Babb's high-side charge pays $5,000 at Tri-State
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
HAUBSTADT, Ind. (July 10) — Shannon Babb hasn't seen a cushion he didn't like. And Tri-State Speedway's high-side cushion was looking particularly inviting Sunday as he worked his way toward the front in the 17th leg of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals, stalking front-row starters Scott James and Jeep Van Wormer. | Complete Summernationals coverage
"Once we got going, I really couldn't understand why those guys weren't on the cushion," Babb said of the quarter-mile. "They worked their selves to the bottom there and just opened the door up."
Late in the 40-lapper, Babb stormed through that open door, banging past Van Wormer with a payback slide job, then sailing around James exiting turn four to lead lap 36.
The 37-year-old Moweaqua, Ill., driver led the rest of the way to become the season's first four-time winner on the series, earn $5,000 and increase a series points lead in a championship chase that's all but wrapped up with five races remaining.
"They were battling pretty heavy there, and I knew they couldn't continue to do that without messing up," Babb said. "Sooner or later, they did. James didn't know I was on the top. He was just hanging low. That's been working at a lot of these tracks, but I just had the momentum to go around him."
Lawrenceburg, Ind.'s James, Babb's closest pursuer in the points, settled for a runner-up finish to Babb for the second time in four races. Van Wormer, of Pinconning, Mich., was third while Rodney Melvin of Benton, Ill., and Haubstadt rookie Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., rounded out the top five.
For most of the race it was a pitched battle between James and Van Wormer, who lined up side-by-side on the front row and held the top two spots the first 35 laps.
James edged out to a half-straightaway lead as he entered lapped traffic on the 11th circuit, but Van Wormer closed back in at the halfway point, taking the lead on lap 23 and holding the top spot when a slowing Dennis Erb Jr. brought out the fourth and final caution on lap 26.
Van Wormer led James, Melvin and Babb back to the green flag, and while Babb got rolling on the high side to grab third, James dug in to resume the side-by-side battle with Van Wormer. They crossed the stripe in a near dead heat on laps 30 and 31, and James inched ahead to lead lap 32. By now, Babb was hot on their heels on a lap later he pulled alongside Van Wormer on the frontstretch, then slid up in front of him, making contact in turn two.
Both drivers agreed the move harkened back to Van Wormer's similar move in turn four during the night's heat race.
"Evidently he thought he owed me one, he thought I did him wrong in that heat race. From my point of view, I didn't think I did," said Van Wormer, saying he never saw or heard Babb when he moved high in the heat.
Said Babb: "I knew he wouldn't mind, because he ran over my nose in the heat race. So I was just going to make sure I got him before I forgot about it tonight."
Van Wormer was disappointed it took him out of the three-way battle for the lead in the waning laps.
"I didn't even know Shannon was in the mix of the race, then all the sudden he takes my nose right away from me and sends me to the wall, and I'm back to third," he said. "Me and Scott James there ran clean there for 40 laps side-by-side and never had an issue. And then Babb goes in there and throws a slider on me and takes me out of the race ... Yeah, I'm pissed off about it, to be honest."
The high-running Babb still had work to do in catching the low-running James, but he swept around him with five laps remaining.
"I didn't even know he was there," said James, concentrating so much on hitting his marks he couldn't look to crew members for signals. "Shannon did a good job. He won the race. We've got a bad habit of running second to him, I guess.
"It was fun. ... I give Jeep props. He raced me clean. We raced each other clean. It was fun out there. I think we both got surprised there at the end."
Notes: Babb's Victory Circle Chassis is sponsored by Petroff Towing, Donley Trucking and B Auto Parts. ... Babb's 66th career series victory came at the same track where he won his first won in 1999. ... Runner-up Scott James caught a break at the lap-26 caution. He clipped an buried infield tire and killed the motor briefly just after the caution appeared for Dennis Erb Jr., but was restored to his second position. ... Besides Erb's lap-26 yellow, three other cautions slowed the race, one for a failed initial start. ... A lap-four yellow appeared when Michael Kloos got into the frontstretch wall after Jason Feger tried to squeeze between Kloos and Randy Korte. ... Another caution appeared on the lap-four restart when bumper tag turned into a chain reaction accident in turn three that stacked up Ryan Unzicker, Feger, Donny Walden and Chad Stapleton. Feger retired. ... Seventeen of 21 starters were running at the finish. ... The series takes Monday off before heading for the final five points races of the series starting Tuesday at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway for a $5,000-to-win makeup of the rained out series opener.
UMP @ Tri-State: (1) Shannon Babb, (2) Scott James, (3) Jeep Van Wormer, (4) Rodney Melvin, (5) Bobby Pierce, (6) Ryan Unzicker, (7) Matt Miller, (8) Dillan White, (9) Kent Robinson, (10) Dennis Erb Jr., (11) Randy Korte, (12) Mike Spatola, (13) Jack Sullivan, (14) Chad Zobrist, (15) Victor Lee, (16) Donny Walden, (17) Brandon Sheppard, (18) Jason Riggs, (19) Chad Stapleton, (20) Jeff Walston, (21) Jason Feger, (22) Michael Kloos. Fast qualifier (among 35 cars): James, 14.120 seconds. Heat race winners: James, Pierce, Van Wormer, Melvin. B-main winner: Riggs. Provisional starters: Sheppard, Walston, Lee, Spatola.
Blog-style reports from Sunday's prelims:
Mid-event notes and provisionals
Brandon Sheppard and Mike Spatola got series provisionals. ... Jeff Walston got the provisional based on last year's UMP weekly points. ... Because Tri-State doesn't regularly run Late Models, the track took the third-place finisher in the B-Main — Victor Lee — as the track provisional. ... Sheppard plans to run the main event in his backup car after his rollover accident. Sheppard said the accident left him with a sore neck but acknowledged he was OK. The wrecked Pierce Race Car is the machine that carried him to two Summernationals victories, but he's unloaded his newer Pierce car that carried him to a Northern Allstars victory at I-55 Raceway last month. ... When Sheppard said when Matt Miller got sideways in front of the field in his heat, he said he "slammed on the brakes." That was evident because Sheppard literally snapped the brake pedal off. ... Otherwise his car appeared to suffer mostly sheetmetal damage. ... Shannon Babb got the worst end of a heat-race battle with Jeep Van Wormer, but just laughed off the turn-four slide job. "All fun and games," Babb said, going back to work on his car. ... Kevin Cole loaded up before the B-Main because of engine problems with a powerplant the Riggs Motorsports team bought from Kentucky driver Brandon Kinzer. "It'll turn RPMs, but it won't do anything," said Cole, who said he also had problems with the engine at Paducah. ... Tim Lance ran the B-Main but he was already loading his equipment beforehand. "I've got a canoe trip tomorrow," he said.
Third-starting Jason Riggs slipped Chad Zobrist on the third lap and led the rest of the way. Zobrist and Victor Lee also transferred to the main event while Doug Drown's last-ditch effort to catch Lee ended with him partially climbing the turn-four wall. Carnell Parker III slipped by for fourth but failed to transfer. Polesitter Kevin Weaver spun in turn two on the first start to draw the race's first caution. A second yellow appeared on the second lap when Josh Harris and Steve Karnes tangled in turn four. A third yellow appeared when Weaver got into the frontstretch wall on the fourth lap.
Finish: Jason Riggs, Chad Zobrist, Victor Lee, Carnell Parker III, Doug Drown, Jeff Walston, Craig Vosbergen, Tanner English, Tim Brown, Tim Lance, Jarryd Holshouser, Steve Karnes, Josh Harris, Steve Lampley, Kevin Weaver, Mike Spatola. Scratched: Brandon Sheppard, Charles Zimmerman, Kevin Cole.
In a redraw among heat winners, Jeep Van Wormer drew the pole position for tonight's feature. First-heat winner Scott James will start second, while Bobby Pierce and Rodney Melvin round out the top four. The C-Main has been scrapped and a 19-car B-main is scheduled taking the top three cars.
In a heat marred by Brandon Sheppard's rollover accident, outside front-row starter Bobby Pierce got the jump on fellow Haubstadt rookie Matt Miller and led all the way. Pierce's father is a former Tri-State champion during his 1990 UMP title-winning season. The polesitting Miller finished second while Kent Robinson, who avoided damaged despite getting a part of Sheppard's wreck, finished a distant third. Chad Stapleton got the fourth and final transfer spot. Sheppard's wreck was triggered by Miller's turn-two slipup on the first attempted start. Miller got sideways in front of the field and the chain-reaction wreck sent Sheppard's No. B5 barrel-rolling twice out of turn two before it ended up on its wheels. Sheppard, unhurt, climbed from his car and bowed to the backstretch crowd. His car was banged up but it was unclear how much mechanical damage it suffered.
Finish: Bobby Pierce, Matt Miller, Kent Robinson, Chad Stapleton, Victor Lee, Tim Lance, Charles Zimmerman, Brandon Sheppard.
Polesitter Jeep Van Wormer slide in front of fellow front-row starter Shannon Babb in turn four on the first lap — drawing a stern bump from Babb — and then fought off Babb in the closing laps for the victory. Babb quickly regained his momentum after the first-lap contact and held the second spot all the way while Randy Korte joined the frontrunners on the high side in finishing third. Donny Walden got fourth, well ahead of Jason Riggs. The first start was called back when Riggs and Steve Karnes tangled in turn four with Steve Lampley spinning as well; the field was reset for a complete restart.
Finish: Jeep Van Wormer, Shannon Babb, Randy Korte, Donny Walden, Jason Riggs, Doug Down, Steve Lampley, Steve Karnes, Jarryd Holshouser.
Rodney Melvin got the jump from outside the front row and cruised to a 10-lap victory while working the high side. Melvin pulled comfortably ahead of polesitter Jack Sullivan, who spent most of the race fighting off Jason Feger. Michael Kloos got the fourth and final transfer spot far behind Feger as he barely held off Chad Zobrist, who appeared to nose ahead briefly at the white flag. The first attempted start was called back when Jason Feger got sideways in turn three, stacking up everyone except Sullivan, Melvin and Kloos (Mike Spatola retired with a flat left-rear tire). As the race went to caution, it appeared Melvin gave Sullivan a love-tap down the backstretch after Sullivan slid across Melvin's nose in turn one.
Finish: Rodney Melvin, Jack Sullivan, Jason Feger, Michael Kloos, Chad Zobrist, Craig Vosbergen, Kevin Cole, Jeff Walston, Mike Spatola.
Polesitter Scott James jumped to the lead at the outset and was never challenged in winning the 10-lapper. Third-starting Dennis Erb Jr. held the second spot all the way while Dillan White recovered from a poor qualifying run to finish third, advancing four spots. Ryan Unzicker got the fourth and final transfer spot. Unzicker, who started outside the front row, got too high in turns one and two on the first lap and fell back early. Trying to an out-of-shape Tanner English, Carnell Parker III slid to the infield on the second lap and pulled back onto the track to draw the race's lone yellow. Most of the drivers stuck with the low groove as the cushion begins to develop on the black-dirt oval
Finish: Scott James, Dennis Erb Jr., Dillan White, Ryan Unzicker, Kevin Weaver, Josh Harris, Carnell Parker III, Tanner English, Tim Brown.
Scott James of Lawrenceburg, Ind., topped 35 qualifiers Sunday with a 14.120-second lap at Tri-State Speedway for the 17th leg of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. Besides James, other heat race polesitters at the quarter-mile oval: Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark.; Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich.; and Matt Miller of Whitehouse, Ohio.
The top four finishers from each of four heat races will transfer to the main event, with the top two finishers from the B-Main and four provisional starters rounding out the field.
Several drivers clipped the wall in qualifying with minor damage including Matt Miller, Jack Sullivan and Tim Brown. ... Shannon Babb leads the tour with 1,055 points followed by Scott James (877), Dennis Erb Jr. (807), Jason Feger (804) and Brandon Sheppard (787). ... No driver has won by more than 64 points under the current point system. ... Babb's first-ever series victory came for Louisiana-based GVS Racing on June 20, 1999. ... Kentucky driver Victor Lee is making his first start with the Bedford, Ind.-based team owned by Jack Rainey. Lee will drive the red No. 49 Rayburn Race Car. Rainey's most recent driver was Indiana journeyman Greg Johnson, who has moved on to pilot the Ohio-based No. 11 owned by James Hines. ... Scott James spent more than five hours in a Clarksville, Tenn., hospital last night for treatment from a brown recluse spider bite from earlier on the series. The bite on the outside of his upper left forearm swelled severely. ... Several teams plan to join Kent Robinson's team Monday for some boating and relaxation on Lake Monroe near Bloomington, Ind. .... Michael Kloos is making his second series start since Belle-Clair Speedway, where he won but was discovered using chemically-altered tires. His punishment hasn't been announced but he's been stripped of his winning points on the official points sheet. ... After eight divisions in last night's program at Clarksville, Tenn., only modifieds are in action at Tri-State with the Late Models, with 39 mods entered.
Time trials (unofficial)