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MINNESOTA SMOOTH: Bobby Pierce Wins World of Outlaws Heartland Speedweek Finale at I-94
Erb and Cade Dillard led the field to the green in the 50-lap Feature, with the Robeline, LA driver getting the early advantage. However, the reigning champion wouldn’t let him get away as Erb kept pace with Dillard on the bottom.
The Carpentersville, IL driver needed six laps to build his momentum, as he wrestled the lead away from Dillard, nosing his Rocket Chassis ahead at the completion of Lap 7.
While Erb tried to drive away, Pierce moved toward the front, reaching third by Lap 12. After sliding Dillard for second on Lap 17 in Turns 3 and 4, Pierce set his sights on his fellow Illinois driver, using the outside to close in on the #28 in traffic.
Pierce’s opportunity to strike came on Lap 21, as he used Todd Cooney, a lap car, as a pick as they raced off Turn 2. The “Smooth Operator” powered past Erb down the backstretch, taking the lead as they entered Turns 3 and 4.
It was a lead Pierce wouldn’t relinquish, as he aced the race’s only restart on Lap 31 to earn his third win of World of Outlaws Heartland Speedweek—one worth $15,000.
“Dennis was really a sitting duck,” Pierce said. “I know Dennis can rip the lip, but he likes to run the bottom. At the time, the top was really good, and I was like, just stay down there, and he did. But if he did move up, I was ready for it. It was a fun race.”
Saturday was the first time Pierce had ever raced at I-94. But he said it reminded him of a track where he’s found success, which helped him hone in his setup.
“I noticed right away it was going to be a fun track, and I feel like this track fits me,” Pierce said. “This place reminds me of Florence. I knew these boys were in trouble tonight if we hit our marks.”
With the win, Pierce extended his points lead to 52 points over Chris Madden, who finished sixth.
Four-time Series champion Brandon Sheppard finished second, moving up seven spots from ninth. The New Berlin, IL driver put on a show for the Minnesota crowd in the race’s top groove, getting by 2018 Series champion Mike Marlar and Tanner English before the race was complete.
Despite the strong runner-up finish, Sheppard said he knows what’s keeping him out of Victory Lane.
“We had a dang good car tonight,” Sheppard said. “We could run top, middle, bottom, wherever we needed to. We bided our time there early and passed a bunch of cars on the bottom. Then I saw some guys start to mess around on the top a little bit, so I went up there, and we just had a ton of speed.
“It was a good night. All in all, we just have to Qualify better. That’s the only thing we’re missing right now. We’re good in the Features; we just need to get Qualified better. I felt like we had the best car at the track tonight, it was just a matter of a few things that didn’t go our way, and that’s just how my year’s going so far.”
Tanner English finished third—his third consecutive podium in races 50 laps or more. The Benton, KY driver worked the bottom of the track to earn his fifth top-five of 2023.
“The bottom was good for a while, and then it kind of faded at the end,” English said. “There just wasn’t enough left, and I kind of got to those lap cars at the wrong time and should’ve moved up earlier.
“It was a hell of a race. The car is working really good right now. It’s just hard to beat that #32 car. He’s pretty damn fast. That’s why it sucks when we had him beat and gave it away. We’ll get it one of these days, and we’ll be there before you know it.”
Ryan Gustin, the Fox Factory Hard Charger, crossed the line fourth, after starting 15th. The Marshalltown, IA driver said wholesale changes to his Rocket Chassis helped him climb to the top five.
“We were really good there in the Feature," Gustin said. "I just wish we could’ve started about 10 positions further forward. We struggled obviously there early, and [Taylon Center] changed pretty much everything, and we were really good in the Feature. I guess we got a good package now for these types of tracks, too.”
Erb rounded out the top five after leading 14 laps.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models head to the Midwest for a pair of $15,000-to-win races, starting with a trip to Ponderosa Speedway on Friday, July 14. Then, the Series heads North to Indiana for the Hoosier Dirt Classic at Brownstown Speedway on Saturday, July 15..
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online on with the DIRTVision App.CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Feature (50 Laps): 1. 32-Bobby Pierce; 2. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 3. 96V-Tanner English; 4. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 5. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 6. 44-Chris Madden; 7. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 8. 9-Nick Hoffman; 9. 157-Mike Marlar; 10. 3S-Brian Shirley; 11. 28S-Dustin Sorensen; 12. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 13. B1-Brent Larson; 14. 1TPO-Tyler Peterson; 15. 25-Shane Clanton; 16. 76-Blair Nothdurft; 17. 22-Nick Panitzke; 18. 30-Todd Cooney; 19. 55C-Chad Mahder; 20. 18X-Shawn Meyer; 21. 97-Cade Dillard; 22. 11G-James Giossi; 23. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 24. 14W-Dustin Walker Fox Factory Hard Charger: Ryan Gustin [+11]
RYAN'S REDEMPTION: Ryan Gustin Nets Third World of Outlaws Win of 2023 at River Cities
Bronson rocketed from third to first on Lap 1, diving under Cade Dillard and Mike Marlar in Turn 2 and running away with the lead down the backstretch. While he pulled away, Gustin also began his march forward.
Gustin used the bottom to quickly move from seventh to second in two laps, getting by Marlar, Dillard, Chris Madden, Blair Nothdurft, and defending Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. on the way. That’s when he set his sights on Bronson and made the decision that would ultimately win him the race.
When Bronson caught lap traffic, Gustin moved to the top and found the momentum he needed to make a challenge on Lap 12. With a burst of speed off Turn 2, Gustin pulled even with Bronson as the two waged war down the backstretch. The battle continued through Turns 3 and 4, but Gustin had more momentum as they exited the corner, nosing ahead by the completion of the lap.
However, Gustin wasn’t in the clear yet, as lap traffic kept Bronson in striking distance.
Bronson got another shot at the lead on Lap 31 when Gustin’s slider attempt on Cole Schill fell short in Turn 2, allowing Bronson to pull even with Gustin down the backstretch. Bronson pulled a slide job as the two thundered into Turn 3 but left too much room for Gustin to cross over in Turn 4, keeping the #19R ahead.
From there, Gustin mastered lap traffic the rest of the way to earn the $12,000 victory—his fifth career World of Outlaws CASE Late Models win.
His quick rise to second in the first two laps allowed him to adjust his strategy based on what was ahead.
“Obviously, the more you can pass earlier, the easier it is to win the race,” Gustin said. “Our car was really good around the bottom all night. I just knew we had to get ourselves in position early while we could, and lap traffic kind of played into our favor. When you’re running second in lap traffic, you’re in the cat bird’s seat so you can kind of see where they’re losing time.”
With a rapid caution-free Feature, Gustin had to be on his game to stay in front of Bronson. That included navigating traffic, like his run in with Schill – a challenge that almost cost him the race.
“I got held up behind [the slower car of Cole Schill] for about 20 laps, I felt like,” Gustin said. “Every chance I felt like I got a good enough run to slide him, there was a car on the bottom, so I couldn’t get down low enough. It all worked out, though, and we have a really fast hot rod right now. So, hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Gustin’s win moves him to third in the Series standings, 46 points behind Bobby Pierce, who finished 11th.
Bronson settled for second, scoring his second straight podium finish. Despite being happy about how well his Rocket Chassis ran, he said he knew what he should’ve done differently on Lap 31.
“When I slid him, I gave him a little too much room to crossover,” Bronson said. “He did a damn good job. He only made one mistake, and that’s when I slid him. Our car was really damn good, and we can’t wait to get to the next one.”
Like Bronson, Marlar scored his second straight podium, finishing in third.
The Winfield, TN driver, who started on the outside pole, climbed back to third after falling out of the top five early in the race.
“On the start, the outside was a little greasy, and someone slid up in front of me, and it just kind of had me in a bad spot,” Marlar said. “We fell back to sixth and got around some of them to get back to third. But I didn’t have anything for Kyle or Ryan. After [Thursday’s] heartbreak for Ryan, he deserved to win, for sure.”
Dillard finished fourth, and Chris Madden finished fifth.
Madden’s fifth-place finish moved him back to second in the standings, 40 points behind Bobby Pierce. Germfree Rookie of the Year leader Nick Hoffman dropped back to fourth in the championship standings after finishing 13th.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models finish World of Outlaws Heartland Speedweek with a 50-lap, $15,000-to-win finale at I-94 EMR Speedway in Fergus Falls, MN, on Saturday, July 1.
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision – either online on with the DIRTVision App.CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Feature (40 Laps): 1. 19R-Ryan Gustin; 2. 40B-Kyle Bronson; 3. 157-Mike Marlar; 4. 97-Cade Dillard; 5. 44-Chris Madden; 6. 25-Shane Clanton; 7. 28-Dennis Erb Jr; 8. B5-Brandon Sheppard; 9. 76-Blair Nothdurft; 10. 3S-Brian Shirley; 11. 32-Bobby Pierce; 12. B1-Brent Larson; 13. 9-Nick Hoffman; 14. 11-Gordy Gundaker; 15. 96V-Tanner English; 16. 44*-Cole Schill; 17. 28S-Dustin Sorensen; 18. 30-Todd Cooney; 19. 14W-Dustin Walker; 20. 1ST-Johnny Scott; 21. 5E-Shane Edginton; 22. 55C-Chad Mahder; 23. 12-Brad Seng; 24. 58-AJ Diemel FOX FACTORY HARD CHARGER: Ryan Gustin [+6]