CONCORD, N.C. — Brandon Sheppard, of New Berlin, Ill. (late models) and Devin Gilpin, of Columbus, Ind., (UMP Modifieds) have DIRTcar UMP national championships in sight as the circuits 2013 weekly points racing season draws to a close.
Sheppard enters this weekends action leading the DIRTcar UMP Late Model national standings by 79 points (2,511-2,432) over teenager Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., while Gilpin holds a 63-point edge (2,290-2,227) over Jacob Poel of Spring Lake, Mich., in his bid for a second consecutive UMP Modified title.
Just three full weekends of weekly points competition remain before the organizations 2013 campaign ends with the annual DIRTcar UMP Nationals on Oct. 3-5 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Sheppard, 20, is sitting at the doorstep of DIRTcar UMP history. Already the youngest DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion after claiming the Hell Tour crown for the first time earlier this year, he could become the circuits youngest Late Model national champ as well.
In addition, Sheppard is bidding to become the fourth driver to win both the DIRTcar Summer Nationals and national late model championships in the same season, joining Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill. (2012), Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ind. (2007-08) and Indianas John Gill (1986).
Sheppard has built his points lead in the national standings, which are determined using drivers best 35 finishes/points nights, by showing remarkable consistency and versatility behind the wheel of his family-owned Rocket No. b5. He has recorded 44 top-five finishes in DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned events through Sept. 8, and his 13 feature wins this season have come at nine different tracks.
The latest success on Sheppards ledger came on Sept. 8 at Quincy (Ill.) Raceways, where he earned his fourth feature win of 2013 after making a long overnight haul from Eldora Speedway following his 15th-place finish in the World 100.
Pierce, 16, is making a late-season charge that he hopes will make him the youngest DIRTcar UMP late model national champion in history and add his name to a list of titlists that includes his father Bob, who won the national crown in 1990. He has been steadily closing the gap on Sheppard since Aug. 10, when he began a sizzling 14-race stretch that has seen him accumulate three wins, six runner-up finishes, two thirds and one fourth.
With eight DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned feature wins at seven different tracks, 39 top-five finishes and a second-place performance in the DIRTcar Summer Nationals points battle to his credit, Pierce has put together a breakout season in his own right. He is coming off one of his biggest head-turning outings of the season: a fourth-place finish in last Saturday nights World 100 in what was his first career start in the rich event.
Sheppard and Pierce are expected to race head-to-head this weekend in World of Outlaws Late Model Series events co-sanctioned by DIRTcar UMP on Friday (Sept. 13) at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill., and Saturday (Sept. 14) at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo.
The 23-year-old Gilpin, meanwhile, is seeking to become just the fourth DIRTcar UMP modified driver in two decades of racing to capture the national title in back-to-back seasons.
Gilpin, who won the UMP modified national crown for the first time in 2012 on the strength of 37 feature wins, has reached victory lane 27 times this season to date. But while his checkered-flag total is lower in 13, hes put up a hot streak for the ages: an incredible 13 consecutive wins from May 3 through June 13.
Still alive in the UMP modified championship battle are Poel and Nick Allen, of Wheatfield, Ind., who sits third in the standings, 81 points behind Gilpin. Both Poel and Allen have won 18 features this season.
Other Other divisional national points leaders through Sept. 8 are Aaron Heck, of Mt. Vernon, Ill. (Pro Late Models); Steve Peeden, of Paragon, Ind. (Sportsman); Brad DeYoung, of Wheatfield, Ind. (Limited/Pro Modifieds); Josh Frye, of Coopersville, Mich. (Stock Cars); Jason Worley, of St. Genevieve, Mo. (Factory Stocks); and Adam Webb, of Decatur, Ill. (Sport Compacts).