PADUCAH – Triple-digit heat and choking dust could very well have been labeled the winners Friday night.
But Brian Birkhofer overcame both those factors and all competitors to win the Chris Smith Memorial, part of the UMP Summer Nationals Tour, at Paducah International Raceway Friday night.
Birkhofer, from Muscatine, Iowa, overtook Shannon Babb just before the midway point and pulled away from the field to take the victory in the 40-lap main event and $12,000 first-place prize money.
Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., was second with Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., third. Scott James of Lawrenceburg, Ind., and Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., rounded out the top five.
Palma’s Tim Brown had the best finish among a trio of Marshall County drivers, with a solid run to ninth place. Brown is the Late Model points leader at PIR.
Birkhofer, who slipped from first to third in his heat race, easily did the best job of predicting how the 3/8-mile dirt oval would change on a hot, dry night and his hard-compound Hoosier tires served him well as other contenders lost pace or had to pit for new right-rear rubber.
Birkhofer came from ninth starting spot in the 22-car feature lineup and closed on a fight between early leader Moyer and challenger Shannon Babb in the first 10 laps. Babb took the lead on lap 14 and two laps later, Birkhofer moved around Moyer for second place.
The next time around, Birkhofer was in front.
Even though the race was interrupted four times in the final 20 laps by caution flags that bunched the lineup for restarts, Birkhofer was never challenged. Each time, he pulled away to a comfortable lead. He won by about five seconds, or a full straightaway’s distance.
The local contingent also included father and son Terry and Tanner English of Benton. Tanner English earned fifth starting spot by finishing second to Moyer in the first of four heat races. Driving a new car out of the English Racing shop, he began to fade early in the feature and ended up finishing 15th.
The elder English won the B-Main to transfer to the feature and raced from 17th starting spot into the top 10 by the 23rd lap.
Soon afterward, he was involved in a tangle with Kevin Cole and spun out, bringing out the final caution flag on lap 30. He was listed 18th in the finishing order.
Randy Sellars of Mayfield, second to Brown in current Late Model standings, finished 11th. Jason Riggs of Harrisburg, Ill., was 19th.
In other races on the program, Matt Mevert of Steeleville, Ill., claimed the Summit Modified Nationals victory , taking home the $1,000 first-place prize money.
The tour for UMP open-wheel modified cars is a companion series to the Summer Nationals late model tour, with the same 29-race, 32-day schedule.
John Tindal of Mayfield returned to the winner’s circle in Crate Late Model and Mike Hodges of Cunningham, Tenn., won the Street Stock main event.