Shirley gets top honors at UMP banquet
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Jan. 5) — Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and Devin Gilpin of Columbus, Ind., shared the spotlight during Saturday night’s 29th annual DIRTcar Racing UMP Night of Champions Awards Banquet inside the Springfield Crowne Plaza Hotel’s ballroom.
Shirley, 31, entered the UMP’s Late Model history books in 2012, becoming just the third driver to win the organization’s Summernationals and weekly points titles in the same season. His sweep earned him the lion’s share of the $45,200 in points-fund checks he collected on Saturday evening.
The 22-year-old Gilpin, meanwhile, accomplished his 2012 objective, winning his first UMP modified weekly title with a circuit-leading 36 features en route to a total points-fund payoff of $21,600 for his season-long efforts.
Nearly 900 attendees from more than a dozen states and Canada watched as DIRTcar Racing officials distributed over $350,000 to the champions and top performers who raced under the UMP banner in 2012.
Shirley’s portion of the UMP points-fund spoils was the largest accumulated by a Late Model driver since 2008 when Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., pocketed $51,400 for sweeping the Summernationals and weekly crowns. Erb (2007-08) and Indiana’s John Gill (1986) preceded Shirley as double-dip champions.
“It definitely was my best, most consistent all-around season,” said Shirley, a professional racer who drove self-owned equipment to his historic season. “My wife and kids brought a lot more meaning to the situation, a lot more of what you’re fighting for. When you go out and do your job it’s just not you anymore. It’s your family, so you put a lot more emphasis on what you’re doing every day.”
A Late Model competitor for a decade, Shirley beat three-time and defending Summernationals champ Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., by a healthy 70-point margin (1,857-1,787) for his first series title. He outgunned veteran Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., by 58 points (2,556-2,498) for the weekly crown.
Shirley’s 2012 log showed 12 wins (at eight Illinois tracks) and 43 top-five finishes in 71 UMP starts. He picked up $25,000 for the Hell Tour title, $20,000 for the national crown and $200 for finishing sixth in the Illinois points.
The night’s third-largest national championship check was presented to Bobby Dauderman of Alhambra, Ill., who pocketed $10,000 for capturing UMP’s Crate Late Model title. The 25-year-old driver, who makes his living as a maintenance worker at a construction company, also collected $200 for finishing third in the Southern standings.
Other Super Late Model champions, earning $2,000 apiece, were Weaver (Illinois), Rusty Schlenk (Eastern), Brandon Thirlby (Michigan-Canada), Michael Kloos (Midwest), Rob Mayea (Northwest), Terry English (Southern) and Justin Wells (Western).
Dustin Griffin, 26, of Camp Point, Ill., received $1,000 for winning the Super Late Model Rookie of the Year award. He captured 10 features and finished 11th in the national standings.
A number of special awards determined by a vote of the DIRTcar UMP membership were handed out:
• Frankie Martin of DuQuoin, Ill. (Late Models) and Nick Allen (modifieds) received Sportsman of the Year trophies.
* Aaron Faugust, who turns the wrenches on Shirley’s Late Models, won Mechanic of the Year awards.
• Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill., was announced as the DIRTcar UMP Track of the Year.
• Tom Smith of Kankakee County (Ill.) Speedway was presented the DIRTcar UMP Promoter of the Year award.
Former UMP Late Model national champion Bob Pierce received the eighth annual Bob Memmer Achievement Award, which honors the memory of the circuit’s late founder. The resident of Oakwood, Ill., is a huge figure in DIRTcar UMP’s history, not only as a driver but also in his current role as a high-profile chassis builder and the father of up-and-coming teenage Late Model racer Bobby Pierce.
Adding to a big night for Pierce, he also was honored as the 2012 Late Model national champion chassis builder and the UMP modified Chassis Builder of the Year. Pierce-constructed UMP Modifieds registered 139 sanctioned feature wins in ’12.
Bill Schlieper’s Pro Power Engines in Sullivan, Wis., meanwhile, earned billing as Engine Builder of the Year (circuit-leading 102 wins). Rocket Chassis was designated the Late Model Chassis Builder of the Year for picking up 138 victories.