posted August 21, 2002 07:12 AM
ECKERT HAVING A GREAT SEASON, BUT CAN HE DOUBLE UP ON THE UDTRA TITLE?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
WOODSTOCK, GA - With ten events left in the 2002 United Dirt Track Racing
Association Pro DirtCar Series season, Rick Eckert of York, PA is in a good
position to successfully defend his 2001 championship. Going into this
Saturday night's $15,000-to-win North-South 100 at Florence Speedway in
Union, KY, Eckert holds a 125-point lead over Steve Francis of Ashland,
In the first 32 UDTRA Pro DirtCar Series races this season, Eckert has
wins, a series leading 21 top five finishes, a series leading 29 top ten
finishes, and he is tied with Francis and Earl Pearson Jr. for the most
qualifying times with four.
Durability has been the key for Eckert and his Raye Vest team with crew
chief Robby Allen. The Defending UDTRA Champion has finished every race
this season, no worse than 12th-place, and out of a possible 1,885 laps
Pro DirtCar competition, Eckert has completed 1,883. Eckert has also led
314 laps of competition this season.
Eckert is also on pace to set a new UDTRA season-earnings record. In the
first 32 events this season, Eckert has earned $294,145 in prize money,
bonuses, and contingencies. Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, TN currently
holds the record having earned $380,600 in his 2000 UDTRA championship
So far this season, the highlight for Eckert was winning the $100,000 Great
Northern Challenge Bonus by winning three events in a five race series.
Eckert won The Masters at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, WI, the main
event at Crawford County Speedway in Denison, IA, and then returned to Cedar
Lake and claim the bonus by winning the USA Nationals.
BLOOMQUIST'S OIL IS ECKERT'S BLACK GOLD: With eight laps to go in the
100-lap USA Nationals, it looked like Eckert would come up one spot short
claiming the big prize, as he was a full straightaway behind race leader
Dale McDowell of Rossville, GA. Bloomquist ran over a piece of debris on
the track that punctured his oil pan, and left a trail of slippery liquid
turns one and two.
This brought out the caution flag, and track crews tried to clean up the
oil spill. After the restart, McDowell slipped in the oil, and Eckert
ducked underneath McDowell to take the lead. Eckert went on to claim the
win, the bonus money, which included an extra $1,000 from Muddslinger
Magazine, and the $40,000 winner's share for a $141,000 payday, the biggest
in UDTRA history.
Despite the success Eckert has had so far this season, he's not quite ready
to claim the $50,000 championship check. Eckert knows how close it can
come time for the final checkered flag of the season at Dixie Speedway in
Woodstock, GA for the $55,000-to-win Hardee's Shootout on October 11-12.
the end of last year's Shootout, Eckert won the championship by one point
"We've had a great season up to this point, and we're confident going into
the last ten races, but at the same time, we know anything can happen,"
Eckert said. "Steve, Dale, and Jimmy Mars are not that far behind me, and
the littlest thing going wrong for us can turn everything around. We
haven't really paid that much attention to the points yet. We're just
concentrating on getting top five finishes, and hope the points take care
Eckert will return to the scene of an earlier UDTRA victory this season
more times before the points chase comes to a close. Eckert won at Florence
Speedway in June, and he has a victory at Atomic Motor Speedway in
Knoxville, TN that came last month.
"I hope we can do this Saturday night at Florence Speedway what we did
Cedar Lake, and double up," Eckert said. "Then the next weekend go to
Atomic Speedway and do it again."
THE CHALLENGERS ARE READY: Francis, McDowell, and Mars have kept things
close all season long. They know how to finish, and they know how to win.
Francis and McDowell have been in close title hunts before, and Mars is
having a breakout year without the benefit of a major sponsor.
Francis has been here before, and The Kentucky Colonel knows he has a very
good chance to win the title that has just slipped from his grasp the past
two seasons. So far this season in 32 starts, Francis has two wins, 19
five finishes, 26 top ten finishes, and four fast time efforts. He has
earned a total $132,105 this season.
Francis has called Florence Speedway one of his better tracks. He set fast
time and finished second to Eckert there at the Bluegrass Nationals in June.
Francis is looking forward to having the opportunity this Saturday night
collect a trophy he's wanted for many years.
"I think we've got a good chance to win the championship this season
because we were a lot further behind Rick at this point in the season last
year, and still only lost it by one point," Francis said. "Florence
Speedway has been good to me in the past and I've won a lot of races there,
but I've never won the North-South 100. That has always been one of my
favorite races because I used to come here as a kid and watch. Ever since
then, this is one race I've always wanted to win."
For the 2002 Pro DirtCar Series season, Francis has joined forces with
Richards of Rocket Chassis. Francis has brought his Valvoline sponsorship
and Gary Stanton-built Mopar Performance engines to Richard's Rocket house
car program and crew chief Chad Haney.
"We just combined my team and Mark's team into one, and at one point or
another in all of our careers, we've all worked together," Francis said.
"However, this is the first time we've all worked together at the same time,
and we've had somewhat of a learning curve this season, but everything seems
to be coming together at the right time."
Francis has also had success at another track that is left on the 2002
DirtCar Series calendar of events. The Pro DirtCar Series will be a part
the Commonwealth Cup Races at Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway in Calvert City,
KY on September 13-14, an event Francis swept in 2000.
McDowell has had a great season with eight wins, 19 top five finishes,
top ten finishes, one fast time, and $185,600 in earnings at the first 32
Pro DirtCar Series events this season. McDowell is third in the points
chase, only 32 points behind Francis, and 157 points behind Eckert.
McDowell and his team led by his brother and crew chief Shane McDowell know
how to overcome a point deficit late in the season because they did it in
1999 to win the UDTRA title.
"We're in our second season with Larry Shaw Race Cars, and things have
really come together for us this year," McDowell said. "I've been too busy
trying to keep up with Rick, Steve and Jimmy to worry about points. We
fortunate enough to lead the points for awhile, but we had a few DNFs (did
not finish) and that has dropped us back to third. The four of us are
pretty equal on the track, so I think luck is going to play a big role in
the outcome. It always does."
There are a couple of tracks left on the Pro DirtCar Series 2002 schedule
where McDowell has had some success in the past. He has won at Atomic Motor
Speedway before, and there are two events to be run there on August
31-September 1, and again on October 1. McDowell is also the two-time and
defending Hardee's Shootout Champion.
Despite loosing his primary sponsor just days before the 2002 season began
in February, Mars of Elk Mound, WI and his crew chief and brother Chris
have shown they are a championship caliber team on the Pro DirtCar Series
tour. Mars is fourth in the point standings, 245 points behind Eckert.
Mars has driven his Mastersbilt Race Cars/Pro Power Racing Engines Monte
Carlo to two wins, 19 top five finishes, 25 top ten finishes, one fast time,
and has earned $105,670 in 32 Pro DirtCar Series starts.
"We've seemed to have had a lot of problems late in races when we were
running in the top five that have put us back, so to be fourth in the points
and still have a shot at the championship is pretty remarkable," Mars said.
"We're just going to keep doing the best we can and see what happens."
Mars will be returning to a couple of tracks where he knows the way to
victory lane. Mars won the July UDTRA event at Kentucky Lake Motor
Speedway, and he is the defending UDTRA Champion at Green Valley Speedway
Glencoe, AL where the series will visit for a pair of events on September
PEARSON COMES ON STRONG: A driver who has been coming on strong in the
15 UDTRA events this season is Pearson. The Jacksonville, FL driver has
come from outside the top ten in points early in the season to fifth spot
piloting the Lucas Oil/Dunn-Benson Ford Rocket/Eatmon Taurus led by crew
chief Frank Averett. Pearson has 14 top ten finishes in his last 15 starts.
For the season, Pearson has one win, seven top five finishes, 18 top ten
finishes, and four fast times. Pearson will return to Dixie Speedway for
the Hardee's Shootout in October, the track where he posted is only 2002
so far this season last month. Pearson also has a couple of Renegade
DirtCar Series wins at Hagerstown Speedway in Hagerstown, MD where UDTRA
will stop on August 30.
MORE TOP TEN TALENT: The 1996 UDTRA Champion Freddy Smith of Knoxville,
is sixth in points going into the North-South 100, and the Southern
Gentleman returns to Florence Speedway where he finished third at the
Bluegrass Nationals in June.
Smith has driven his Jimmy Cabral wrenched Christenberry Trucking and Farms
Warrior/Custom Monte Carlo to one win, three top five finishes, and 18 top
ten finishes in 32 starts. Smith also leads the Advance Auto Parts Hard
Charger point standings by a big margin over Pearson.
Randy Korte of Highland, IL and his Mid-Continental Fuels team led by crew
chief Gator Branum have really stepped up their program for 2002. Korte,
who finished tenth in the UDTRA points chase last season, is seventh going
into the North-South 100 with one win, three top five finishes, six top
finishes, and two fast times in 32 events.
Ray Cook of Brasstown, NC is looking for another top ten finish in the UDTRA
point standings this season. It was at Florence Speedway in June that Cook
posted his best Pro DirtCar Series finish of the season with a fifth-place
effort. Going into the North-South 100, Cook is eighth in the UDTRA points
In addition to that top five finish, Cook also has eight top ten finishes
28 races driving the Youngblood Concrete Mastersbilt/Cornett Taurus wrenched
by Gary Thompson. The Tarheel Tiger will also be looking forward to the
more UDTRA stops at Atomic Motor Speedway, a track where he has a UDTRA
on his resume.
Donnie Moran of Dresden, OH will welcome a UDTRA stop at the North-South
where he is a two-time winner of the prestigious event. Moran will also
inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame on Saturday before
the racing action gets underway.
Moran, who is ninth in the UDTRA points, has not had the season he is
accustom to in UDTRA competition. The Million Dollar Man has four top five
finishes, nine top ten finishes, and two fast time efforts in 27 Pro DirtCar
Series races this season driving the QPI Tools Dirt Ripper Rayburn Monte
TIGHT LUCAS OIL ROOKIE BATTLE: Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville, TN is tenth
the UDTRA points chase, and leads the $10,000 Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year
points standings by 149 points over Shane Tankersley of Morganton, GA.
O and the Tank, who is 12th overall in the UDTRA point standings, have been
to all 32 events so far this season.
Ogle has one top five finish, and two top ten efforts this season driving
the Calhoun's Restaurant GRT/Clements Monte Carlo owned and wrenched by
former UDTRA driver Bill Reed. Ogle is looking forward to returning to
couple of tracks in particular left on the Pro DirtCar Series schedule.
Ogle had his best finish of the season at Dixie Speedway last month with
third-place finish. Ogle will also see some familiar territory at Atomic
Motor Speedway where he is a seven-time track champion.
Tankersley led the Lucas Oil Rookie points chase early in the season, and
has shown steady improvement behind the wheel of the American Race
Tire/Tankersley Motorsports Rocket/Custom Grand Prix with veteran crew chief
Rich Fouty. Tankersley has one top ten finish this season, an eighth-place
effort on July 30 in East Moline, IL.
NORTH-SOUTH TALENT COMING FROM ALL DIRECTIONS: The traveling pros of the
UDTRA Pro DirtCar Series can always expect some tough competition at
Florence Speedway from many regional and local drivers.
Among the Midwestern favorites are former North-South 100 Champions Bob
Pierce of Oakwood, IL, John Gill of Mitchell, IN, Rick Aukland of
Zanesville, OH, and John Mason of Millersburg, OH.
The 1997 UDTRA Champion Billy Moyer of Batesville, AR will also be inducted
into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame on Saturday at Florence
Speedway. Mr. Smooth will also lead the Petroff Posse along with Shannon
Babb of Decatur, IL and Don O'Neal of Martinsville, IN.
The Ohio-based Renegade DirtCar Series will be in action at Florence
Speedway on Friday night, and they will be well represented on Saturday
night in UDTRA competition. Leading the Renegade Brigade will be former
champions Chub Frank of Sugar Grove, PA, Mike Balzano of Parkersburg, WV,
and Davey Johnson of Greensburg, PA, along with Steve Shaver of Parkersburg,
WV, Jackie Boggs of Grayson, KY, and Matt Miller of Waterville, OH.
Among the local favorites will be Darrell Lanigan of Union, KY, track
champion Steve Landrum of Erlanger, KY, Ted Nobbe of Batesville, IN, Jerry
Rice of Verona, KY, Dan Hoard of Union, KY, Rick Corbin of Independence,
Jesse James Lay of Walton, KY, and the Silver Shark Scott James of
On Saturday, the gates open at 4 p.m., with hot laps scheduled for 7 p.m.
Along with the UDTRA Pro DirtCars, the Florence Speedway Open-Wheel
Modifieds and Dirt Stocks will also be in action on Saturday night.
The Comfort Inn in Erlanger, KY will be the Official Host Hotel for the
UDTRA Pro DirtCar Series event at Florence Speedway. The Comfort Inn is
located off I-75 at exit 184, just minutes from Florence Speedway.
The Comfort Inn will be offering UDTRA fans and competitors a special
discount rate of $55 per night. The Comfort Inn features newly renovated
rooms, outdoor pool, complementary Continental Breakfast, and ample truck
parking. To make reservations call (859) 727-3400 and be sure to ask for
the special UDTRA discount rate.
For race day and ticket information call Florence Speedway at (859)
485-7591, or visit their web site at www.florencespeedway.com. Florence
Speedway is located 9 miles south of I-75 on U.S. Highway 42.
The next UDTRA Dirty Thursday will air August 29 at 11 p.m. ET with action
from Crawford County Speedway in Denison, IA. For the complete UDTRA SPEED
Channel schedule and a direct feedback link, visit the UDTRA web site at www.udtra.com.