ROSSBURG, OH – Oct. 7, 2010 – This weekend’s DIRTcar UMP Nationals at Eldora Speedway will serve as a coronation for 2010 DIRTcar Late Model national champion Rusty Schlenk.
But for the UMP Modified division, the big autumn weekend will provide a dramatic conclusion to one of the closest national points battles in circuit history.
Schlenk, 24, of Jackson, Mich., clinched his first-ever DIRTcar Late Model national crown last weekend, allowing him to enter the points-season-ending event this weekend (Oct. 8-9) at the famed Eldora half-mile oval with no pressure hanging over his head.
The 2010 UMP Modified national title, however, remains undecided. Mike Harrison of Highland, Ill., leads the standings, but Nick Allen of Wheatfield, Ind., can still rise up to steal the crown with a grand flourish in the division’s finale.
The DIRTcar UMP Nationals kicks off on Friday night (Oct. 8th) with practice and time trial sessions for the Late Models and UMP Modifieds, followed by heat races for the Modifieds and Race of Champions events for both divisions. Saturday’s agenda includes the Late Model heats plus B-Mains and features for the two classes.
Schlenk enters the weekend on an emotional high after salting away the DIRTcar Late Model national title last Friday night at Kankakee (Ill.) County Speedway. He crashed hard early in the evening’s 60-lap Triple Crown Clash event and finished 25th, but he clinched the crown when defending national champion Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., managed only a fourth-place finish. Feger needed to win or place second to keep alive his hopes for a championship repeat.
Clinching the $20,000 title was a relief for Schlenk, who led the national standings for much of the campaign but struggled with bad luck down the stretch. Schlenk’s slump allowed Feger to close the points gap, but Schlenk’s cushion was too much to overcome.
“It was definitely a long road getting there – a long summer and a lot of blood, sweat and tears throughout the season trying to get this thing wrapped up,” said Schlenk, whose DIRTcar UMP-leading 20 feature wins this season included DIRTcar Summer Nationals victories at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway and Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio. “About the last week, week-and-a-half, we started feeling (the pressure) pretty hard. (Feger) started knocking off a couple a couple wins the last week and it got me a little nervous, but it worked out good.”
Schlenk will take his national championship victory lap at Eldora, a track that’s been good to him in the past. He won an American Late Model Series feature there on May 30.
The UMP Modified championship, meanwhile, will be fought between Harrison and Allen. With Allen trailing Harrison by 13 points, Allen has one scenario possible to give the title – win Saturday night’s feature at Eldora without Harrison crossing the finish line behind him in second.
Harrison, a 36-year-old who won the UMP Modified national championship in 2004, is coming off his circuit-leading 28th feature triumph of 2010 last Saturday night at Kankakee. The victory added seven points to his overall total, which in the UMP Modified division is determined using drivers’ best 35 finishes/points nights (feature finish plus car-count bonus points).
While Allen is actually third in the points standings behind Devin Gilpin of Columbus, Ind., Gilpin is mathematically eliminated from title contention. Gilpin trails Harrison by 11 points but can only gain a maximum of 10 points at Eldora because the worst points night he is replacing is a 75 (Eldora’s winner will earn 85 points). Allen is replacing a 70-point night, giving him an opportunity to pick up 15 points with a win and grab his first career national title if Harrison does not finish second.
This weekend’s action, which will feature NASCAR veteran Kenny Schrader competing in both the Late Model and Modified events, will begin on Friday with hot laps at 6:15 p.m. Racing gets the green flag on Saturday at 6 p.m.
For more information visit www.eldoraspeedway.com or call 937-338-3815.
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