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UMP DIRTcar Racing Weekly Update: Erb Begins Defense Of UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals Championship

Evansville, IN — GOING FOR TWO: Dennis Erb Jr. began last year’s UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals intensely focused on winning his first career tour championship – and he proceeded to convincingly accomplish his goal.

Is the same fire to capture the title of the ‘Hell Tour’ still burning in his gut as the Summer Nationals kicks off tonight (Thurs., June 12) at Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway?

“It’s there. It’s definitely there,” Erb asserted when asked the question. “I want to go back out and do it again. I’d like to win some more races and win another championship.”

That initial title in 2007 felt oh-so-good to Erb, a hard-working 36-year-old from Carpentersville , Ill. , who operates his own Super Late Model effort. He authored an impeccable performance record, recording a career-high four wins, 14 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes in 25 events on the grueling tour. Most notably, he didn’t drop out of a single A-Main – proof of his strong preparation with chief mechanic Heather Lyne, the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing co-Mechanic of the Year who takes a month off from her job as an electrical engineer for Northrop Grumman to follow the Summer Nationals.

A true Summer Nationals veteran, Erb has learned the ins-and-outs of chasing dirt Late Model racing’s biggest test of men and machines.

“It’s pretty much a routine now to get ready,” said Erb. “We have a good understanding of what it takes. We just make sure we’ve got everything prepared and got enough spare parts, and we try to stay out of trouble and hopefully run good.

“We just focus on getting out there and running good, getting in the right spot to go for the wins. If you’re running good, the wins should come.”

Erb doesn’t enter this year’s Summer Nationals with quite as much momentum as he did a year ago. He already had six wins under his belt by mid-June 2007, including two $10,000 World of Outlaws Late Model Series scores, compared with three so far this season.

But Erb notes he’s experienced a regular diet of rainouts this year, preventing him from picking up too much steam. And he is currently ranked fourth in the UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model national points standings with fewer starts than two of the drivers ahead of him – much higher than he was at this time last year en route to winning the national crown – and he’s coming off a $6,000 score in the Tri-Track Challenge on June 1 at Macon (Ill.) Speedway.

“We’ve been running good this year, but we’ve had quite a few rainouts and some bad luck,” said Erb. “I think things turned around, though, when I won that race at Macon , and I’ve got some good equipment for the whole thing (two new Rayburn cars and a pair of fresh motors), so everything is looking pretty good.”

Erb expects to face tough competition from such Summer Nationals stalwarts as Don O’Neal of Martinsville , Ind. , a former champion who finished second in last year’s standings, Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich. , and Wes Steidinger of Fairbury , Ill.

Other drivers who are eyeing running much, if not all, of the Summer Nationals events include Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill.; Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill.; former champion Kevin Weaver of Gibson City , Ill. ; first-time tour follower Will Vaught of Crane, Mo.; Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill.; Tyler Boggs of Warsaw, Ind.; Brian Diveley of Springfield, Ill.; Ryan Dauber of Tonica, Ill.; Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill.; Terry English of Benton, Tenn.; Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich.; B.J. McCammon of Danville, Ill.; Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Ark.; Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill.; and Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., who is returning from a February back injury that sidelined him for early-season events.

BACK IN FRONT: Veteran Mike Hammerle, 60, of St. Charles, Mo. , returned to the top of the UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model national points standings after a two-week run in the lead for 26-year-old Ryan Unzicker.

Hammerle, whose 25 UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned starts leads all Super Late Model drivers, holds a 117-point lead (1,188-1,071) over Wes Steidinger, who led much of last year’s national points race before settling for second place.

Randle Sweeney of Clifty , Ky. , saw his amazing 10-race win streak come to an end with a second-place finish on June 6 at Paducah ( Ky. ) International Raceway, but he got back on the winning track the following night at Soggy Bottom Raceway in Morgantown , Ky. , and remained atop the UMP DIRTcar Modified national points standings.

Sweeney, 43, has now won in 12 of his last 14 starts and owns 15 overall triumphs.

COMING UP ON THE UMP DIRTcar RACING CIRCUIT:

* Fairbury ( Ill. ) American Legion Speedway holds the Pappy Allen Memorial this Saturday night (June 14), featuring a $2,000-to-win Super Late Model special.

* Morgan County Speedway in Jacksonville , Ill. , and Macon ( Ill. ) Speedway will host another leg of the inaugural ‘Big 10 Series’ this weekend. Morgan County runs on Friday night (June 13) and Macon goes on Saturday (June 14).

* A $4,400 top prize will be on the line for Super Late Model ‘Barney Oldfield Race’ on Saturday night at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon , Ohio .

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 11):

Super Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Mike Hammerle 1188 25
2. Wes Steidinger 1071 17
3. Ryan Unzicker 1053 23
4. Dennis Erb Jr. 1024 17
5. Michael Kloos 1019 22
6. Rusty Schlenk 981 19
7. Jason McBride 970 22
8. Jason Feger 899 16
9. Ed Dixon 858 18
10. Chris Shelton 850 19
11. Tyler Boggs 825 16
12. Rusty Griffaw 825 17
13. Steve Sheppard Jr. 791 16
14. Brian Ruhlman 711 13
15. Brad Looney 701 11
16. Mike Schulte 697 17
17. Richie Hedrick 690 16
18. Kerry Mathew 690 15
19. Tony Albright 687 12
20. Jayme Zidar 684 17

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

1. Randle Sweeney 1818 24
2. Tim Hancock 1637 26
3. Kent Robinson 1614 25
4. Jeff Leka 1515 22
5. Anthony Madrid 1440 20
6. Chad Evans 1351 25
7. Gary Cook Jr. 1337 21
8. Denny Schwartz 1244 22
9. Jason Noll 1178 20
10. Mike Spatola 1139 20
11. Jon Henry 1132 19
12. R.C. Whitwell 1113 15
13. McKay Wenger 1081 21
14. Clayton Miller 1067 19
15. Rob Fuqua 1026 18
16. Matt Boknecht 1020 15
17. Clint DeMoss 1001 17
18. Tim Ward 983 20
19. Chad Osterhoff 968 17
20. Shelby Miles 963 16

Pro Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Tait Davenport 1149 15
2. Kevin Hardin 1061 18
3. Jason Jones 1033 21
4. Josh Harris 999 17
5. Caleb Ashby 941 17
6. Levi Ashby 892 18
7. Phil Gregory 835 16
8. Carnell Parker 774 11
9. Duane Hodges 685 11
10. Cary King 619 13

Sportsman (driver/points/races):

1. Chris Hillman 966 15
2. Jeff Herzog 905 16
3. Derrick Hufford 893 14
4. Brad Cummings 880 15
5. Troy Clark 880 16
6. Jeremy Hines 814 14
7. Jimmy Cummins 800 16
8. Joel Funk 784 14
9. Rick Hufford 783 14
10. Bruce Westerman 745 12

Limited Modifieds (driver/points/races):

1. Jonathan Clayton 845 12
2. Derek Brooks 565 8
3. Rob Madrid 540 8
4. Brandon Buhler 538 8
5. Alex Ashley 532 9
6. Zach Dennis 518 8
7. John Paul Talkington 503 8
8. Matthew Holmes 488 8
9. Eric Adkins 431 7
10. Dustin Shoemaker 429 8

Street Stocks (driver/points/races):

1. Jerrad Krick 1004 14
2. Travis Myers 971 15
3. Chris Fisher 903 15
4. Dave Mannise 890 14
5. David Hurst 812 12
6. Lee Hall 809 14
7. Jon Wix 785 13
8. Jesse Simmons 784 14
9. Josh Griffith 778 12
10. Randy Arnold 778 15

4-Cylinders (driver/points/races):

1. Joe Reed 1137 16
2. Jeffery Bailey 1025 17
3. Keaton Downing 966 16
4. Michael Rittenberry 877 18
5. Jeff Rittenberry 871 14
6. B ob Zbinden 850 13
7. Daniel Stephens 797 13
8. Michael Perrigo 747 12
9. James Scott 665 13
10. Travis Statts 663 10

Factory Stocks (driver/points/races):

1. Williams Burton 597 9
2. Mickey Hines 564 9
3. Jim Scout 540 6
4. Chris Henry 498 6
5. Casey Crane 475 7
6. Bodi Henry 472 8
7. Josh Phelps 463 9
8. Craig Dippman 445 6
9. Donnie Wilson 444 9
10. Mark Bruce 433 8