MACON – There were times when his father seemed to move like a runaway train through the tight turns of Macon Speedway.
Fast, shrewd and with an encyclopedic knowledge of the fifth-mile dirt oval, Bob Pierce used that local knowledge to his advantage.
Four times between 1983 and 2001 Bob Pierce ripped through the field to win the Herald & Review 100, Central Illinois’ showcase late model stock car race each summer. So perhaps it’s no surprise that his son, 19-year-old Bobby Pierce, is a runaway train this summer. Bobby Pierce will be the strong favorite in the 36th annual Herald & Review 100 tonight at Macon Speedway.
He’s been a relentless force thus far in the UMP Dirt Car Summer Nationals “Hell Tour,” having won seven of the 14 races contested through Tuesday.
That includes Pierce’s dramatic last-lap pass Monday to win at LaSalle Speedway.
Pierce is the only driver on the Tour to have won more than twice, so he has been established as the favorite everywhere he goes. And if there is an enduring image to the Hell Tour so far this summer, it’s that of Pierce standing on the roof of his car, hands extended to the heavens, a signature post-race victory pose that just has to be driving the other drivers crazy.
That said, Bobby Pierce has yet to win a Herald & Review 100 and there will be other drivers in the field tonight who know what it feels like to hoist the trophy.
One of them – Moweaqua’s Shannon Babb – has won the event five times, claiming the checkered flag in 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014. He’ll clearly have the home crowd behind him.
Ryan Unzicker of El Paso broke through against Babb and won the race last summer.
Ironically, finishing second to Bobby Pierce in Monday’s Fourth of July race at LaSalle was Gibson City veteran Kevin Weaver, who is a four-time Herald & Review 100 winner.
Weaver won his first Herald & Review 100 in 1991 and also won in 1992, 2002 and 2008.
“It was awesome,” Pierce said of Monday’s victory over Weaver. “I think this was my first last-lap, last-corner pass to win a race. Me and Kevin had an awesome race.”
Pierce made his move after a final caution came out with four laps to go.
“Starting 12th, I didn’t think I’d get through there that early, but the bottom (of the track) was just so good,” he said. “I thought about the middle to the top and I tested it on the caution, just warming up the wires.
“It felt like it was kind of loose up there. About a lap-and-a-half to go, my dad motioned me up and I was like, ‘Well, I’ll try it out.’ And it worked.”
Another solid bet tonight should be Jason Feger of Bloomington, who broke through Tuesday night and led wire-to-wire to claim the checkered flag at Dougherty Speedway in Boswell, Ind.
Feger has now moved into second place in the Summer Nationals points standings.
Over the years, the race has consistently drawn some of the top late model stock car drivers in the country and past winners have included a number from out of state.
But recently, the track has been kind to in-state drivers. The last 11 Herald & Review 100 winners have all hailed from the Land of Lincoln. And that won’t hurt Pierce, who is from Oakwood, near Danville.
Other drivers who have won this summer on the Hell Tour are Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. (twice), Dennis Erb, Jr. of Carpentersville, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Unzicker and Feger.
Tonight's 100-lap feature race will pay $5,000 to win.
Also in action tonight will be the Summit National Modified Tour. Like the Hell Tour for late model stock cars, the Summit Tour is a grueling one-month circuit. The points leader so far is Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., formerly of the St. Louis area.
Hoffman is followed in the modified points standings by Ray Bollinger of Kewanee (a regular at Lincoln Speedway).
Former NASCAR drivers Kenny Wallace and Ken Schrader, who are co-owners of Macon Speedway, also plan to compete in the modified race.
The other division to race at Macon tonight will be the B-Mods, led by current points leader Tim Hancock from Mount Olive.
Pit gates will open at 3 p.m., grandstands at 4. Hot laps will begin at 6 p.m., with qualifying to start at 6:30 and racing to begin at 7.
Grandstand admission is $25 for adults, $5 for children ages 11 and under.