Home | Series | DIRTcar Summer Nationals | UMP DIRTcar Racing Weekly Update: Brian Shirley In Title Chase As UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals Enters Final Week Of Action

UMP DIRTcar Racing Weekly Update: Brian Shirley In Title Chase As UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals Enters Final Week Of Action

Evansville, IN — DECISION TIME: When the 2008 season began, Brian Shirley never envisioned that he would be in a neck-and-neck battle for the UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals championship as the tour entered its final week.

But that’s exactly the position in which Shirley finds himself – and thus he must soon make a hard decision.

You see, Shirley, 27, of Chatham, Ill., has been running the Summer Nationals on a race-by-race basis, repeatedly refusing to commit to following the tour through its points finale next Saturday night (July 12) at Oakshade Speedway in Wauseon, Ohio. He maintained the air of mystery surrounding his plans during Wednesday night’s rainout at Morgan County Speedway in Jacksonville, Ill.

Will he or won’t he try to pry the title from defending champion and current points leader Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., whom Shirley trailed by just three points (1,086-1,083) entering a $10,000-to-win event on Friday night (July 4) at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill.? The driver known as ‘Squirrel’ wouldn’t answer that question.

“The guy that decides is sitting out there in the truck,” Shirley said in Morgan County’s pit area, referring to his veteran car owner Ed Petroff. “When he decides, I guess everybody else will know. It’s his decision, not mine. I’m just the guy who drives the car.”

Shirley started the campaign with plans to chase the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, but he struggled to score strong finishes and pulled off the trail in mid-May to find his groove racing closer to home. He seems to have gotten back on track with regular activity on the Summer Nationals tour, which he last ran as a regular in 2005, finishing fourth in the points standings.

“I really thought we would be a little better (on the WoO LMS) than we were,” said Shirley, who had just two top-10 finishes in the first nine WoO LMS events of 2008. “I really don’t think we were bad, but we just had so much bad luck. Maybe it was just the circumstances that happened to us, but it was just frustrating for me and we decided to come back around home and race more to get ourselves going again.

“With this (the busy Summer Nationals schedule), you’re in the car every night – and that means a lot. We’ve learned a lot about our car, and we’ve been pretty consistent. We’ve put ourselves in the situation where I’ve been in a car that I felt was good enough to run up front and win almost every night, and that’s the most important thing.”

Shirley has two wins (June 24 at Missouri’s Sedalia State Fair Speedway and June 29 at Illinois’s Lincoln Speedway) and is the only driver who’s managed to match the consistency of the impeccably steady Erb through 14 events. His performance suggests that he could race Erb to the end in what could go down as one of the closest two-man Summer Nationals points battles in tour history, but…

“We’ll see what happens next week,” Shirley slyly said.

Shirley and Petroff are considering rejoining the WoO LMS for the upcoming ‘Wild West Tour,’ which boasts nine $10,000-to-win shows over a 13-day period beginning on July 9 with the ‘Gopher 50’ at Deer Creek Speedway in Spring Valley, Minn. The lucrative swing also will visit North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska.

But Shirley is in a prime position to grab the $25,000 UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals crown – and his boss did admit that’s a pretty attractive pot of gold.

“It would be pretty hard to leave that money on the table,” Petroff said at Morgan County, still remaining coy about Shirley’s upcoming schedule but providing the strongest clue yet about where he’s leaning.

BACK ON TOP: Defending UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model national champion Dennis Erb Jr. moved to the top of the division’s national points standings as of June 30.

Erb had a 27-point lead over Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., who finished second in last year’s national points race, through Monday. Last year Erb didn’t take the points lead until the final weeks of the season – in fact, he was more than 200 points behind when the 2007 Summer Nationals ended but made a strong late-season push to grab the title.

The beat rolled on, meanwhile, for Randle Sweeney of Clifty, Ky., who maintained his convincing lead in the UMP DIRTcar Modified national points standings with another perfect weekend. He won features on June 26 at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway and June 28 at Soggy Bottom Raceway in Morgantown, Ky., giving him a circuit-best 21 victories – including five straight wins and 18 triumphs in his last 21 starts.

UMP DIRTcar RACING INFO: Log on to www.dirtcar.com for more information on UMP DIRTcar Racing and to view complete points standings for all divisions.

ATTENTION: Any UMP DIRTcar track or race team with news that could be used in the ‘UMP DIRTcar Racing Weekly Update’ release can e-mail the info to Kevin Kovac at kkovac@dirtcar.com.

UMP DIRTcar Racing National Points Standings (as of June 30):

Super Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Dennis Erb Jr. 2036 30
2. Wes Steidinger 2009 31
3. Mike Hammerle 1727 39
4. Steve Sheppard Jr. 1667 31
5. Ryan Unzicker 1584 38
6. Jason Feger 1541 28
7. Michael Kloos 1524 31
8. Brian Shirley 1482 23
9. Rusty Schlenk 1299 25
10. Jeep VanWormer 1290 22
11. Billy Moyer 1274 16
12. Jason McBride 1185 36
13. Will Vaught 1165 19
14. Kevin Weaver 1119 25
15. Ed Dixon 1117 22
16. Mike Schulte 1070 25
17. Scott Bull 1051 22
18. Jayme Zidar 988 23
19. Kerry Mathew 984 23
20. Brian Diveley 981 24

Open-Wheel Modifieds (driver/points/races):

1. Randle Sweeney 2362 31
2. Kent Robinson 2163 33
3. Tim Hancock 2108 33
4. Jeff Leka 1874 27
5. Gary Cook Jr. 1793 29
6. Chad Evans 1781 34
7. Denny Schwartz 1683 28
8. Mike Spatola 1680 29
9. Anthony Madrid 1615 23
10. McKay Wenger 1586 29
11. Rob Fuqua 1518 26
12. Jon Henry 1411 23
13. Bobby Martintoni 1362 21
14. John DeMoss 1349 22
15. Bub Patrick 1309 21
16. Matt Bex 1295 20
17. Jason Noll 1290 23
18. Clayton Miller 1280 22
19. Matt Boknecht 1278 19
20. Chad Osterhoff 1240 22

Pro Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Tait Davenport 1403 19
2. Kevin Hardin 1324 23
3. Josh Harris 1244 21
4. Caleb Ashby 1157 21
5. Levi Ashby 1139 22
6. Jason Jones 1136 23
7. Carnell Parker 972 14
8. Phil Gregory 945 18
9. Matt Liner 862 15
10. Brad Denney 825 11

Sportsman (driver/points/races):

1. Joel Funk 1286 22
2. Brad Cummings 1286 21
3. Jeremy Hines 1260 20
4. Troy Clark 1223 22
5. Chris Hillman 1200 19
6. Derrick Hufford 1181 19
7. Jimmy Cummins 1175 23
8. Jeff Herzog 1097 19
9. Rick Hufford 1021 19
10. Stephanie Lebrun 1010 18

Limited Modifieds (driver/points/races):

1. Jonathan Clayton 1055 15
2. Alex Ashley 757 12
3. Eric Adkins 716 11
4. Zach Dennis 676 11
5. Derek Brooks 659 10
6. Brandon Buhler 658 10
7. John Paul Talkington 605 10
8. Matthew Holmes 598 10
9. Rob Madrid 595 9
10. Dustin Shoemaker 590 11

Street Stocks (driver/points/races):

1. Jerrad Krick 1352 19
2. Lee Hall 1228 21
3. Travis Myers 1191 18
4. David Hurst 1165 17
5. Dave Mannise 1155 18
6. Chris Fisher 1138 19
7. Josh Griffith 1114 18
8. Jesse Simmons 1050 20
9. Steve Ewing 1014 18
10. David Pope 921 16

4-Cylinders (driver/points/races):

1. Joe Reed 1577 22
2. Keaton Downing 1253 20
3. Jeffery Bailey 1245 20
4. Bob Zbinden 1160 18
5. Michael Rittenberry 1022 16
6. Daniel Stephens 905 15
7. Michael Perrigo 877 14
8. Jeff Rittenberry 871 13
9. Travis Staats 813 12
10. John Cooper 809 12

Factory Stocks (driver/points/races):

1. Mickey Hines 769 12
2. William Burton 747 12
3. Jim Scout 720 8
4. Chris Henry 655 8
5. Casey Crane 619 9
6. Clay Ellison 612 13
7. Craig Dippman 605 8
8. Josh Phelps 582 11
9. Bil Delong 575 10
10. Donnie Wilson 569 11