Springfield’s Shirk chasing final points title at Columbus Speedway

With points championships decided Saturday at Columbus Motor Speedway drivers anticipate a little more trading paint than in previous weeks.

But no matter how frantic the race to the finish is the toughest moments will come off the track.

Columbus Motor Speedway – a popular one-third-mile paved oval – hosts the final race in the track’s 71-year history. Track owners John, Jerry and Jeff Nuckles agreed earlier this year to sell the site to the village of Obetz so it can expand park facilities.

“It’s going to be pretty heartfelt after the race,” said Springfield’s Shane Shirk, who with fellow Springfield resident and crew chief Dick Ater leads the modified division points. “Even talking about it now I get chills a little bit. (The other drivers) are kind of like your rivals – not your enemies – and I wonder wherever I continue to race if they’ll be there. It’s going to be a rough night for sure for everyone.”

Shirk holds a 59-point lead over Jeremy Menninger and 79-point lead over Terry Humphrey, both Columbus-area drivers.

Shirk figures he needs to finish 14th or better in the feature to clinch the final modified track championship in CMS history. He won his first-ever track championship at CMS in 2011.

“It would be special knowing Columbus is closing its doors after this season,” Shirk said.

Shirk has nine feature wins in 16 starts at CMS. He also has three bad wrecks. He’s hoping Saturday is more of the former. He wants to race for that final win at CMS, but should the action get a little wild he’s willing to be a spectator in the bumping and banging. He expects a field of about 25 cars Saturday.

“We go to the track to win. Once you get used to winning that’s what you strive to do,” Shirk said. “I’m real conservative, though. If it’s pretty hectic and guys are getting crazy (up front) I’ll probably ride where ever I’m at to clinch the championship.”

Shirk’s first race at Columbus came in 2006. He won his first feature a year later.

Shirk – who is sponsored by McGunegill Engines, Maplewood Tree Service and Tilton Trucking – holds the modified track record for qualifying and thinks that will survive Saturday. Adding a track championship – and maybe a final victory – would be the perfect way to cap off his Columbus career.

“It’s such a fun track. They’re so professional over there,” he said. “The Nuckles family runs the track like a well-oiled machine. It’s a good program, they get it in and get you home at a decent hour. … That’d be neat to go down in history with the track record, and maybe win the last championship there.”

Taking on the World: Eldora Speedway kicked off the 46th World 100 – dirt late model racing’s crown jewel event — on Thursday night with preliminary racing action. Eldora hosts racing tonight before heading into Saturday’s main event.

Georgia’s Jonathan Davenport returns as the defending champion at the World 100. One driver that won’t be there is four-time champion Scott Bloomquist. He’s nearing the end of a three-month suspension after failing a post-race tire inspection after the Dirt Late Model Dream.

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