Evansville, IN — GREAT WAY TO START: It’s Season Opener Week at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway, which means new track general manager Bill Roth has nary a moment’s rest.
Consider that PIR’s program this Friday night (March 28) is not a run-of-the-mill lidlifter – it’s a ‘NASCAR Night’ special that will see national heavyweights Tony Stewart, Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace in action on the three-eighths-mile, high-banked clay oval – and it’s no wonder that Roth’s blood pressure is climbing higher and higher as the first green flag of 2008 approaches.
“There’s so much to do to get ready for the opener,” Roth said this week during a moment in between his racetrack chores. “But we’ll be ready to go if the weather gives us a break.”
Roth comes to Paducah after a stint as GM at the paved Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl. Also a former promoter of Mobile (Ala.) Speedway after leaving his career in radio in 1999 to pursue working in short-track racing fulltime, Roth is anxious to operate a dirt track – a job that he says brings him “back to his roots.” As a native of Carlisle, Pa., he grew up attending Sprint Car races at the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and big-block Modified events at the now-closed Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds.
“After I talked to Bob Sargent about this job, I couldn’t turn it down,” Roth said of Sargent, the Track Enterprises Inc. leader who co-owns Paducah with NASCAR veterans Schrader, Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. “I started in January and I’m excited to get going with the season.”
PIR’s campaign kicks off – weather-permitting, of course – on Friday night in grand fashion. Two-time Sprint Cup champion Stewart is flying in to compete in the evening’s headline UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model show, while Schrader and Wallace will race in the UMP DIRTcar Modified portion of the card.
Also on PIR’s opening-night agenda is racing for the Pro (crate) Late Models, Street Stocks, Warriors and Vintage Racers.
Coming off a practice day on March 22 that drew a track record pre-season test-and-tune turnout of 77 cars, Roth expects strong fields of machines to jam the PIR pit area.
GETTING GOING: The 2008 UMP DIRTcar Racing season continues to pick up steam this weekend.
Several tracks in the heart of UMP DIRTcar country are scheduled to open this weekend, including Belle Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill., a one-fifth-mile bullring that’s celebrating the start of its 60th year of operation with a four-division program headlined by UMP DIRTcar Super Late Models and Modifieds on Fri., March 28; Fredericktown (Mo.) Raceway, which showcases Pro (crate) Late Models and Sportsman on Friday night; Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway, which has its first UMP DIRTcar Modified event of 2008 on Sat., March 29; and Highland (Ill.) Speedway, which presents a five-class show featuring Super Late Models and Modifieds on Saturday night.
ANOTHER TRY: UMP DIRTcar Modified drivers have their sights set this weekend on Western Kentucky Speedway in Nebo, Ky., where the fifth annual ‘Bluegrass Bash’ is scheduled to run after a one-week postponement.
One of the biggest UMP DIRTcar Modified events of the season, the ‘Bluegrass Bash’ includes an open practice on Friday night (March 28) and a full day of competition on Saturday (March 29) topped by the 40-lap A-Main paying $6,000 to win from a total purse of over $27,000.
Defending race champion Jeff Leka of Buffalo, Ill., who finished second in the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Modified national points, heads a top-quality entry list. Nearly 100 cars participated in last year’s event.
BOWING TO MOTHER NATURE: Wet grounds and uncertain weather forecasts brought early postponements of several UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned events scheduled for this weekend.
Among the tracks forced to make the tough decision to call off planned shows: Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill., which had a Friday-night opener set, and Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park, where the debut of UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Late Model racing will wait another week after the postponement of the season opener for the second straight Friday night.
FAMILIAR FACES: The top-four finishing positions in last Saturday’s fourth annual ‘Tuckasee Toilet Bowl Classic’ at StormPay.com Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway were swept by drivers who are very well-known on the UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model circuit.
Former UMP DIRTcar Summernationals champion Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., registered his first career victory in the unique event, which earned him a $10,000 prize plus an actual toilet for a trophy. Rising star Wes Steidinger of Fairbury, Ill., who finished second in the 2007 UMP DIRTcar national points standings, bagged the runner-up spot, followed by defending UMP DIRTcar Summernationals and national champ Dennnis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., and 2002 national titlist Terry English of Benton, Ky.
ONE MORE WEEK: Just one week away now is the richest Super Late Model event ever contested in the state of Illinois – the inaugural ‘Illini 100’ on April 4-5 at the longtime UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Farmer City Raceway.
A World of Outlaws Late Model Series race that is co-sanctioned by UMP DIRTcar, the two-day extravaganza at the quarter-mile fairgrounds oval will pay a whopping $20,000 to win from a total purse of nearly $100,000. The event will use UMP DIRTcar’s four-compound Hoosier Tire rule.
INFO: Log on to www.dirtcar.com for more information on UMP DIRTcar Racing.
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 email@example.com.