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UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals Night 16: Mars Continues Mastery Of Fairbury American Legion Speedway

Jimmy Mars
Jimmy Mars

Fairbury, IL — By Kellen Burns/DIRTcar Racing P.R. –

When the UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals tour visits Fairbury American Legion Speedway, Jimmy Mars is at the top of his game.

The 36-year-old driver from Menomonie, Wis., showed his mastery of the quarter-mile oval once again on Saturday night, racing to victory in the track’s 50-lap Summer Nationals event for the third time in the last four years.

A winner of Fairbury’s Summer Nationals A-Main in 2005 and 2006, this year’s tour date turned out to be no different for Mars.

Mars, who started third, drove by Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill., for second early in the feature. He then set his sights on Chatham, Ill.’s Brian Shirley, the race’s polesitter.

Mars and Shirley waged a great battle for the top spot, with Mars trying low and high to get around. Mars finally found something in the middle groove of turns three and four and overtook Shirley on lap five, but a caution flag for a slowing Jordan Bland of Campbellsville, Ky., negated the move.

Mars instantly applied pressure to Shirley again on the restart. Shirley repelled the bids until lap 11, when Mars drove his No. 28 to the inside of Shirley and gained command for good.

“I had a feeling (the track surface) was going to rubber, so I was trying to get to the front to get the lead as soon as I could,” said Mars. “It worked out – twice!”

Mars was in control for the remainder of the distance, building as much as a full straightaway lead before lapped traffic slowed him. A caution flag on lap 27 gave him clear track and he had no trouble during the race’s second half.

Mars attributed the dominant run in part to how well his machine responded to race conditions.

“The car was excellent, it was flawless,” said Mars, who made his first visit to the Summer Nationals RacingJunk.com Victory Lane in his second tour appearance of 2008. “I could run on the inside of (Shirley) and the outside of him. It was a good race.”

Mars, who earned $10,000 for his seventh career Summer Nationals triumph, was followed to the finish line by Shirley. The driver known as ‘Squirrel’ held off a charging Darren Miller of Milledgeville, Ill., to place second.

After starting from the pole, however, Shirley wasn’t happy with a bridesmaid finish.

“It was a tough one to swallow because you don’t want to lose,” said Shirley. “All and all, it wasn’t a bad night.”

Shirley was strong on the low side of the track early in the event, but he couldn’t find a groove to stay out front of Mars in the end.

“He had a better car,” Shirley said of Mars. “I tried to momentum his line and just couldn’t do it. We’ll take it and we’ll move on.”

The runner-up finish did move Shirley into the UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals points lead after 16 events. He unofficially grabbed a four-point edge over defending champion Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., who lost five positions on the final lap due to engine woes and finished 12th.

Miller, who started fifth, made some moves early but found it difficult to move around late in the race. He settled for third.

“It just rubbered up – a one-lane deal,” said Miller. “I about had Shirley (for second). I got clear up beside him. I would have had to go into one and bang pretty bad (to complete the pass). I’m not really into doing that when it’s rubbered up like that.”

Miller knew, however, that Mars was certainly the class of the field.

“We weren’t near as good as Jim was,” said Miller.

Ryan Dauber of Tonica, Ill., scored an ’08 Summer Nationals-best finish of fourth, while Sheppard completed the top five.

Forty-eight cars entered the event, which saw Erb set fast time in the group qualifying session with a lap of 13.41 seconds.

Heat winners were Shirley, Sheppard, Mars, Miller and Bland. Mark Burgtorf of Quincy, Ill., and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., captured the C-Mains, and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., topped the B-Main.

The UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals continues on Sunday night (July 6) with a $6,000-to-win event at Quad City Raceway in East Moline, Ill.

For more information on the Summer Nationals, visit www.dirtcar.com.

UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals Feature Finish (40 laps):

1. Jimmy Mars
2. Brian Shirley
3. Darren Miller
4. Ryan Dauber
5. Steve Sheppard Jr.
6. Billy Moyer
7. Eric Smith
8. Derek Chandler
9. Ryan Unzicker
10. Will Vaught
11. Wes Steidinger
12. Dennis Erb Jr.
13. Daren Friedman
14. Jeep VanWormer
15. Jordan Bland
16. Joe Harlan
17. Randy Korte
18. Jason Feger
19. Scott Bull
20. Kevin Weaver
21. Brian Birkhofer

B-Main Finish: Billy Moyer, Wes Steidinger, Joe Harlan, Jeep Van Wormer, Jesse Stovall, Kevin Weaver, Tim Lance, Scott Bull, Jimmy Dehm, Mark Burgtorf, Don O’Neal, Jason McBride, Jim Felker Jr., Justin Shaw, Rocky Griffin, Mike Provenzano

2008 UMP DIRTcar Racing Summer Nationals Schedule (Date/Day/Track/Location/To Win/Winner – Car Count):

June 12 – Thurs. – Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway/Calvert City, KY – $7,500 (Brad Neat – 40)
June 13 – Fri. – Brownstown (IN) Speedway – $10,000 (Rain – postponed to July 11)
June 14 – Sat. – Kamp Motor Speedway/Boswell, IN – $10,000 (Wes Steidinger – 36)
June 15 – Sun. – Tri-State Speedway/Haubstadt, IN – $6,000 (Dennis Erb Jr. – 39)
June 16 – Mon – OFF
June 17 – Tues. – Highland Speedway/Highland, IL – $6,000 (Terry English – 47)
June 18 – Wed. – Belle Clair Speedway/Belleville, IL – $6,000 (Will Vaught – 41)
June 19 – Thurs. – I-57/I-64 Raceway/Mt. Vernon, IL – $6,000 (Darren Miller – 37)
June 20 – Fri. – Farmer City Raceway/Farmer City, IL – $10,000 (Darren Miller – 50)
June 21 – Sat. – I-55 Raceway/Pevely, MO – $10,000 (CANCELED – flooding)
June 22 – Sun. – Vermilion Co. Speedway/Danville, IL – $6,000 (Jeep VanWormer – 43)
June 23 – Mon. – OFF
June 24 – Tue. – Sedalia State Fair Speedway/Sedalia, MO – $6,000 (Brian Shirley – 27)
June 25 – Wed. – Lake Ozark Speedway/Eldon, MO – $6,000 (Billy Moyer – 31)
June 26 – Thurs. – Paducah Int’l Raceway/Paducah, KY – $6,000 (Kevin Claycomb – 35)
June 27 – Fri. – Lawrenceburg Speedway/Lawrenceburg, IN – $10,000 (Dennis Erb Jr. – 36)
June 28 – Sat. – Clarksville Speedway/Clarksville, TN – $10,000 (Rain – postponed to July 19)
June 29 – Sun. – Lincoln Speedway/Lincoln, IL – $6,000 (Brian Shirley – 46)
June 30 – Mon. – OFF
July 1 – Tue. – Peoria Speedway/Peoria, IL – $6,000 (Jeep VanWormer – 40)
July 2 – Wed. – Morgan Co. Speedway/Jacksonville, IL – $6,000 (Rain – postponed to Aug. 15)
July 3 – Thurs. – Macon Speedway/Macon, IL – $6,000 (Rain – postponed to Aug. 16)
July 4 – Fri. – Tri-City Speedway/Pontoon Beach, IL – $10,000 (Billy Moyer – 51)
July 5 – Sat. – Fairbury American Legion Speedway/Fairbury, IL -$10,000 (Jimmy Mars – 48)
July 6 – Sun. – Quad City Raceway/East Moline, IL – $6,000
July 7 – Mon. – OFF
July 8 – Tue. – Quincy (IL) Speedway – $6,000
July 9 – Wed. – Spoon River Speedway/Canton, IL – $6,000
July 10 – Thurs. – La Salle Speedway/La Salle, IL – $6,000
July 11 – Fri. – Brownstown (IN) Speedway – $10,000 (Rescheduled date)
July 12 – Sat. – Oakshade Raceway/Wauseon, OH – $10,000
July 19 – Sat. – Clarksville Speedway/Clarksville, TN – $10,000 (Rescheduled date)
Aug. 15 – Fri. – Morgan Co. Speedway/Jacksonville, IL – $6,000 (Rescheduled date)
Aug. 16 – Sat. – Macon Speedway/Macon, IL – $6,000 (Rescheduled date)