[Special from Zach Hiser]
A beautiful summer afternoon in Northwest Michigan greeted a full house of fans at Thunderbird Raceway for the American Ethanol Late Model Tour’s Allstar Performance 40. As always, the night began with American Ethanol Qualifying, where drivers were searching for enough speed to become the Motul Motor Oil and Lubricants Fast Qualifier.
Group one was lead by current points leader Brandon Thirlby turning in a 13.845 ahead of Jason Playter, Jr’s 14.002, and Dave Baker’s 14.092. Dona Marcoullier paced Group Two with a 14.169, Tom Sprague, Jr clocked in at 14.330 and Travis Stemler qualified third quick of his group with a 14.391. The third and final group was lead by former Tour Champion Rich Neiser with a 14.704, over Logan Arntz with a 14.806 and Rich Bell’s 14.822.
Zeigler Ford Heat Race Number One proved that Thirlby was riding momentum from Friday night’s win at Hartford Speedway. Thirlby rode in second spot behind Playter until two laps to go, when he powered by on the bottom of the race track to pick up the heat race win. Playter held on for second ahead of Dave Baker. GetBioFuel.com
Heat Race Number Two was dominated by two-time AELMT Champion Marcoullier. He bested pole starter Stemler, and Sprague, Jr. In the final heat race of the night, YellowHose.com Heat Race Number Three, Rich Bell began his efforts to get the 2019 season back on track by picking up the win, ahead of Neiser and Arntz.
On to the Allstar Performance 40, where all 24 cars on property would be granted a starting spot and a chance to battle for $4,000. A dominating performance was an understatement for the performance put on by outside pole starting Logan Arntz. He and Jason Playter, Jr lead the field to the American Ethanol Green Flag.
Arntz quickly jumped out to the early race lead over Travis Stemler and Playter, Jr. Stemler and Arntz battled over the top spot for a couple of laps before it appeared Stemler was going to clear Arntz and set the pace – however, Bob Shirk and Rob Taylor would get together in one and two before Stemler could complete the lap as the leader.
On the restart, Arntz again led the field into turn one. Stemler fell back into line in the second spot ahead of Playter and Neiser, but Playter would begin to fall back as Marcoullier, Neiser, and Rich Bell powered around. The field was slowed again just past the halfway point when Ryan VanderVeen came to a stop on the backstretch on lap 23. One more caution would wave on lap 26 for a single car spin from Andy Sprague.
Arntz had no problems with the restarts, opening up a nearly three-second lead over Neiser in the closing laps of the race. With five laps to go, Arntz came into heavy lapped traffic as nearly every car on the race track was committed to the bottom. Arntz appeared to make the decision to stay patient behind Dave Baker as the laps wound down.
Neiser closed in, and was within striking distance at the white flag, but it would be Arntz who would cross the stripe and pick up his first ever American Ethanol Late Model Tour Victory, and the $4,000 prize. An emotional Arntz thanked his many sponsors and supporters in YellowHose.com Victory Lane, and exclaimed how great it was to “Finally get one!”
The next event for the AELMT is Friday, June 28th from Lake Odessa, Michigan’s I-96 Speedway for the Battle of Speed, featuring the AELMT and the Great Lakes Super Sprints. For more on the Tour, log onto AELMT.com.
Zeigler Ford Heat Race 1: 1. #M14 Brandon Thirlby, 2. #41 Jason Playter Jr., 3. #15 Dave Baker, 4. #07 Shawn Reed, 5. #52 Ryan Kent, 6. #30 Robert Bray, 7. #64 Bob Shirk, 8. #3 Scott Wenell.
GetBioFuels.com Heat Race 2: 1. #6M Dona Marcoullier, 2. #2 Travis Stemler, 3. #21S Tom Sprague Jr., 4. #23V Ryan VanderVeen, 5. #27 Eric Spangler, 6. #41V Mike Vandermark Jr., 7. #1S Andy Sprague, 8. #22 Kevin Juusola.
YellowHose.com Heat Race 3: 1. #21B Rich Bell, 2. #87 Rich Neiser, 3. #21A Logan Arntz, 4. #44 Matt Shipley, 5. #10 Brett Miller, 6. #94 Bill Bray, 7. #44T Rob Taylor, 8. #02 Jeramy Lange.
Allstar Performance 40: 1. #21A Logan Arntz, 2. #87 Rich Neiser, 3. #21B Rich Bell, 4. #2 Travis Stemler, 5. #6M Dona Marcoullier, 6. #44 Matt Shipley, 7. #10 Brett Miller, 8. #41V Mike Vanermark Jr., 9. #41 Jason Playter Jr., 10. #M14 Brandon Thirlby, 11. #21S Tom Sprague Jr., 12. #07 Shawn Reed, 13. #02 Jeramy Lange, 14. #1S Andy Sprague, 15. #27 Eric Spangler, 16. #94 Bill Bray, 17. #15 Dave Baker, 18. #44T Rob Taylor, 19. #64 Bob Shirk, 20. #23V Ryan VanderVeen, 21. #22 Kevin Juusola, 22. #30 Robert Bray.