ROSSBURG, Ohio — On a typical race night, about one-third of the field gets to compete in the headlining feature.
That wasn’t the case Thursday night in Eldora Speedway’s opening leg of the UMP DIRTcar National Championships, as 96 of the 116 competing modifieds advanced to not one, but four headliners. Capturing $1,000 paydays were Bryan Barber, Jerry Bowersock, Devin Gilpin and Brian Ruhlman.
The route to those four main events entailed eight preliminary heat races and four B features and that will be the same map to be used Friday night in leg number two of the three-day event.
A driver’s best finish over the two nights will then be used to line-up Saturday’s ‘alphabet soup’ of feature events; with the best 20 locked into one of the 32-starting positions. The balance will come from the preceding features, along with four ‘point provisional’ positions.
That bodes well for Barber, Bowersock, Gilpin and Ruhlman who pretty much locked themselves in Thursday. The balance of the field that represented ten states and Canada will get shot number two on Friday. Joining the modifieds Saturday will be the UMP DIRTcar late models as both feature events that night reward the winner with $5,000.
Barber kicked off the night with a strong run that was made a little more difficult in the closing laps. He had built up a comfortable margin over Ray Bollinger and Aaron Orr that was eliminated two laps from the finish as a spinning car collected both of them and relegated them to the pit area. That moved up Chad Kinder and Jacob Hawkins into second and third, and when the checkered flag waved that was how they crossed the line.
Bowersock used his knowledge of Eldora and his multiple championships to ride him to a strong win over Andy Sprague and Jimmy Payne, while Gilpin’s thrilling victory came at the expense of Dean Hoffman and Matt Mevert.
Closing out the night was Ruhlman in a daring last-lap pass over Matt Westfall, with a rapidly closing Kent Robinson right there in third.