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UMP DIRTcar Racing Weekly Update: Hot Start Has Kentucky’s Randle Sweeney On Top Of National Modified Points

Evansville, IN — HIS TURN?: Randle Sweeney already knows what it feels like to lose the UMP DIRTcar Modified national points title.

Maybe this year the Clifty, Ky., veteran will be able to experience the joy of winning the championship.

Sweeney, 43, is certainly off and running toward his first career UMP DIRTcar national crown. He’s burst out of the gate strong with seven feature wins at four different tracks through May 10, putting him atop the national Modified points standings.

“Sure, I’d like to win the national championship,” said Sweeney, who has finished as high as second in the UMP DIRTcar national Modified standings (1998 and 1995). “My main sponsor Harold McElvain (a retired sheriff and former towing business owner) really wants me to go for it, so I said to him before the season started, ‘We’ll go to Florida (in February) and see what happens. If we get off to a good start, we’ll take a shot at it.’”

Well, Sweeney most definitely had a good showing in the UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Open-Wheel Modified Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. He won the opener and finished third in the finale of the three-race series, giving him a nice bump heading into the kickoff of the UMP DIRTcar weekly points season in early April.

Sweeney has only picked up steam since then behind the wheel of his self-owned Nullynski Chassis No. 182. Since all weekly UMP DIRTcar shows began counting toward drivers’ points totals the first weekend in April – prior to that racers could count their best finish each week to their total – he has rung up five wins, two runner-up finishes and a third in 10 starts. He enters this weekend’s action on a major roll, with wins in four of his last five starts, including three in a row.

“We’re running a swing-arm car and it’s working great for us right now,” said Sweeney, whose Hovis-powered machine has carried him to triumphs at Soggy Bottom Raceway in Morgantown, Ky. (three wins), Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway in Calvert City (two) and Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway (one) since his return from Florida. “A lot of people still run the four-bar cars, but I tended to overcompensate (on the setup) with that style car. The swing-arm has been kinda neutral and I feel comfortable in it.”

A co-owner of Sweeney Lumber with his father Gilbert and brother Michael, Sweeney puts in over 40 hours of work a week, making it hard for him to travel far from the tracks near his Bluegrass State home. But he knows he must hit the road to enter some bigger UMP DIRTcar Modified shows this year if he wants to win the national title – the bonus points drivers receive for running races with larger car counts will likely be critical in determining the champion – and he’s prepared to make the necessary commitment. He expects to enter more than 50 events, allowing him to replace his worst outings. (The Modified title is determined using a driver’s best 35 finishes/points nights.)

Sweeney will also have the memory of his heartbreaking runner-up finish in the 1995 national points race pushing him all season. The title slipped through his fingers when he experienced a cruel twist of fate in the season-ending UMP DIRTcar Fall Nationals at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

“We had a real good shot at it that year,” said Sweeney, who finished second to Danny Yanders in the standings. “I was leading the race and had a tire blow out. I would’ve won the championship if I won the race, so that was a tough one. We had a real long ride home.

“I try to forget that year,” he added with a smile.

A national title in 2008 would be a great way for Sweeney to exorcise his past points-race demons, not to mention add another crowning achievement to his already standout open-wheel Modified career. Sweeney has had some extended runs as a Super Late Model driver – he won more than two dozen features running the Burr Motorsports No. 33 from 1999-2000 and 2003-2005 as well as his own full-bodied mount in 2001-2002 – but it’s the Modified division where he’s gained the most acclaim, winning over 250 features.

“I enjoyed running a Late Model and would drive one again if the opportunity came along,” said Sweeney, who finished 10th in last year’s UMP DIRTcar Modified national points battle. “But I don’t have the budget to be competitive everywhere with a Late Model. I could win at the local tracks, but not if I would travel to bigger shows.

“With the Modified, I feel like we can roll in and have a shot to win everywhere we go if we make the right decisions. I know I’m not gonna get beat down the straightaway (by horsepower) – if I get beat in the corners, then hey, that’s fine, I know I gotta do my homework and get better.

“I’ve just always liked the Modifieds,” continued Sweeney, who got his racing start running a Street Stock in 1981. “I like the finesse you need to drive one. I just enjoy running ‘em.”

STILL ON TOP: Veteran Mike Hammerle of St. Charles, Mo., remained atop the UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model national points standings for a second consecutive week.

Hammerle, 60, holds a 91-point lead over defending national champ Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. Hammerle has 16 starts under his belt so far while Erb has nine.

NOTABLE UMP DIRTcar RACING THIS WEEKEND:

* Michigan’s Hartford Motor Speedway and I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa have banded together to create the ‘Hartford/I-96 Challenge,’ a four-race mini-series to determine a king of the two half-mile ovals.

Round 1 of the Challenge series is set for this weekend, on Friday night (May 16) at Hartford and Saturday night (May 17) at I-96. The UMP DIRTcar Super Late Models, Modifieds and Factory/Hobby Stocks will participate in the Challenge events, which boast a points fund (contingent upon drivers running all four events).

The second round of the Challenge is set for Aug. 15 at Hartford and Aug. 16 at I-96.

* The UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Wolfpack Challenge Series for Modifieds has a big two-day weekend on tap this weekend in Indiana, visiting Bloomington Speedway on Friday night and Brownstown Speedway on Saturday night.

* UMP DIRTcar Modified specials are set for this weekend at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway ($600 to win on Friday); Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon, Mo. ($950 to win on Saturday); and Montpelier (Ind.) Motor Speedway (Saturday).

* The UMP DIRTcar Street Stocks in upstate New York will battle for a $1,000 top prize twice this weekend: Friday at Thunder Alley Speedpark in Evans Mills, N.Y., and Saturday at Can-Am Motorsports Park in Lafargeville, N.Y.

* Saturday night’s regular show at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway includes the 30-lap Gary Eden Memorial for Sportsman paying $600 to win.

* Waynesfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park offers a UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model special on Sunday (May 18). The UMP DIRT Modifieds will also be on the program.

* Sunday night’s big World of Outlaws Late Model Series ‘Land of Lincoln 40’ at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway will use the UMP DIRTcar Hoosier four-compound tire rule and offer UMP DIRTcar points. The undercard will include UMP DIRTcar points races for the Modifieds and Sportsman.

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 May 13):

Super Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Mike Hammerle 702 16
2. Dennis Erb Jr. 611 9
3. Jason McBride 599 12
4. Rusty Schlenk 592 10
5. Rusty Griffaw 577 11
6. Ryan Unzicker 567 11
7. Michael Kloos 534 12
8. Chris Shelton 525 12
9. Billy Moyer 506 6
10. Brad Looney 503 8
11. Wes Steidinger 490 8
12. Steve Francis 484 6
13. Tony Albright 464 8
14. Chuck Proctor 435 7
15. B. J. McCammon 431 10
16. Jason Feger 397 7
17. Wayne Shugart 396 7
18. Rob Underwood 395 7
19. Billy Faust 394 7
20. Carnell Parker 380 8

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

1. Randle Sweeney 1043 14
2. Kent Robinson 998 15
3. Tim Hancock 960 15
4. Denny Schwartz 811 14
5. Chad Evans 748 15
6. Jeff Leka 689 11
7. Gary Cook Jr. 687 10
8. Jon Henry 660 13
9. Mike Spatola 655 12
10. Clayton Miller 632 11
11. Johnny Scott 627 9
12. Clint DeMoss 626 10
13. Chad Osterhoff 604 10
14. Rob Fuqua 603 10
15. Matt Bex 576 9
16. R.C. Whitwell 575 8
17. Tommie Seets Jr. 566 9
18. Anthony Madrid 551 8
19. Nick Allen 546 8
20. Todd Miller 542 10

Pro Late Models (driver/points/races):

1. Kevin Hardin 603 10
2. Jason Jones 595 12
3. Josh Harris 582 10
4. Duane Hodges 581 9
5. Levi Ashby 547 11
6. Phil Gregory 521 10
7. Caleb Ashby 474 9
8. Carnell Parker 404 6
9. Mike Watson 401 9
10. Darrell Hartman 372 9

Sportsman (driver/points/races):

1. Troy Clark 566 11
2. Chris Hillman 546 9
3. Shawn Daugherty 520 8
4. Brad Cummings 518 9
5. Jeremy Hines 493 8
6. Bruce Westerman 490 8
7. Anthony Jackson 430 6
8. Patrick Vareika 391 7
9. Ken Hall Sr. 391 7
10. Clayton Perry 389 7

Limited Modifieds (driver/points/races):

1. Jonathan Clayton 475 7
2. John Paul Talkington 433 7
3. Brandon Buhler 398 6
4. Matthew Holmes 375 6
5. Bryan Barrett 357 7
6. Bryan Henry 330 5
7. Will Duncan 313 5
8. Dustin Shoemaker 294 5
9. Alex Ashley 273 5
10. Ray Breeland 268 5

Street Stocks (driver/points/races):

1. Travis Myers 611 10
2. Aaron Penton 513 10
3. Jon Wix 492 8
4. Randy Arnold 490 10
5. Brad Taylor 469 9
6. Jerrad Krick 461 6
7. Grady Christian 433 6
8. Josh Griffith 432 7
9. Steve Ewing 428 8
10. David Cline 424 7

Factory Stocks (driver/points/races):

1. Cody Vanosdol 364 5
2. Mickey Hines 335 5
3. William Burton 296 5
4. Willie Sallee 286 5
5. Bodi Henry 269 4
6. Josh Phelps 260 5
7. Mark Bruce 251 5
8. Bill Moore 245 5
9. Seth Hull 231 4
10. Tim Roberts 220 4

4-Cylinders (driver/points/races):

1. Joe Reed 612 9
2. Jeff Rittenberry 541 8
3. Michael Rittenberry 527 9
4. Jeffrey Bailey 518 9
5. Travis Staats 500 7
6. Daniel Stephens 495 8
7. Keaton Downing 481 8
8. Charlie Staats 469 7
9. Tim Sull 451 7
10. Michael Perrigo 443 7