T-Mac, Erb both smiling after duel at Oakshade
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com chief writer
WAUSEON, Ohio (July 10) — The two drivers racing each other hardest at Oakshade Raceway on Saturday night enjoyed the most satisfaction at the conclusion of the 60-lap UMP DIRTcar Summernationals finale.
The drivers made contact more than once while battling amid a tight four-car pack up front with Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., finally breaking away for the $10,000 victory while Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., raced to a runner-up finish that helped him overcome a 20-point deficit for his third consecutive Summernationals title. | Slideshow | Complete Summernationals coverage
The reactions were somewhat different — the flamboyant McCreadie came to victory lane in a swirl of donuts, then pounded his car's roof while the soft-spoken Erb slowly eased back to the frontstretch to pick up his $25,000 check — but their talents were both richly rewarded on a night when a jam-packed grandstand cheered on 58 entrants on a breezy, cool evening at the 3/8-mile oval.
The 35-year-old McCreadie earned his second victory since returning last month from a severe back injury that kept him out of his race car for six months and was thrilled to be in victory lane clapping for the fans who came out to see him win his first Summernationals feature.
"It gives me a rush," the seventh-starting McCreadie said. "This is what I love doing."
For the 36-year-old Erb, becoming the first driver to capture three consecutive Summernationals titles appeared in doubt with Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., leading the points the previous two weeks. Erb focused on putting his No. 28 in position to win, setting fast time for his group, winning a heat race and drawing the pole for the feature.
"When we came in here, we knew we had to basically try to win the race and not worry about anything else," said Erb, adding that he never realized Korte was en route to a lackluster 10th-place finish. "I was trying to chase down McCreadie ... I was just trying to concentrate on running my own line and hopefully everything was going to work out.
"Just to win one of these things is satisfying after going through the whole month, what we go through each race ... to come back and to be behind (in points) the last week or two ... to come back and get it done tonight, it was real good," said Erb, who unofficially won by eight points.
The 44-year-old Korte, who entered the race with two wins in the previous four series events in building his 20-point lead, was terribly disappointed he wasn't able to finish in the fifth spot that would've given him the title. "I think we missed it on the setup and tires and everything," he said, but added he didn't have any excuses.
"I knew Dennis was going to be tough, because I think he's been here three or four years in a row now," said Korte, who started ninth. "I've only been here once in my life. He's evidently got this place figured out because he was pretty good. We weren't good at all, so that's what it took. ... Congratulations to Dennis. He did an awesome job."
Behind McCreadie and Erb at the finish was Oakshade's weekly Late Model points leader Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich., who started outside the front row and led past the halfway point before McCreadie went by in the low groove. Third-starting Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., was the first competitor to track down the quick-starting Schlenk, but he ended up fourth, barely holding off 16th-starting Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., at the checkered flag.
The 22-year-old Schlenk, who went with a softer-tire strategy that "backfired," was gunning for his richest victory but happy to finish third.
"I told my guys, 'If I get a top five with these guys when we went out there, I'd be happy,' " Schlenk said. "They do it for a living, so it definitely makes you feel good to run in the top five with these guys."
Schlenk jumped into the lead at the outset with Erb falling back to fifth on the first lap, the only lap of the race where Korte was within the required range for capturing the championship. With Schlenk building a half-straightaway lead and lapping cars after 10 laps, Erb got back to fourth behind Schlenk, Babb and Brian Ruhlman of Clarklake, Mich.
"It seems like at this place here, I usually drop back a little bit," Erb said. "I knew once my tires starting coming in, my car was real good in the heat race, so I was pretty confident it was going to come back."
Babb reeled in Schlenk by the 16th lap, but five laps later, Schlenk had his hands full with not only Babb but he charging Erb and McCreadie. Babb slipped back to fourth as Erb and McCreadie began a lengthy position-swapping battle for the second spot with Schlenk just ahead, Babb just behind.
"To tell you the truth, I couldn't tell if Babb was leading or Rusty or Erb or any of 'em because we were racing so hard up there I was just trying not to run over anybody," McCreadie said. "sIt was tough. I got into Erb's left-rear going into (turns) three and four once pretty good, and I about spun myself. I don't know how I hung on — I got lucky I guess."
Erb and McCreadie made contact a few other times while duking it out, but they discussed it on the frontstretch afterwards with no hard feelings, McCreadie said. It was just hard racing, Erb added.
"We were just going at it pretty good," Erb said. "He definitely had a good car and he was trying to get around me and he got in there running hard. But we respect one another out there, so we just kept going on racing hard and continuing on."
McCreadie, running lower than the other three cars in the lead pack during a 58-lap stretch of green-flag racing, overtook Schlenk past the halfway point and pulled away to a quarter-track lead once he cleared the other frontrunners.
"I was the guy that came late to the party. They didn't even probably know I was there," McCreadie added. "I snuck (by) a few of 'em (just above the infield) tires through three and four and I don't even think they knew I was there. You only get one shot at a guy like Dennis, because once you show 'em where you're at, he's smart enough to get in that lane, and if he happens to stop your momentum, I may never get by him again.
"So I kind of did get a little aggressive with him, and he's done it with me before, and we go back and forth. As long as there's no worries afterwards, that's cool. If he gets into me and I get into him, we call it a draw and go on to the next show."
Wayne Chinn went over the banking in turns one and two to draw a lap-58 caution and set up a two-lap dash to the finish, but McCreadie wasn't challenged in wrapping up the victory.
Feature: (1) Tim McCreadie, (2) Dennis Erb Jr., (3) Rusty Schlenk, (4) Shannon Babb, (5) Brian Shirley, (6) Scott James, (7) Brian Ruhlman, (8) Jason Feger, (9) Ryan Unzicker, (10) Randy Korte, (11) Aaron Scott, (12) Casey Noonan, (13) Rodney Melvin, (14) Dona Marcoullier, (15) Rich Neiser, (16) Rusty Seaver, (17) Wayne Chinn, (18) Jeep Van Wormer, (19) Ronnie Perrine Jr., (20) Rick Aukland, (21) Dusty Moore. Fast qualifier (among 58 cars): Matt Miller, 13.351 seconds. Heat race winners: Erb, Schlenk, Babb, Aukland, Neiser. C-Main winners: Heckenast, Walden. B-Main winner: Shirley. Provisional starters: Feger, Moore, Perrine.
Polesitter Brian Shirley led all the in the 12-lapper to transfer to the main event along with Wayne Chinn and Jeep Van Wormer. Duane Chamberlain and Jon Henry were in contention for transfer spots when they tangled in turn three with both cars spinning to a spot and out of contention. Frank Heckenast Jr. and Matt Miller, who started near the rear after transferring through the C-Main, charged up to fourth and fifth but couldn't get close enough to challenge Van Wormer.
Finish (cars running at the checkers): Brian Shirley, Wayne Chinn, Jeep Van Wormer, Frank Heckenast Jr., Matt Miller, Jerry Bowersock, Curtis Roberts, Dusty Moore, Brad Eitniear, Duane Chamberlain, Chris Keller, Ky Harper, Donny Walden, Kevin Reeve, Donnie Marcoullier.
Illinois youngsters Frank Heckenast Jr. and Donny Walden won C-Main events to transfer to the B-Main. Also transferring were the runners-up in both races, Matt Miller and Brad Eitneiar. In the first C-Main, Doug Drown led most of the way before Heckenast went around on the high side. Then, heading for the white flag, Miller slipped underneath Drown to grab second. Miller and Drown appeared to make contact on the backstretch with Miller securing the spot into turn three. In the second C-Main, Walden and Eitniear ran side-by-side much of the way before Walden edged out front. Rick DeLong, who scratched from his heat race with mechanical problems, charged from the tail to finish third but couldn't catch up to the leaders.
First C-Main (cars running at checkers): Frank Heckenast Jr., Matt Miller, Doug Drown, Chris Ross, Mike Miller, Dan Wallace, Andrew Reaume, Hillard Millard, Bryant Dickinson, Steve Kester, Mike Dotson, Eric Spangler, Cody Houston.
Second C-Main (cars running at checkers): Donny Walden, Brad Eitniear, Rick DeLong, Skeet Reckner, Ron Miller, Rob Vanderzack, Tyler Boggs, Craig Vosbergen, Devin Shiels, Dean Anderson, Chuck Hummer, Michael Jantz.
Dennis Erb Jr., in need of a few breaks to catch series points leader Randy Korte, got one by drawing the pole position for the feature event. The heat winners redraw for starting positions in Summernationals event. Erb will start on the front row with Oakshade weekly points leader Rusty Schlenk alongside. Shannon Babb and Rick Aukland fill the second row spots and first-heat winner Rich Neiser starts fifth.
Korte is scheduled to start ninth in the feature. The staggered points system makes it tricky to figure all the points possibilities, but as long as Korte finishes fourth or better, he'll win the title. If Erb wins and Korte finishes fifth, Erb wins the title.
Coming up is two C-Mains, sending two cars apiece to a B-Main, which sends three drivers to the main event. Fast qualifier Matt Miller is scheduled to start on the tail of one of the C-Mains after he clipped an infield tire barrier and his car's nose folded under the front tires.
Reeling in race-long leader Aaron Scott in the final laps, track points leader Rusty Schlenk slipped under Scott exiting turn four on the final lap to grab the victory in the final heat. Scott, who started outside the front row, was second with polesitter Dona Marcoullier fighting off Duane Chamberlain's charge for the third and final transfer spot. Scott ran out front alone much of the way while Schlenk, Marcoullier and Chamberlain battled for the other two spots. But once Schlenk pulled away from that battle, he tracked down Scott for the victory, pulling alongside on the backstretch to set up his winning pass. Craig Vosbergen spun in turn three to draw a turn-two caution.
Finish: Rusty Schlenk, Aaron Scott, Dona Marcoullier, Duane Chamberlain, Ronnie Perrine Jr., Curtis Roberts, Dan Wallace, 72., Craig Vosbergern, Devin Shiels, Mike Dotson.
Correction: Fixes Schlenk as winner in rundown
After losing a side-by-side duel over the first four laps, polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. jumped to the high side on a lap-four restart, overtook Randy Korte and cruised to victory over the series points-leading Korte. Erb is second in series points. Korte finished second but had his hands full with Casey Noonan, being assured of the spot only when Noonan got held up by Mike Jantz's lapped car exiting turn four on the final lap. Noonan, who started third, got the final transfer spot. The lone caution appeared on the fourth lap when Chuck Hummer slipped over the turn-four banking and nearly into the frontstretch wall.
Finish: Dennis Erb Jr., Randy Korte, Casey Noonan, Wayne Chinn, Jason Feger, Ky Harper, Brad Eitniear, Chris Ross, Bryant Dickinson, Chuck Hummer, Mike Jantz.
Outside front row Rick Aukland, a two-time series champion, rolled to an easy victory as polesitter Matt Miller left the race because his car's nosepiece got folded under his front wheels while running second. That allowed Rodney Melvin to grab the second spot and Rusty Seaver moved up from his sixth starting spot to get the third and final transfer spot. The first start was a failure when Curtis Deisenroth got sideways in turn two, triggering a scramble that left Brandon Thirlby's car on two wheels resting on Donny Walden's machine. Anderson's car was towed to the pits.
Finish: Rick Aukland, Rodney Melvin, Rusty Seaver, Chris Keller, Dusty Moore, Curtis Deisenroth, Donny Walden, Brandon Thirlby, Matt Miller, Cody Houston, Dean Anderson.
Outside front-row starter Shannon Babb got the jump over polesitter Tim McCreadie and raced to victory as the top two quickly broke away from the field, battling throughout the race. Babb ran high while McCreadie ran low with Babb hanging on at the checkers. Behind them, Ryan Unzicker grabbed the third and final transfer spot on the second lap and held on to transfer. Rick DeLong, scheduled to start inside the second row, didn't make the race.
Finish: Shannon Babb, Tim McCreadie, Ryan Unzicker, Jerry Bowersock, Kevin Reeve, Donnie Marcoullier, Hillard Miller, Skeet Reckner, Ron Miller, Steve Kester, Mark Pifer. Scratched: Rick DeLong.
Polesitter Rich Neiser overtook Brian Ruhlman before the halfway point and race to victory on the slick surface. The battle for the other two transfer spots was tight in the final laps with Ruhlman barely holding off James, while Brian Shirley nosed into contention late. No yellow flags appeared (except for the initial start) but Andrew Reaume and Eric Spangler both got out of shape in turn four before continuing far behind the pack.
Finish: Rich Neiser, Brian Ruhlman, Scott James, Brian Shirley, Jon Henry, Jeep Van Wormer, Doug Drown, Frank Heckenast Jr., Tyler Boggs, Rob Anderzack, Andrew Reaume, Eric Spangler.
Matt Miller of Waterville, Ohio, winner of last year's UMP DIRTcar Summernationals finale at Oakshade Raceway, topped 58 qualifiers this year for the $10,000-to-win event at the 3/8-mile oval. Miller posted a lap of 16.351 seconds and will start on the pole of the third heat race.
Other drivers topping qualifying groups to earn pole positions for heat races: Rich Neiser (16.497) of Fruitport, Mich.; Tim McCreadie (16.624) of Watertown, N.Y.; Dennis Erb Jr. (16.764) of Carpentersville, Ill.; and
The top three finishers from each of five heat races advance to the main event. Two C-Mains send two cars apiece to the B-Main, which sends three cars to the main event. Three provisional starters round out the 21-car feature field.
A track with a reputation for high car counts, Oakshade Raceway didn't disappoint, drawing a series-high 58 Late Models for the $10,000-to-win event. ... The event at the 3/8-mile oval in northwestern Ohio will decide the championship between series points leader Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., the two-time and reigning series champion. ... Korte leads by 20 points and can wrap up the championship by finishing fourth or better in the main event. ... Both drivers are guaranteed starting spots in the main event, Korte by virtue of leading the series and Erb by virtue of his '08 UMP weekly points title. ... Erb must finish sixth or better to have a chance of winning the title. ... Two other divisions, bombers and four-cylinders, are also in action at Oakshade. ... With Kevin Weaver skipping the race, Rodney Melvin is assured of moving up to fifth in series points. Weaver ran the first 22 events, but with his departure, Jason Feger can possibly become the only driver to race in all 23 features.
Time trials (one lap; unofficial)