MAPLE PARK, Ill. — The opening night of the “Harvest Hustle” at the Sycamore Speedway proved to be all Chad Simpson, as the current Lucas Oil MLRA point leader dominated all forty laps from the drop of the green flag to the checkered.
Mike Spatola and Simpson led the field to the green for the main event, with Simpson utilizing the high side momentum exiting turn two to grab the lead on lap one. The first of six cautions slowed the race following the conclusion of lap one for a spin exciting turn four.
Simpson returned to the point and maintained the advantage over the field through heavy lapped traffic and another pair of first half cautions.
By lap 25, eleventh starting Jason Feger made his presence felt by charging to the outside of runner-up Brian Shirley on a restart to snag the second position. A trio of back-to-back-to-back cautions slowed the pace and continued to allow Shirley and Feger to apply pressure to Simpson for the race lead.
With the final 13 laps going green, Simpson pulled away from the field until catching lapped traffic with just two laps to go. Simpson refused to give up the low line which allowed Shirley to close the gap, but at the drop of the checkered it was Simpson scoring his second MLRA win of the year and 16th all-time by a margin of 2.001 seconds.
Shirley held off Feger in a great side-by-side battle for second and third, while Frank Heckenast Jr. and Dennis Erb Jr. rounded out the top five.
The $5,000 win put Simpson one step closer to clinching his third career MLRA Championship.
“This thing was a rocketship right around that bottom. I could get around one and two on the top there but as soon as I felt that bottom I knew this thing was going to be a rocketship around the bottom,” Simpson said.
Simpson maintained his composure throughout the restarts and later said, “You’ve got the best of Illinois right here, so to outrun these guys over here on their turf, and for this being our second time here. Hats off to my crew, my guys, the last couple weeks and month have been pretty rough for us and I think we finally hit on something here that we can hopefully move forward with from here.”
Shirley came home one spot shy of his fourth career MLRA win.
“It was definitely a positive, I just didn’t feel that comfortable, the track felt like I was really on top of it and I didn’t feel as comfortable as I needed to be to run up there with Chad. And then obviously Jason was comfortable, I could see him on the top side and that outside was really treacherous so I wasn’t willing to go up there and give it all that tonight, but it was nice to come home second,” Shirley said.
“That top was pretty brutal up there tonight,” Feger said. “It took me a while to get it figured out but once we did we were pretty decent. I probably should have just got down in front of Brian once I got in front of him but it was a pretty good race, I didn’t care if I was second or third I was trying to do what I could do to battle Chad for the lead but it didn’t work out tonight. Tomorrow we’ve just got to qualify better and put on a better effort in the heat race so we can start towards the front and have a little more.”