Weber's late rally shocks UMP field at Tri-State
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
HAUBSTADT, Ind. (July 8) — On a drizzly night when beating the rain seemed like a miracle, Tri-State Speedway fans who stuck it out saw an unheralded driver pull off a miracle victory.
Making his first-ever feature start on the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals, Scott Weber of Festus, Mo., went from fourth-to-first over the final four laps, shocking the field Sunday with a last-lap pass of polesitter Scott James of Lawrenceburg, Ind. | Complete Summernationals coverage
The 44-year-old Weber, a standout modified driver who has competed primarily in Crate Late Models the past three seasons, earned $5,000 for the victory while making a guest appearance in the No. 92k Super Late Model usually driven by Brant Kehrer. He notched his fifth Super Late Model victory overall after making fewer than two dozen career starts in the division.
“This is like living a dream right now,” said Weber, greeted by dozens of well-wishers with high-fives and hugs in the pits. "I don’t care if I win another race, to be honest with you.”
James settled for a disappointing second at Tri-State for the second year in a row while series points leader Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., was third. Seventh-starting Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who nearly slipped underneath James before Weber’s charge, was fourth ahead of Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.
James jumped into the lead at the outset and made all the right moves in fending off Shirley, Babb and Sheppard through the first 30 laps, deftly maneuvering through tricky lapped traffic during a 38-lap stretch of green-flag racing in the 40-lap feature.
Weber started sixth and hung around the top five most of the race, moving up to fourth with 10 laps remaining and turning the three-car battle for the lead among James, Shirley and Babb into a four-car battle on lap 33.
With James and Shirley up high and Babb down low, Weber was able to make the middle groove work. Babb's line kept Weber from running exactly the line he wanted, but when Weber slipped around Babb with a backstretch pass on the 37th lap to take third, Weber continued rolling into turns three and four, sliding in front of Shirley to take second on the same lap.
“I knew I was better than Babb, but Babb at the end of the straightaways, his car would kick out before he went to the bottom,” Weber said. “I knew if I could get by Babb, I would have a shot at it, because James and Shirley were running up top.”
Weber never let up, nosing James at the line to lead lap 38. But James kept his momentum on the high side, barely squeezing between the wall and Weber’s car exiting turns two and four to get back out front for lap 39. On the final lap, Weber and James ran side-by-side much of the way with James diving low to protect his lead entering turn three. Weber took advantage of the leader's lost momentum, beating James to the checkers by one length as the runner-up made contact with the frontstretch wall.
“When he did that, I just tried to stay under him and I knew he killed all his momentum when he did that, so I knew it gave me a shot,” Weber said. "After that, it was a drag race to the line. I thought I gave him plenty of room, myself.”
James, who wasn’t even sure Weber was on the lead lap when he first caught sight of the No. 92k, followed his instincts on the last lap.
“I guess I got in too hard and gave him too much room on the bottom. I thought it was the right thing to do,” James said. “It’s frustrating. He didn’t give me a lot of room at the frontchute. I think if he’d have gave me the room I’d have went by him on the cushion. But he definitely came up in my line. We’re going for the win ... he probably did the right thing. I’d have probably done the same to him.”
Weber, who normally drives a Crate Late Model for the Kehrer Brothers team, took the checkers with his left arm out the window in winning his first-ever feature start on Dirt Late Model racing’s most grueling series.
The main event was slowed by two cautions, neither for serious incidents. The first start was called back, then another yellow flew on the second lap when Mike Spatola and Dillan White got tangled up in turn one. All that came after late afternoon and evening sprinkles, along with ominous clouds and occasional lightning, delayed the night’s action, continually threatening but never stopping the program through the night.
Notes: Weber's Rocket Chassis is sponsored by Kehrer Bros. Roofing and Affordable Roofing. ... Weber primarily drives the Kehrer Bros. No. 8Ball Crate Late Model, subbing occasionally in Super Late Models for Randy Korte during health struggles in recent seasons. ... Entering the race he had four Super Late Model victories over the past three seasons, all in Korte’s Kehrer Bros. No. 00. ...ï¿½ Weber had a nine-victory season in the modified division at Tri-State several seasons ago in Terry Henson’s No. 71x. ... Twelve of 22 starters completed 40 laps at Tri-State. ... There was a dustup between crew members of series title contenders Brian Shirley and Shannon Babb in the closing laps with Bob Pierce among those breaking it up. ... Fifteen drivers were running at the finish. ... The tour takes a break Monday before returning to action with the 24th race on Tuesday at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky., the tour’s first race at the northern Kentucky oval since 2003.
UMP DIRTcar Summernationals @ Tri-State: (1) Scott Weber, (2) Scott James, (3) Brian Shirley, (4) Shannon Babb, (5) Brandon Sheppard, (6) Ryan Unzicker, (7) Austin Dillon, (8) Randy Korte, (9) Rodney Melvin, (10) Jason McBride, (11) Michael Kloos, (12) Bobby Pierce, (13) Jason Feger, (14) Mike Spatola, (15) Dillan White, (16) Nick Bartels, (17) Dennis Erb Jr., (18) Jason Riggs, (19) Kevin Cole, (20) Steve Karnes, (21) Chad Zobrist, (22) Steve Casebolt. Fast qualifier (among 28 cars): Unzicker, 14.234 seconds. Heat race winners: Sheppard, Shirley, James. Consolation winner: White. Provisional starters: McBride, Zobrist, Bartels, Karnes.
Polesitter Scott James has had plenty of success at Tri-State, but it’s been on a different surface than he’s found tonight at the tight quarter-mile oval. “This place has no grip,” James said. “It seems like the top might be best — unless you run down in the infield.” Of course, you can’t run in the infield, so James will likely be up top. “It’s way different than last year,” said James, who finished second to Shannon Babb in 2011. “It’s very slippery. ... Scott Weber of Festus, Mo., qualified for his first career Summernationals feature with his runner-up finish to James in the third heat. Weber nearly slipped by James on the final lap. “I was thinking, ‘Hell, I might as well give it a whirl,’ ” Weber said of his last-lap charge. “I was thinking redraw.” ... Engine problems in his primary car has forced Jason Feger into a backup car for the 40-lap feature. Feger will be driving a car with a rear end he bent June 22 in a Tri-City Speedway tangle with Dennis Erb Jr. He’s only driven the car once since, when he struggled at Peoria Speedway. He’d planned to get the rear end fixed on Monday’s off-day. “That was going to be tomorrow’s project,” Feger said while standing next to his ailing powerplant. “Now we’ve got a lot of projects.” ... Provisional starters are Jason McBride, Chad Zobrist, Nick Bartels and Steve Karnes (he gets the track provisional by finishing fourth in the consolation).
Polesitter Dillan White fended off a mid-race challenge from fourth-starting Mike Spatola and raced to a victory on the high side in the consolation race. Spatola finished second with sixth-starting Randy Korte and Steve Karnes get the other two transfer spots. Spatola slid under White in turn four halfway through the race, but White's high-side momentum carried him back into the lead and he stayed in control the rest of the way.
Finish: Dillan White, Mike Spatola, Randy Korte, Steve Karnes, Nick Bartels, Derek Chandler, Jason McBride, Chad Zobrist, Joe Godsey, Jerry Lierly.. Scratched: Kathy Jarvis.
Redraw and notes
Scott James drew the pole position in the redraw among heat winners. ... Series points leader Brian Shirley starts outside the front row and Brandon Sheppard starts third. ... Jason Feger, scheduled to start ninth in the main event, will start on the tail after going to a backup car because of engine problems. His No. 25 was smoking as it crossed the finish line in the heat race and he required a push back to his trailer.
Outside front-row starter Scott James got the jump on the outset and led comfortably most of the way before fending off a last-lap charge by Scott Weber. Weber, driving the No. 92k normally piloted by Brant Kehrer, roared by polesitter Jason Feger on the second lap and held the runner-up spot the rest of the way. Feger, his car smoking at the end and requiring a push to the pits, was third while Jason Riggs was a distant fourth. Kevin Cole got the fifth and final transfer spot. Randy Korte retired with a flat right-rear tire after frontstretch contact with Feger midway through the race. Kellen Conover retired to the infield on the second lap. The first start was called back for a poor start.
Finish: Scott James, Scott Weber, Jason Feger, Jason Riggs, Kevin Cole, Nick Bartels, Randy Korte, Kellen Conover. Scratched: Kathy Jarvis.
Despite a few shaky moments on failed starts, polesitter Brian Shirley cruised to victory in the second heat, building a half-straightaway lead after just four laps. The battle for second was a tight one with Steve Casebolt outpointing Dennis Erb Jr. early, then fending off repeated challenges from Austin Dillon. Dillon settled for third while Erb was a distant fourth. In a tight battle for the final transfer spot, a penalized Michael Kloos came out on top in the final laps. The lone caution appeared on the second lap for frontstretch debris. The race took four starts to get rolling. On the first attempt, Kloos was warned for jumping the start. On the second attempt, Shirley slid up across turns one and two to trigger chain-reaction bumping that persuaded Dennis Erb Jr. to pull up at the top of the backstretch; on the third attempt, Kloos stopped after getting a poor start and had to start on the tail.
Finish: Brian Shirley, Steve Casebolt, Austin Dillon, Dennis Erb Jr., Michael Kloos, Steve Karnes, Derek Chandler, Chad Zobrist. Scratched: Carnelll Parker III.
Third-starting Brandon Sheppard grabbed the lead quickly and went on to a 10-lap victory over polesitter Ryan Unzicker. Sheppard took the checkers a half-straight ahead of Unzicker while Shannon Babb came from fifth to get the third spot. Rodney Melvin was fourth and Bobby Pierce, who started outside the front row but briefly climbed the turn-two wall on the first lap, rallied on the last lap to get the fifth transfer spot ahead of Dillan White with an outside move exiting turn four.
Finish: Brandon Sheppard, Ryan Unzicker, Shannon Babb, Rodney Melvin, Bobby Pierce, Dillan White, Mike Spatola, Jason McBride, Jerry Lierly, Joe Godsey.
Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., topped 28 qualifiers Sunday on a the drizzly 23rd leg of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals at Tri-State Speedway.
He’ll start on the pole of the first heat after turning a lap of 14.234 seconds on the quarter-mile oval. Other heat race polesitters: series points leader Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill. The top five finishers from each of three heat races will transfer to the 40-lap main event with the rest of the field set by consolation races and provisional starters.
The track forged ahead with the event despite rain sprinkles, swirling clouds and occasional lightning all around the racetrack throughout the evening. Track prep was delayed and hot laps began about 7:30 for the 28 Late Models and the track-record 52 modifieds.
At least the clouds and storms have brought cooler weather, temperatures 25 degrees below what drivers, crew members and fans have faced the past two weeks on the 28-race tour.
Series director Sam Driggers said that, in the event of a rainout, the $5,000-to-win race won’t be made up Monday, the last open date on the month-long schedule. Six races remain on the original 29-race schedule. ... Despite the weather, the track has drawn a respectable crowd on both sides of the track. ... Ryan Unzicker posted his second fast time of the series; he was previously quickest at Highland. ... Five-race winner Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., leads the series points with 1,449 over reigning champ Shannon Babb (1,415) with no other drivers within 170 points. ... Babb is a three-time series winner at Haubstadt. ... Rodney Melvin is a two-time series winner at Tri-State. ... Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., won Saturday’s race at Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway, breaking a two-year drought on the series. ... Bobby Pierce is back on the tour after skipping the previous four races; he ran the first 18 events with a best finish of second in Kankakee, Ill.; his father Bob is a former track champion at Tri-State. ... NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie Austin Dillon of Welcome, N.C., who finished fourth Saturday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, is making his Summernationals debut for 2012 and his first career start at Tri-State, one of crew chief Shane McDowell’s favorite track. ... Modified ace Scott Weber of Festus, Mo., is driving the No. 92k normally driven by Brant Kehrer; Weber has subbed several times this season for Randy Korte, who is in action at Tri-State in his No. 00. ... All the Riggs Motorsports cars are in the third group: Jason Riggs, Scott James and Kevin Cole. ... James finished third last night at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway after leading most of the 20-lapper. ... Besides the Late Models, 52 modifieds are in action, too, and they’ll be split into five heat races. ... Because of the rain delay, DirtonDirt.com’s video schedule will be shuffled and the Summernationals Minute will be later than usual.
Time trials (unofficial)
- Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 14.234
- Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.336
- Jason McBride (77), Carbondale, Ill., 14.402
- Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 14.838
- Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 14.968
- Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 15.100
- Dillan White (54), Crofton, Ky., 15.131
- Rodney Melvin (27), Benton, Ill., 15.487
- Jerry Lierly (7L), Camp Point, Ill., 15.692
- Joe Godsey (49), Bedford, Ind., 15.712
- Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 14.665
- Michael Kloos (6k), Trenton, Ill., 15.508
- Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 15.616
- Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.810
- Carnell Parker III (75), Clarksville, Tenn., 15.89
- Austin Dillon (3), Welcome, N.C., 15.905
- Steve Karnes (11), Marion, Ill., 15.930
- Chad Zobrist (78), Highland, Ill., 16.090
- Derek Chandler (35), Pontiac, Ill., 16.904
- Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 14.995
- Scott Weber (92k), Festus, Mo., 15.010
- Scott James (81), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 15.112
- Randy Korte (00), Highland, Ill., 15.561
- Kevin Cole (81c), Christopher, Ill., 15.867
- Jason Riggs (81jr), Harrisburg, Ill., 16.047
- Nick Bartels (27), El Segundo, Calif., 16.052
- Kellen Conover (76), Sumner, Ill., no time
- Kathy Jarvis (30), Park City, Utah, no time