OAKWOOD — While most 16-year olds were trying to get their drivers licenses this summer, Oakwood’s Bobby Pierce was trying to win one of the top traveling series in dirt track racing.
Pierce, son of Late Model Dirt Track Hall of Famer Bob Pierce, came back late in the UMP Summer Nationals and ended up second to New Berlin’s Brandon Sheppard by only 15 points.
“That was a great run because we were down 150 points at one point,” Pierce said. “While we were short by 15, it was great that we could come back.”
The UMP Summer Nationals is a series where the top Late Model dirt track racers battle through 31 race tracks in 39 days. The series not only has stops in Illinois, but in Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.
Pierce staged his big comeback in the final weeks of the series.
He won his first race of the series on June 30 at Lincoln Speedway and on July 4 at LaSalle Speedway before getting into title contention with wins on July 12 at Kankakee Speedway and July 13 at the 34 Raceway in Burlington, Iowa and a close second-place finish to Shannon Babb at Vermilion County Speedway on July 14.
While Pierce left the series with eight races to go last year, he made it to the final weekend of the series, which was set in Ohio with races at Pebbles, Ohio, Attica, Ohio and Wauseon, Ohio.
“It was the first time I have raced at these tracks,” Pierce said. “I finished third in all three of those races and I thought a top five finish in all three would be enough but Brandon gave it his all near the end.”
Pierce finished 12th last year in the Summer Nationals, and the experience of going against the best worked out well this season.
“The best way to win in a series like this is experience,” Pierce said. “After racing on some of the tracks for the first time last season, my dad and I made the fixes that were needed to get better this year.”
With the series over, the racing season continues as Pierce will go on to race throughout the fall with a possible shot at the UMP Late Model national points title, where he is second to Sheppard.
“We are going to do some races in the World of Outlaws series in Wisconsin and Iowa this weekend,” Pierce said. “After that, we are going to talk about and see if we are going to go for it or continue to switch between UMP and World of Outlaws and the Lucas Oil Series.”
As for the upcoming school year, Pierce — who was going to Oakwood High School last year along with racing — will go online for his education, which will clear things up for racing.
“It is good because it would give more of a balance,” Pierce said. “If I am on the road racing, it would be tough to go back home and study for a test.
“We tried to juggle things last season and it didn’t work that well, so this makes it a little easier to handle.”