Steidinger sets fast time for UMP finale at Eldora
By Kevin KovacDIRT Motorsports
ROSSBURG, Ohio (Oct. 5) — Wes Steidinger’s dream of winning the UMP weekly points championship has evaporated, but that doesn’t mean he has nothing to race for. A victory in Saturday night’s 40-lap United Midwestern Promoters Fall Nationals at Eldora Speedway would be a nice consolation prize — and Steidinger made it clear on Friday night that he’s a serious contender for the $10,000 winner’s check. | Slideshow
Steidinger, 24, of Fairbury, Ill., was the star of Friday's action, registering the overall fastest lap (16.045 seconds) among 79 entrants in the group qualifying session and winning the 10-lap Late Model Race of Champions event that closed the preliminary program.
The Fairbury Flyer dominated the Race of Champions sprint, which included 15 drivers who won UMP state, regional or series titles or were a chassis builder’s highest-ranked representative in the national points standings. He surged off the outside pole to grab the lead from 2007 UMP weekly champion Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., on the opening circuit and never looked back en route to a $1,000 payday. Erb settled for second in the Race of Champions, followed by Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., 14th-starter Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., and Rick Delong of Whitehouse, Ohio.
“We know how good of a car we have, so our hopes are high going into tomorrow’s show,” said Steidinger, who will start his Rayburn No. J1 from outside the second row in the fourth of Saturday night’s six scheduled Late Model heats. “If things go our way, we can be a contender.”
Steidinger enters Saturday's finale with no mathematical chance to win the $20,000 national title after bowing to Erb, who overtook Steidinger for the points lead with a late surge and clinched his first-ever championship last week. But Steidinger, who has scored a career-high 20 feature victories this season, will have no problem accepting a second-place finish in the national points if he can record his first-ever win at the Eldora half-mile.
“To win here would be way sweeter than winning the championship,” Steidinger said. “To do anything good here, against so much competition, is just a pretty awesome feeling.”
Other group fast-timers were Richards (16.303 seconds), Eric Jacobsen of Santa Cruz, Calif. (16.316), Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn. (16.138), Frank Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill. (16.214) and Jared Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va. (16.916).
Erb, who will officially be crowned the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model national champ on Saturday night, timed fourth-fastest in his group. But thanks to the invert, he’ll start from the pole position in the fifth heat.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., who won last month’s World 100 at Eldora, ripped off the second-fastest overall lap of the night (16.095 seconds) but ran into major trouble in the Race of Champions. He dropped out on lap two when his No. 20 let out a thick belch of white smoke due to a busted oil line. With no backup motor in his trailer, it appeared that he would not return to compete Saturday.
The event also includes UMP modifieds and 117 entered.