitely knew we were there. And it was a super, super fun race, and good job to Babb and (Shirley), we had an awesome race there. I’ll just try again next year I guess.”
Babb was grateful track and series officials helped drivers beat the rain condensing the preliminary program to get the main event on the track early.
“I gotta say thanks a ton to (promoter) Tom Helfrich (for) skipping the heat races and getting right to the feature,” Babb said. “We had rain coming and everybody’s been traveling a lot and they wanted to get it done. So thanks a lot to him. And they prepared the track perfect.”
Feature Finish: Shannon Babb, Tyler Erb, Billy Moyer, Brian Shirley, Rusty Schlenk, Timothy Culp, Jason Feger, Frank Heckenast Jr., Chase Junghans, Gordy Gundaker, Bob Gardner, Nick Hoffman, Paul Stubber, Brian Diveley, Bobby Pierce, Tanner English, Trent Young, Matt Santel, Daryn Klein, Jeremy Sneed, Rusty Griffaw, Chuck Hummer, Kent Robinson
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals travels back to Spoon River Speedway for a make-up of night 3 of Legends Week Presented By DirtonDirt. See the complete schedule at the helltour.com/schedule. Follow @SummerNationals on Twitter or Facebook for updates during and between race seasons. The DIRTcar Late Models will be joined by the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds as the Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals runs parallel to the DIRTcar Summer Nationals. Information on the Modifieds can be found at modifiednationals.com.
-DIRTcar Press Release. Photo Credit: Jim DenHamer photo