DIRTcar Download is your source for everything in DIRTcar Racing. Throughout the season, you’ll find weekly news, notes, and track and driver spotlights from across DIRTcar Racing’s regions.
Driver Spotlight: JEFF LEKA, 2008 UMP DIRTcar Modified National Champion
Jeff Leka finished 2008 as the UMP DIRTcar Modified National Champion. He’s hoping to start ’09 as the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH titlist. A native of Buffalo, Ill., Leka is taking aim at his first Florida championship to kick start his drive for another UMP DIRTcar Modified crown. “One of my goals starting off is to spend the whole time in Volusia and see if we can’t win Speedweeks” Leka said. “I’ve won races at Volusia but I’ve never been there the whole time to try and run for points. Then we’ll come back and run good and compete for UMP National points.”
A perennial championship contender, the 43-year-old wheelman doesn’t feel any added pressure to repeat this season. “All you can do is what you do every year and that’s work hard, do the best you can do, and at the end of the year everything will pay off,” he said. “We’ve got a good team, good sponsors, good chassis and good motors. I’m going to keep my same program that I’ve had the past few years and I think we’ll be good for 2009.”
With his positive mindset, 2009 looks just as bright for the Land of Lincoln standout. He’ll need it, too, since he will be busier than ever this season. The addition of his two sons, Jeffrey and Justin, to the family’s racing ranks will have Leka on the move. Justin finished in the Top 5 in points in the inaugural season of KidsModz competition and is now switching to a full blown UMP Open Wheel Modified, while Jeffrey who has been a regular at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway in a modified is joining the family team for the first time this year.
“It really is a fun family thing,” Leka said. “I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to give them a chance to do this. Hopefully they’ll catch on and we’ll be a good three car team.”
Track Spotlight: VOLUSIA SPEEDWAY PARK
The 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH puts Volusia Speedway Park in the spotlight beginning Tuesday when the UMP DIRTcar Modifieds help kick off 12 consecutive nights of racing at the sweeping half-mile oval near Daytona Beach, Fla. The green flag waves on Tuesday, Feb. 3, when the UMP DIRTcar Modifieds compete alongside the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. UMP DIRTcar Late Models get Week 2 going on Feb. 9 with DIRTcar Racing Northeast Advance Auto Parts Big Block Modifieds.
Take advantage of special ‘Super Ticket’ deals that offer seats for all the events contested by each headline division, including six Sprint Car events (All-Star Circuit of Champions on Feb. 3-5, World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series on Feb. 6-8); eight nights of UMP DIRTcar Modified action (Feb. 3-10); six-nights of Dirt Late Model racing (Feb. 9-14); the and four Advance Auto Parts DIRTcar big-block Modified dates (Feb. 11-14).
UMP DIRTcar: KICKING IT OFF IN FLORIDA
With most Midwest tracks not starting regular season action until March, restless drivers are heading to Florida this February to cure their offseason racing itch. UMP DIRTcar Modified drivers such as Jeff Leka, Canadian hot shoes Steve Arpin, and NASCAR Sprint Cup veterans Kenny Schrader and Kenny Wallace all have been preparing for the bevy of DIRTcar Modified action near Daytona most of the winter. In addition, DIRTcar Late Model drivers such as defending National Points Champion and Summer Nationals Champion Dennis Erb Jr., Steve Sheppard Jr., and Rodney Melvin have all prepped cars for their shot at winter glory.
The 2009 racing season for kicks off tonight at Ocala Speedway with a UMP DIRTcar Modified special, setting the stage for the inaugural Gator Championship at Volusia Speedway Park. The pace picks up with the addition of the UMP DIRTcar Late Models at Volusia Speedway Park starting Feb. 9.
Before everybody loaded up to head south, hundreds of racers from across the country received a share of the whopping $493,665 in total points-fund cash that was posted for the 2008 season by UMP DIRTcar Racing.
The money was distributed to drivers in eight sanctioned divisions during the 25th annual UMP DIRTcar Racing ‘Night of Champions’ Awards Banquet on Jan. 10 in Springfield, Ill.
* The Super Late Model points fund totaled $206,625, including the payoff for the national standings ($79,875); UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals ($56,600); three Regions ($27,375); 11 States ($28,600); the Northern Allstars Late Model Series ($12,675); and the top-three in the Rookie of the Year standings ($1,500).
* A total of $175,875 was posted for the open-wheel Modified class, including $79,875 for the national standings; $45,625 for the five regional payoffs; $44,200 for the 17 State points battles; and $5,375 for the Wolfpack Challenge Series.
* The Pro Late Models — the crate-engine division that debuted under the UMP DIRTcar banner in 2008 — boasted a posted points fund of $33,440. That included $23,540 for the national points standings and $9,900 for the six State payoffs.
* Sportsman division racers shared a posted points fund of $20,100, including $10,200 for the national standings and $9,900 for the six State points races.
* The Limited Modified division’s posted points fund reached $16,800, including $10,200 for the national standings and $6,600 for the four State races.
* Street Stock drivers divided up a posted points fund of $20,915, including $8,315 for the national standings and $12,600 for the eight State battles.
* The second year for the Factory Stock division under UMP DIRTcar sanction produced a posted points fund of $8,295, including $4,175 for the national standings and $4,120 for the four State races.
* The 4-Cylinder class, which was also part of the UMP DIRTcar sanctioning lineup for a second season, offered a posted points fund of $12,415. That included $4,175 for the national standings and $8,240 for the eight State battles.
Only drivers holding a UMP DIRTcar membership by a specified point in the season are eligible to collect UMP DIRTcar points-fund cash — a big point to remember for racers hoping to share in the organization’s end-of-year booty in 2009.
DIRTcar Northeast Region: HEADING SOUTH
The ground-pounding Big-Block Modifieds from the DIRTcar Racing Northeast Region are celebrating their 31st Anniversary of racing in Florida this year. Volusia Speedway Park’s time-tested half-miler is where it all began in 1978, and this February the best in the business return to the storied Barberville oval for a 12th consecutive year.
More than 35 entries are already signed up with a handful of those drivers accounting for nearly a dozen Florida Tour championships. That legendary list includes seven-time and defending champion Brett Hearn, Alan Johnson (2), Jimmy Horton (2), Pat Ward and Andy Bachetti, with 26 wins shared along the way. The current roster features Big-Block pilots from nine states and Canada, with nearly two-dozen of those same chauffeurs accounting for more than 1,700 feature wins on the demanding DIRTcar Racing Northeast circuit. They’ll be joined next week by two-time Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series champion Billy Decker and standouts like Dale Planck, Matt Sheppard, Jeff Brownell Jr. and ’08 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE Presented By ButlerBuilt DIRTcar NE Big-Block & 358-Modified Rookie of the Year Larry Wight.
The Alltel DIRTcar Nationals Big-Block lid-lifter is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 11, with a 30-lap feature headlining the program. Open-wheel action continues with 30-lap feature events on Thursday and Friday before a big $5,000-to-win 50-lapper brings the curtain down Saturday, Feb. 14. An optional practice day is set for Tuesday, Feb. 10.
DIRTcar West: I-5 NORTHWEST LATE MODEL TOUR READY TO ROLL
Big things are happening very quickly for DIRTcar West. This offseason a few new series have been formed under the DIRTcar banner. The new DIRTcar I-5 Northwest Late Model Tour currently has 12 dates on the schedule and aims to add a few more. Running alongside the similar Western All Star DIRTcar Series, the new I-5 Series is sure to boast a collection of the strongest Dirt Late Model competitors on the West Coast.
The buzz surrounding the newly formed series has produced excitement throughout the racing community.
“The new DIRTcar I-5 Series has been a developing regional series, but now under the DIRTcar Racing banner creates a national platform for recognition and rewards for the participants and the tracks,” said World Racing Group President Tom Deery. “The DIRTcar I-5 Northwest Late Model Tour will provide fans with a big event atmosphere while giving competitors the opportunity to chase up to three races on a given weekend.”
“We are very excited to be working with the great tracks and competitors in the Northwest,” said DIRTcar Racing West Region Director Chris Morgan. “Some have been part of the UMP program for several years and now are planning to expand within DIRTcar Racing through the I-5 Northwest Late Model Tour. It is a strong program and we will continue to focus on growing and supporting racing in the Northwest.”
For all the latest DIRTcar Racing news and information, visit DIRTcar.com. If you’re a member or would like to become a member, visit DIRTcarMembers.com.