GRANITE CITY, Ill. — A battle between best friends ended with Kyle Bronson standing tall Friday night at Tri-City Speedway.
After trading the lead three times in the final four laps, Bronson beat Brian Shirley to the checkered flag by .057 seconds to earn his first World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models victory of the season.
Bronson, the polesitter, went unchallenged in the lead through the race’s first 30 laps. Then, the first of three challengers tried to wrestle it away.
Nick Hoffman was the first to step up on lap 33, using the inside lane to close on Bronson in turns three and four.
The Florida competitor took the lane away, staving off Hoffman’s challenge as they drove into turns one and two and pulled away.
But that’s when his next challenger arrived. His best friend, Brian Shirley.
As Bronson reached traffic, Shirley closed in and made his move with four laps to go.
Shirley thundered underneath Bronson in turn two as Bronson got caught behind the lap car of Todd Cooney.
As they entered turn three, Shirley slid up the racetrack, leaving the bottom open. That’s when Bronson dove to the inside, pulling his Rocket Chassis almost even with Shirley, as the No. 3s led the lap.
Bronson retook the lead in turn one on lap 38, muscling Shirley up the racetrack and allowing both Hoffman and Bobby Pierce close in behind them.
Shirley and Bronson switched lanes again as they entered turns three and four, allowing Shirley to dive to the bottom as Bronson retook the lead on the top with two laps to go.
The two waged war again in turns one and two on lap 39, with Shirley getting the advantage as they roared down the backstretch.
Shirley led the field through the first corner again the next lap as Bronson went to the cushion, and Pierce tried to nose ahead of Shirley on the bottom. But it was Bronson’s decision that paid off. He pulled even with Shirley as they entered turn three, while Pierce was left to watch the battle in front of him.
From there, Bronson went through the middle of the corner, pinching Shirley on the bottom so he couldn’t get the momentum he needed – the winning move. Bronson powered off the corner to beat Shirley by .057 seconds to earn the $12,000 prize — his third career World of Outlaws triumph and first not at Volusia Speedway Park.
Bronson said he was thrilled to battle with Shirley for the win, knowing the two would leave it all on the track without wrecking each other.
“It’s so nice to race with one of my best friends like that, just knowing he ain’t going to wreck you,” Bronson said. “We held each other tight a couple of times. He slid up in front of me. I held him tight so he couldn’t slide me back. It was just a hell of a race.”
Shirley, who earned his second top five of the season, said Bronson kept him running the line he needed to at the end.
“I felt like if I didn’t get Kyle on the start, I was going to have a hard time beating him,” Shirley said. “He runs good around here, and good on the cushion, so I knew it was going to be tough to get around him. I didn’t realize that the track was going to come back to me where we could get under him a little bit.
“Those last couple of laps, he was just smart enough to block me to where I couldn’t hit my line to where I needed to hit to fully get by him.”
Pierce crossed the line third, his second podium of the weekend.
“It was pretty crazy how far back we came and being right on them guys,” Pierce said. “Larson got the wall right in front of me, and I just piled right into him. Nine times out of 10, that’s taking you out of the race with how hard we hit.”
For the second straight night, Pierce gained points on Chris Madden, who finished 13th.
The “Smooth Operator” is now 30 points behind the Gray Court, S.C., driver.
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 2. 3S-Brian Shirley; 3. 32-Bobby Pierce; 4. 9-Nick Hoffman; 5. 25-Shane Clanton; 6. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 7. 97-Cade Dillard; 8. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 9. 99JR-Frank Heckenast Jr; 10. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 11. 18B-Shannon Babb; 12. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 13. 44-Chris Madden; 14. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 15. 33-Mike Harrison; 16. 31-Kye Blight; 17. 30-Todd Cooney; 18. 36-Logan Martin; 19. 14W-Dustin Walker; 20. B1-Brent Larson; 21. 14G-Trevor Gundaker; 22. 82-Billy Laycock; 23. 25F-Jason Feger; 24. 96V-Tanner English; 25. 6-Kyle Larson; 26. 21-Billy Moyer Sr