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State Your Case: Illinois tops Iowa, captures title

April 8, 2008, 12:53 pm
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com chief writer

Just like the men's NCAA basketball title game, DirtonDirt.com's State Your Case tournament went down to the bitter end. And when it was all over, Illinois narrowly edged Iowa in the final matchup of the bracket-style tournament to determine the best state for Dirt Late Model racing. | Championship | Semifinals | Quarterfinals | Second round | First round

With both Midwest states receiving equal votes in the final matchup, the deciding factor was the tiebreaker of total votes received throughout the tournament, and Illinois came out on top by a mere three total votes over Iowa. Tournament matchups were voted on by the 24-member DirtonDirt.com panel, each of who wrote capsules advocating each of the 24 states in the tournament.

Here's the final tournament bracket along with the capsule that led to victory for Illinois:

Champion: Illinois

State your case: Is there any question which state has the best Dirt Late Model racers From the state that has produced the likes of The Tall Cool One, Shaggy, the Moweaqua Missile, King Kong, the Thriller, the Flatland Flash, and the One-Man Band, the Land of Lincoln has certainly produced it's share of the sports finest. Some of the Illini State's crop have already been inducted into the Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame and others are on that illustrious path.

Best historical drivers: Bob Pierce immediately pops into your mind. The Tall Cool One, one of the original outlaw barnstormers, notched his place in history by tearing up high banks around the Midwest in notching hundreds of victories, a UMP weekly championship and a memorable North-South 100 victory. Chicagoland star Tony Izzo Sr. is also high on the list (as are his sons, Tony and Joe) along with Dick Taylor, Jim Leka, Roger Long, Jim O’Connor and ageless Don Klein, who has hundreds of victories and 17 track championships.

Best current drivers: Two-time Dirt Track World Champion Shannon Babb has grown from Illinois favorite to national star along with Dennis Erb Jr. (like Babb, a UMP Summernationals champ), Rodney Melvin (four-time UMP weekly champ), Randy Korte (two-time UMP champ), Billy Drake, Steve Sheppard Jr. and Darren Miller. Impressive up-and-comers include Wes Steidinger, Jason Feger and Scott Bull.

Best tracks past and present: Macon Speedway (the tiny speedplant where Babb cut his racing teeth), Tri-City Speedway (where Rusty Wallace, Larry Phillips, C.C. Corbin, Wib Spalding reached victory lane), the legendary mile ovals in Springfield in DuQuoin as well as Farmer City, Fairbury, Spoon River, La Salle, and the now-closed Springfield Speedway and Santa Fe Speedway.

Biggest events: Farmer City’s World of Outlaws event (the richest Dirt Late Model race in Illinois history), Fairbury’s Prairie Dirt Classic and Macon’s Herald & Review 100, the long-time centerpiece of the UMP Summernationals.

Contributors and contributions to the sport: Illinois has been the heart of UMP and its Summernationals year after year.

Illinois fans are best because ...: they know the sport and know how to enjoy it, from the tailgating atmosphere at the Fairbury or Farmer City to the campers and party atmosphere at Macon, Illinois has the best fans!

If all that's not good enough: Those at Macon's Summernationals race in 1997 will never forget a story that's a microcosm of Illinois racing. After Shannon Babb's car broke on the pace lap, also-ran Virgil Bilbrey pulled to the infield to allow Babb to start his car from the tail. Babb rallied to an amazing victory in the borrowed car but lost it at the scales (Bilbrey's substantial belly and 80 extra pounds weren't in the car). Man, I love Illinois racing. (Additional information from Michael Rigsby)

Runner-up: Iowa

Semifinalists: Ohio, Tennessee

Quarterfinalists: Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Georgia

Capsule contributors

Alabama - Tim O’Brien
Arkansas - Todd Turner
California - K.C. Rooney
Georgia - Bob Appleget
Illinois - Terry Young
Indiana - Bob Markos
Iowa - Barry Johnson
Kentucky - Mike Sullivan
Louisiana - Greg Holmes
Maryland - Matt Felten
Michigan - Dave DeHem and Verwayne Greenhoe
Minnesota - Rich Olson
Mississippi - Tim Lee
Missouri - Jimmy Dearing
New York - Chip Stebbins
North Carolina - Thomas Pope
Ohio - Bill Holder
Pennsylvania - Keith Koval
South Carolina - Gene Murphy
South Dakota - Rob Fogle
Tennessee - Michael Moats
Virginia - Brian Tidball
West Virginia - Ernie Shelton
Wisconsin - Jerry O’Brien

A special thanks to historian Bob Markos for sharing his vast knowledge

Cover art image by Barry Lenhart

Tournament bracket

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