Marlar hellish on tour field at Quincy Raceways

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 8, 2019 12:40 am

QUINCY -- Mike Marlar waited patiently for 25 laps.

When the opportunity arose that Marlar had been anticipating, he grabbed it in impressive fashion.

Marlar powered past then-race leader Brian Shirley to not only take the lead, but systematically pull away for an easier-than-expected 1.95-second victory in Sunday night's UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour event before a crowd of about 2,900 Quincy Raceways.

The win was Marlar's first at Quincy and sixth in his Hell Tour career.

Like the tour itself, Marlar's victory in the 40-lap race was exhausting on a warm, muggy evening at the Broadway Bullring.

"Hats off to Brian, he made me work," said Marlar, a resident of Winfield, Tenn.

Marlar was able to gradually make his move on Shirley by effectively maneuvering his way along the rim, biding his time and waiting for an opening against Shirley, who prefers an inside line.

"I was eventually able to get more down force on the right front and get past him," Marlar said.

Once past Shirley, Marlar was never seriously challenged over the closing 15 laps en route to a $5,000 payday.

"I wasn't in the right spot (to block Marlar)," said Shirley, whose race team is based in Chatham, Ill.

Shirley may have lost the battle, but he may be the favorite to win the war. The Hell Tour is in its final week and the driver known as "The Squirrel" unofficially holds a 12-point (870-858) lead over arch rival Bobby "The Smooth Operator" Pierce of Oakwood, Ill.

Pierce led Shirley by three points going into Sunday night, but struggled from the outset before managing a fifth-place finish behind third-place Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, and fourth-place Frank Heckenast of Frankfort, Ill. Twenty one cars started the feature.

The wear and tear of a tour that saw 28 races scheduled over a 32-day period while criss-crossing eight states was obvious on the faces of most of the tour regulars.

"We're definitely tired," Shirley said. "Five more races, and then we can go home."

This year's Hell Tour -- the 34th version of what is considered racing's toughest test -- originally had events scheduled in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

A whopping 15 rainouts has played havoc with this year's tour, forcing even more traveling due to doubling back to certain venues for makeup dates. The series ends Saturday night in Wauseon, Ohio.

Shirley, who won the 2018 tour stop in Quincy, has won four events this year and had been seeking his third overall in Quincy. Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., has three Hell Tour victories at Quincy, the most since the city became a regular stop in 2006.

The top local finisher in this year's race was Ricky Frankel of Quincy, who wound up eighth, his best-ever Hell Tour showing on his home track.

For Frankel, it was more about simply racing than placing.

"We've only been able to run seven times this year because of all the rain, and we were going up against guys who race every night of the week," Frankel said.

Frankel drew a huge smile when quizzed about any goals his team might have over the second half of the season.

"Just get as many nights (of racing) in as we can," he said.

In the two support series, Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., won the 19 car modified feature, with Austen Becerra of Carthage claiming the 20-entry sport mod main event. Each driver pocketed $1,000 for their victory.

Three-time defending Quincy Raceways champ Dave Wietholder of Liberty ran a strong third. Michael Long of Fowler, a two-time champ at the track, finished fourth.

Becerra did not let a 17th starting position deter his charge to the front. He gained the lead on lap 18 of a 30-lap finale and held off a strong field behind him that included defending track champ Adam Birck of Canton, Mo., who ended runner-up. Reed Wolfmeyer of Liberty, Tanner Klingele of Quincy and Daniel Fellows of Keokuk, Iowa, rounded out the top five.