Home | Series | DIRTcar Summer Nationals | UMP DIRTcar Racing Weekly Update: Dennis Erb Jr. Claims Second Straight Summer Nationals Crown

UMP DIRTcar Racing Weekly Update: Dennis Erb Jr. Claims Second Straight Summer Nationals Crown

Evansville, IN — HAIL TO THE CHAMP: The path Dennis Erb Jr. took this year was slightly different, but the result was the same.

After one month of hardscrabble racing and living on the road, the dirt Late Model veteran from Carpentersville, Ill., clinched his second consecutive UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals points championship.

“It feels really good to win it back-to-back,” said the 35-year-old Erb, who realized his longtime goal of capturing the Summer Nationals title in 2007 after finishes of fourth (2004), third (2005) and fifth (2006). “We had to battle right down to the end a little more this time and we won a few less races this year, but our consistency was probably a little better and that’s what wins championships.”

Indeed, Erb was steady as a rock on the 2008 tour. He compiled an amazing performance record, rolling up two wins, 15 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 20 events. His only hiccup was a 12th-place finish on July 5 at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion – the result of a broken oil cooler on the final lap that caused him to tumble out of the top 10.

What’s more, Erb accomplished the remarkable achievement of completing every feature lap run during the grueling Summer Nationals, proving the impeccable preparation program that he and chief mechanic Heather Lyne manage to keep up throughout the grueling month of Super Late Model action across the Midwest.

Erb wrapped up the $25,000 championship with a typically-solid third-place finish in the 60-lap ‘Birthday Race’ at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio, that ended the Summer Nationals points on July 12. He entered the event clinging to a four-point lead over Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., but Shirley had to use a provisional to start the A-Main and then dropped out on lap 45 because his car’s fan blade busted the radiator.

The final championship margin for Erb? It totaled 37 points over Shirley – nearly identical to Erb’s 32-point besting of Martinsville, Ind.’s Don O’Neal for last year’s Summer Nationals title, but with much more drama involved.

Last year Erb secured the points crown in anti-climactic fashion. Rather than celebrating his title on the homestretch following the series points finale at Oakshade, he was halfway home because both Erb and O’Neal mutually agreed to pull out of the event after an evening thunderstorm pushed the start of the program to nearly midnight.

That wasn’t the case this time. Erb was brought to Oakshade’s Victory Lane after his third-place finish last Saturday night to receive the adulation of the capacity crowd.

“It was pretty cool to actually come out on the track and get our picture taken this year,” said Erb. “Last year was one of those bad racing deals with the rain, but we got to run this year and finish it off the right way.

Erb, who drives self-owned Rayburn cars that are powered by Rhyne engines and carry sponsorship from Thomason Express, Petroff Towing and J&J Steel, asserted that the tight points race with Shirley put no extra pressure on him.

“You just have to go out there and race, whether (the lead is) four points, 20 points or whatever,” said Erb. “I knew that I just had to finish in front of Brian (at Oakshade). It was pretty simple and straightforward.”

After swapping the points lead several times with Shirley, Erb gained command for good with a second-place finish in the 17th race of the tour, on July 6 at Quad City Raceway in East Moline, Ill. Erb looks back on that evening as being the most critical event of his championship drive.

“The night before we had our first mechanical problem of the Summer Nationals at Fairbury,” said Erb, whose five-position fall on the final lap of Fairbury’s A-Main allowed Shirley to grab the points lead. “At Quad City we won our heat, ran up front the whole feature, finished second and got the points lead back. We really rebounded well.”

Erb became the fifth driver to win consecutive Summer Nationals titles, joining Rick Aukland, Shannon Babb, Scott Bloomquist and Billy Moyer. He didn’t register as many triumphs as he would have liked, but that doesn’t diminish his satisfaction.

“We only won two races this year after winning four last year, but we did lose a bunch of races to rain,” said Erb, whose victories came on June 15 at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., and June 27 at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway. “I also had five seconds (runner-up finishes) and more top-fives this year, so we were consistently running up front.

“Every year we put our focus on the Summer Nationals, and to win the championship makes everything we do really worthwhile.”

Next up for Erb? He’ll try to complete a sweep of the Summer Nationals and UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model national titles for the second consecutive season.

Erb is well-positioned to repeat his history-making double-dip of a year ago. He ended the 2008 Summer Nationals leading the UMP DIRTcar national points standings – a stark contrast from ’07, when he had to rally from over 200 points behind Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., over the final two-and-a-half months of the campaign to snare the $20,000 national crown.

NOTES FROM THE 2008 UMP DIRTcar SUMMER NATIONALS (compiled by Kellen Burns/DIRTcar Racing P.R.)…

* There were 12 different winners in the 20 points races that were completed – an increase from last year’s 11 victors in 25 points events.

* Shirley and Darren Miller of Milledgeville, Ill., tied for the honor of most wins on the 2008 tour, with three victories apiece.

* Six drivers in the top 25 of the final points standings entered all 20 points events: Erb, Shirley, Steidinger, Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich., Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill., and Jason McBride of Carbondale, Ill.

* Five drivers competed in every A-Main: Erb, Shirley, Steidinger, VanWormer and Sheppard. McBride, meanwhile, qualified for six of the 20 features and finished 19th in the points standings.

* A total of 285 different drivers competed in the 20 points events.

* The average car count for the 2008 Summer Nationals was 37.6 cars.

* The biggest field numbered 51 cars on July 4 at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill., and the smallest turnout was 21 cars on July 6 at Quad City Raceway in East Moline, Ill.

* The Summer Nationals was originally scheduled to include 26 events, but seven shows were washed out by the rainy weather, including the June 21 date at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., that was canceled due to flooding that covered the track’s access road.

In addition to I-55, Mother Nature claimed the originally scheduled dates at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway, StormPay.com Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway, Morgan County Speedway in Jacksonville, Ill., Macon (Ill.) Speedway, Quincy (Ill.) Raceway and La Salle (Ill.) Speedway. Brownstown was reset as a points race on July 11, while Clarksville (July 19), Morgan County (Aug. 15) and Macon (the Herald & Review 100 on Aug. 16) were rescheduled as non-points Summer Nationals shows but will serve as key events in the UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model national points battle.

* Erb and VanWormer led all drivers in fast-time honors, taking three apiece.

* VanWormer was the most prolific heat-race winner on the tour, capturing 11 prelims.

* Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., who entered 19 of the 20 events, won the most B-Mains (three).

* The top newcomer to the Summer Nationals trail was 21-year-old Will Vaught of Crane, Mo. He scored his first-ever tour triumph at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill., and finished seventh in the points standings (after skipping the final two events and dropping two spots).

* The 20 Summer Nationals points races paid out a combined total of over $520,000 to the drivers. The total tour purse distribution reaches nearly $600,000 with the addition of the three rescheduled non-points events.

* The top-15 drivers in the Summer Nationals points standings will share a points fund of $56,600.

PRO LATE MODEL NEWS: UMP DIRTcar officials recently announced that Pro Late Model division national points leader Tait Davenport of Paducah, Ky., had his car’s crate engine torn down and inspected buy a certified GM motor builder and it was found to be 100 percent legal.

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.

Final UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals Points Standings (driver/points/points fund earnings:

1. Dennis Erb Jr. 1540 ($25,000)
2. Brian Shirley 1503 ($10,000)
3. Wes Steidinger 1365 ($7,000)
4. Jeep VanWormer 1358 ($5,000)
5. Steve Sheppard Jr. 1179 ($3,000)
6. Randy Korte 1169 ($2,000)
7. Will Vaught 1134 ($1,000)
8. Darren Miller 956 ($800)
9. Jason Feger 951 ($700)
10. Kevin Weaver 904 ($600)
11. Jordan Bland 794 ($500)
12. Ryan Unzicker 776 ($400)
13. Billy Moyer 644 ($300)
14. Don O’Neal 580 ($200)
15. Kevin Claycomb 534 ($100)
16. Tim Lance 528
17. Dewayne Kiefer 510
18. Terry English 498
19. Jason McBride 458
20. Ryan Dauber 411

UMP DIRTcar Racing National Points Standings (as of July 14):

Super Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Dennis Erb Jr. 2564 38
2. Wes Steidinger 2512 39
3. Steve Sheppard Jr. 2179 40
4. Brian Shirley 1981 31
5. Jason Feger 1935 36
6. Ryan Unzicker 1892 40
7. Mike Hammerle 1877 40
8. Jeep VanWormer 1817 30
9. Michael Kloos 1696 35
10. Kevin Weaver 1552 32
11. Will Vaught 1474 25
12. Rusty Schlenk 1450 29
13. Billy Moyer 1439 18
14. Scott Bull 1404 28
15. Jason McBride 1398 40
16. Jayme Zidar 1348 30
17. Randy Korte 1308 20
18. Mike Schulte 1264 29
19. Darren Miller 1237 18
20. Brian Ruhlman 1209 21

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

1. Randle Sweeney 2599 34
2. Kent Robinson 2438 35
3. Jeff Leka 2416 34
4. Tim Hancock 2383 35
5. Gary Cook Jr. 2342 35
6. Chad Evans 2073 35
7. McKay Wenger 2066 35
8. Mike Spatola 2025 35
9. Denny Schwartz 1866 31
10. Anthony Madrid 1843 26
11. Bobby Martintoni 1685 27
12. Rob Fuqua 1683 29
13. John DeMoss 1584 26
14. Jon Henry 1552 25
15. Todd Sherman 1498 23
16. Matt Bex 1497 23
17. Jeff Curl 1481 28
18. Doug Adkins 1450 24
19. Chad Osterhoff 1441 25
20. Matt Boknecht 1435 21

Pro Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Tait Davenport 1533 21
2. Josh Harris 1379 23
3. Kevin Hardin 1324 23
4. Caleb Ashby 1278 23
5. Jason Jones 1237 26
6. Levi Ashby 1182 23
7. Carnell Parker 1027 15
8. Brad Denney 1006 14
9. Matt Liner 966 17
10. Phil Gregory 945 18

Sportsman (driver/points/races):

1. Joel Funk 1684 28
2. Jeremy Hines 1487 23
3. Troy Clark 1435 25
4. Brad Cummings 1339 23
5. Jimmy Cummins 1334 26
6. Chris Hillman 1286 21
7. Stephanie Lebrun 1274 23
8. Jason Unzicker 1249 23
9. Jeff Herzog 1229 21
10. Derrick Hufford 1181 19

Limited Modifieds (driver/points/races):

1. Jonathan Clayton 1170 17
2. Alex Ashley 897 14
3. Rob Madrid 829 13
4. Brandon Buhler 808 12
5. Erick Adkins 766 12
6. Zach Dennis 731 12
7. Derek Brooks 729 12
8. Paddy Rush 715 11
9. John Paul Talkington 702 12
10. Dan Bimson 670 10

Street Stocks (driver/points/races):

1. Jerrad Krick 1573 21
2. Travis Myers 1481 21
3. Lee Hall 1477 24
4. Dave Mannise 1380 21
5. David Hurst 1371 20
6. Chris Fisher 1363 23
7. Josh Griffith 1234 21
8. Jesse Simmons 1221 23
9. Steve Ewing 1179 22
10. Steve Maisel 1172 18

4-Cylinders (driver/points):

1. Joe Reed 1842
2. Keaton Downing 1458
3. Jeffrey Bailey 1395
4. Bob Zbinden 1242
5. Michael Rittenberry 1022
6. David Reed 1001
7. John Cooper 976
8. Michael Perrigo 947
9. Mark Farber 930
10. Eric Wilson 912

Factory Stocks (driver/points):

1. Mickey Hines 1049
2. William Burton 1037
3. Jim Scout 900
4. Clay Ellison 858
5. Chris Henry 845
6. Bill Delong 830
7. Craig Dippman 722
8. Brett Miller 698
9. Casey Crane 689
10. Danny Hogrefe 664