Around the Midwest you will...
Around the Midwest you will not find another series as difficult as the U.M.P. DIRTcar Summer Nationals. Teams race 26 events in 31 days.
Imagine a world where short track racing never ends. Seven days a week you can travel to a given track and see some great racing. I can hear the series promoters, track owners, and even some drivers grumble. This just can't happen, right? It is way too exhausting to expect a series, track, or driver to race every day of the week.
Well, no one thought to tell this to the folks who put together the UMP DIRTcar Summer Nationals. The series dubbed "The Hell Tour" by drivers and owners races 26 events in 31 days! For four and a half weeks teams travel across the Midwest and race six of seven nights, taking off only Monday nights.
The Hell Tour celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and is well known throughout the Midwest as producing great drivers-among them Shannon Babb, Terry English, Wendell Wallace, and Terry Phillips. If you can win any Summer National Event you can say you have done something because the series is so competitive and grueling. It involves literally thousands of miles of traveling to make every event.
Recently I had the opportunity to see the series in action at the Lake Ozark Speedway in Missouri. I showed up at the track with no idea of what I was going to watch. I knew it was a Dirt Late Model race, but I thought it was going to be just a normal short track race. The pits were abuzz with the finish of the race at Sedalia where Brian Shirley passed Billy Moyer on the last lap for the win the night before. As hot laps started I walked up and down the pits to get a glimpse of the name drivers at this race.
Event 10 at Lake Ozark Speedway...
Event 10 at Lake Ozark Speedway was extremely competitive with three-wide racing throughout the event.
In the Dirt Late Model world you can tell how big your event is by the names that turn out. This particular Wednesday night had Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer, Jeep VanWormer, 2007 Summer National champion Dennis Erb Jr., and Don O'Neal, to name a few. Close to 40 Late Models showed up for the Wednesday night race. The weekend shows draw close to 60 Late Models.
The racing action was amazing, typical of Dirt Late Model events. There is nothing like seeing an 800hp Late Model raise the left-front tire off the ground and rocket down the straightaway. Moyer dominated the first half of the 40-lap event. But with 10 to go a black car could be seen riding what was left of the cushion at the top of the track. It was O'Neal, who had found a lot of speed up top and was running Moyer down. With five to go not a single spectator could be found sitting down. O'Neal had caught Moyer and was peeking to his outside going into Turn 3 when his right-rear tire hopped the cushion and ended his chances at the win in the turn three wall. O'Neal finished 13th. Moyer got the win with Erb Jr. finishing Second.
You would think that the concept of the tour would produce a lot of give and take between the drivers because any body panel or chassis damaged in any one event will literally take time away from their rest and sleep. But the drivers were battling extremely hard not willing to give up a single position on the track. However, when Moyer passed Erb Jr. for the lead on lap two, you could see Moyer and Erb both understood that they had to keep their car in one piece. But if Erb could have reached Moyer at the finish and pulled a slide job on him for the win, he likely would have tried it.
Dennis Erb Jr. came up a bit...
Dennis Erb Jr. came up a bit short, finishing Second. Erb was the 2007 U.M.P. Summer National Champion.
The Modified racing was s...
The Modified racing was spectacular.
Lake Ozark Speedway is 1/3-mile...
Lake Ozark Speedway is 1/3-mile bullring covered in 14 seconds by the 800hp Late Models.