FARMER CITY, IL – July 13, 2007 – Brady Smith’s pursuit of a big-money victory is over.
The rising star from Solon Springs, Wis., broke through on Friday night, winning the 40-lap UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals A-Main at Farmer City Raceway.
“We finally got a big win for our Amsoil/Big Red Motorsports team,” said a happy, relieved Smith after pocketing $10,000 for his first career triumph on the grueling Summernationals tour. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Smith, a 30-year-old who has been entering special dirt Late Model events outside his home state only since 2005, registered the biggest victory of his racing career. He did it in convincing fashion, passing Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., for the lead on lap 14 and then beating the local standout by nearly a full straightaway margin in the caution-free event.
Reigning Farmer City track champion Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., finished third, close behind Shirley and barely a half car length ahead of the late-charging Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill. Farther back in fifth place was Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill.
“This is our first $10,000-to-win race,” asserted Smith, well aware of his victory’s significance. “The biggest purse I ever earned before this was when we won $7,500 for (finishing) second in last year’s Jackson 100 (at Brownstown, Ind.), and $5,000 was the most I ever got for a win before tonight.
“A win like this just legitimizes our whole team. There’s been some fans who have said, ‘He can’t win a $10,000-to-win race’ – well, this one is for all the nay-sayers.”
Smith has begun coming of age this season since debuting a dirt Late Model chassis built by division legend – and three-time UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals champion – Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., in late March. As a ‘Team Zero’ member, Smith has made his first-ever A-Main starts in such major events as the ‘Show-Me 100’ and the UMP-sanctioned ‘Dirt Late Model Dream’ and flashed some serious potential.
Friday’s program at Farmer City was the fifth consecutive night of Summernationals competition for Smith. He had top-five finishes at C.J. Raceway in Columbus Junction, Iowa, and Quincy (Ill.) Raceway on his ledger entering Farmer City, and he was among the fastest participants in the other events, at Spoon River Speedway in Canton, Ill., and La Salle (Ill.) Speedway.
“We’ve just been running great all week,” said Smith. “We’ve been knocking on the door, running as fast as anyone every night.
“All the work finally paid off, and we won the right one.”
Smith, who started fourth, chased early leader Shirley before making an inside move to assume command for good on the 14th circuit.
“Shirley was doing a great job, running the high groove all the way around the track,” said Smith. “Obviously I’m not gonna follow him, so I searched all around the track for a groove.
“My car worked real good two to two-and-a-half lanes up off the bottom, so I just started working that groove. (Shirley) was sparking the wall a little bit, putting a show on, so the inside was open, and we got by him.”
Once in front, “I was just setting a solid pace and waiting to see if anyone would come to the inside or outside of me,” said Smith, who was never seriously challenged en route to a victory that just might be the first of many in his future.
“I’ve been getting so comfortable in these cars the last month or so, I just think that there’s bigger and better things to come for us,” said Smith. “But don’t get me wrong, we’re happy as all heck to win our first $10,000 race.”
Shirley, 26, wore a perplexed look after settling for second place in Ed Petroff’s mount.
“We just weren’t that good,” said Shirley, who started from the outside pole and led laps 1-13. “We were just good enough to run second.
“The old girl had a hard time turning. The track was so slick, then it rubbered and it got worse for us. The car got too tight, and we were just hanging on.”
Steidinger, 24, dearly wanted to punctuate his successful first season as a Summernationals fulltimer by scoring his initial tour win on his home turf, but he couldn’t parlay a pole position start into a victory.
“Being so close to home, it would’ve been good to get a win,” said Steidinger, who put a virtual lock on a third-place finish in the Summernationals points standings with his run. “But it’ll all fall in place some day.
“I felt like we were as good as Shirley the whole race, but Shirley had the preferred line (at the start). I think that was the difference maker.”
UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals points leader Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., finished seventh after falling several positions from his fifth starting spot on the opening lap because Sheppard nearly spun in front of him. He crossed the finish line close behind second-place points man Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who will enter Saturday night’s Summernationals finale at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio, trailing Erb by 32 points.
With ‘maximum’ points (80 to the winner, then a two-point drop per position) likely to be awarded at Oakshade because more than 40 cars are expected to sign in, unofficially Erb will be able to clinch at least a tie for the title by finishing 17th. He can assure himself a career-first Summernationals crown by placing 16th or better.
Thirty-nine dirt Late Models entered Friday night’s program at the quarter-mile oval, which drew a near capacity crowd on a gorgeous summer day.
Heat winners were Steidinger, Sheppard, Smith and Shirley, and the B-Mains were captured by Daren Friedman of Forrest, Ill., and Rodney Melvin of Benton, Ill.
UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals A-Main Finish (40 laps):
1. Brady Smith
2. Brian Shirley
3. Wes Steidinger
4. Shannon Babb
5. Steve Sheppard Jr.
6. Don O’Neal
7. Dennis Erb Jr.
8. Greg Johnson
9. Jason Feger
10. Kevin Weaver
11. Mike Marlar
12. Scott Bull
13. Rodney Melvin
14. Daren Friedman
15. Eddie Kirchoff
16. Eric Smith
17. Derek Chandler
18. A.J. Diemel
19. Tim Lance
20. Matt Taylor
21. Jeep VanWormer
DNQ: Larry Elliott, Russ Adams, Kyle Logue, Rocky Griffin, Jim Felker Jr., Brandon Sheppard, Mike Glascock, Shane Tomlin, Donny Walden, Frank Shickel Jr., Matt Beadles, Mike Mataragas, Rohn Moon, Rich Harlan, Charlie Hess, Joe Harlan, Chris Dick, Lisa Shickel
UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals Points Standings (after 24 events):
1. Dennis Erb Jr. 1,628
2. Don O’Neal 1,596
3. Wes Steidinger 1,526
4. Mike Marlar 1,488
5. Steve Sheppard Jr. 1,430
6. Jeep VanWormer 1,424
7. Eddie Kirchoff 1,330
8. Kevin Weaver 1,048
9. Jason Feger 1,012
10. Randy Korte 974
2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals Schedule
6/15 – Fri. – Kankakee Motor Speedway/Kankakee, IL (Dennis Erb Jr.)
6/16 – Sat. – Kamp Motor Speedway/Boswell, IN (Dennis Erb Jr.)
6/17 – Sun. – Tri-State Speedway/Haubstadt, IN (Randy Korte)
6/18 – Mon. – Jefferson County Raceway/Mt. Vernon, IL (Randy Korte)
6/19 – Tues. – Lebanon I-44 Speedway/Lebanon, MO (Mike Marlar)
6/20 – Wed. – Highland Speedway/Highland, IL (Dennis Erb Jr.)
6/21 – Thurs. – Morgan County Speedway/Jacksonville, IL (Kevin Weaver)
6/22 – Fri. – Farmer City Raceway/Farmer City, IL (Rain – Rescheduled to July 13)
6/23 – Sat. – I-55 Raceway/Pevely, MO (Mike Marlar)
6/24 – Sun. – Lincoln Speedway/Lincoln, IL (Don O’Neal)
6/25 – Mon. – Peoria Speedway/Peoria, IL (Dennis Erb Jr.)
6/26 – Tues. – Poplar Bluff Speedway/Poplar Bluff, MO (Billy Moyer)
6/27 – Wed. – Lake Ozark Speedway/Eldon, MO (Rain)
6/28 – Thurs. – Paducah International Raceway/Paducah, KY (Billy Moyer)
6/29 – Fri. – Western Kentucky Speedway/Nebo, KY (Rain)
6/30 – Sat. – Clarksville Speedway/Clarksville, TN (Jeep VanWormer)
7/1 – Sun. – Vermilion County Speedway/Danville, IL (Don O’Neal)
7/2 – Mon. – Midway Speedway/Crooksville, OH (Earl Pearson Jr.)
7/3 – Tues. – Lawrenceburg Speedway/Lawrenceburg, IN (Jeep VanWormer)
7/4 – Wed. – Day Off
7/5 – Thurs. – Macon Speedway/Macon, IL (Rain – Rescheduled to July 21)
7/6 – Fri. – Tri-City Speedway/Pontoon Beach, IL (Don O’Neal)
7/7 – Sat. – Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway (Mike Marlar)
7/8 – Sun. – Quad City Speedway/East Moline, IL (Shannon Babb)
7/9 – Mon. – C.J. Raceway/Columbus Junction, IA (Shannon Babb)
7/10 – Tues. – Quincy Raceway/Quincy, IL (Shannon Babb)
7/11 – Wed. – Spoon River Speedway/Canton, IL (Shannon Babb)
7/12 – Thurs. – LaSalle Speedway/LaSalle, IL (Steve Sheppard Jr.)
7/13 – Fri. – Farmer City Raceway/Farmer City, IL (Brady Smith)
7/14 – Sat. – Oakshade Raceway/Wauseon, OH
7/21 – Sat. – Macon Speedway/Macon, IL (non-point)