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Erb Begins Coronation Weekend With Race of Champions Victory On Opening Night Of UMP DIRTcar Nationals At Eldora Speedway

Dennis Erb, Jr.
Dennis Erb, Jr.

Rossburg, OH — Famed Track’s Pit Area Filled With 69 Super Late Models & 123 Open-Wheel Modifieds

ROSSBURG, OH – Oct. 3, 2008 – Dennis Erb Jr.’s coronation as the 2008 UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model champion began in fine fashion on Friday night at Eldora Speedway.

Racing without points pressure after clinching his second consecutive national title several weeks ago, the 36-year-old from Carpentersville, Ill., rolled to a $1,000 victory in the 12-lap Race of Champions event that closed the opening night of the Moser UMP DIRTcar Nationals.

Erb also was the fastest qualifier in one of the six group time-trial sessions for the 69-car Super Late Model field, giving him a fourth-place starting spot in the sixth heat race on Saturday night. He’ll shoot for his first career feature triumph at the famed half-mile oval in Saturday’s 40-lap UMP DIRTcar Nationals headliner, which offers a $5,000 winner’s prize.

“A win would be a great way to top (the season) off,” said Erb, who will earn $20,000 for his UMP DIRTcar national crown. “Winning both UMP championships (he also captured the Summer Nationals title) and the season finale would be a pretty big accomplishment for us.”

Dennis Erb, Jr.
Dennis Erb, Jr.

The driver known as the ‘One Man Band’ had his Thomason Transportation Rayburn purring perfectly in the Race of Champions sprint, which included 11 drivers who won UMP state, regional or series titles or were a chassis builder’s highest-ranked representative in the national points standings. He slid inside Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., through turns three and four to assume command on lap five and never looked back.

“I feel pretty good about our chances (on Saturday),” said Erb, whose lap of 16.221 seconds was the fifth-fastest time overall of Friday’s qualifying session. “We changed some things around on the car and it worked pretty well I guess.”

Erb crossed the finish line a half-straightaway ahead of Pinconning, Mich.’s Jeep VanWormer, who started ninth. Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., whose time-trial lap of 16.007 seconds was the fastest overall in the qualifying session, placed third, followed by Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill., and Brian Ruhlman of Clarklake, Mich.

Steidinger, meanwhile, dropped out of the special event with mechanical trouble while running in third place. The second-place driver in the UMP DIRTcar national points standings also experienced problems during time trials, saddling him with the 10th starting spot in Saturday’s sixth heat.

Joining Erb as Super Late Model group fast-timers were Chris Ross of Wallaceburg, Ont. (16.553 seconds), Curt Spalding of Hartford, Mich (16.755), VanWormer (16.192) and Jerry Rice of 16.793).

Mike Spatola
Mike Spatola

A huge field of 123 UMP DIRTcar open-wheel Modifieds was signed in for the division’s portion of the program, which included group time trials and eight 10-lap heat races.

Mike Spatola of Manhattan, Ill., was the overall fastest Modified qualifier with a lap of 17.770 seconds. He earned a $1,000 bonus from Larry Shaw Race Cars.

Modified heat winners were Randle Sweeney of Clifty, Ky., who is the country’s winningest UMP DIRTcar Modified driver in 2008; Michael Asberry of Crossville, Tenn., who inherited the victory after apparent winner Curt Spalding of Hartford, Mich., was disqualified for weighing in three pounds light; defending UMP DIRTcar Nationals winner Scott Orr of Columbia City, Ind.; Danny Schwartz of Ashmore, Ill.; Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind.; Mike Harrison of Highland, Ill.; Doug Adkins of West Portsmouth, Ohio; and Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va.

Harrison’s triumph in the sixth heat was tainted, however, by a post-race incident. After taking the checkered flag he clipped the stopped car driven by Billy Palmer of Knoxville, Tenn., in turn one and flipped.

While Harrison escaped the crash without serious injury, his car sustained a broken rearend and an assortment of damage to other bolt-on components. He was planning to pull the rearend out of his backup car and install it in the machine he qualified for Saturday’s 25-lap, $3,000-to-win A-Main.

Another flip victim was Jim Hilligas Jr. of Dayton, Ohio, who tumbled down the homestretch on the opening lap of the first heat. He walked away from the wreck after crawling out of his upside-down car.

Jeff Leka, 42, of Buffalo, Ill., entered Friday’s action having already clinched his first-ever UMP DIRTcar Modified national championship, but his hopes of finishing the points season with a winning flourish took a turn for the worse at the start of the program. His familiar No. 3L was struck by a burnt engine piston during hot laps, sidelining the machine for the night.

Leka accepted a ride offer from longtime rival Denny Schwartz of Ashmore, Ill., who beat Leka by four points to win the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Modified national title. Leka steered the car from the 15th starting spot to a fifth-place finish in the third heat and will start fifth in Saturday night’s second B-Main.

Saturday night’s UMP DIRTcar Nationals card is scheduled to begin at 6 o’clock with the Modified Race of Champions. Late Model heats and B- and A-Mains for both divisions are also on the agenda.

For more information, visit www.eldoraspeedway.com or www.dirtcar.com.

UMP DIRTcar Racing Super Late Model Race of Champions Finish (12 laps):

1. Dennis Erb Jr. (Summer Nationals/Northern Allstars Late Model Series)
2. Jeep VanWormer (MasterSbilt Chassis)
3. Jason Feger (Pierce Chassis)
4. Michael Kloos (TNT Chassis)
5. Brian Ruhlman (Rocket Chassis)
6. Dan Walden (Indiana State)
7. Mike Schulte (Rayburn Chassis)
8. Kyle Logue (Big 10 Series)
9. Wes Steidinger (Illinois State)
10. Dusty Moore (Ohio State)
11. Rusty Schlenk (Sunoco American Late Model Series)

Starting Lineups For Saturday’s UMP DIRTcar Racing Super Late Model Heat Races (inside/outside, with Friday qualifying lap time):

Heat 1 (Top 3 Transfer):

Row 1: Jerry Bowersock (16.797)/Michael Kloos (16.730)
Row 2: Chad Ruhlman (16.592)/Chris Ross (16.553)
Row 3: Dan Walden (17.471)/Dylan Thompson (17.486)
Row 4: Curtis Deisnroth (17.495)/Eric Spangler (17.611)
Row 5: Kevin Reed (17.824)/Corey Bevard (17.902)
Row 6: Butch Smith (N/T)

Heat 2 (Top 3 Transfer):

Row 1: Andrew Reaume (16.605)/Jared Hawkins (16.595)
Row 2: Matt Miller (16.198)/Jeep VanWormer (16.192)
Row 3: J.R. Hotovy (16.908)/Kyle Logue (17.108)
Row 4: Shon Flannery (17.166)/Kevin Cole (17.248)
Row 5: Dean Anderson (17.360)/Wayne Maffett Jr. (17.455)
Row 6: Adam Thrush (19.971)

Heat 3 (Top 3 Transfer):

Row 1: Rusty Schlenk (16.544)/Billy Faust (16.349)
Row 2: Ben Adkins (16.196)/Jason Feger (16.007)
Row 3: Jason McBride (16.902)/Rick DeLong (17.172)
Row 4: David Hilliker (17.296)/Richard Neiser (17.603)
Row 5: Justin McNeal (17.652)/Greg Longfellow (17.672)
Row 6: Scott Baker (17.889)/Jason Riggs (18.070)

Heat 4 (Top 3 Transfer):

Row 1: Richard Hedrick (17.017)/Robby Hensley (16.998)
Row 2: Brian Ruhlman (16.760)/Curt Spalding (16.755)
Row 3: Dustin Moore (17.210)/Brad Eitniear (17.244)
Row 4: Matt Weidner (17.383)/Michael Shult (17.739)
Row 5: Andy Sprague (17.930)/Pat Ehlert (18.124)
Row 6: Bill Hahn (N/T)/Aaron Scott (N/T)

Heat 5 (Top 3 Transfer):

Row 1: Jon Henry (17.210)/Shawn Toczek (17.109)
Row 2: Duane Chamberlain (16.920)/Jerry Rice (16.793)
Row 3: Jeff Beyers (17.472)/Ken Hahn (17.521)
Row 4: John Lawhorn (17.724)/Chad Todd (18.041)
Row 5: Brandon Thirlby (18.043)/Brad Harden (18.282)
Row 6: Nick Corbitt (18.290)/Craig Cortman (18.878)

Heat 6 (Top 3 Transfer):

Row 1: Ronnie Perrine Jr. (17.155)/Ryan Vanderveen (17.006)
Row 2: Scott Orr (16.939)/Dennis Erb Jr. (16.221)
Row 3: Don Gordon (18.106)/Brett Reaume (18.314)
Row 4: Don Mihelich (18.356)/Jimmy Gallagher (19.331)
Row 5: Pat Ferguson (19.954)/Wes Steidinger (N/T)
Row 6: Randy Korte (N/T)/Tom Treon (N/T)

Results of Friday Night’s UMP DIRTcar Racing Open-Wheel Modified Heat Races (10 Laps/Top 2 Transfer):

Heat 1: 1. Randle Sweeney, 2. John DeMoss, 3. Ben Adkins, 4. Chad Kinder, 5. Zach Schroeder, 6. Steven Hilliker, 7. Kelly Devall, 8. Matt Verbeck, 9. Jeremy Powley, 10. Dean Hoffman, 11. Jerry Bowersock, 12. Jeff Harris, 13. Jim Hilligas Jr., 14. Mike Neighbors, 15. Brandon Morrow

Heat 2: 1. Michael Asberry, 2. Jess Hartman, 3. Ed Roley, 4. Justin Matson, 5. Bruce Gould III, 6. Rob Pendergrass, 7. Tim Brown, 8. Travis Shoulders, 9. Josh Morton, 10. Nick Katterhenry, 11. Scott Ricketts, 12. Darryl Banks, 13. Matt Aber, 14. Tommie Seets Sr., 15. Curt Spalding (DQ – light)

Heat 3: 1. Scott Orr, 2. Jimmy Hayden, 3. Brian Ruhlman, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Jeff Leka, 6. George Catanzano, 7. Jamie Cobb, 8. Lenny Guyton, 9. Bob Burch, 10. Nick Hoffman, 11. Tim Richardson, 12. Jamie Kuntz, 13. Anthony Davis, 14. Jimmy Hayden, 15. Cody Hood

Heat 4: 1. Danny Schwartz, 2. Todd Sherman, 3. Mike Spatola, 4. Randy Dickman, 5. Kenny Johnson, 6. Troy Marciniak, 7. Justin Coulter, 8. Thomas Sigler, 9. Mark Kowarsch, 10. Brad McLeod, 11. Josh Greber, 12. John Taylor, 13. Gary Ricketts, 14. Mark Hotovy, 15. Mark Anderson

Heat 5: 1. Kent Robinson, 2. Lance Dehm, 3. Keith Berner, 4. Chad Ruhlman, 5. Joe Pendergrass, 6. Dave Pinkerton, 7. Bryce Jewell, 8. Brent Hole, 9. Ryan Ritchie, 10. Jared Bailey, 11. Paul Bumgardner, 12. Kevan Free, 13. David Treon Jr., 14. Tony Molnar, 15. Jon Henry

Heat 6: 1. Mike Harrison, 2. Matt Bex, 3. Gary Richard, 4. Shon Flannery, 5. Chad Bauer, 6. Jesse Bitterling, 7. Kyle Gibbs, 8. Darrell Lowe, 9. Kasey Schrock, 10. Ben Hulse, 11. Donny Huber, 12. Billy Palmer, 13. Josh Morrow, 14. Chad Rosenbeck, 15. Mike Dirksen

Heat 7: 1. Doug Adkins, 2. Clint Shutts, 3. Davey Gannt, 4. Dennis Wilson, 5. Todd Sanders, 6. David Smith, 7. Matt Hamilton, 8. Michael Brown, 9. Shane Unger, 10. Shawn Bayliff, 11. Mike Hohlbein, 12. Jeff Stanton, 13. Bob Baldwin, 14. Chad Thornhill, 15. Christopher Anstead, 16. Jeff Sommers

Heat 8: 1. Jacob Hawkins, 2. Jeff Babcock, 3. Chris Stotts, 4. Steve Arpin, 5. Derek Groomer, 6. John Brooks, 7. Terry Hull, 8. Chad Oberson, 9. Devin Gilpin, 10. Rich Robinson Jr., 11. Ronnie Chance, 12. Doug St. Meyers, 13. Ian Keller, 14. John McCaul, 15. Zeke McKenzie, 16. Jeremy Rayburn