By Josh Wessler
Journal Star sports reporter
PEORIA — Sometimes the best plan is to have no plan at all.
Brian Shirley used that non-strategy to earn $5,000 Saturday night in the Chuck Hamilton Memorial at Peoria Speedway.
Going up against a slew of talented drivers in the Late Model feature, the Chatham resident grabbed the lead just a few laps into the 50-lap race and held it the rest of the way to earn the night’s top prize. “There wasn’t a strategy,” said Shirley, who won his heat race but started in the sixth spot in the feature. “When we re-drew at six I just knew we’d have to hunker down and do the best we could and just stay on the gas,” Shirley said. “Just short-track racing. Sometimes you get out there and get crusin’ and then the lines change. The track had a little more grip and it favored the way I wanted to run.” Shirley was able to make his way to the front of the pack after just a few laps, and despite having to weave his way through lapped traffic was able to maintain his position ahead of challengers Bobby Pierce and Jason Feger. Pierce was closing fast when Bob Gardner wiped out in Turn 3 on Lap 42, forcing the two into a nine-lap race for the glory. “I knew our car maneuvered really well, and lap traffic helped us get by Bobby and Feger,” Shirley said. “They seemed like they were more top dominant. It helped to be able to get in there. Our car could run at the bottom just as good as the top. “The cushion was pretty treacherous tonight. We just had to hang on and stay up on the wheel.”
Shirley’s victory capped a full slate of racing on the first night of the season at the Farmington Road quarter-mile. Jason Jaggers led almost the entire way in winning the 18-lap Steel Block feature race. Dennis Wernle held off Justin Hamm to win the 15-lap Street Stock feature.
Ray Bollinger won both his heat and the feature race in the Modified Division, beating Mike Chasteen Jr. in the 20-lap race, while Dave Lauritson (Hornet Division) and Butch Weisser (Crate Mod) each won their respective division features.
Josh Wessler can be reached at 686-3214 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @joshwessler