Fuller Ends Drought At Merritt Speedway
“I picked the softest tire there was (under the event’s tire rule) and it worked,” Fuller said of the Hoosier LM 20-compound rubber he bolted on his Capital Race Car. “Shannon Rush (of Hoosier Tire), he kept saying, ‘I don’t know if it’ll work,’ but I had nothing to lose starting 14th.
“The bottom line is, we outfoxed ‘em on tires. It happens in this deal. I’ve been outfoxed before.”
Fuller reached second place behind Smith on lap 32 and was beginning to challenge his good buddy when the race’s first caution flag flew on lap 35 when Scott Phillips of Marlette, Mich., slipped over the quarter-mile oval’s turn-four bank. After another caution flag flew on lap 36 for a turn-four spin by Tim McCreadie, Fuller surged around the outside of Smith to assume command on lap 40.
One more caution flag was needed, on lap 41 when Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., spun out of fifth place in turn four. Fuller then spent the remainder of the distance trying to fend off Neiser, who was coming hard on the inside of the track, and later Spangler, who started alongside Fuller in 13 th and appeared in third place with a lap-42 pass of Clint Smith.
Neiser nosed his MasterSbilt car inside of Fuller off turn two on lap 48, prompting Fuller to switch to the inside lane racing through turns three and four. Fuller stayed on the bottom for the entire final lap – a strategic maneuver that dulled Neiser’s bid but in turn opened the top side for Spangler.
Rounding turns three and four for the final time Spangler drove to the outside of Fuller, but Fuller slid up just enough off turn four to force Spangler over the wall-less homestretch berm. Fuller beat Spangler to the finish line by less than a half car length as Neiser looked to sneak by both on the inside.
“I had to pass Cat (Smith) up on the top (for the lead) and I used up a little too much tire, but I thought I could stay straighter and smoother up there and keep my momentum up,” said Fuller. “I went back to the bottom because I saw (Neiser) nosing up inside of me.”
Fuller was surprised by the sudden appearance of Spangler as the checkered flag was displayed ahead of them.
“I just thought it was 87 (Neiser),” said Fuller. “As I drifted out toward the outside of the track (off turn four on the last lap) I saw a car right there (Spangler) and we touched a little bit. Good thing it wasn’t 51 laps. That 27 car (Spangler) was fast and my right-rear tire was dying.”
A three-time Merritt Speedway Late Model champion and winner of the track’s recent ‘Wood-Tic’ special event, Spangler was disappointed to fall just short of the biggest victory of his career.
“I got good momentum into three and four (on the last lap) and got alongside (Fuller),” said Spangler, who drove a MasterSbilt car. “But he pushed up – and he’s the leader, so you gotta him some room and we put it off the frontstretch so we didn’t hit.
“It was almost three-abreast on the last lap. I’m sure it was a great show for all the fans.”
Neiser, meanwhile, wore a large smile despite coming so close to becoming the second Michigan driver to win a WoO LMS.
“Two local guys and one of the World of Outlaw guys? That was definitely a spectacular finish,” said Neiser.
Neiser, who started seventh, used the inside groove to work his way to second place by lap 20. He challenged Smith several times midway through the race and did the same to Fuller during the final circuits before Fuller’s lane change stemmed his charge.
“He was up a little higher and I was catching him more and more,” Neiser said of Fuller. “The yellows kind of hurt me a little bit, and when he seen me there he come down (on the last lap) – which anybody would’ve. Then man, by time I went to the top, there was Spangler. I didn’t know he was there, but I figured he would be because he’s fast here.
“When I seen him, I figured, ‘Wow, this is gonna be a race to the end now.’ It was a good time – an amazing time. I was thrilled just to be racing for a win in a World of Outlaws race. That’s probably why I bumped the (inside) tires a couple times here and there. I was getting a little too excited and was missing my marks just thinking, I can’t believe where I’m at right now.”
Tim Fuller, Eric Spangler, Rich Neiser, Darrell Lanigan, Clint Smith, Josh Richards, Chris Brindley, Shane Clanton, David Hilliker, Rick Eckert, Tim McCreadie, Bub McCool, Jeep VanWormer, Chub Frank, Eric Wells, Andrew Reaume, Mike Spatola, Morgan Bagley, Scott Phillips, Tom Sprague Jr., Jason Feger, Brady Smith, Mike Kresnak, Sammy Epling