BY MARVIN HOLMAN
The last week of the UMP’s Summer Nationals Late Model tour will start on Sunday at the Vermilion County Speedway with a title race that is only going to get hotter.
Going into Friday’s race at Kankakee, Brandon Sheppard was in the lead with 1,250 points, but is only a few points above Shannon Babb’s 1,205 points with Ryan Unzicker third at 1,184 and Oakwood’s Bobby Pierce in fourth place at 1,167. But Pierce was able to win the race at Kankakee to get himself closer to the leaders.
“We are very happy to get this time slot,” VCS co-promoter Brian Clendenen said. “With the races winding down and $25,000 on the line (for the tour champion), there will be some great racing.”
Pierce has improved from a 12th place finish in the tour last year and won the last late model show at VCS in May. Pierce hopes to repeat to get near the top and joining his father, Bob Pierce, in winning a Summer Nationals title.
“This will be at his home track and I am sure he and Bob will do whatever it takes to win,” Clendenen said. “I think this will bring a lot of Pierce followers out to the track and it is a big story that a 16-year-old from Oakwood is battling some of the top drivers in the nation.”
The price of the race is $25 for general admission and while that is $10 more than a usual show at VCS, but Clendenen hopes that the quality of the show will be enough to overcome the increase.
“We are excited about hosting the race, but we are anxious because some in this area are grumbling about the price,” Clendenen said. “Most fans who follow races and events like this will understand and myself and (co-promoter Brad Key) have kept the prices down, but with our shows this year for $15, we didn’t have enough to cover all the expenses.
“We came out with $15 for shows that should have been $20 and with the price of gas and everything else going up, we had to raise the prices for this show.”
Pit passes will be $35, while children ages 10 and under can get in for $5 and it is free for children ages 3 and under.
Even with the increase, Clendenen said that Sunday’s show will be more than worth it.
“If there is any show that you have to go to this season, this is the show,” Clendenen said. “While we will have late models, we also have modifieds and they go just as hard as the late models. So we are giving out 3-4 hours of family entertainment.”
The late model race is a $5,000 to win event with the modifieds going for a $1,000 winners purse. There will also be UMP street stocks racing as well.
The gates open at 4 p.m. at VCS with hot laps at 6:30 p.m. and heat races starting at 7 p.m. It is Pack the Place night at the speedway with late model and Harley-Davidson simulation machines featured near the grandstand area.
It will be one of the last times the tour will be in Illinois as well on Sunday.
The tour hits Peoria on Monday before going to its last three dates in Ohio later next week.