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.

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.

The teams were already starting to load up when I came back across the track. The next evening they would be racing in Paducah, Kentucky. Just the night before, the teams unloaded at Sedalia. Then they traveled 60 miles to the Lake Ozark Speedway. The next event at Paducah would be 330 miles away. After the race at Paducah they would have to travel to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, to race on Friday night. Paducah to Lawrenceburg is another 320 miles. At that point there would still be two events to go in the week. Saturday's race at Clarksville, Tennessee, would be 280 miles from Lawrenceburg. The week would finish on Sunday in Lincoln, Illinois, yet another 360 miles from Clarksville. If we add up the mileage up, that's 1,350 miles in one week. The teams would have Monday off to start all over again the next day. Now you can start to see why it is called The Hell Tour.

The attraction to this madness is the large purses. Each race pays a minimum $6,000 to win, with the bigger shows on Friday and Saturday paying $10,000 to win. But just imagine trying to find time to work on your car with all of this travel. There are stories of teams working on the cars inside of their haulers while driving 70 mph down the highway. Of course no one wants to admit that they have done this.

Halfway through the tour 11 drivers had made every race. Some teams are forced to miss a race because of an accident or a blown engine. By midseason the series had drawn 148 drivers who had competed in at least one Summer National event. Through 13 events the tour had only one repeat winner, Dennis Miller of Illinois.

The Hell Tour allows the track owners to have a supporting event with the Late Models. For example, at Lake Ozark Speedway, Modifieds and Street Stocks also competed. Both classes had so many cars that a B-Main was needed for each. This provides the local drivers the opportunity to race in front of a big crowd (over 1,000 spectators mid-week at Lake Ozark) and for a big purse. The Modified race paid $1,000 to win, and the Street Stocks and Modifieds put on just as good a race as the Late Models.

If you live around the Midwest and have not ventured out to see The Hell Tour in action, you are missing out on some of the best racing in the country. There is not a whole lot better in life than sitting in the stands at your local dirt track on a summer evening and seeing some great racing.

The 2008 Hell Tour
JUNE 12THURS.KENTUCKY LAKE MOTOR SPEEDWAY/ CALVERT CITY, KY$7,500
JUNE 13FRI.BROWNSTOWN (IN) SPEEDWAY$10,000
JUNE 14SAT.KAMP MOTOR SPEEDWAY/ BOSWELL, IN$10,000
JUNE 15SUN.TRI-STATE SPEEDWAY/ HAUBSTADT, IN$6,000
JUNE 16MONOFF 
JUNE 17TUES.HIGHLAND SPEEDWAY/ HIGHLAND, IL$6,000
JUNE 18WED.BELLE CLAIR SPEEDWAY/ BELLEVILLE, IL$6,000
JUNE 19THURS.I-57/I-64 RACEWAY/ MT. VERNON , IL$6,000
JUNE 20FRI.FARMER CITY RACEWAY/ FARMER CITY, IL$10,000
JUNE 21SAT.I-55 RACEWAY/ PEVELY , MO$10,000
JUNE 22SUN.VERMILION COUNTY SPEEDWAY/ DANVILLE, IL$6,000
JUNE 23MON.OFF 
JUNE 24TUE.SEDALIA STATE FAIR SPEEDWAY/ SEDALIA, MO$6,000
JUNE 25WED.LAKE OZARK SPEEDWAY/ ELDON, MO$6,000
JUNE 26THURS.PADUCAH INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY/ PADUCAH , KY$6,000
JUNE 27FRI.LAWRENCEBURG SPEEDWAY/ LAWRENCEBURG, IN$10,000
JUNE 28SAT.CLARKSVILLE SPEEDWAY/ CLARKSVILLE, TN$10,000
JUNE 29SUN.LINCOLN SPEEDWAY/ LINCOLN, IL$6,000
JUNE 30MON.OFF 
JULY 1TUE.PEORIA SPEEDWAY/ PEORIA, IL$6,000
JULY 2WED.MORGAN COUNTY SPEEDWAY/ JACKSONVILLE, IL$6,000
JULY 3THURS.MACON SPEEDWAY/ MACON, IL$6,000
JULY 4FRI.TRI-CITY SPEEDWAY/ PONTOON BEACH, IL$10,000
JULY 5SAT.FAIRBURY AMERICAN LEGION SPEEDWAY/ FAIRBURY, IL$10,000
JULY 6SUN.QUAD CITY RACEWAY/ EAST MOLINE , IL$6,000
JULY 7MON.OFF 
JULY 8TUE.QUINCY (IL) SPEEDWAY$6,000
JULY 9WED.SPOON RIVER SPEEDWAY/ CANTON, IL$6,000
JULY 10THURS.LA SALLE SPEEDWAY/ LA SALLE , IL$6,000
JULY 11*FRI.BROWNSTOWN (IN) SPEEDWAY$10,000
JULY 12SAT.OAKSHADE RACEWAY/ WAUSEON, OH$10,000
*Rescheduled Date
SOURCE
U.M.P. DIRTcar Summer Nationals
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