First Round of Tri-City/Merritt Speedway Challenge Series Complete
Sterling Heights, MI (Wednesday, June 17, 2020) - A new chapter of DIRTcar UMP Late Model racing in the state of Michigan began on Friday as the first race for the Lane Automotive Allstar Performance Tri-City/Merritt Speedway Late Model Challenge Series Supported by American Ethanol unfolded from Auburn, Michigan’s Tri-City Motor Speedway before heading north to Merritt Speedway.The first show for UMP Late Models at Tri-City in nearly five years drew in an impressive crowd of competitors all chasing the $3,000 prize at the end of the event.
Logan Nickerson, who picked up his first victory of 2020 a couple of weeks ago at Attica Raceway Park, was fast early, putting his 21 machine at the top of the board after qualifying. Heat Race action was next, as Dona Marcoullier, Brandon Thirlby, Travis Stemler, and Rusty Schlenk would all pick up victories. The top two in heat each went on to the redraw.
Tyler Norton and Eric Spangler led the field to the green flag. Marcoullier was strong all night and made his way to the front early, leading most of the first 20 circuits. At the halfway point, Stemler put his number four out front, with Schlenk in tow. Schlenk would eventually power his machine around Stemler on Lap 29. Following a caution on lap 39, the racing was hot and heavy between Schlenk, Stemler, and a charging Jeep Van Wormer. Schlenk and Van Wormer would battle side by side for the final five laps, with Schlenk running high and Van Wormer committed to the bottom. Able to keep the momentum up top, Schlenk motored to the victory and collected the $3,000 payday.
Following opening night of the Late Model Challenge Series, crews went north to Lake City, Michigan for the second night of the Series. An increased $5,000 was on the line with 24 cars on the property. The Speedway presented ‘character’ to the drivers Saturday night, with several cars tore up following the three heat race events, which were won by Andrew Terrill, Nickerson and Dave Baker. All 24 cars would make the show, which meant a full race track of potential victors.
Marcoullier and Spangler led the field to the green flag for 50 laps and a shot at the aforementioned $5,000 pay day, but only one of them would survive the second lap of the race. Third starting Terrill sent it into turns one and two a little too aggressive and spun in front of the entire field for the first caution of the night, collecting Spangler, Baker and Dave Bowen in the process. With that behind them, the green flew and stayed out the rest of the race with Marcoullier seemingly on his way to victory lane for the second time this season. Then, just after the halfway point, St. Johns Michigan driver Chad Finley caught Marcoullier in traffic and made the pass, opening up a nearly straight away advantage, planning his own seemingly exciting victory after a dismal night. Like something out of a movie, Marcoullier found “something” left in the tank to eat away the deficit Finley had made and looked like a brand new driver as the field took the ten to go signal. Then, just two laps later, Marcoullier powered by on the outside of the race track and took the lead for good, stretching his advantage to more than a straightaway by the time the checkered flag flew. Finley would lose second place as well to Cody Bauer - at least that’s how they crossed the finish line - Bauer was disqualified at the scales after failing post race inspection, and Finley was given credit for second place.
At the conclusion of the weekend, a consistent Stemler found himself atop the $10,000 to win Championship Points Standings, 11 points better than Schlenk who had a rough night at Merritt. Marcoullier, Van Wormer and Finley round out the top five in the points standings. The rest of the schedule was originally expected to play out with July 24th and 25th, August 28th and 29th and a pair of $10,000 to win affairs - Saturday, September 6th from Merritt Speedway, and Friday, September 12th at Tri-City Motor Speedway for season finales, however the schedule remains fluid and no official schedule has been released.
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Story by - Zach Hiser, Motor City Racing Promotions
Photo - Jim DenHamer