La Salle Speedway
Korte stretches UMP lead with $6,000 La Salle win
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com chief writer
La SALLE, Ill. (July 9) — With his series points lead vulnerable, Randy Korte needed a strong run at La Salle Speedway on 21st leg of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals, the third-to-last race on the month-long grind. But after a dozen laps, Korte hadn't made much progress from his fifth starting spot while Mark Voigt, Ryan Unzicker and Terry Casey raced ahead of the field. | Series points and statistics | Slideshow | Complete Summernationals coverage
"I was actually kind of worried because I was running around the bottom and I really couldn't get going," Korte said. "It didn't seem like I was very good on the top or the middle and then all of the sudden, the tires came to life and the car just rolled right through the middle."
Korte injected his No. 00 into the lead battle by the 18th lap, turning the three-car battle for the lead into a four-way battle as the high-running Voigt and low-running Unzicker swapped the top spot. Sticking with the middle groove, Korte drove into the lead on the 28th lap and led the rest of the way on a traction-rich quarter-mile oval for a $6,000 victory, his third on the Summernationals in 2009 and 13th of his career.
The victory also helped Korte stretch his leading points margin to 14 from four points over Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., who ran outside the top five most of the way but clawed his way up to third in the final laps. Two races remain for Korte and Erb, the two-time and reigning series champion, to decide the $25,000 crown.
"It's just me and Dennis swapping it back and forth," Korte said. "They said he ran third, so we're just fighting it out here."
Ninth-starting Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who went from sixth to second between cautions on laps 29 and 32, put some pressure on Korte in the final laps but fell short of a serious bid for the lead. Babb and Erb were followed across the line by the fourth-starting Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., who led three times (laps 13, 16-19, 26-27) before fading to fourth. Polesitter Rodney Melvin of Benton, Ill., rounded out the top five. Voigt, who led 21 of the first 25 laps, retired on the 29th lap after breaking his car's steering rack and Casey departed on the 32nd lap after running in the top five all the way.
The race was marred by an injury to flagger J.D. Rutledge, who suffered extensive bleeding from his right wrist after being struck by a piece of metal that apparently flew off one of the cars on the initial start. Medical personnel attended to Rutledge for several minutes for what appeared to be damage to his radial artery. He was taken to Illinois Valley Community Hospital but his condition wasn't known. John Ryan replaced Rutledge in the flagstand.
Voigt jumped into the lead at the outset with Casey and Unzicker in pursuit as Melvin was back to fourth by the lap-five caution for a slowing Don O'Neal on the backstretch. By lap 10, Voigt, Casey and Unzicker pulled away from the rest of the field. The hub-hugging Unzicker nosed ahead of the cushion-banging Voigt on the 13th lap, but Voigt led two more laps before Unzicker went ahead again.
By lap 18, Korte was in the mix, and two laps later, Voigt regained the led when Unzicker was held up by the slower car of Ken Schrader exiting turn two. But as Korte worked the middle of the track, Voigt stumbled up high and Unzicker wasn't as quick on the bottom.
"My car was bouncing a lot, but I tried to run the middle there," Korte said. "I knew Ryan was going to be good on the bottom, and Mark was up on the top, but it seemed like he was starting to struggle on the cushion a little bit, so I just tried to roll the middle because I knew my car would not like the cushion at all, so I wasn't going up there."
Korte was out front a lap before the lap-29 caution for Voigt's departure, while Babb got rolling to pick up four spots and reach second by the lap-32 caution for a slowing Casey.
Babb did his best to keep pace with Korte over the final eight laps, but Korte held on for the victory.
Notes: Korte's Rocket Chassis is sponsored by Gulf Eagle Supply and Spaeth Welding. ... Unofficially, Korte leads the series points over Dennis Erb Jr. 1,395-1,381. ... After the racing, Korte's team made a swap to a new race hauler because the hydraulic liftgate on his trailer broke. The hauler of Kehrer Bros. Roofing teammate Billy Faust was backed up to Korte's hauler and its liftgate extended so they could retrieve the team's backup car. ... Terry Casey survived a turn-four spin on the initial start and got his spot back for the next attempted start. ... Twelve of 21 starters were running at the finish.
Feature: (1) Randy Korte, (2) Shannon Babb, (3) Dennis Erb Jr., (4) Ryan Unzicker, (5) Rodney Melvin, (6) Kevin Weaver, (7) Mark Burgtorf, (8) Frank Heckenast Jr., (9) Ted Loomis, (10) Mike Provenzano, (11) Scott Schmitt, (12) Donny Walden, (13) Jason Feger, (14) Terry Casey, (15) Mark Voigt, (16) Ken Schrader, (17) Steve Sheppard Jr., (18) Bret Sievert, (19) John Provenzano, (20) Ralph Markham, (21) Don O'Neal. Fast qualifier (among 42 cars): Casey, 12.642 seconds. Heat race winners: Melvin, Voigt, Casey, Unzicker. C-Main winner: E. Smith. B-Main winner: Heckenast. Provisional starters: Feger, S. Sheppard, Ralph Markham.
Fourth-starting Frank Heckenast Jr. worked under outside front row Bret Sievert to win the B-Main, and both drivers transferred to the main event. Polesitter Shawn Toczek was third followed by Jason McBride, Scott Bull and C-Main transfer Brandon Sheppard. There was a brief controversy over whether Heckenast's circuitous path through the pits to the scales — instead of going directly to the scales — was an issue, but UMP officials OK'd him.The feature provisionals: Jason Feger (series), Steve Sheppard Jr. ('08 weekly UMP points) and Ralph Markham (track).
Finish (cars running at checkers): Frank Heckenast Jr., Bret Sievert, Shawn Toczek, Jason McBride, Scott Bull, Brandon Sheppard, Rich Bell, Charley Hess, Derek Chandler, Eric Smith, Ralph Markham, Jimmy Dehm, Shane Allen, Brandon Thirlby.
Third-starting Eric Smith raced to victory in th C-Main, advancing to the B-Main along with Brandon Sheppard, Mike Glynn and Ralph Markham. Sheppard ran the low groove early and nearly took the lead from Smith before settling for second. The night's collection for the Special Olympics was cancelled and the B-Main is coming up.
Finish (drivers running at checkers): Eric Smith, Brandon Sheppard, Mike Glynn, Ralph Markham, Curt Spalding, Scott Brewer, Jim Loomis, Bryant Dickinson, Steve Dimmick, Alan Gendusa.
In the draw among heat winners, Rodney Melvin is on the pole with Mark Voigt alongside. Terry Casey and Ryan Unzicker drew second-row spots. ... Jason Feger's team is scrambling to make repairs after dropping out of his heat race; he'll get the UMP series provisional. ... Eric Smith's team is scheduled to start third in the C-Main after being banged around the final two laps of his heat race. He was running in a transfer spot but fell back to eighth. The team was changing a radiator and late to the C-Main lineup. Smith was disappointed he wasn't already in the feature. "I don't know who to be pissed at we got hit by so many of 'em." Smith said. ... Second-heat runner-up Mark Burgtorf walked across pit road to winner Ryan Unzicker's pit area to talk about their prelim, a race where Unzicker got out of shape and went through the turn-four infield on the first lap. "You scared me down there," Burgtorf told Unzicker. "I was wondering how you got out of the infield so fast." Cracked Unzicker: "There was traction down there." ... Bryant Dickinson and Mike Glynn are scheduled to start on the front row of the C-Main. ... Shawn Toczek and Bret Sievert are scheduled to start on the front row of the B-Main. ... The modifieds, the only other division in action, are running a consolation race before the Late Model C-Main.
Polesitter Mark Voigt, in his first visit to La Salle, outran fellow front-row starter Ted Loomis at the outset and pulled out to a comfortable lead before a lap-eight caution. Don O'Neal put some pressure on Voigt on the two-lap shootout to the checkers, but Voigt held on with O'Neal second. The other spots were shuffled in the final laps exiting turn two as a fourth-running Eric Smith was forced into the infield while Ted Loomis and John Provenzano battled. Loomis held on to edge Provenzano as they both transferred to the main event. Smith slid back and finished eighth. Curt Spalding spun in turn four on the eighth lap to draw the race's lone caution.
Finish: Mark Voigt, Don O'Neal, Ted Loomis, John Provenzano, Frank Heckenast Jr., Jason McBride, Derek Chandler, Eric Smith, Ralph Markham, Curt Spalding.
In a tight side-by-side duel through most of the race, polesitter Rodney Melvin (running low) edged third-starting Kevin Weaver (running lower) for a victory, his series-leading 12th heat race win. The lead was a dead heat at the line — or perhaps Weaver narrowly ahead — on at least two occasions, but Melvin edged just ahead at the finish. Scott Schmitt had one of his best heat race performances to finish third and La Salle Late Model points leader Mike Provenzano got the fourth and final transfer spot. An early caution waved for Roger Markham, who retired.
Finish: Rodney Melvin, Kevin Weaver, Scott Schmitt, Mike Provenzano, Rich Bell, Charley Hess, Jimmy Dehm, Mike Glynn, Jim Loomis, Roger Markham.
In a wild race with position-swapping action up front, third-starting Ryan Unzicker survived a trip through the infield in turn four on the first lap that dropped him to fifth, rallying back into the lead by the halfway point of the 10-lapper. Unzicker led the rest of the way for a half-length victory over fifth-starting Mark Burgtorf. Polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. was third with Donny Walden, who ran as high as second during the early duels up front, finishing in the fourth and final transfer spot. Outside front-row starter Brandon Sheppard led the first four laps, but he was held up by the slow-running Alan Gendusa exiting turn two on the fifth lap and apparently broke in making contact, as he pulled off shortly thereafter. Gendusa caused three cautions, first for spinning in turn two alone, the second for making contact with both Brandon and Steve Sheppard and the third for spinning alone in turn four in front of the leaders. Steve Dimmick jumped the berm and pulled off early in the race.
Finish: Ryan Unzicker, Mark Burgtorf, Dennis Erb Jr., Donny Walden, Bret Sievert, Steve Sheppard Jr., Brandon Thirlby, Alan Gendusa, Brandon Sheppard, Steve Dimmick.
Polesitter Terry Casey beat outside front-row starter Shannon Babb into turn one and led all the way, fighting off several low-side challenges from Babb for the victory. Babb ended up third after Randy Korte, trying to slide underneath in turn three, made contact and both cars nearly spun. Korte moved past Babb a lap later and ended up second while Babb — who gave Korte's No. 00 a stern bump coming off turn two on the eighth lap — settled for third. Far behind was fourth-finishing Ken Schrader in the final transfer spot. Two cautions slowed the action. Fourth-starting Jeep Van Wormer was running in a transfer spot when he got sideways in turn four and tangled with Jason Feger. Van Wormer found more trouble in turn four on the restart when Scott Brewer spun and Van Wormer made hard nose-to-nose contact while trying to make up ground in the low groove. Feger suffered damage to the front of his car and retired.
Finish: Terry Casey, Randy Korte, Shannon Babb, Ken Schrader, Shawn Toczek, Scott Bull, Shane Allen, Bryant Dickinson, Scott Brewer, Jeep Van Wormer, Jason Feger.
Shannon Babb's team contested his 12.785-second qualifying lap, saying it should've been 11.785 seconds. Officials didn't change his time. "That's OK," Babb said. "We wanted to start outside the front row anyway." ... During the modified heats, a track surface very rough in time trials is smoothing out somewhat, but pit observers know it might be a tough night. Former Summernationals winner Joey Izzo Jr. manned the grader in trying to whip the surface into shape. "It's like chewing gum," said Mark Voigt, running for the first time at La Salle. "And when those tires grab it, it just chunks. ... It's going to be survival of the fittest." ... A chunk of mud put a hole in Randy Korte's radiator in qualifying, and his team made a quick swap. ... That's not the only thing going on with Korte's team. The hydraulic motor on the liftgate broke about three feet of the ground, and the team used ramps and eight men to pull the car the rest of the way off the liftgate. Kehrer Bros. Roofing teammate Billy Faust's hauler is en route from the St. Louis area, and Korte's team plans to unload his backup car and put both cars into Faust's hauler, said crew chief Joey Walsh. "It's going to be a long night," Walsh said, "but we'll overcome it." ... "Lil' John" Provenzano, who nearly rolled his car in turn one during his time trial, plans on tagging the tail of his heat and pulling off. "We're just going to take a lap and make sure the wheels don't fall off it," Provenzano said. "What are you going to do?" Provenzano said he broke a right-rear shock, likely going into turn one, and the engine threw its belts in the incident. .... If Provenzano pulls off early, he'll be able to watch the rest of the night watching son Mike race.
Terry Casey of New London, Wis., was the fastest overall among 42 qualifiers Thursday at La Salle Speedway for the 21st leg of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. Casey posted a lap of 12.642 seconds at the quarter-mile oval full of traction after lengthy Wednesday rains. Other drivers topping qualifying groups to earn poles for heat races: Dennis Erb Jr. (12.992) of Carpentersville, Ill.; Rodney Melvin (12.897) of Benton, Ill.; and Mark Voigt (13.445) of Marine, Ill. Four heat races will send four drivers apiece to the main event. A C-Main sends four drivers to the B-Main, which sends two drivers to the main event. Three provisional starters round out the 21-car field for the 40-lap feature paying $6,000 to the winner.
Track workers are trying to keep a handle on a track surface that soaked up a lot of rain on Wednesday, the same day the Summernationals rained out at Spoon River Speedway in Banner, Ill. Rough spots developed in hot laps and the grader was brought out to smooth things out before time trials, but a thick berm quickly reappeared. ... Mike Glynn lost part of his nosepiece getting into the turn-three berm. ... John Provenzano got up on two wheels in turn one and nearly flipped before his No. 7 slammed back to the surface; he drove slowly back to the pits. ... Curt Spalding of Hartford, Mich., flattened a left-rear tire in time trials. ... The points battle for the $25,000 UMP DIRTcar Summernationals crown heads down the home stretch at La Salle. Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., leads two-time and reigning champion Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., by four points in the title chase in the third-to-last event on the month-long tour. ... The series wraps up in Ohio with a Friday night event at Waynesfield Motorsports Park and Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon. ... The 41 cars at the quarter-mile La Salle are the most on the series since Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway on June 26. ... The La Salle event is promoted by Track Enterprises and Bob Sargent, while Izzo family members and the regular track staff are working the race. ... Mike Provenzano of Grand Ridge, Ill., leads La Salle's points in the weekly Late Model division. ... Driver Frank Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill, is celebrating his 21st birthday at La Salle. Supporters are flying balloons and a blowup "21" at his hauler. ... Steve Sheppard Jr. of New Berlin, Ill., was the last Summernationals winner at La Salle in 2007; last year's race rained out. ... Three of John Gill's Summernationals victories came at La Salle; Gill isn't entered this year. ... Shannon Babb won '03 and '06 series races at La Salle. ... The 42 cars are La Salle are the most on the series since Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway on June 26.
Time trials (one lap; unofficial)