2022 Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals

Bobby Pierce Reaps Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals Prelim Win Benefits

Bobby Pierce Reaps Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals Prelim Win Benefits

Bobby Pierce reaped in some notable benefits after winning Thursday's Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals preliminary feature.

Dec 2, 2022 by Kevin Kovac
Pierce Enjoys Perfect Thursday At Gateway

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Winning Thursday’s 25-lap Castrol Gateway Dirt Nationals preliminary feature brought some notable benefits to Bobby Pierce.

There was the $5,000 first-place prize, of course. The triumph also locked him into the redraw for the top six starting spots in Saturday’s 40-lap, $30,000-to-win finale at The Dome at America’s Center.

And it set Pierce loose to begin contemplating what he’ll do during the highly anticipated driver introductions before Saturday’s 40-lap headliner.

When the 26-year-old star from Oakwood, Ill., arrived back in the convention-center pit area following his dominant flag-to-flag victory, he headed inside his trailer with his girlfriend, Abby Foster, to consider the music that will play over the Dome’s speakers as his name is announced and he walks through fog and into the spotlight.

“We’ve already listened to like five songs,” Pierce said. “We have some ideas.”

The checkered flag certainly put Pierce at ease — a far cry from one year ago when his Gateway Dirt Nationals experience was a frustrating struggle. A back-to-back winner of the Dome’s big show in 2017 and ’18, he had to scratch-and-claw just to qualify for the 2021 finale with a fourth-to-first run in a Saturday B-main — he was relegated to the consolation after his involvement in a tangle left him with a 15th-place finish in a preliminary feature — and then retired 15 circuits into the 40-lapper due to a broken transmission yoke and driveshaft.

Thursday’s weekend opener wasn’t entirely smooth sailing for Pierce, but he found a way to end the night with a perfect scorecard: overall fast time, heat win, feature win.

“I was scrambling around after hot laps trying to get the car dialed in,” Pierce said. “We just get here and you make a lap-and-a-half (in practice). You’re trying to piece it together, what everything needs to be perfect, and you kind of plan on the track being rough (as in the past). So we come here with kind of a rough (surface) setup, and (instead) it’s smooth as glass and kind of hard and slick.”

Pierce remarked that he “knew (the car) was quite a bit off” upon hitting the track for the first time. He “wasn’t all that great” in time trials either but felt fortunate that a good draw allowed him to click off what would become the quickest lap of qualifying — especially after his second circuit was slowed by his slap of the backstretch wall that ripped off his car’s right-rear spoiler.

“That was the worst,” Pierce said of his qualifying trouble, which forced him to weld his machine’s body mount back together. “I knew (the spoiler) was off. Even though we’re not going all that fast here in the Dome — because by the time you’re on the gas you’re already off it for the next corner — the downforce, I mean, it’s still a big thing in a Late Model.”

Pierce noted that the temporary fifth-mile oval’s surface was “a lot, lot smoother and easier on equipment” than is has been in recent editions of the event, but he wouldn’t mind seeing a few more bumps in the road come Saturday night. If he fails to draw a front-row starting spot for the feature, he might find it difficult to move forward without a bit of rough-and-tumble in the equation.

“How you run the bottom here, to get that arc back into the next corner, you’re swinging out to the straightaway walls, and if someone’s got a run on the top he’s just gonna have to give ‘em the horn, you know what I’m saying?” Pierce said. “For now, until the track changes, that’s the way it is.

“I think they’re gonna try to keep it smooth up until Saturday and then work it a lot and get it real racy,” he added. “I think it’s looking pretty good though. It might have been bottom-dominant tonight, but if they can save the track until Saturday, I think it’s a good idea.”