- July 13 - LaSalle Speedway by Sam Holbrooks

Shannon Babb and Frank Heckenast at LaSalle Speedway
Shannon Babb's train just kept a`rollin' through LaSalle Speedway Wednesday night as the Decatur, Ill. ace put Frank Heckenast, Jr. (99) away and notched his sixth win of the Summer Nationals tour. (Mike Ruefer)

DirtCar Summer Nationals: Babb’s slick track preference at La Salle leads to third in a row

Betty Glynn

LASALLE, Ill.  – July 13. Nature has robbed race enthusiasts of their need for speed on far too many occasions this season at La Salle Speedway, but the Wednesday night make-up of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals was finally a reality with 29competitors from seven states and two countries rolling into the Illinois Valley’s largest sports complex.  Shannon Babb, one of the 17 Illinoisans, took home the biggest prize of all as he works to clinch the coveted, and profitable, tour title.

Scott James wreck at LaSalle Speedway

Shannon Babb's chief pursuer in Summer Nationals points, Scott James found himself behind the eight ball with a provisional start after he got bounced around in his heat race and backed into the wall. (Below) Bret Sievert gets a "What's up with that?" from James after the incident. (Mike Ruefer)

Scott James and Bret Sievert at LaSalle Speedway Hell Tour

Perfect weather conditions set the stage for a perfect night of racing. Group qualifying, three heat races, a C Main, and four provisional positions decided the feature grid. Pole sitter Babb, dubbed the "Moweaqua Missile", coasted into his spot next to Frank Heckanast, Jr. on the front of the grid while Kevin Weaver and Bret Sievert were in row two. Ryan Unzicker and Donny Walden were in the third row over Mike Glynn and Jack Sullivan.

Kevin Weaver, Shannon Babb, and Frank Heckenast

Perennial Illinois competitor Kevin Weaver (12) of Gibson City checks in on the Babb/Heckenast duel before getting by Heckenast for second at LaSalle. (Mike Ruefer)

Once the four-wide salute was done and the green flag waved, it was Heckanast taking charge of the field as he drove into a good lead by the sixth lap. Babb looked faster in the corners, but Heckanast had a good run on the straights, enough to pull away. The two battled back and forth with Babb powering up to the leaders door in the turns, but Heckanast was fast on the top side. Babb was heavy on the gas to force a side by side duel for the point. The two battled back and forth during the early laps trading places until the 16th circuit, when Babb used a lower line to grab the lead.

Matt Miller and Jack Suillivan at LaSalle Speedway

Matt Miller sizes up #1 Jack Sullivan before advancing past Sullivan and Frank Heckenast, Jr. for third at LaSalle. (Mike Ruefer)

“Me and Frankie had a heck of a great race going on early,” Babb told the crowd during an infield interview.

The battle early on was the only racing action Babb would be challenged with other than cruising behind lapped cars who were battling for position. The 40-lap main event finished in just over 18 minutes,  the same number as the winner’s car.

“I loved it,” Babb said when asked about the track surface. “It was slick and we had put ourselves in a position up front.”

Ryan Unzicker and Jack Sullivan at LaSalle Speedway

Jack Sullivan gets a challenge for his fifth spot from #24 Ryan Unzicker at LaSalle. (Mike Ruefer) 

Babb’s victory circle visit is the third in a row for the current Summernationals points leader. The chase is coming to a close and it looks as though the trifecta finish boosted Babb into a secure lead en route to the $25,000 top prize.

Gibson City’s Weaver ran a strong second place for much of the race finishing runner up to Babb over Matt Miller, Heckenast, and Jack Sullivan.

July 13 - Summer Nationals at LaSalle Speedway
1. Shannon Babb, 2. Kevin Weaver, 3. Matt Miller, 4. Frank Heckenast, Jr., 5. Jack Sullivan, 6. Ryan Unzicker, 7. Bret Sievert, 8. Donny Walden, 9. Ryan Dauber, 10. Dennis Erb Jr., 11. Mike Spatola (prov.), 12. Mike Provenzano, 13. Dillan White, 14. Rich Bell, 15. Jeep Van Wormer, 16. Scott James (prov.), 17. Brandon Sheppard, 18. Nathan Balensiefen (prov.), 19. Scott Schmitt (prov.), 20. Mike Glynn, 21. Pete Parker, 22. Dan Schlieper, 23. Keith Piano (prov.).
Fast Time (29 entries): Weaver; Heat winners: Weaver, Babb, Heckenast. Consolation winner:Bell.

John Vass photo


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