Over $360,000 in points fund money distributed for the 2017 racing season
by Matt Prieur
SPRINGFIELD, IL — Jan. 14, 2018 — Champions from around the country were honored on Saturday, January 14th during the 34th Annual DIRTcar Racing Tribute to Excellence National Awards Banquet at The Crowne Plaza in Springfield, IL. National and regional champions across 10 divisions were honored for their accomplishments from the 2017 racing season as over $360,000 in points fund money was distributed throughout the gala evening.
Highlighting the night was the accolades of now two-time DIRTcar Late Model national champion, Rusty Schlenk who added the 2017 crown to his 2010 title, becoming just the eighth driver in the 34-year history of DIRTcar to win more than one national title. The 31-year-old standout, originally from Jackson, MI now calls McClure, OH home and visited Victory Lane 21 times overall in four different states during the 2017 racing season in his #cj1 C.J. Rayburn by RSR machine.
Schlenk would also walk away with his fifth DIRTcar East Regional Championship while also finishing second in points in the Sunoco American Late Model Series where he is a four-time series champion, scoring three of his wins there. Schlenk also grabbed seven of his feature wins (two within the Sunoco American Late Model Series) at his home track of Oakshade Raceway, where he finished fourth in points despite missing three nights. In winning his second national title, Schlenk went home with over $22,000 in DIRTcar points fund winnings. For the 2018 racing season, Schlenk will chase after the Rookie of the Year title in the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series.
The “Jackson Assassin” ended Bobby Pierce’s three-year stranglehold on the national title and would beat 2011 DIRTcar Late Model national champion, El Paso, IL driver, Ryan Unzicker, by just nine points for the title (2,570-2,561). Unzicker, the 2017 DIRTcar Central Regional champion as well as the track champion at Farmer City Raceway (IL) and Fairbury American Legion Speedway (IL) is the 2017 runner-up as he picked up 19 feature wins.
Unzicker finished ahead of Lake City, MI veteran Eric Spangler, who scored his fifth DIRTcar Michigan Regional championship as well as track championships at his home track of Merritt Speedway (MI) and Mt. Pleasant Speedway (MI). Spangler scored 21 feature wins and finished ahead of Pierce, who won his third consecutive DIRTcar Summer Nationals championship. Brandon Sheppard, the 2017 World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series champion, completed the top five.
Series champions within the DIRTcar Late Model ranks include Bobby Pierce with his DIRTcar Summer Nationals title, as well as Tanner English (MARS DIRTcar Series East), Jon Henry (Sunoco American Late Model Series) Tony Jackson Jr. (MARS DIRTcar Series West) and Dona Marcoullier (American Ethanol Late Model Tour).
For the sixth time of his career, Mike Harrison would be crowned the DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion. The 42-year-old from Highland, IL scored an impressive 37 feature wins in 61 starts during the 2017 racing season. He also collected his fifth Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals title with six of his victories coming in the support tour for the DIRTcar Summer Nationals. Harrison also grabbed the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds Illinois/Missouri regional championship, the third regional title of his career. His sixth title, the most of any driver all-time in the 34-year history of DIRTcar, netted him the highest payday of the night at $27,000 at the awards banquet.
Ray Bollinger finished second in the DIRTcar UMP Modified national points as the Kewanee, IL driver racked up 25 feature wins as well as the 2017 DIRTcar UMP Northern Illinois regional championship and the track title at Spoon River Speedway (IL). Randy Lines finished third in the nation as the Marion, IN driver, who despite suffering an injury in a crash at Plymouth Speedway (IN) in August, still won the track championship there and collected 18 feature wins. Bollinger also finished second in the DIRTcar UMP Modified Northern Indiana regional points standings to Jamie Lomax, who finished fourth in the DIRTcar UMP Modified national points chase. Reigning two-time DIRTcar Nationals Gator champion, Nick Hoffman completed the top five.
Series champions within the DIRTcar UMP Modified division were highlight by Mike Harrison, who won his fifth Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals championship. Also winning tour titles were: Josh Harris (American Modified Series) and Jacob Poel (American Ethanol Modified Tour).
More divisions crowned their DIRTcar national champions, including Allen Weisser, who had a busy 2017 racing season and was rewarded with his first career DIRTcar Pro Late Model national title. The Peoria, Illinois driver scored 20 feature wins and the track championship at Farmer City Raceway (IL). He also drove his DIRTcar UMP Modified to a sixth place finish in the national points with 15 additional feature victories and second in the DIRTcar UMP Modified Northern Illinois regional points. For his PLM national crown, the 24-year-old collected over $10,000 for his efforts.
Tim Hancock repeated as DIRTcar UMP Pro Modified national champion as the Mt. Olive, IL driver scored 22 feature wins in 2017 as well as the track championship at Macon Speedway (IL). Another driver who repeated as national champion was Paragon, IN’s Steve Peeden who collected his second straight DIRTcar Sportsman title on the heels of 14 feature wins. He also grabbed the DIRTcar Sportsman East Regional title for the second year in a row as well.
In the DIRTcar Stock Car division, it was A.J. Meiferdt winning his first career national title. The Coal City, IL driver registered 17 feature wins and scored the 2017 track championship at Fairbury American Legion Speedway (IL). The DIRTcar Factory Stocks would see Jesse Simmons scoring his second straight national championship. On the heels of 16 feature wins, the Danville, IL pilot also recorded the 2017 Charleston Speedway (IL) track title as well.
Dallas Lugge would be crowned the 2017 DIRTcar Sport Compact national champion. In addition to his first national title, the Belleville, IL driver, who recorded an impressive 23 feature wins in 2017 also won the DIRTcar Sport Compact West Regional title as well as picking up the track championships at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (MO) and at Tri-City Speedway (IL). Garrett Saunders is the 2017 DIRTcar Pro Sprint national champion as the Lakeville, IN pilot also scored the track championship at Plymouth Speedway (IN) while recording 10 feature wins.
14-year-old Dominic Metzke was crowned the 2017 DIRTcar Kid Modz champion as the Troy, IL teenager recorded nine feature wins at six different tracks including five in a row at one point during the season. The five-race winning streak propelled the Prairie State teen to his first national title.
Special awards that were handed out during the night were highlighted by the DIRTcar Promoter of the Year, which was won by Federated Auto Parts Speedway at I-55 and promoters, Ray Marlar and Ken Schrader. Charleston Speedway with Promoter, Jim Campbell was awarded the DIRTcar Track of the Year. Rocket Chassis was the Late Model Chassis Builder of the Year while C.J. Rayburn Racecars was the DIRTcar Late Model National Championship Chassis Builder. Impressive Race Cars won both the Modified Chassis Builder of the Year and the Modified National Championship Chassis Builder. Pro Power Racing Engines won the Late Model Engine Builder of the Year as Mullins Race Engines got the Modified Engine Builder of the Year.
Dusty Knapp was the Late Model Mechanic of the Year as Brent Harrison was the Modified Mechanic of the Year. Jose Parga was crowned the 2017 DIRTcar Late Model National Rookie of the Year as Bob Gardner won the 2017 DIRTcar Late Model National Sportsman of the Year and Rodney Standerfer got the 2017 DIRTcar UMP Modified National Sportsman of the Year. Bob Sargent from Track Enterprises was awarded the prestigious Bob Memmer Memorial Achievement Award
DIRTcar Regional Champions:
DIRTcar Late Models ($2,000):
Todd Bennett (Midwest), Fito Gallardo (West), Michael Kloos (Southwest), Logan Martin (South), Dustin Rollins (Deep South), Rusty Schlenk (East), Eric Spangler (Michigan) and Ryan Unzicker (Central).
DIRTcar UMP Modifieds ($2,000):
Ray Bollinger (Northern Illinois), Jerry Bowersock (Ohio), Roger Crouse (Southern), Mike Harrison (Missouri/Illinois), Jacob Hines (Southern Indiana), Lucas Lee (Kentucky/Indiana/Tennessee), Jamie Lomax (Northern Indiana), David Mielke (Michigan), Rodney Standerfer (Indiana/Illinois) and Billy Workman Jr. (Deep South).
DIRTcar UMP Pro Late Models ($1,000):
Jake Little (West) and Michael Zimmerman (East).
DIRTcar UMP Sportsman ($200):
Patrick Hawkins (West) and Steve Peeden (East).
DIRTcar UMP Stock Car ($200):
Jerrad Krick (East) and Jeremy Nichols (West)
DIRTcar UMP Sport Compact ($200):
Lynn Lash (South), Dallas Lugge (West) Donnie Modesty (East) and Jacob Wilkinson (North).
The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds kick off the 2018 racing season at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, FL from January 24-27th to kick off the track’s 42nd annual Winter Nationals. On Wednesday the 24th, the Mods go for $1,000-to-win; while on Thursday-Friday the 25-26th, they’ll race for $1,500. On the final night on Saturday the 27th, the open-wheel gladiators will race for an impressive $5,000 payday.
After four days at East Bay, it’s onto North Florida Speedway in Lake City, FL from Feb. 2-4 for the Modifieds. The first two nights, on Thursday-Friday, Feb. 2-3, they’ll race for $1,500 to win each night before vying for a $2,500 payday on Sunday, Feb. 4. Their full-fendered counterparts of the DIRTcar Late Models join the Modifieds on Sunday the 4th for a $5,000 payday.
Then it’s onto the 47th Annual DIRTcar Nationals, which are set for February 6-17th at Volusia Speedway Park, located west of Daytona Beach in DeLeon Springs, Florida. The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds kick things off on Tuesday, February 6th and will race for seven straight nights from the 6-12th with the $5,000 to win Gator Championship wrapping up their portion of #FLinFeb on Tuesday, February 12th. The DIRTcar Late Models will race twice on February 12-13th before the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series take over for the rest of the week on February 14-17th.
The Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars (February 7-8th) and World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series (February 9-11th) join the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds for those nights while the Super DIRTcar Big Block Modifieds are in action with the Late Models over five nights of racing starting on Tuesday, February 13th and going until Saturday, February 17th.
For more information about the 47th annual DIRTcar Nationals and to order tickets, please call: 1 (844) DIRT-TIX or visit dirtcarnationals.com. Follow DIRTcar Nationals throughout the off-season and into the month on Twitter.