EVANSVILLE , IN – Sept. 13, 2007 – Dennis Erb Jr. already has the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals championship on his ledger.
Why shouldn’t the ‘One Man Band’ try to double his pleasure?
Erb, 34, of Carpentersville , Ill. , is attempting to add the UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model national title to his spectacular campaign. He’s locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Wes Steidinger of Fairbury , Ill. , for the $20,000 crown, which is likely to be determined in the points-season-ending UMP DIRTcar Racing Fall Nationals on Oct. 5-6 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg , Ohio .
With three weekly track weekends plus the Fall Nationals remaining for drivers to accumulate UMP points, the 24-year-old Steidinger currently leads the standings by 30 points (3,325-3,295) over Erb. Steidinger has been perched atop the standings for virtually the entire season, but Erb has come roaring from behind to make a race of it over the past two months.
If he can overtake Steidinger, Erb would become the first driver in UMP DIRTcar Racing history to win the Summernationals and national titles in the same season.
“Winning the Summernationals was my main goal at the start of the year and we accomplished that,” said Erb, who captured the grueling tour’s championship trophy for the first time in his career. “The national deal? Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about it.
“We didn’t get started racing up north (he did compete in February’s Speedweeks action in Florida ) until the end of April because I was waiting on my new trailer to get finished, so we gave up a month of (UMP) points. Then we spent the spring focused just on getting everything ready for the Summernationals, so I didn’t think we’d have a shot at the national deal.”
The national title is determined, however, using a driver’s best 50 finishes of the season in UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned events. What’s more, bonus points are awarded on a one-point-per-car basis for fields over 20 up to a maximum of 40 cars, so running well on the Summernationals trail during which most events typically push or exceed the 40-car mark helped Erb roll up enough points to put him in the thick of the battle.
“After we got done with the Summernationals (in mid-July), we looked at the (national standings) and saw I had moved up in there in the points race,” said Erb, who won four Summernationals A-Mains. “The majority of my races the rest of the year were gonna be UMP races anyway, so we decided to take a shot at it. We just jockeyed around our schedule to go to a few more UMP shows.”
Erb caught fire after turning his attention to accumulating national points, winning nine times from July 20 to Aug. 31. His explosion included four August victories at Farmer City ( Ill. ) Raceway; three wins at Kamp Motor Speedway in Boswell , Ind. ; and single triumphs at Kankakee ( Ill. ) Motor Speedway and Vermilion County Speedway in Danville , Ill.
Overall, Erb has recorded a career-high 19 wins this season, including 18 sanctioned by UMP DIRTcar Racing. He has also won races at Highland ( Ill. ) Speedway , Peoria ( Ill. ) Speedway , Fairbury ( Ill. ) American Legion Speedway, Charter Raceway Park in Beaver Dam, Wis. (his first career World of Outlaws Late Model Series win) and Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway (his second WoO LMS score within a five-day span).
“By far, it’s been my best year ever,” said Erb, whose self-owned Rayburn cars use Malcuit power and carry sponsorship from Petroff Towing, J&J Steel and Thomason Express. “Winning the Summernationals meant a lot to us because it was our goal, but winning the national deal would mean a lot too.
“Two years in a row we’ve been second in the national points deal, but we’ve never gone out trying to win it. We just traveled around and ran different stuff, so we really weren’t close in the points at the end. Hopefully this year, being this close, we can get it done.”
Erb enters this weekend’s action having run 58 UMP DIRTcar racing events this season, against 67 starts for Steidinger. Erb has to finish higher than 10th to replace an earlier low-point night, while Steidinger, who has 17 wins, has to place higher than eighth to replace a race and pump up his points total.
Erb’s schedule this weekend features Kankakee on Friday night (Sept. 14), the ‘Kamp 50’ at Kamp Motor Speedway on Saturday night (Sept. 15) and the WoO LMS ‘Best Western Illinois Fall Nationals’ at La Salle ( Ill. ) Speedway on Sunday night (Sept. 16). The WoO LMS event will be run using the UMP DIRTcar Racing Hoosier 20/40 tire rule, so it offers UMP points.
Steidinger has the same three events listed on his schedule, so the two primary combatants for the title with go head-to-head all weekend.
“We just gotta go out there and run good, get some top-five finishes,” said Erb. “We have some higher car-count races coming up, like the ‘Kamp 50,’ and we have to run well in them. We have to go places where we can get some good finishes with a bunch of cars there.”
For more information on UMP DIRTcar Racing, visit www.umpracing.com.
2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model National Points Standings – as of Sept. 10 (Rank/Driver/Points/Number of Starts Counted – 50 maximum):
1. Wes Steidinger 3325 50
2. Dennis Erb Jr. 3295 50
3. Randy Korte 3134 50
4. Steve Sheppard Jr. 3130 50
5. Jason Feger 2953 50
6. Kevin Cole 2826 50
7. Mike Hammerle 2610 50
8. Ryan Dauber 2472 50
9. Mike Schulte 2469 50
10. Kevin Weaver 2435 50
11. Scott Bull 2377 49
12. Rusty Griffaw 2302 50
13. Rusty Schlenk 2302 46
14. Jeep VanWormer 2209 39
15. Richie Hedrick 2183 43
16. Brian Ruhlman 2130 38
17. Don O’Neal 2084 34
18. Ed Dixon 2061 44
19. Rodney Melvin 2052 36
20. Rick DeLong 1930 34
21. Joe Harlan 1921 41
22. Dustin Mooneyham 1902 42
23. Shannon Babb 1841 30
24. Ryan Unzicker 1798 45
25. Daren Friedman 1785 34