WAUSEON, OH – July 14, 2007 – Waiting out the storm paid off big-time for Jeep VanWormer.
The Pinconning, Mich., standout brought a dramatic close to a program that was delayed nearly five hours by rain, passing Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., with the white flag flying to win Saturday night’s 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals points finale at Oakshade Raceway.
VanWormer, 32, earned $10,000 for capturing the 60-lap ‘Birthday Race,’ an annual event that drew a near capacity crowd to the four-tenths-mile oval.
Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., meanwhile, clinched his first career UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals championship despite leaving the track during the long delay to run in the surface that followed an early-evening storm. The 34-year-old star joined Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who was the only driver with a chance of overtaking him for the tour title, and Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., as Summernationals regulars who chose not to stay until the wee hours of the morning to complete the program.
After the short-but-heavy burst of rain hit the track following time trials for the field of 58 dirt Late Models, the first heat race finally hit the track a bit after midnight. The A-Main checkered flag fell around 3 a.m.
The strong contingent of fans that stayed to watch the event was rewarded with one of the most stirring races of the ’07 Summernationals.
VanWormer started from the pole position, but he had a battle on his hands for the entire distance. He led the first eight laps before ceding the top spot for two circuits to fellow Summernationals traveler Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill., then moved back in front to pace laps 11-43.
Summernationals rookie A.J. Diemel of Navarino, Wis., grabbed the lead on lap 44 in a bid for his first tour victory, but he gave it up on lap 54 to Steidinger, who swept by both VanWormer and Diemel.
Steidinger, a Summernationals fulltimer for the first time in 2007 and the current UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model national points leader, appeared primed to score his first-ever triumph on the grueling tour. But heading to the white flag he lost some momentum behind a lapped car on the inside of the track, allowing VanWormer to drive by on the outside and lead the final two circuits for a memorable victory.
VanWormer, who earlier this year won an American Late Model Series event at Oakshade, registered his third triumph of 2007 and sixth of his career on the UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals.
Steidinger, who started 13th after coming from the rear of the field to win the first B-Main, settled for a heartbreaking runner-up finish. The performance left him third in the final Summernationals points standings, just two points behind O’Neal.
Diemel was third for his career-best Summernationals finish, while Casey Noonan of Sylvania, Ohio, and Brian Ruhlman of Clark Lake, Mich., completed the top five.
VanWormer’s victory elevated him to fourth in the final Summernationals points standings. Sheppard, who finished seventh after being forced to pit for a flat tire while running in the top five, unofficially tied Marlar for fifth in the points standings.
Heat winners were Ruhlman, VanWormer, Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich., Aaron Scott of Newark, Ohio, Rick Delong of Whitehouse, Ohio, and Matt Miller of Arlington, Ohio. The B-Mains were captured by Steidinger, Eddie Kirchoff of Gillette, Wyo., and Chris Keller of Adrian, Mich.
One event remains on the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals schedule – the ‘Herald & Review 100’ on Sat., July 21, at Macon (Ill.) Speedway – but it will be a non-points race.
UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals A-Main Finish (60 laps):
1. Jeep VanWormer
2. Wes Steidinger
3. A.J. Diemel
4. Casey Noonan
5. Brian Ruhlman
6. Aaron Scott
7. Steve Sheppard Jr.
8. Justin Paxton
9. Eddie Kirchoff
10. Hillard Miller
11. Curtis Roberts
12. Scott Fisk
13. Ronnie Perrine Jr.
14. Chris Keller
15. Kris Patterson
16. Dusty Moore
17. Ky Harper
18. Matt Miller
19. Duane Chamberlain
20. Rick Delong
21. Rusty Schlenk
DNQ: Bill Hahn, Brad Eitnear, Brice Luttrell, Bill Toedter, Ryan Gorey, Kevin Mack, Ron Price, Jerry Bowersock, Chuck Hummer, Curtis Deisenroth, Ron Miller, Jon Horner, Brian Koebbe, Max Stough Jr., Rody Schroyer, Jack Calkins, Zac Davis, Ken Hahn, Mike McKnight, Devin Shiels, Dan Wallace, Josh Steinacker, Dan Wilkins, Allen Warner, Max Stough, Dean Anderson, Chris Ross, Joe Overmyer, Kevin Reeves, John Gamber, Shawn Reed, George Lindsay, Mike Montague, J.T. Wildermuth