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34 Raceway

Dominant Birky scores Hell Tour victory at 34

July 4, 2011, 6:14 pm
By Joshua Joiner
DirtonDirt.com staff writer
Brian Birkhofer (15) earned $5,000 at 34 Raceway. (Rich Edwards Jr.)
Brian Birkhofer (15) earned $5,000 at 34 Raceway. (Rich Edwards Jr.)

WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa (July 4) – Bouncing back from major disappointment in his previous UMP DIRTcar Summernationals outing, Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, led every lap of Sunday night's Summernationals feature at 34 Raceway to score a home-state victory worth $5,000. | Complete Summernationals coverage

Birkhofer dominated the caution-free 40-lapper, opening up more than a straightaway lead on the 3/8-mile racetrack on his way to scoring the seventh series victory of his career.

The triumph comes after Birkhofer had a chance to win a series race June 24 at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill., taken away when his left-front wheel fell off his race car during the race’s parade laps. Birkhofer was scheduled to start third in that $10,000-to-win event before a miscue resulted in the lugnuts on the wheel not getting tightened before the race.

“It just feels good to run good again,” Birkhofer said of his victory. “I was really frustrated (after Tri-City). There’s a couple guys that help me, and I couldn’t come in and blame them because they’re just volunteer guys that try to help me out. I just put it on myself.

“The car’s been pretty decent all year, just a matter of dumb luck on my part and some other things that have happened I just gotta keep plugging away.”

The triumph is Birkhofer’s second special-event victory this year at 34 Raceway, which is located less than an hour south of his home. He also scored a $10,000 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory at the 3/8-mile racetrack in May.

The only challenge for the pole-starting Birkhofer came from second-starting Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, during the opening laps. But after clearing Simpson, Birkhofer never looked back, and navigated slower traffic in the closing laps to pick up the victory.

Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark., moved to second midway through the race and tried to close the gap on Birkhofer. But even the slower traffic couldn’t slow down the leader. Sullivan settled for second, earning his second consecutive top-five finish on the tour. Three-time series champion Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., finished third with eighth-starting Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., fourth.

Defending series champion Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., started ninth and used a strong run on the high side midway through the race to move up to fourth. He ran down Erb and briefly challenged for third, but faded late and dropped to fifth at the finish.

Notes: Birkhofer's MB Customs car has a Pro Power Engine and sponsorship from J&J Steel, Zens Flooring, ASi Raceway and VP Fuels. ... The event was the first Summernationals race at 34 Raceway since 2006. Current series points leader Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., won that event. He was 12th Monday. ... Eighteen cars finished the race with 13 on the lead lap. ... The race was completed in less than 12 minutes. ... The series takes a day off Tuesday before heading to Peoria (Ill.) Speedway on Wednesday.

UMP @ 34 Raceway: (1) Brian Birkhofer, (2) Jack Sullivan, (3) Dennis Erb Jr., (4) Jeep Van Wormer, (5) Jason Feger, (6) Chad Simpson, (7) Chris Simpson, (8) Brian Shirley, (9) Scott James, (10) Matt Miller, (11) Dillan White, (12) Shannon Babb, (13) Wes Steidinger, (14) Bobby Pierce, (15) Denny Woodworth, (16) Donny Walden, (17) Brandon Sheppard, (18) Jerry Lierly, (19) Kent Robinson, (20) Mark Burgtorf, (21) Tom Bowling Jr., (22) Scott Schmitt, (23) Ryan Unzicker. Fast qualifier (among 26 cars): Birkhofer, 15.502 seconds. Heat race winners: Birkhofer, Chris Simpson, Sullivan. C-Main winner: Pierce. Provisional starters: Robinson, Schmitt, Woodworth, Lierly, Bowling.

Redraw and provisionals

In a redraw among heat race winners, Brian Birkhofer will start from the pole of tonight's main event. Chris Simpson will start second with Jack Sullivan third. ... Kent Robinson and Scott Schmitt will use series provisionals to start the feature while track provisionals went to Denny Woodworth, Jerry Lierly and Tom Bowling Jr.

C-Main

Bobby Pierce led every lap of the C-Main to earn the win and a starting spot in the main event. Wes Steidinger and Mark Burgtorf finished second and third to also transfer. Kent Robinson ran second nearly the entire race, but fell out late with mechanical problems.

Finish: Bobby Pierce, Wes Steidinger, Mark Burgtorf, Scott Schmitt, Jason Utter, Jack Meier, Jerry Lierly, Jay Johnson, Tom Bowling Jr., Kent Robinson.

Third heat

Chris Simpson powered around polesitter Donny Walden in turns one and two on the opening lap of the third heat race and led every lap to win the caution-free prelim. Walden finished second, nearly a straightaway behind Simpson with Jason Feger third. Matt Miller moved by Dillan White on the final lap to finish fourth. White was fifth and will also make the main event.

Finish: Chris Simpson, Donny Walden, Jason Feger, Matt Miller, Dillan White, Wes Steidinger, Jay Johnson, Tom Bowling Jr.

Second heat

Jack Sullivan grabbed the lead over polesitter Ryan Unzicker on the start of the second heat race and pulled away to a comfortable margin to score the victory. Unzicker finished second while Jeep Van Wormer held off Scott James to finish third. Behind James, Brandon Sheppard was fourth with Kent Robinson finishing fifth to also make the main event. Sheppard caused the race's only caution when he slowed at the top of turn two on the opening lap.

Finish: Jack Sullivan, Ryan Unzicker, Jeep Van Wormer, Brandon Sheppard, Kent Robinson, Denny Woodworth, Mark Burgtorf, Jason Utter.

First heat

Polesitter Brian Birkhofer led every lap on his way to scoring a convincing victory in the first of three heat races. Birkhofer and second-starting Biran Shirley got together in turn one on the opening lap, causing Shirley to briefly drop back to fourth. He battled back and finished a distant second in the caution-free race. Dennis Erb Jr. and Shannon Babb swapped the third position multiple times in the final two laps with Erb edging ahead at the finish. Babb finished fourth while Chad Simpson held off Bobby Pierce for the fifth and final transfer position.

Finish: Brian Birkhofer, Brian Shirley, Dennis Erb Jr., Shannon Babb, Chad Simpson, Bobby Pierce, Scott Schmitt, Jerry Lierly, Jack Meier.

Qualifying

Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa topped 26 qualifiers Monday at 34 Raceway during time trials for the 13th round of the 25-race UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. Birkhofer’s lap of 15.502 seconds puts him on the pole of the first of three heat races coming up at the 3/8-mile oval.

Other heat race polesitters after group qualifying are Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., and Donny Walden of Towanda, Ill.

The top five finishers from each heat race will transfer to tonight’s 40-lap, $5,000-to-win main event with a C-Main transferring three more drivers. Provisional starters will round out the 22-car field.

Pre-race notes

Riding the momentum of four consecutive top-five finishes, two-time series champion Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., leads the series standings with 784 points. Scott James (659) of Lawrenceburg, Ind., is second followed by defending series champion Jason Feger (612) of Bloomington, Ill., Brian Shirley (610) of Chatham, Ill., and Ryan Unzicker (602) of El Paso, Ill. ... The event marks the first Summernationals race at 34 Raceway since 2006. Babb was the winner of that event. ... Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa is making his first appearance since the June 24 race at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. He won a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at 34 Raceway in May. ... Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., is the most recent winner on the series. He earned $5,000 for his first series victory Sunday at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway. Sheppard, 18, is the youngest winner in the tour’s history.

Time trials (unofficial)

(Heat races start straight up by qualifying)
First group
Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa, 15.502
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 15.532
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 15.608
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.798
Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, 15.855
Scott Schmitt (10), Tonica, Ill., 15.866
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.966
Jack Meier (20), Tipton, Iowa, 15.968
Jerry Lierly (7L), Camp Point, Ill., 16.038
Second group
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 15.583
Jack Sullivan (1), Greenbrier, Ark., 15.649
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 15.773
Scott James (81), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 15.831
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 15.835
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.848
Mark Burgtorf (7B), Quincy, Ill., 15.86
Denny Woodworth (45), Mendon, Ill., 16.079
Jason Utter (31), Columbus Junction, Iowa, 16.453
Third group
Donny Walden (1w), Towanda, Ill., 15.654
Chris Simpson (32s), Oxford, Iowa, 15.731
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 15.782
Dillan White (54), Crofton, Ky., 15.881
Jay Johnson (93), West Burlington, Iowa, 15.894
Matt Miller (7), Whitehouse, Ohio, 15.923
Wes Steidinger (94), Fairbury, Ill., 16.178
Tom Bowling Jr. (14B), Danville, Iowa, 17.176

Feature lineup

Row 1: Birkhofer, Chris Simpson
Row 2: Sullivan, Shirley
Row 3: Unzicker, Walden
Row 4: Erb, Van Wormer
Row 5: Feger, Babb
Row 6: James, Miller
Row 7: Chad Simpson, Sheppard
Row 8: White, Pierce
Row 9: Steidinger, Burgtorf
Row 10: Robinson, Schmitt
Row 11: Woodworth, Lierly
Row 12: Bowling

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