By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
The 2010 DIRTcar Summer Nationals "Hell Tour" for late models continues its grueling march across the Midwest with a visit to Lincoln Park Speedway this evening.
The tour includes 29 races in 32 days over eight states and includes many of the nation's top late model drivers. The UMP Modifieds and bombers are also on tap for some thrilling racing at the Putnamville oval.
Kenny Wallace has also confirmed that he will compete and will sign autographs before and after the racing festivities as the late models make their return to LPS.
Lincoln Park Speedway promoter, Joe Spiker, was excited about bringing the late models back to the area for the fans after a successful visit to Vermilion County Speedway last year.
"We had a successful event, a lot of cars," Spiker said of last year's Summer Nationals appearance at Vermilion County Speedway in Danville, Ill. "We had a great crowd and a lot of people from this area were there. Late models just don't come to Lincoln Park and we wanted to bring the fans something new. We wanted to feel it out and you never know, it might be something we try on a regular basis."
Spiker also knows that late model fans turn out in droves much like the dedicated sprint car fans that travel along with USAC and the World of Outlaws.
"It's like the USAC Midget race, we had 35 motor homes at 11 a.m. We're not sure what to expect motor home wise, but if there's a late model race, the fans will be there."
Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. is the three-time defending points champion in the series and was second in points heading into last weekend. Shannon Babb owned the points lead through the first nine events, which included a pair of feature wins and six top-five finishes. Jason Feger held down third-place with six top-10 finishes.
Babb repeated as the winner at Shepp's Speedway on Thursday night, the ninth stop of The Hell Tour.
Billy Moyer opened the tour on fire with three straight victories that included wins at Brownstown Speedway, Kankakee County Speedway (Illinois) and in the opening night at Cedar Lake Speedway in Wisconsin on June 18 before motor problems sidelined him the second night.
On Friday evening, Don "The Real Deal" O'Neal lived up to his moniker by dominating the feature and claiming a $10,000 payday at Farmer City Raceway in Illinois. In his first Summer Nationals start of the season, O'Neal led by nearly a straightaway at times over the competition and topped Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill. O'Neal was also the fastest qualifier out of his group and hammered the competition in his heat race as well. Forty-five late models were on hand for the event with Erb Jr. taking third in the feature followed by Eric Smith and Brandon Shepherd.
The series shifted to Tennessee on Saturday for a visit to Clarksville Speedway where Jack Sullivan captured his first career DIRTcar Summer Nationals victory. The Greenbriar, Ark. driver entered the 11th stop on the Hell Tour fourth in points and set quick time and won his heat race. Sullivan then outdueled Jeep Van Wormer over the final 15 laps to pick up the victory.
The series hits Lincoln Park Speedway for the 13th date on the tour following last night's event at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., which followed Saturday's event at Clarksville Speedway in Tennessee and Friday's show at Farmer City Raceway in Illinois.
Spiker acknowledged how difficult it is for the drivers of such an extensive race schedule and acknowledged that the tour has earned its nickname as The Hell Tour.
"You've got to have all the right equipment," Spiker said. "We were over at Vermilion County Speedway last week and Shannon Babb had an engine change in about 10 minutes, and running. It was amazing. They've got top of the line equipment and big rigs. That's their job, they've got to win to eat.
As for what the fans can expect, Spiker noted that these drivers are some of the best in the business and are bringing their 'A' game to Lincoln Park Speedway.
"Dennis Erb is hard to beat. If he's not first, he's in the top-five. Billy Moyer, Dennis Erb, Jeep Van Wormer, all those guys run good and I'm not mentioning all of them," Spiker said. "It's going to be a treat for the people here that have never seen them. (Late Models) are almost as fast if not faster than a sprint car.
"There will probably be some three-wide (racing) and I wouldn't be surprised if they went green to checkers without a caution. So bring your safety glasses because they'll be kicking some dirt," Spiker said with a smile.
General admission for the event is $20 with kids 10-and-under admitted free. Pit passes are $35 with main gates opening at 4:30 p.m., hot laps slated for 6 p.m. and racing at 8 p.m.