ROSSBURG, Ohio — After completing 22 races for the 172 UMP (United Midwestern Promoters) DIRTcar Modifieds and Late Models on hand, four point championships were decided in front of a loyal crowd of racing fans that braved the cold and damp conditions in an all-day marathon Saturday at Eldora Speedway.
With Jason Feger (late models) and Nick Hoffman (modifieds) captured the feature events, the annual UMP National Championships found Brian Shirley (late models) and Devin Gilpin (modifieds) hanging on to their points leads to claim National titles, while Joey Kramer (modifieds) and Jeep Van Wormer (late models) used their runs to score coveted Eldora Speedway track titles.
The Eldora modified points championship came down to a dramatic finish as Kramer of Hanover, Ind., held off runner-up Rob Williams of Eaton, Ohio. As Hoffman was winning the 25-lap feature, Kramer and Williams were battling their own war, trying to grab as many points as possible. Kramer entered the race with a two-point lead over Williams. That seemed secure as Kramer started seventh in the 28-car field; while Williams needed a provisional starting position to start 26th in the line-up. Williams was in a transfer position in his preliminary heat, but was tagged from behind and crashed out in the closing laps.
With five laps remaining in the feature, Kramer slowed in Turn 4 and directed his car to the pits with a flat tire. That put Williams two spots ahead of Kramer in the points chase and needing to pass only one car to claim the championship. But Kramer returned to the track after a quick tire change and had enough left to finish 12tt. Williams finished 15th. Two other drivers in the modified points chase failed to make the feature. Matt Westfall entered four points out of first but tagged the wall during qualifying to end his day. Ryan Sutter, five points out of first, saw an accident end his pursuit of Kramer in the B-Feature.
Hoffman of North Carolina, meanwhile, inherited the lead from Illinois’ Mike Harrison on the same lap that Kramer pitted. He led the final five laps. It was a tough-luck finish for Harrison after he had rocketed to a straight-away lead and dominated the first 20 laps.
“I can’t believe this. To win the biggest race of the year at the beginning of the year and to win one of the biggest at the end of the year, it’s unreal,” said Hoffman, who also won the Gator Championship in Florida in February. “To beat the cars we did, I can’t believe it.”
Gilpin of Columbus, Ind., maintained his overall points lead to capture the UMP national championship, aided by 35 feature wins this season.
“It’s been a long, hard road. In 2010 we led this deal with a few weeks to go … and to finally get it done and be able to stand on this stage as champion is amazing,” Gilpin said.
In the late model feature, Feger of Bloomington, Ill., held off a late-race challenge from Wayne Chinn and then Shirley to capture the 40-lapper. Chinn had been stealing the attention of the fans with his impressive charge through the field.
“I kept looking up at the scoreboard and was wondering who the No. 1 car (Chinn) was behind me, because there were a few of them out there. During the double file start I saw it was Wayne so I knew he must have been doing pretty good,” Feger said. “I was trying to be as good and smooth as I could. … Thanks to Feger Nation and to all the fans for braving the cold, the rain and for the ones who are still here for sticking it out. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Feger also won the Race of Champions for the late models by holding off fellow Illini driver Dennis Erb Jr. in the 12-lap special event. “Any time you stand in Victory Lane at Eldora it’s a good thing,” said Feger, who was turning laps in the 15.6-second range. “I felt like I was driving a sprint car we were going around there so fast.” Nick Allen of Wheatfield, Ind., won the 12-lap modified Race of Champions by a comfortable 1.3-second margin over Harrison.
Shirley of Chatham, Ill., finished third (behind Chinn) to win the UMP national championship for late models.
In the chase for the Eldora late model track championship, Pinconning, Michigan’s Van Wormer entered the race trailing Matt Miller of Whitehouse, Ohio, by six points. Miller stayed ahead of Van Wormer until 25 laps were in the books. That’s when Miller slowed on the track and Van Wormer gained valuable positions by finishing fifth. Miller fell to 20th after ending the race in the pits.