CONCORD, N.C. – Sept. 12, 2013 – There were 518 drivers who took a shot at winning the 2013 DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship this summer, but it was Mike Harrison who emerged as the first driver to win the title twice.
Harrison, of Highland, Ill., edged Rusty Griffaw by 38 points on the strength of four victories, most of any driver on the tour for DIRTcar UMP Modifieds that primarily competed in conjunction with the DIRTcar Summer Nationals “Hell Tour” for late models.
The competition level has never been higher in the series, which makes Harrison’s accomplishments stand out even more. With 30 races on the schedule that ran from June 8 through July 20, Harrison was one of only three drivers to win more than once. Defending national champion Devin Gilpin earned two quick wins and Ryan Thomas posted a couple of July victories. Of the 25 races that were completed, that meant there were 20 different drivers who celebrated a win.
Harrison’s championship puts him in some rare air. He’s already a three-time DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion, and now a two-time DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champ.
“They’re all kind of special in their own way,” Harrison said. “Winning the first one was definitely big, the second year I kind of let it slip out of my hands after I led it for quite a while. To win it again this year and be the first repeat winner of the deal and win it in two of the three years is pretty special. You never know when you won’t be able to win these races or win these championships so you have to take advantage of it when you can.”
Harrison is appreciative of Summit’s involvement in bringing the tour to life, giving UMP Modified drivers a chance to measure up against each other on different tracks throughout the Midwest. The point system counts a driver’s seven-best finishes so even if a racer can’t tour for five weeks, he can still compete for the crown.
For Harrison, though, winning championships is more about preparation than anything else.
“It all starts in the shop,” he said. “You and your crew have to get everything ready to go out and do this deal for however many days you’re going to go in a row. I think this time we did a couple of four- and five-day series. You have to spend hours in the shop. You never know what’s going to happen.
“You go out and try to win every race. That’s what we’re all there for. You can’t win every race you’re in, but you can sure try. If you don’t win, top-three’s, top-five’s, it all adds up.”
One of the most challenging aspects to competing on the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals tour is that many of the drivers also have day jobs and race at nights and on weekends to quench their passion for dirt track racing. Harrison is no exception, although working in the farming industry in downstate Illinois allows him a little more time during the summer to chase wins and championships.
“They know us modified guys don’t do it for a living, we’ve all got jobs, we can’t be out there like the late model guys for 30-something days straight,” Harrison said. “They’ve got it set up so you can pick-and-choose the races that are closer to home and try to hit as many as you can, but you don’t absolutely have to hit every single one of them because we’ve all got jobs also.
“Luckily I work for a big farming outfit and that is kind of our offseason so it does give me a little bit of leeway to be able to take off three or four days to go do a couple of these week-long trips. I can’t thank them enough for letting me be able to do that.”
Of course, there are no tougher critics than friends and co-workers.
“They know night from night what I do,” Harrison said. “If I don’t talk to them, one of my other crew guys will keep them updated every night. Usually when I win it’s, ‘Good job!’ and if I don’t win or don’t do well it’s, ‘You suck!’ We have a good time at work, we have a good bunch of guys. They know you can’t win every race.”
Harrison does earn his fair share of victories, though, even if the competition continues to get tougher each year.
“It’s tough, these guys, we’re all out there to win,” Harrison said. “A good friend of mine, Rusty Griffaw, he was definitely on his game this year. I hated that it came down between me and him. We race together quite often. We’ve definitely had our differences through the years, but as we all get older we get a little more grown up. It definitely isn’t a cakewalk anymore, I’ll tell you that. It’s tough, it is tough. … The competition level in these modifieds, that’s why I love it so much. There’s a big group of us guys who are so passionate about these modifieds. We just love them. They’re a handful. You’ve got so much horsepower to the little bitty tire that you have, it’s a handful to drive the thing sometimes.”
A handful of victories, though, can make it all worthwhile.
For more on the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals, click http://www.ModifiedNationals.com.
2013 DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals Results
|Saturday||June 8||Tri-State Speedway||Haubstadt, IN||Devin Gilpin (Non-points)|
|Wednesday||June 12||Brownstown Speedway||Brownstown, IN||Devin Gilpin (2)|
|Friday||June 14||Kankakee County Speedway||Kankakee, IL||Nick Allen|
|Sunday||June 16||Wilmot Raceway||Wilmot, WI||Mitch McGrath|
|Wednesday||June 19||Spoon River Speedway||Canton, IL||Kenny Wallace|
|Thursday||June 20||Belle-Clair Speedway||Belleville, IL||Brian Beilong|
|Friday||June 21||Tri-City Speedway||Pontoon Beach, IL||Michael Long|
|Saturday||June 22||Fairbury Speedway||Fairbury, IL||Lance Dehm|
|Sunday||June 23||I-96 Speedway||Lake Odessa, MI||Dona Marcoullier|
|Monday||June 24||Peoria Speedway||Peoria, IL||Cancelled (RAIN)|
|Wednesday||June 26||Clarksville Speedway||Clarksville, TN||Matt Cooper|
|Thursday||June 27||Clayhill Motorsports Park||Atwood, TN||Lucas Lee|
|Friday||June 28||Paducah International Raceway||Paducah, KY||Mike Harrison|
|Saturday||June 29||Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55||Pevely, MO||Postponed/Rain|
|Sunday||June 30||Lincoln Speedway||Lincoln, IL||Ray Bollinger|
|Tuesday||July 2||Quincy Raceways||Quincy, IL||Steven DeLonjay|
|Wednesday||July 3||Jacksonville Speedway||Jacksonville, IL||David Wietholder|
|Thursday||July 4||LaSalle Speedway||LaSalle, IL||Donovan Lodge|
|Friday||July 5||Fayette County Speedway||Brownstown, IL||Brent Mullins|
|Saturday||July 6||Highland Speedway||Highland, IL||Postponed (RAIN)|
|Sunday||July 7||Tri-State Speedway||Haubstadt, IN||Mike Harrison (2)|
|Tuesday||July 9||Florence Speedway||Union, KY||Ryan Thomas|
|Wednesday||July 10||Terre Haute Action Track||Terre Haute, IN||Cancelled (RAIN)|
|Thursday||July 11||Macon Speedway||Macon, IL||Mike Harrison (3)|
|Friday||July 12||Kankakee County Speedway||Kankakee, IL||Jeff Curl|
|Sunday||July 14||Vermillion County Speedway||Danville, IL||Ryan Thomas (2)|
|Monday||July 15||Peoria Speedway||Peoria, IL||Mike Harrison (4)|
|Wednesday||July 17||Brushcreek Motorsports Park||Peebles, OH||Doug Adkins (Non-points)|
|Friday||July 19||Attica Raceway Park||Attica, OH||Kevin Morehouse|
|Saturday||July 20||Oakshade Raceway||Wauseon, OH||Jeff Babcock|
The Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals is proudly brought to you by these fine partners : Summit Racing Equipment (Title Sponsor), Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Provider), Hoosier Racing Tire (Official Racing Tire), VP Racing Fuels (Official Fuel), along with these Contingency Parters: MSD Performance, TomCat Performance, Landrum Performance Springs, Dominator Race Products, QuarterMaster, KSE Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Wrisco Aluminum, Beyea Custom Headers, Fast Shafts, Bassett Wheels, QA1, Auto Meter, Schoenfeld Headers, University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH), Racing Electronics, Intercomp, Bell Helmets, Shafer Enterprises’ Cool Shirts, XS Power Racing Batteries, and Chevy Performance.