There’s no place like home.
That was the sentiment of Oakwood’s Bobby Pierce on Sunday night at the Vermilion County Speedway.
Pierce, driving a back-up Pierce Racing late model, claimed his first feature win of the 2013 season, winning the Salt Fork Shootout at the Vermilion County Speedway.
“I haven’t won a race since last season,’’ said Pierce, who earned the $2,000 first-place prize. “So, that makes this a big night right there.
“And the fact that this is my home track also made it very special. It’s like a minute or so from my home and I had a bunch of buddies out here tonight.’’
And while the victory was a big reward for those reasons, there was even a bigger one for his racing team.
“We were pretty down,’’ said Bobby’s sister, Ciara Pierce, one of his crew members. “It was a hard weekend. We were at a two-day show in Arkansas and we had a couple of rough nights.’’
Pierce, who was the fastest qualifier in his group on Friday night at Batesville, Ark., had wheel issues in his heat race and then he wound up 24th in the main event after getting involved in a big accident.
“We have a torn up car at home,’’ Ciara said. “We almost didn’t come here tonight, but we knew we needed to end our weekend with a win.’’
Pierce, the 2013 Champion Spark Plugs Search for a Champion winner, started the night strong with a second-place finish in his heat behind Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin.
In the 30-lap main event, it was Sheppard taking the lead from the drop of the green flag as Pierce struggled earlier.
After starting fourth, Pierce almost fell back to fifth but a caution flew as Bill Hough spun out in turns No. 3 and 4. That seemed to be the turning point for Pierce.
In the next 18 circuits, Pierce went from fourth to second and he closed in on Sheppard.
“That caution let me calm down a little bit and get my focus,’’ Pierce said. “I race this track a lot, but it’s been a while since I’ve raced here. I still know what this track does, and you have to search around and find where the track is fastest.
“Brandon was starting to pull away. I just started testing different spots on the track. I found that the top was working for me in turns 3 and 4 and the bottom to the middle in 1 and 2.’’
A group of slow cars gave Pierce the chance to pull up behind Sheppard.
On the 21st lap, Sheppard got caught behind the car of John Gummere and Pierce darted low to take the lead.
“A couple times I was getting nervous with those lapped cars,’’ Pierce admitted. “It’s usually better to be in second place when the leader comes up on lapped traffic.
“You get to see what he is doing and when he makes a mistake, you have to attack it. That’s what I did.’’
Sheppard, who figured that Pierce would be one of the drivers to contend with the Vermilion County Speedway, was admittedly a little disappointed.
“It sucks that we led all them laps and finish second,’’ he said. “But, if I was going to run second to anyone, I knew Bobby would be up there. His dad (Bob Pierce) is the king of this place, and I knew he would have something for me.
“I think we were pretty equal. But being the leader going into traffic, he could see where I was going and make the dodge to do something different.’’
The third and final caution of the race was thrown with three laps remaining, but that just delayed the celebration for Pierce and his large contingent of fans.
“Now, I’m going to have something to talk about at school,’’ said the Oakwood High School student.
But more important, the win gives Pierce a little confidence after a rough weekend on the Lucas Oil Tour.
“That’s a really hard tour and you are racing against some of the best racers in the country,’’ said Pierce, who previous best finish in a main event was third on three different occasions. “Those events make you better for each and every night you race.
“Going to Wheatland (Ind.) next weekend, I will have better feelings compared to what we had after (Saturday’s) race.’’
And while it wasn’t a win, Sheppard said it was still a big night for him.
“We had bad luck all weekend,’’ he said. “We had a flat tire (Saturday night) and we had electrical problem on Thursday. We were still able to salvage those nights, but we’re just not running as good as we should be running.
“We really needed a win, but a second will help.’’
Rounding out the top five in the late-model division were Brian Shirley, Ryan Unzicker and Scott Schmitt.
In the UMP Modified main event, Devin Gilpin went from the pole position to feature winner, leading every lap en route to collecting the $600 first-place prize.
Steven Brooks was second, Ryan Cary was third, while Kenny Carmichael and Gabe Menser rounded out the top five.
In the street stock division, Jerrad Krick turned the tables on Jesse Simmons.
Krick went flag-to-flag winning the UMP Stock Car main event with Simmons finishing second. A month earlier, it was Simmons winning the feature event and Krick finishing second.
Next up for the Vermilion County Speedway will be the Lucas Oil National Midgets on Sunday, June 9th. It will be the final race of Illinois Midget Week.
There’s no place like home.
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