A pivotal Northern Michigan invasion began for the Allstar Performance Michigan Dirt Cup Modified Tour Presented by Lane Automotive with two races in three days. A special midweek race, the Inaugural Merritt Summer Showdown was at the fast 1/4 (0.250) mile high-banked dirt oval of Merritt Speedway, located west of Houghton Lake in Lake City, Michigan on Wednesday, June 10th. The showdown marked the fourth all-time appearance by the MDC Modified Tour to the immaculate speed plant.
Special appearances by NASCAR stars, Justin Allgaier, Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace only added to the intensity of the thrilling 40-lap main. In three previous appearances at the Northern Michigan speed plant, there had been three different winners and this time 2013 Michigan Dirt Cup Modified Tour Champion, David Mielke was determined to become the first repeat winner at Merritt. The Gladwin, Michigan driver in his #87 Krompetz Elevator / Donn Trucking & Excavating machine took the lead just past the halfway point and the 23-year-old driver made no mistake the rest of the way en route to his third victory in four starts in 2015 and his seventh all-time trip to victory
A stellar field of 42 MDC Modified Tour competitors made the trip north and after the field was dwindled down to the best 24 drivers in the Midwest, it would be veterans Curt Spalding and Bob Baldwin leading the field to Chief Starter, Marc Henry's green flag. Spalding shot out to the lead early on as the rest of the field jockeyed for position behind him. Mielke, who started seventh, immediately began his charge to the front and was trailed initially by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Justin Allgaier. After Mielke disposed of him, he set his sights on the remaining two NASCAR invaders, Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace.
As Spalding continued to show the way, Mielke continued his assault on the leaders and after sliding underneath both Schrader and Wallace in two corners followed by more passes for position, he then pulled up to Spalding's back bumper as the halfway signal was given. On lap 21, Mielke made what would be the winning pass and began to leave the remaining leaders behind him while placing lapped cars between himself and the trailers keeping a safe amount of real estate between him and his pursuers. As the checkered flag flew, it would be Mielke seeing it first to pull within one win of the all-time career wins leader, Jacob Poel's eight triumphs as Mielke scored win #7.
Scott Payton made the most of his first start of the 2015 racing season as the driver of the #711 Big Boys Adventures Television mod scored the runner-up showing at his home track. The 32-year-old has made select appearances over the first five seasons of MDC competition primarily near his Gaylord, Michigan home. Spalding, who led the first 20 laps of the 40 lap main, rounded out the podium finishers in his #111 Allstar Performance entry. The 44-year-old driver from Watervliet, Michigan has been strong in select appearances over the years, but has yet to find victory lane thus far in MDC competition.
Defending Tour Champion and Current Points Leader, Travis Stemler, who needed to win one of the two Last Chance Races to get into the show, rallied from his 14th starting spot to post an impressive fourth place finish in his #2 Gilboe's Lock & Safe machine. The 24-year-old driver from Ionia, Michigan arrived late to the track and did not participate in Practice and in turn, was unable to transfer out of his Qualifier Heat Race. Kenny Wallace rounded out the top five in his first career MDC appearance in his #36 Toyota open-wheeled machine. The 51-year-old NASCAR veteran from St. Louis, Missouri was able to edge out fellow NASCAR invader, Ken Schrader to complete the top five finishers.
Schrader headed the second group of five finishers while Joe Rokos was seventh in his first MDC appearance of the 2015 season. Baldwin was scored eighth at the end of the night as Aaron Morey was ninth. Collin Thirlby, who needed a MDC Provisional to get into the Inaugural Merritt Summer Showdown, would earn the QuickCar Racing Products Hard-Charger Award with his 22nd to 10th place showing.
Earlier in the evening in the Howe Racing Enterprises Qualifier Heat Races, Rokos, Mielke, Wallace and Baldwin took the wins to transfer into the big show while in the Last Chance Races, Dave Baker and Stemler scored the victories. Thirlby and Brian Brindley would receive the MDC points provisionals for the event while Late Model standout, Dona Marcoullier and Kody Weisner would receive the Merritt Speedway Promoters Choice starting spots.
The Allstar Performance Michigan Dirt Cup Modified Tour Presented by Lane Automotive is right back in action this Friday, June 12th as the fast 3/8s (0.375) mile high-banked dirt oval of Cherry Raceway, located south of Traverse City in Fife Lake, Michigan will complete the trip into the 'great white north'. The spring months roll into the summer with the running of the American Flag Day Shootout at the Roger and Michelle Steig owned and operated facility.
The MDC Modified Tour has visited the Northwestern Michigan speed plant on five different occasions and each race has produced a different winner. In two races last season, Andy Sprague and Bob Baldwin earned the trips to victory lane while Two-Time Tour Champion, Jacob Poel scored the victory in 2013. Mielke took the checkered flag first in 2012 while Marc Kurth was the winner of the inaugural appearance by the Tour back in the inaugural season of 2011.
To learn more about the Allstar Performance Michigan Dirt Cup Modified Tour Presented by Lane Automotive, go to the Tour website at: www.michigandirtcup.com. You can also follow MDC all season long on Facebook and Twitter at: www.facebook.com/midirtcup and www.twitter.com/michigandirtcup. For further information, email Michigan Dirt Cup, Director of Operations Scott Menlen at [email protected]. Finally, for more information about Cherry Raceway, the host track for the fifth race of the fifth anniversary 2015 racing season, log onto website located at: www.cherryraceway.com.
- Michigan Dirt Cup Modified Tour press release and photo