INDIANAPOLIS — Any time a driver steps into the cockpit, they know racing is about peaks and valleys. Veteran racer Dennis Erb Jr. climbed the mountain Friday at Circle City Raceway to earn his first World of Outlaws Morton Buildings victory of 2021.
While the Carpentersville, Ill., driver was $10,000 richer at the end of the race, he was forced to climb back up after losing the lead.
Erb led the first 25 laps of the Feature before Ryan Gustin powered around him on the outside for the top spot. But when it looked like Erb’s shot at victory was gone, a yellow flag gave “The One-Man Band” new life.
Erb and Gustin raced side-by-side for four laps on the restart, wrestling back-and-forth for the lead. That’s when Erb slid up in front of Gustin coming out of turn four and reclaimed the lead for good with eight laps to go.
He was relieved in after battling through 40 laps.
“Everything held together,” Erb said. “We lost the lead for a little bit, but I knew I could get right back in it. We had a good car going through the [track] but man we had to work for it.”
It’s the seventh Morton Buildings Feature win of Erb’s career, tying him for 20th all-time with Brian Birkhofer and Jonathan Davenport.
Gustin, the top rookie of the race, crossed the line third after losing a spot to three-time and defending champion Brandon Sheppard on the final restart with six laps left.
Even though “The Reaper” was frustrated with the outcome, he knows re-starts are part of the sport.
“We really didn’t need that caution because we didn’t take off very well,” Gustin said. “But you live and die by [restarts] and that’s part of racing. Eventually the win’s going to come so we have to just keep digging.”
Gustin’s misfortunes on restarts played into Brandon Sheppard’s favor. The reigning champion took advantage of the inside lane to earn a second-place finish.
“I knew [the outside] was about done up there,” Sheppard said. When [Gustin] chose the top, I knew I had to hit my marks and stay down there as good as I could, and I hung on for second.”
Sheppard extended his point lead with his runner-up finish—40 points ahead of Chris Madden, who finished ninth.
Pennsylvania driver Max Blair crossed the line fourth, and Frank Heckenast Jr. finished fifth.
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 28-Dennis Erb [$10,000]; 2. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$6,000]; 3. 19R-Ryan Gustin [$3,500]; 4. 111-Max Blair [$2,800]; 5. 99JR-Frank Heckenast [$2,500]; 6. 99B-Boom Briggs [$2,300]; 7. 0E-Rick Eckert [$2,200]; 8. 21-Billy Moyer [$2,100]; 9. 44-Chris Madden [$2,050]; 10. B1-Brent Larson [$2,000]; 11. 16-Tyler Bruening [$1,600]; 12. 32-Bobby Pierce [$1,400]; 13. 93-Pancho Lawler [$1,200]; 14. 7-Ricky Weiss [$1,100]; 15. 97-Cade Dillard [$1,050]; 16. 21N-Logan Nickerson [$1,000]; 17. 20TC-Tristan Chamberlain [$1,000]; 18. C9-Steve Casebolt [$1,000]; 19. 11T-Trevor Gundaker [$1,000]; 20. 11H-Spencer Hughes [$1,000]; 21. 24-Ryan Unzicker [$1,000]; 22. 24B-Jared Bailey [$1,000] Hard Charger: B1-Brent Larson[+10]