Artilcle and photot by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher

The Johnny Appleseed Classic served as the final tune-up before the Eldora Million this year, putting an extra emphasis on locking down a notebook and getting all important laps on an Eldora Speedway that is working in a new surface. Twenty-seven late models made the call and they all had a million reasons to do so on this gorgeous Sunday evening.

As the field took the green for the 30 lap feature, it was Casey Noonan and Darrell Lanigan that led the field. On the start, Lanigan and fourth starting Spencer Hughes got the jump on the pole-sitter Noonan. The field would come to a stop though, as the yellow, and then the red flag were displayed for a spinning Josh Richards in turns three and four. Richards had mud come into his cockpit and hit his helmet, bloodying his face. It would be a complete restart, which was good news for Noonan.

The second attempt at the start saw Lanigan get the jump on Noonan once again, but this time, third starting Kyle Bronson would shuffle Noonan back to third. These three would then go three-wide for the lead before Noonan was in third, and then on lap three, Bronson would take the lead after being side-by-side with Lanigan for nearly two laps. The yellow came out after Bronson took the lead for a slowing Freddie Carpenter. 

Bronson held serve on the restart, as Bobby Pierce battled Lanigan for second, and Jonathan Davenport took the fourth spot. The yellow quickly came back out for debris on the track. Bronson did what he had to do on the restart once again as Davenport got by Lanigan for third. Six laps in and Bronson had a .508 second lead over Pierce as the yellow came out once again for third running Darrell Lanigan with 23 laps remaining. 

Bronson went 3/3 on good restarts as Davenport slipped back to seventh after contact with Piece and subsequently the wall. Bronson built a comfortable 1.314 second lead, but disaster struck for the leader as he hit the wall, ending his race early.  Davenport would pull off at this time as well.

This gave the lead to Bobby Pierce. Pierce would have control of a chunk of this race, throughout the cautions and restarts, he was able to pull away from Tyler Erb, with almost a two second lead at the halfway point. Disaster would once again strike for the leader, though. Pierce blew a right rear tire on lap 17, which would give the lead to Tyler Erb, with Frank Heckenast Jr., and 25th starting Kyle Strickler following. ]

Now it was Erb’s turn to see what he could do to tame this Eldora track full of character. Erb was able to get a good restart once he had the lead and built up a 1.029 second lead with ten laps to go as a yellow came out for debris. It was all Erb once again on the restart as Strickler was able to show a nose to Heckenast Jr. for second. The ninth and final caution flag flew with three laps left. Terbo rocketed out to the lead, as Strickler was able to get by Hecknast Jr. for second. Strickler cut Erb’s lead down to .460 seconds on the white flag lap, but just didn’t have quite enough, as Erb scored the win. 

“I tried to run as hard as I could in the smoothest part of the racetrack for a couple of laps, set a good pace and keep the nose on it. I about gave it away with one or two to go in turn three, but other than that, it was alright,” said Erb.

The win was a nice reward for Erb and Co. after trucking home all night from Missouri. 

“I’ve got a really good team, and guys that work hard,” said Erb. “We have really good equipment and we try to do the best we can. We tried to survive, but we did pass seven or eight cars before Kyle [Bronson] broke and Bobby [Pierce] broke. It was our night to win. We’ve had a lot of long nights here, and we’ve had a long weekend. We came all the way from Wheatland, got to the shop at 10:30 this morning, worked on one car, and got this car ready. To get a win is satisfying, it makes us feel good about working our dicks in the dirt and getting something out of it.”

Getting the win is always great, but when you get the win in the final tune-up before a $1,000,000 to win race, and having a solid notebook on a track with a lot of attitude could be the most valuable thing gained all night.

“After the Flo Race, I didn’t think it [the track surface] would stay quite as aggressive and wild as it was. But, they haven’t been able to get any racing in with the weather and everything. I think this is kind of what we’re going to see at the Million. Obviously they’re going to try and work hard and try and get it a little more friendly for us. At least we have a good notebook if it’s going to be like this, we know how we can get around here and survive,” concluded Erb.