|Trackside: Vaught Wins Summernationals
Congrats to Will Vaught for picking up his first UMP Summernationals win. From the Dirt on Dirt report: BELLEVILLE, Ill. (June 18) — Series rookie Will Vaught made some noise in a few early races on the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals tour. His biggest bang came in the fifth leg of the 26-race tour at tiny Belle-Clair Speedway as Vaught led all 40 laps to earn a career-high $6,000 payday. Vaught started outside the front row, got the jump on polesitter Brent Kreke and kept his black No. 1 GRT Race Car glued to the bottom to win the richest race in the history of fifth-mile Belle-Clair, which hosted the Summernationals for the first time.
“It feels good,” Vaught said after his first Summernationals victory. “We’ve worked our butts off the last few nights on this car. I think we’re applying what we’re learning every night.”
Kreke, of nearby O'Fallon, Ill., finished second for his best career Summernationals finish, surviving a few bumps from sixth-starting Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill. Fourth was fifth-starting Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill., part of the top four that pulled far away from the rest of the field. Summernationals points leader Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., overtook Jason Feger with just over two laps to go to grab the fifth spot.
Vaught edged away from the outset and was firmly in control when the first caution appeared on the 14th lap for third-running Rodney Melvin, who slowed with a flat left-rear tire. While the yellow erased Vaught's straightaway advantage, it gave him clear racetrack and he pulled away again from Kreke before a lap-20 caution for Dave Thornton's turn-three spin.
On the restart, Vaught again led the low-groove parade and pulled away from Kreke, who was hotly pursued by Steidinger. Steidinger climbed Kreke's left-rear tire twice, first on the 21st lap in turn three, then again more severely on lap 25 in turn one. Kreke's quarterpanel was dented in, but his tire showed no harm as he continued with Steidinger and Kloos close behind.
Vaught built another straightaway lead with 10 laps remaining, but lapped traffic — also in the low groove — forced Vaught to slow his leading pace. Soon enough Kreke, Steidinger and Kloos were stacked up behind Vaught, who was hampered by the slower car of provisional starter Dewayne Kiefer. With fellow driver Mark Voigt signalling him from the infield to stay on the bottom, Vaught didn't dare try to go around Kiefer and held on for the victory.
The 21-year-old Vaught is new to the Summernationals, but the protege of former Summernationals star Bill Frye of Greenbrier, Ark., has been among southwest Missouri's up-and-coming drivers the past five seasons. He won two series events last season on UMP's sister series, the MARS DIRTcar tour, and finished third in series points. On his first Summernationals tour, he's finished third or better in three of five events and is among the early title contenders for the series scheduled to visit 26 tracks in 31 days.
Vaught, who entered the race third in points, pulled into second behind Shirley. Unofficially, Shirley has 385 points after five races followed by Vaught (377), Dennis Erb Jr. (372), Steidinger (352) and Jeep Van Wormer (341). (Additional information from Kellen Burns)