Evansville, IN — By the time the dirt Late Model portion of the 37th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals begins on Feb. 11 at Volusia Speedway Park , Dennis Erb Jr. will have already knocked any winter-time rust off his game.
In fact, the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals and National Late Model champion might even be in mid-season form.
Erb, 36, of Carpentersville , Ill. , will likely roll into Volusia’s six-night meet – featuring UMP-sanctioned events on Feb. 11, 12, 13 and 15 and the season-opening World of Outlaws Late Model Series shows on Feb. 14 and 16 – with more laps under his belt by mid-February than ever before in his career.
From Jan. 23 to Feb. 2, Erb will compete in 10 programs (including seven sanctioned by UMP DIRTcar Racing) at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick , Ga. And from Feb. 4-9 he’ll take part in the Dirt Late Model Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton , Fla.
Then Erb will arrive at Volusia, where he’ll have six chances to register his first-ever dirt Late Model victory at the half-mile oval outside Daytona Beach .
Erb could conceivably run 22 events in 25 days. That amount of activity might give pause to many drivers, but certainly not Erb, a seasoned veteran who is annually one of the nation’s busiest dirt Late Model drivers.
“Somebody said to me, ‘That’s a lot of racing that you’ll be doing,’” said Erb. “But you know, we run almost every night for a whole month during the Summernationals (from mid-June to mid-July) – and we’re at a different track every night.”
On this trip, Erb will take up residence at a track for a week at a time, removing the wear-and-tear of travel from the equation.
“I might have to get in the hauler (after a race) a few times, drive around awhile and then come back,” joked Erb. “Then I’ll feel like we’re running the Summernationals.”
The unprecedented length of Erb’s southern excursion this year will be a bit too long, however, for his head wrench Heather Lyne, who was recently named a co-winner of the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model ‘Mechanic of the Year’ Award. An electrical engineer for Northrop Grumman in Rolling Meadows , Ill. , who uses her vacation days to go racing with Erb, Lyne will have to miss one week of Erb’s tour so she’ll have enough vacation days remaining to do the Summernationals later this year.
Erb, who in 2007 became the first driver in UMP DIRTcar Racing history to sweep the Summernationals and National points crowns in the same season, will take his familiar self-owned Thomason Transportation/Petroff Towing/J&J Steel Rayburn No. 28 into battle. He’s hoping he can bring his trip to a memorable close by putting his machine in Victory Lane during the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals, which figures to draw in the neighborhood of 100 dirt Late Models.
There will be more money than ever on the line at Volusia Speedway Park for Erb and Co. The three UMP DIRTcar programs that start the week (Feb. 11, 12, 13) have seen a significant purse increase, to $7,000 to win (formerly $5,000), and the remaining events (UMP DIRTcar Championship on Feb. 15, WoO LMS on Feb. 14 and 16) will offer $10,000 top prizes.
Erb is coming off a 2007 Alltel DIRTcar Nationals in which he achieved the noteworthy honor of qualifying for all four Late Model A-Mains that were run (two were rained out). But he is searching for more feature-time success than he achieved last year, when he recorded finishes of 12th and 18th (twice) in the UMP shows and 11th in the WoO LMS event.
Tickets for the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals are available on-line at www.volusiaspeedwaypark.com.
Fans unable to attend the spectacular week at Volusia can still catch all the action on the DIRTVision Cybercast. For just $29.99 fans can purchase the ‘Alltel DIRTcar Nationals Racepass’ and watch live streaming video of all 12 nights of racing action. Log on to www.dirtvision.com for more information.