Shirley's Brownstown win tightens UMP title chase
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com chief writer
BROWNSTOWN, Ind. (July 11) — Making sure the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals title battle comes down to the final race, sixth-starting Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., made a stirring run in the final laps of the 18th leg of the series at Brownstown Speedway for a $10,000 victory.
Shirley slipped past Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., on the 37th of 40 caution-free laps and edged away for a victory to unofficially pull within four points of series leader Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., who languished mid-pack before rallying for a fourth-place finish. Unofficially, Erb will enter Saturday's finale at Oakshade Raceway with 1,455 points with Shirley, who entered Brownstown 19 points behind, at 1,451.
Van Wormer, who led laps 33-36, finished second with polesitter Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who led the first 32 laps, third. Erb and Kevin Claycomb of Vincennes, Ind., who lost his rhythm when he hit a turn-one hole and then was briefly held up by a lapped car, was fifth in his first start since winning the June 26 series race in Paducah, Ky.
O'Neal, who has been hampered by mechanical failures and a wall-banging wreck on the series, built a half-straightaway lead after five laps while the third-starting Claycomb slipped by the second-starting Van Wormer on the sixth lap and tried to track down O'Neal. Claycomb, on the high side, pulled within three lengths of the low-running O'Neal by the 10th lap but O'Neal kept him at bay through the race's midpoint. On lap 20, Claycomb lost momentum trying to lap Cody Mahoney and Van Wormer shot past as he ran the high groove with Claycomb and Shirley in tow.
O'Neal, on softer tires than the other frontrunners, began to struggled amid traffic by lap 28 and had difficulty finding a way past the low-running Derek Fisher. Van Wormer closed in and, after the two brushed at the flagstand on lap 30, Van Wormer worked his way past. A three-way lead battle developed with Van Wormer high, Shirley in the middle and O'Neal hanging on down low.
Van Wormer led Shirley by a half-length on lap 36, but he couldn't fight him off on the next lap as Van Wormer barely stayed on the track in running the extreme high groove. Shirley edged away over the final laps for the the victory, his third on the series to match the only other three-time series winner, Darren Miller. Shirley's previous victories came June 24 at State Fair Speedway in Sedalia, Mo., and June 29 at Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway.
Erb, who started 10th, took a while to get rolling but worked his way up to fourth at the finish to maintain his points lead. He's gunning for his second consecutive Summernationals title worth $25,000.
Feature notes: The series points wrap up Saturday with a $10,000-to-win event at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio. ... Will Vaught and Tim Lance were both no-shows as they skipped their first series events. ... In a scary accident in the Crate Late Model feature preceding the UMP main, Zack Blackwood's car flipped violently on the frontstretch and landed on its roof. Track officials and medical personnel gently used a backboard and neck brace in pulling him from the car and he was taken away in an ambulance. There was no immediate report of his condition.
UMP @ Brownstown: (1) Brian Shirley, (2) Jeep Van Wormer, (3) Don O'Neal, (4) Dennis Erb Jr., (5) Kevin Claycomb, (6) Wes Steidinger, (7) Darren Miller, (8) Terry English, (9) Jordan Bland, (10) Kevin Weaver, (11) Ryan Unzicker, (12) Jason Feger, (13) Brad Neat, (14) Matt Miller, (15) Greg Johnson, (16) Derek Fisher, (17) Steve Sheppard Jr., (18) Shannon Reed, (19) Cody Mahoney, (20) Mike Jewell, (21) Randy Korte. Fast qualifier (among 37 cars): O'Neal, 13.799 seconds. Heat race winners: O'Neal, Van Wormer, Claycomb, Steidinger. C-Main winner: Unzicker. B-Main winner: Weaver. Provisional starters: Korte, Unzicker, Mahoney.
Row 1: O'Neal, Van Wormer
Row 2: Claycomb, Steidinger
Row 3: English, Shirley
Row 4: Fisher, Bland
Row 5: Jewell, Erb
Row 6: D. Miller, G. Johnson
Row 7: Weaver, Feger
Row 8: Neat, Reed
Row 9: S. Sheppard, M. Miller
Row 10: Korte, Unzicker
Row 11: Mahoney
Starting outside the front row, Kevin Weaver raced to a caution-free victory over polesitter Jason Feger as they cruised to the top two transfer spots in the feature. Other drivers transferring: fifth-starting Brad Neat, third-starting Shannon Reed, seventh-starting Steve Sheppard Jr. and 12th-starting Matt Miller, who rallied on the outside. The race was run after the track made repairs to a turn-one hole that was causing tire problems for several drivers.
Finish: Kevin Weaver, Jason Feger, Brad Neat, Shannon Reed, Steve Sheppard Jr., Matt Miller, Cody Mahoney, Ryan Unzicker, Brandon Sheppard, Tim Prince, Chad Stapleton, Justin Shaw, Jason McBride, Scott Jones, Jim Moon.
Ryan Unzicker, who started fourth, won the C-Main to transfer to the B-Main along with Tim Prince, Jim Moon and Jason McBride
Finish: Ryan Unzicker, Tim Prince, Jim Moon, Jason McBride, Brian Wilhite, Jason Smith, Joe Janowski.
Third-starting Wes Steidinger, inheriting the lead when race-long leader Matt Miller peeled his left-rear tire off on the final lap to draw a caution, won a one-lap shootout over polesitter Jordan Bland. Greg Johnson got the third and final transfer spot in a race where just five cars finished. Miller was in firm control of the race when he pulled up in turn two with tire problems. Earlier in the race, Ryan Unzicker peeled a left-rear wheel off the rim and spun in turn two.
Finish: Wes Steidinger, Jordan Bland, Greg Johnson, Cody Mahoney, Scott Jones, Matt Miller, Ryan Unzicker, John Gill.
Polesitter Jeep Van Wormer repelled repeated challenges from third-starting Darren Miller through the first six laps, then edged away to win by nearly a straightaway as Miller slowed in the final laps with a right-rear wheel that was vibrating like a jackhammer. Tail-starting Derek Fisher rallied to finish second while Miller held on to the third and final transfer spot. Steve Barnett brought out a lap-four caution when he slowed and left the track with a flat left-rear tire. Another caution came out on the restart when third-running Steve Sheppard Jr. slipped over the banking in turns one and two. Tim Prince was running fourth midway through the race when he slipped over the backstretch banking; he didn't draw a caution but he pulled off the track.
Finish: Jeep Van Wormer, Derek Fisher, Darren Miller, Shannon Reed, Steve Sheppard Jr., Justin Shaw, Glen Thompson Jr., Tim Prince, Steve Barnett.
Starting outside the front row, Kevin Claycomb cruised to a half-straightaway victory in the second heat, topping Summernationals title pursuers Brian Shirley and Dennis Erb Jr. The polesitter Shirley turned back several challenges from Erb as they took the second and final transfer spots. Kevin Weaver finished further back in fourth.
Finish: Kevin Claycomb, Brian Shirley, Dennis Erb Jr., Kevin Weaver, Randy Korte, Chad Stapleton, James Huff, Jason Smith.
Polesitter Don O'Neal raced to a four-length victory over fellow front-row starter Terry English in the caution-free 10-lapper. Mike Jewell was a distant third, just ahead of Jason Feger and Brad Neat in capturing the final transfer spot.
Finish: Don O'Neal, Terry English, Mike Jewell, Jason Feger, Brad Neat, Brandon Sheppard, Rocky Hodges, Brian Wilhite, Joe Janowski.
Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., back on the series at his home track after engine problems forced him off the series, was the fastest among 37 qualifiers at Brownstown Speedway for the 19th leg of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. O'Neal posted a time of 13.799 seconds for his lap on the quarter-mile oval. O'Neal will start on the pole of a heat race along with other qualifiers who topped their qualifying groups: Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich., and Jordan Bland of Campbellsville, Ky.ï¿½ The top three finishers from each of four heat races will transfer to the feature event, while finishers 4-6 will go to the B-Main. Everyone else goes to the C-Main.
Dennis Erb Jr. leads Brian Shirley by 19 points heading into the second-to-last race of series. .. Among drivers returning to the series are previous winners Brad Neat (who won the June 12 opener at Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway), Terry English (who won June 17 at Highland, Ill.) and Kevin Claycomb, who's been on a Florida vacation since winning June 26 at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway. .. Derek Fisher went over the backstretch banking on his time trial lap. .. Cody Mahoney slipped over the frontstretch banking just before completing his qualifying lap.
Time trials (unofficial)
(Heats start straightup according to times)
Don O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind. 13.799
Terry English (96), Benton, Ky. 13.937
Mike Jewell (9), Scottsburg, Ind. 14.168
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill. 14.308
Brad Neat (41), Dunnville, Ky. 14.375
Joe Janowski (6), Columbus, Ind. 14.551
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill. 14.569
Rocky Hodges (4m), Edinburgh, Ind. 14.791
Brian Wilhite (5w), Edinburg, Ind. . 15.346
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill. 13.899
Kevin Claycomb (16c), Vincennes, Ind. 14.205
Randy Korte (00), Highland, Ill. 14.253
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill. 14.267
Kevin Weaver (B12), Gibson City, Ill. 14.584
Jason Smith (73), hometown unavailable. 14.623
Jason McBride (77), Carbondale, Ill. 14.742
James Huff (5), Milton, Ky. 15.054
Jim Moon (12), Zionsville, Ind. 15.484
Chad Stapleton (32), hometown unknown, no time
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich. 13.822
Steve Sheppard Jr. (5s), New Berlin, Ill. 14.138
Darren Miller (32D), Milledgeville, Ill. 14.181
Steve Barnett (20), Franklin, Ind. 14.266
Tim Prince (P1), Heltonville, Ind. 14.64
Justin Shaw (2), Greenwood, Ind. 14.738
Shannon Reed (21r), Bloomington, Ind. 14.839
Glen Thompson Jr. (48), hometown unavailable. 15.749
Derek Fisher (39), Columbus, Ind. 16.616
Jordan Bland (12), Campbellsville, Ky. 14.127
Matt Miller (7), Waterville, Ohio. 14.203
Wes Steidinger (J1), Fairbury, Ill. 14.526
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill. 14.613
Greg Johnson (30), Columbus, Ind. 14.617
John Gill (1G), Mitchell, Ind. 14.716
Scott Jones (79), hometown unavailable. 14.882
Cody Mahoney (4), Madison, Ind. 15.211