By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Good guys do finish first. Sometimes it just takes a little longer.
Shawn Deering, one of the most popular drivers at Quincy Raceways, won the first feature of his modified career Sunday night and set off a celebration in the pits that may be still be in progress.
"I may not sleep tonight," Deering said shortly after ending his well-documented winless streak.
The 39-year-old Deering's victory ended a winless run that covered eight years and 132 features.
"It feels like a great weight has been lifted," he said. "Now that the gates are opened, I hope the flooding begins. My only goal is to win more races."
Deering's first victory did not come easy, even though he led the final nine laps -- the first laps he's led this season. While running second to Dave Wietholder, the two got into each other between turns three and four on lap 17.
Wietholder had to retire to the pits, three laps after series points leader Steven DeLonjay -- a 10-time feature winner this season -- had to be towed from the track following a mechanical failure on the back stretch and ensuing crash with Justin Reed and Jake Griffin.
"I think Dave got loose and went sideways, and I locked my car up getting on the brakes," Deering said. "Nothing that happened was on purpose. We were both just going for the win. It was just hard racing."
Deering, who had seven second-place feature finishes during the winless streak, was on the pole on the restart and was able to keep his closest challengers -- Mike VanDeriet and Chris Spalding -- at a comfortable distance. Deering said the final few laps were like a blur as he concentrated on not overdirivng his car.
"Actually, I probably underdrove the car the last couple of laps," he said. "I was just trying to be careful. I had beaten myself so many times in the past with (mistakes) ... it is such a relief. I have so many people to thank for sticking with me.
"For years, I have watched guys like Steven DeLonjay, Michael Long, Dave (Wietholder) and others win races ... I just wanted to be part. Those guys make you better just racing against them. I knew we could do it. Tonight, it all came together."
DeLonjay held on to the modified points lead (850-814) over Wietholder. Deering, who is third in points (726), could also establish a career high in that area. His best points finish has been fourth in both 2012 and 2011.
If not for Deering's victory, the story of the night would have easily been the late model battle between Bobby Pierce, Brandon Sheppard and Mark Burgtorf.
Pierce won his second straight feature at the Bullring, edging Sheppard by .031 of a second, with Burgtorf a close third 1.19 seconds off the pace.
Sheppard led the first 28 laps of the 30-lap main event before Pierce finally ran him down on the high side. Sheppard stuck to bottom feeding while Pierce systematically cut into his lead, one-tenth of a second at a time over the closing half-dozen or so laps.
Pierce's .031-of-a-second victory was the closest late-model finish (and tied for third-closest overall) in the six-year history of the track's electronic era. The electronic timing and scoring system was installed in 2007.
Denny Woodworth maintained his late model series points lead over Burgtorf with a strong fourth-place run. Woodworth unofficially leads Burgtorf 652-634.
Here's a quick look at the rest of Sunday night's action:
Sport mods: Tony Dunker kept on winning and Tanner Klingele kept on finishing second. Dunker won his ninth feature and Klingele ran second for the third straight week. Dunker (475), Klingele (440) and Charles Van Zandt (407) are setting the points pace.
Stock cars: Abe Huls took another big step toward the series title by collecting his fifth checkered flag. Brandon Savage and Terry Houston filled out the podium finishers. Huls (457), Houston (441), Jake Powers (428) and Jerry Jansen (428) are the points leaders.
Sport compacts: Austen Becerra's fourth feature win -- and second straight -- unofficially pulled him even with third-place finisher Kim Abbott in the points derby. Another contender, Pat Dunker, sustained a serious blow to his championship hopes when he crashed four laps into the main event and had to settle for sixth place. Becerra (479), Abbott (479) and Dunker (472) are the top three in points.