Red-Hot Dennis Erb Jr., ’06 Tour Runner-Up Jeep VanWormer Among Favorites To Win Title
EVANSVILLE , IN – June 14, 2007 – The grind starts tomorrow.
Thus the question is: who will survive the grueling, month-long UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals to emerge as the 2007 series champion?
A host of drivers have high hopes heading into dirt Late Model racing’s toughest test of man and machine, which begins a run of 28 races in 30 days with a Friday-night (June 15) show at Kankakee ( Ill. ) Motor Speedway.
None, however, feel better about their chances of claiming the 2007 title than Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville , Ill. , and Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich.
Erb, 34, enters the Summernationals as one of the Midwest ’s hottest drivers. He already has six victories to his credit this season, including two in World of Outlaws Late Model Series competition.
And with Shannon Babb of Moweaqua , Ill. , planning to relinquish his two-year reign as UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals champion to chase the World of Outlaws Late Model Series title for the first time, VanWormer, 32, is the top returning driver from the 2006 tour. He finished a career-high second in last year’s Summernationals points standings.
Of course, both drivers know there are no guarantees when it comes to the Summernationals, which take a special mix of speed, smarts and stamina for a team to be successful.
“We’ve started off the year real good, but being prepared for the Summernationals is a whole different ballgame,” said Erb, who drives self-owned Rayburn cars. “You gotta have everything you’ll need when you’re out on the road already lined up before the tour starts, and then you have to be consistent and not get torn up when you’re out there.
“When you start crashing, you gonna have so much repair work to do the next day that you’re not gonna be able to go through your car the right way.”
“It’s a bunch of work – and it’s in the heat of the summer,” said VanWormer, who has chased the Summernationals fulltime for the past four years. “Nothing can prepare you for it until you actually do it.
“There’s no easy race, because you’re racing every night against the locals who are fresh and know the track. You’ve got two or three hours of driving between tracks every night. You’re in the (hauler) bunks every night. You never get to take a long shower. You’re with the same guys for 30 days.
“It’s a true test of friends and teams.”
Erb will be following the entire Summernationals schedule for the fourth consecutive year. He owns three career tour wins, and has finished fourth (2004), third (2005) and fifth (2006) in the point standings.
What makes Erb so bullish about his chances for claiming the $25,000 title this year is his team’s level of preparation. He will once again run the majority of the events with his longtime friend, Heather Lyne, as his only mechanic, but his pair of $10,000 WoO LMS victories last month provided him an influx of cash to pay off a fresh Malcuit engine for use on the tour and store up on some spare parts.
In addition, Erb has already visited Victory Lane this season at four tracks that will host UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals events: Fairbury ( Ill. ) American Legion Speedway (the SN stops there on July 7), Lincoln ( Ill. ) Speedway (June 24), Peoria ( Ill. ) Speedway (June 25) and Vermilion County Speedway in Danville , Ill. (July 1).
VanWormer had his best Summernationals points finish ever last year, trailing Babb by 153 points in the final standings. He won two features, pushing his career Summernationals victory total to three.
“I’m excited about this year,” said VanWormer. “We’re taking the same cars on it that we ran last year, and we think we’ve got ‘em figured out. We also have a guy from Australia who helped us last year coming back over to spend the month with us on the road, so we’re in good shape there.
“The biggest thing we’ve learned (from running the Summernationals) is that you can’t get off your basics. You have to stick with what you know, and try to be consistent. We did that last year, and we were successful.”
Both Erb and VanWormer expect to hit the road on Friday and not return to their shops until after the Summernationals finale, on July 14 at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon , Ohio . They’ll make stops in seven states ( Illinois , Indiana , Iowa , Kentucky , Missouri , Ohio and Tennessee ) during that month of action.
“My wife will be back home taking care of the grass,” Erb joked when asked who will keep his house in order while he’s gone. “I’ll still pay the bills, though. I gotta go out and make money to send back to her!”
This year’s UMP DIRTcar Summernationals figures to be a wide-open affair with Babb’s absence from regular competition. Several drivers are planning to join Erb and VanWormer as fulltime points chasers, including 2004 Summernationals champion Don O’Neal of Martinsville , Ind.
O’Neal has not competed for the Summernationals title the last two years, but his return means one of the tour’s top contenders is back. He sits third on the alltime Summernationals win list, with 32 victories.
Other drivers with plans to follow the series include 2006 UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model national champion Randy Korte of Highland , Ill. , who finished fourth in last year’s SN points standings; 2000 SN titlist Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., who finished sixth last year; Steve Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., who finished seventh last year while missing just one event; Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich., a 20-year-old talent looking to complete the entire grueling month of racing for the first time; Terry Casey of New London, Wis., another first-time Summernationals hopeful; Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., whose 10 victories to date this season have him leading the UMP national points race; Kevin Cole of Harrisburg, Ill.; 18-year-old Jordan Bland of Campbellsville, Ky.; Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn.; and Jason Feger of Springfield, Ill.
For more information on the UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals, visit www.umpracing.com.
2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals Schedule
6/15 – Fri. – Kankakee Motor Speedway/Kankakee, IL
6/16 – Sat. – Kamp Motor Speedway/Boswell, IN
6/17 – Sun. – Tri-State Speedway / Haubstadt , IN
6/18 – Mon. – Jefferson County Raceway/ Mt. Vernon , IL
6/19 – Tues. – Lebanon I-44 Speedway/Lebanon, MO
6/20 – Wed. – Highland Speedway/Highland, IL
6/21 – Thurs. – Morgan County Speedway / Jacksonville , IL
6/22 – Fri. – Farmer City Raceway/Farmer City, IL
6/23 – Sat. – I-55 Raceway/Pevely, MO
6/24 – Sun. – Lincoln Speedway/Lincoln, IL
6/25 – Mon. – Peoria Speedway/Peoria, IL
6/26 – Tues. – Poplar Bluff Speedway/Poplar Bluff, MO
6/27 – Wed. – Lake Ozark Speedway / Eldon , MO
6/28 – Thurs. – Paducah International Raceway/Paducah, KY
6/29 – Fri. – Western Kentucky Speedway/Nebo, KY
6/30 – Sat. – Clarksville Speedway/Clarksville, TN
7/1 – Sun. – Vermilion County Speedway / Danville , IL
7/2 – Mon. – Midway Speedway/Crooksville, OH
7/3 – Tues. – Lawrenceburg Speedway/Lawrenceburg, IN
7/4 – Wed. – Day Off
7/5 – Thurs. – Macon Speedway/Macon, IL
7/6 – Fri. – Tri-City Speedway / Pontoon Beach , IL
7/7 – Sat. – Fairbury American Legion Speedway/Fairbury, IL
7/8 – Sun. – Quad City Speedway/East Moline , IL
7/9 – Mon. – C.J. Raceway/Columbus Junction, IA
7/10 – Tues. – Quincy Raceway/Quincy, IL
7/11 – Wed. – Spoon River Speedway/Canton, IL
7/12 – Thurs. – LaSalle Speedway/LaSalle, IL
7/13 – Fri. – Day Off
7/14 – Sat. – Oakshade Raceway/Wauseon, OH
Alltime UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals Event Winners (1988-2006):
1. Billy Moyer – 60
2. Shannon Babb – 51
3. Don O’Neal – 32
4. Scott Bloomquist – 27
5. Rick Aukland – 23
6. Bob Pierce – 14
7. Kevin Weaver 14
8. Billy Drake – 10
9. Bill Frye – 8
10. Randy Korte – 7
11. Jim Curry – 6
11. John Gill – 6
12. Ed Dixon – 5
Jimmy Mars – 5
Brian Birkhofer – 5
15. Terry English – 4
Roger Long – 4
17. Tony Izzo Jr. – 3
Tom Rients – 3
Roger Long – 4
Kevin Claycomb – 3
Donnie Barnhart – 3
Jim Curry – 6
Dennis Erb Jr. – 3
Rodney Melvin – 3
Jeep VanWormer – 3
Jim Leka – 3
Dick Taylor – 3
28. Bob Hill – 2
Steve Barnett – 2
Randy Sellars – 2
Wendell Wallace – 2
Joe Ross Jr. – 2
Brian Shirley – 2
33. (Drivers w/one victory): Jack Boggs, Rick Egersdorf, Doug McCammon, Joey Izzo, Willy Kraft, Pete Parker, Ray Cook, Donnie Moran, Tony Stewart, Darrell Lanigan, Ed Bauman, Bart Hartman, Jay Johnson, Matt Taylor, Dan Schlieper, Matt Miller, Billy Faust, Earl Pearson Jr., Jimmy Owens, Steve Francis, Steve Hillard, Paul Shafer, Steve Kosiski, Tom Helfrich
Alltime UMP Summernationals Series Champions:
2006: Shannon Babb
2005: Shannon Babb
2004: Don O’Neal
2003: Billy Moyer
2002: Scott Bloomquist
2001: Billy Moyer
2000: Kevin Weaver
1999: Billy Moyer
1998: Rick Aukland
1997: Rick Aukland
1996: Billy Moyer
1995: Bob Pierce
1994: Billy Moyer
1993: Billy Moyer
1991: Scott Bloomquist
1990: Scott Bloomquist
1989: Rick Standridge
1988: Pete Parker