Rossburg,OH — Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. (Super Late Models) and Mike Harrison of Highland, Ill. (open-wheel Modifieds) turned back late-race challenges to triumph in Saturday night’s Moser Engineering UMP DIRTcar Nationals at Eldora Speedway.
Erb, who turns 36 on Oct. 12, ended his second consecutive UMP DIRTcar national championship season with a $5,000 flourish in the 40-lap Super Late Model A-Main. He grabbed the lead from Richie Hedrick of Urbana, Ill., on lap four and made all the right moves in lapped traffic during the final circuits to hold off Matt Miller of Waterville, Ohio, and Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich., for his first career win at the famed half-mile oval.
Harrison, meanwhile, led the caution-free 25-lap open-wheel Modified feature from flag-to-flag, but he worked hard for every cent of his $3,000 top prize. He spent many hours repairing the damage his car sustained in an unusual accident after his heat-race victory on Friday night and repelled heavy pressure from Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va., and Steve Arpin of Fort Frances, Ont., during the late stages of the headline event.
With the two-day program closing out the 2008 UMP DIRTcar Racing points season, Erb and first-time open-wheel Modified national champion Jeff Leka of Buffalo, Ill., were officially crowned in front of the crowd prior to the start of the night’s action. The points battles had already been decided in each driver’s favor prior to the weekend.
Erb and Leka, who was never a factor in the Modified A-Main after using a points provisional to make the starting field, will each receive a $20,000 check at the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Awards Banquet, scheduled for Jan. 10, 2009, in Springfield, Ill.
The low-key Erb proudly climbed out of his Thomason Transportation Rayburn machine on the Eldora winner’s stage after surviving the frenetic Super Late Model headliner, which was slowed by just one caution flag (on lap 12 for the slow car driven by Jared Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va.) and one red flag (on lap 21 for a fire under the hood of Summerfield, Ill., racer Mike Schulte’s car).
“To stand up here after winning this thing really caps off the year,” said Erb, who has 15 overall victories this season. “Going out and repeating both championships (the UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals and nationals points race) and winning the Nationals here is just a great thing.”
It was also the coveted first Eldora feature win for Erb, who had gotten a taste of success at the track by capturing the previous night’s 12-lap, 11-car Race of Champions event.
“It means a lot to win here,” said Erb. “I’ve been coming here a long time. We’ve made the World 100 and the Dream and run good in them and we’ve finished second and third here in this (UMP DIRTcar Nationals), but getting a win is tough.”
The victory is “a big confidence boost for when we come back for the bigger shows,” he added. “We’re not here very much, so every time we get on the racetrack we learn a bunch. Hopefully this will help out in the future.”
Erb, who started fourth, knew he wouldn’t be able to waltz to the checkered flag when he realized during the red flag that VanWormer, who started 19th, and Miller, who started 14th, were positioned behind him.
“I looked up at the scoreboard and saw Jeep and Matt coming, so I knew I just had to keep driving hard,” said Erb. “We just took off (on the restart), kept driving as hard as I could through lapped traffic and it worked out.”
Miller – a former Dream winner who clinched the 2008 Eldora Super Late Model points title by entering the UMP DIRTcar Nationals – traded slide-jobs with VanWormer at both ends of the track for laps 30-34 before securing second place. He got the nose of his McCullough Motorsports car up to the rear deck of Erb’s machine amid lapped traffic but had to settle for a close runner-up finish.
VanWormer finished third, followed by ninth-starter Billy Faust of Highland, Ill., and 15th-starter Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill.
Former UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model national champion Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., advanced from the 12th starting spot to second in just 10 laps, but he retired after the race’s red flag because his car’s radiator was punctured by a rock.
Saturday’s Super Late Model heat winners were Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill., Jared Hawkins, Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich., Hedrick, Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio, and Erb. The trio of B-Mains were captured by VanWormer, Rick DeLong of Whitehouse, Ohio, and Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., who retired two laps into the A-Main but still finished second in the UMP DIRTcar national points for the second straight year.
In the Modified A-Main, Harrison turned around what appeared to be a weekend headed into the abyss with his first career win at Eldora.
The 2004 UMP DIRTcar Modified national champion ran into trouble after crossing the finish first in Friday night’s sixth heat. He clipped a stopped car in turn one and flipped his No. 24, leaving him sore and his car with significant damage.
“I thought our weekend was over,” said Harrison, who had to replace the car’s busted rearend and an assortment of bolt-on components. “We pieced it back together the best we could and it worked out.
“We were up until about 2:30 this morning working on the car, and then we got back up this morning about 9 and started again and finished about 1.”
Armed with the outside pole starting spot for the A-Main, Harrison surged in front at the initial green flag and never looked back in the fast-paced event. But he spent the race’s final six laps frantically steering through lapped traffic to hold off Hawkins, who ran second for virtually the entire distance, and the hard-charging Arpin, who started 17th.
Harrison barely nipped Hawkins at the start/finish line to lead lap 20. Shortly thereafter, on lap 22, Harrison raced three-wide for the lead with his challengers through turns one and two.
When the checkered flag fell, Harrison was less than a car length ahead of Hawkins. Arpin and Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., were close behind in third and fourth, respectively, and Scott Orr of Columbia City, Ind., placed fifth.
“Since 1995, one of my goals was to win a race here,” said Harrison. “I finally did it.”
Leka, 43, couldn’t match Erb’s season-ending heroics, finishing a quiet 24th in the A-Main. He had to park his own No. 3L after its engine was disabled by a burnt piston during Friday’s hot laps, but 2007 UMP DIRTcar Modified national champion Denny Schwartz of Ashmore, Ill., graciously allowed Leka to drive his car for the remainder of the weekend.
“We had a heck of a year and to top it off with the national title just makes it better,” said Leka, who had come close to the premier UMP DIRTcar Modified honor several times in the past. “I felt bad for my guys when the motor laid down in our car (on Friday) because they worked so hard on it, but we’re still awfully proud to stand here this weekend and celebrate a national championship.”
Saturday’s Modified B-Mains were captured by Chad Kinder of Newton, Ill., Kenny Johnson of Washington, W.Va., Keith Berner of Millersburg, Ohio, and Arpin.
Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio, pocketed $1,000 for winning the 12-lap Race of Champions event, which included 15 drivers who won UMP state, regional or series titles or were a chassis builder’s highest-ranked representative in the national points standings
For more information on UMP DIRTcar Racing, visit www.dirtcar.com.
Results of UMP DIRTcar Nationals Super Late Model A-Main (40 laps):
1. Dennis Erb Jr.
2. Matt Miller
3. Jeep VanWormer
4. Billy Faust
5. Jason Feger
6. Aaron Scott
7. Chris Ross
8. Richie Hedrick
9. Michael Kloos
10. Brian Ruhlman
11. Rick DeLong
12. Curt Spalding
13. Ben Adkins
14. Jon Henry
15. Jerry Bowersock
16. Rusty Shlenk
17. Andrew Reaume
18. Ronnie Perrine Jr.
19. Dan Walden
20. Jared Hawkins
21. Jeff Beyers
22. Randy Korte
23. Mike Shult
24. Scott Orr
25. Duane Chamberlain
26. Shawn Toczek
27. Wes Steidinger
28. Dusty Moore
Late Model Heat 1 (10 laps/Top 3 Transfer): Michael Kloos, Chris Ross, Dan Walden, Jerry Bowersock, Dylan Thompson, Corey Bevard, Kevin Reeb, Curtis Deisnroth, Butch Smith, Eric Spangler, Chad Ruhlman
Late Model Heat 2 (10 laps/Top 3 Transfer): Jared Hawkins, Andrew Reaume, Matt Miller, Jeep VanWormer, Shon Flannery, Kyle Logue, Kevin Cole, J.R. Hotovy, Wayne Maffett Jr., Dean Anderson, Adam Thrush
Late Model Heat 3 (10 laps/Top 3 Transfer): Rusty Schlenk, Billy Faust, Jason Feger, Rick DeLong, Ben Adkins, Richard Neiser, Justin McNeal, David Hilliker, Jason Riggs, Greg Longfellow, Jason McBride, Scott Baker
Late Model Heat 4 (10 laps/Top 3 Transfer): Richie Hedrick, Brian Ruhlman, Aaron Scott, Curt Spalding, Robby Hensley, Dustin Moore, Andy Sprague, Matt Weidner, Pat Ehlert, Michael Schulte, Brad Eitniear, Bill Hahn
Late Model Heat 5 (10 laps/Top 3 Transfer): Jon Henry, Duane Chamberlain, Shawn Toczek, Jeff Beyers, Ken Hahn, Brandon Thirlby, Craig Cortman, Chad Todd, Jerry Rice, Nick Corbitt, Brad Harden (DNS) Jon Lawhorn
Late Model Heat 6 (10 laps/Top 3 Transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Randy Korte, Ronnie Perrine Jr., Wes Steidinger, Scott Orr, Brett Reaume, Jimmy Gallagher, Don Gordon, Ryan Vanderveen, Pat Ferguson, Don Mihelich, Tom Treon
Late Model B-Main 1 (12 laps/Top 2 Transfer): Jeep VanWormer, Jerry Bowersock, Shon Flannery, Kyle Logue, Kevin Cole, Wayne Maffett Jr., Chad Ruhlman, J.R. Hotovy, Corey Bevard, Adam Thrush, Kevin Reeb, Eric Spangler, Dylan Thompson, Curtis Deisnroth, Butch Smith, Dean Anderson
Late Model B-Main 2 (12 laps/Top 2 Transfer): Rick DeLong, Curt Spalding, Robby Hensley, Matt Weidner, Michael Schulte, Richard Neiser, David Hilliker, Jason Riggs, Brad Eitniear, Greg Longfellow, Bill Hahn, Justin McNeal, Scott Baker, Andy Sprague, Ben Adkins, Pat Ehlert, Dustin Moore, Jason McBride
Late Model B-Main 3 (12 laps/Top 2 Transfer): Wes Steidinger, Jeff Beyers, Scott Orr, Ken Hahn, Bradon Thirlby, Nick Corbitt, Brett Reaume, Chad Todd, Don Mihelich, Tom Treon, Jimmy Gallagher, Don Gordon, Craig Cortman, Ryan Vanderveen, Jerry Rice, Pat Ferguson, Brad Harden, John Lawhorn
Results of UMP DIRTcar Nationals Open-Wheel Modified A-Main (25 laps):
1. Mike Harrison
2. Jacob Hawkins
3. Steve Arpin
4. Kent Robinson
5. Scott Orr
6. Doug Adkins
7. Matt Bex
8. Chad Kinder
9. Clayton Miller
10. Lance Dehm
11. Chris Stotts
12. Chad Ruhlman
13. Mike Spatola
14. Keith Berner
15. Kenny Johnson
16. Clint Shutts
17. Jess Hartman
18. Brian Ruhlman
19. Ed Roley
20. Jeff Harris
21. Todd Sherman
22. John DeMoss
23. Jeff Babcock
24. Jeff Leka
25. Michael Asberry
26. Curt Spalding
27. Danny Schwartz
28. Randle Sweeney
Modified B-Main 1 (12 laps/Top 2 Transfer): Chad Kinder, Ed Roley, Kelly Devall, Justin Matson, Curt Spalding, Tim Brown, Ben Adkins, Tommie Seets Jr, Travis Shoulders, Zach Schroeder, Dean Hoffman, Mike Neighbors, Scott Ricketts, Jeremy Powley, Steven Hilliker, Bruce Gould III, Brandon Morrow, Matt Aber, Jerry Bowersock, Jeff Harris, Nick Katterhenry, Matt Verbeck, Josh Morton, Darryl Banks, Jim Hilligas Jr, Jeff Leka, Rob Pendergrass
Modified B-Main 2 (12 laps/Top 2 Transfer): Kenny Johnson, Brian Ruhlman, Jeff Leka, Troy Marciniak, Matt Westfall, George Catanzano, Justin Coulter, Cody Hood, Tim Richardson, Brad McLeod, Thomas Sigler, Bob Burch, Mark Kowarsch, Nick Hoffman, Jamie Kuntz, John Taylor, Anthony Davis, Mark hotovy, Gary Ricketts, Josh Greber, Lenny Guyton, Jamie Cobb, Mike Spatola, Randy Dickman, Jimmy Hayden, Mark Anderson
Modified B-Main 3 (12 laps/Top 2 Transfer): Keith Berner, Chad Ruhlman, Gary Richard, Chad Bauer, Dave Pinkerton, Ryan Ritchie, Kasey Schrock, Brent Hole, Ben Hulse, Paul Bumgardner, Kevan Free, Darrell Lowe, Tony Molnar, Jared Bailey, Chad Rosenbeck, David Treon Jr, Shon Flannery, Jessie Bittlering, Bryce Jewell, Kyle Gibbs, Donny Huber, Joe Pendergrass, Billy Palmer, Josh Morrow, Jon Henry, Mike Dirksen
Modified B-Main 4 (12 laps/Top 2 Transfer): Steve Arpin, Chris Stotts, Davey Gannt, Dennis Wilson, David Smith, John Brooks, Chad Oberson, John McCaul, Davin Gilpin, Michael Brown, Matt Hamilton, Terry Hull, Shawn Bayliff, Mike Holbein, Ronnie Chance, Jeff Stanton, Shane Unger, Chad Thornhill, Rich Robinson Jr, Derek Groomer, Todd Sanders, Doug St Meyers, Bob Baldwin, Ian Keller, Christopher Anstead, Zeke McKenzie, Jeff Sommers, Jeremy Rayburn
UMP DIRTcar Racing Open-Wheel Modified Race of Champions Finish (12 laps): 1. Jon Henry, 2. Jeff Leka, 3. Tommie Seets Jr., 4. Doug Adkins, 5. Devin Gilpin, 6. Travis Shoulders, 7. John McCaul, 8. Jamie Cobb, 9. Randle Sweeney, 10. Bryce Jewell, 11. Mike Spatola, 12. Matt Bex, 13. Todd Sherman, 14. Clayton Miller, 15. Kent Robinson