Thirlby Survives Late Race Restarts for First Win of 2019

Hartford, MI (Friday, June 21, 2019) - Over 20 of the area’s best UMP DIRTcar Late Model drivers were on hand for the Michigan Corn 40 from Hartford Speedway Friday night, all looking for a chance at taking home $4,000 and the title of an American Ethanol Late Model Tour (AELMT) Winner.

The night began with American Ethanol Qualifying as drivers tried to turn the best lap time, and become the Motul Motor Oil and Lubricants Fast Qualifier. Group One was lead by current points leader for the Tour, Brandon Thirlby. He clocked in a 16.343 second lap time ahead of Mckay Wnger’s 16.353 and Ryan Missler’s 16.428. Group Two saw David Mielke turn in the fast time of the group at a 16.893, over Logan Arntz’s 16.950, and Casey Noonan’s 17.134. The final group of the night was lead by Dave Baker’s 17.162, atop Shawn Reed and his 17.273, and Brett Miller’s 17.444. Thirlby would be named the Motul Motor Oil and Lubricants Fast Qualifier, his first of the year, and record 13th of his career.

Heat race action was next for the AELMT with a stacked Lane Automotive Heat Race Number One. Missler lead from the drop of the American Ethanol Green Flag, besting Wenger and Thirlby. For CHS Heat Race Number Two Casey Noonan fended off a challenge from Mielke for the top spot, going on to collect the win - Arntz got around Mielke for second in the closing laps, while Mielke held on for third. Heat Race Number Two saw Dave Baker collect his first ever win with the AELMT over Rusty Schlenk and Brett Miller. All cars transferred into the main event, with the top three going to the redraw.

As the field rolled out for the Michigan Corn 40, it was clear the race was going to be to catch Brandon Thirlby. The Lake City, Michigan driver came into the event with a 33 point lead in the Championship standings, but hadn’t been able to get to Victory Lane, with his closest attempt coming with two podium finishes. Tonight, Thirlby rolled off from the outside pole, alongside Brett Miller, and never looked back despite some controversy.

The field was slowed just eight laps into the event when a massive pile up in turn three nearly ended Thirlby’s hopes of a victory. Dave Baker and Mike Spatola made contact going into the turn, causing both cars to spin up to the outside wall. Two cars came to rest right in the groove, and it collected Dusty Moore, Joe Godsey, and Eric Spangler. Thirlby, who was leading at the time, spun into the incident late, with minor contact to the wall and other drivers. All competitors would continue.

On the restart, no one had anything for Thirlby, as he pulled to a nearly half-a-straightaway lead over second spot Logan Arntz before the field got to turn three. Troubles would continue again for Baker, as he and Spatola made contact on the front stretch just before the halfway point, causing both cars to stop, triggering another caution.

At the halfway point, Thirlby had put a number of lapped cars between he and a battling Arntz and Ryan Missler. Arntz and Missler were locked in an impressive side-by-side battle that saw Missler power to the outside of Arntz going into turn three, back into the outside wall, and continue to try and take the position away. The pair’s battle would have even more drama as lapped driver Shawn Reed was thrown in the mix. On lap 37, Arntz had cleared Reed down the back straight away, and was bringing Missler with him. Missler attempted to dive to the inside of Arntz going into the corner, but hadn’t quite cleared Reed. The two made significant contact, and both cars spun into turn three. The incident would bring an end to Missler’s night.

With three laps to go, something was in the air as drivers tried to better their position. On the first attempt for the restart, contact between Ryan VanderVeen and Mike Spatola on the bottom of turns one and two, caused a chain reaction stack up that lead to Reed and Justin Pauley spinning into the inside wall - caution. Another attempt to get back underway was slowed when championship contenders Rich Bell and Travis Stemler made contact going into turn three. The contact did major damage to the front of Bell’s machine, nearly knocking the nose piece completely off the car, and doing damage to the front suspension. Bell, though, was able to drive back around and show his displeasure with Stemler before retiring from the event.

The next restart would be a single file attempt, as it marked the third try to restart on the same lap. It was not what Rusty Schlenk wanted to see, as he nearly completed the pass on Logan Arntz for the second spot the restart before. With the American Ethanol Green Flag back in the air, Thirlby again began to walk away from the field, as he continued on his way to Victory Lane. Arntz held on to second spot for his best career AELMT finish, ahead of Schlenk, Wenger, and Stemler.

The next event for the AELMT is the Allstar Performance 40 from Thunderbird Raceway on Saturday, June 22nd. The event was originally scheduled to be a part of the Memorial Day Weekend of racing, however, weather postponed the event. Pit gates open at 3:00pm, with the first American Ethanol Green Flag of the night at 6:30pm.

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