Tom Sprague Jr., Wins 2011 UMP Late Models Track Championship
Lake Odessa, Michigan (Saturday, August 27th, 2011): The Premier division within the United Midwestern Promoters (UMP) DIRTcar Racing Series; The Tinney Automotive UMP Late Models decided their 2011 Track Champion and Rookie of the Year on Saturday, August 27th at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan during the 2011 Season Championships Part I.
Coming into the night, three drivers were still mathematically eligible and would decide the outcome of the 2011 Track Title. St. Johns, Michigan standout, Zack Olger held onto a 21-point advantage over Traverse City, Michigan driver, Brandon Thirlby while Muskegon, Michigan’s Tom Sprague Jr., was only 15 markers behind Thirlby. Olger simply needed to finish fifth or better in the 2011 Season Championship Feature and he would win the 2011 Track Championship no matter where Thirlby or Sprague Jr., finished!
Unfortunately for Olger, he blew a motor the night before at Mt. Pleasant Speedway and couldn’t get another engine in time or another car to borrow and was a no show, thus ending his chances at a first career Track Championship. This set up a showdown between Thirlby and Sprague Jr., and going into the 2011 Season Championship Feature, Thirlby carried a slim 15-point lead over Sprague Jr.
The Tinney Automotive UMP Late Models 2011 Season Championship 30-lap Feature would be the second main event of the evening to hit the 3/8s (0.375) mile high-banked dirt oval and leading the field to the green flag would be Thirlby, who also came into the night fourth in the UMP DIRTcar Racing Series National points standings, and Curtis Roberts leading the field to chief starter, Tim Beebe’s green flag. Thirlby would grab the lead only to be immediately challenge by Sprague Jr., who started fourth and snuck by Roberts to take second spot.
The two Championship title contenders batted side by side before Sprague Jr., took the lead for himself on lap four. Roberts was able to regroup and also slid by Thirlby to take over second spot and set his sights on Sprague Jr. The two drivers would then pull away from Thirlby, who then had two-time and defending track champion, Eric Spangler who was also the current UMP DIRTcar Racing Series Michigan State points leader, and Kris Patterson Jr., to contend with.
In another side plot to the 2011 Track Championship title chase, the battle for the 2011 Rookie of the Year title would come down to the “Professional Stunt Woman” from Park City, Utah, Kathy Jarvis and former Street Stocks standout, Jason Wiley of Fenwick, Michigan as the two freshmen would decide the Rookie title amongst themselves as Jarvis hung onto a slim 11-point advantage over Wiley coming into the night. Both drivers battled in the middle of the pack for the coveted freshman title while the rest of the field battled.
As Sprague Jr., and Roberts continued to battle, Spangler was able to get by Thirlby for third leaving the title contender in fourth. If he stayed there, him and Sprague Jr., would’ve tied for the Championship with Thirlby winning on an unprecedented fifth tie-breaker! Patterson Jr., and Thirlby battled side by side over the last 10 laps for the all important fourth spot.
In the end, Sprague Jr., in his Sprague’s Auto Parts Chevrolet would fight off Roberts and the Muskegon, Michigan driver would win his first Feature of the season. Roberts finished second over Spangler while Patterson Jr., just nipped Thirlby at the line for fourth giving Sprague Jr., ,the 2011 Tinney Automotive UMP Late Models Track Championship by just five points over a dejected Thirlby.
Dan Hubble finished sixth while Wiley beat Jarvis at the line for seventh, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit as Jarvis in her Andy Stebbins Motorsports Chevrolet would beat Wiley by just nine markers to give the Park City, Utah driver the 2011 Rookie of the Year title! Larry Zander and Zach Calkins finished off the top 10. Appropriately enough, Sprague Jr., and Jarvis won the Qualifier Heat Races and for Jarvis, it was her first career checkered flag.
The first Feature of the evening would actually be the 20-lap main for the Renegade Racing Fuels & Lubricants UMP Street Stocks and it would be current points leader, Bill Brandt Jr., and 2011 Winston Speedway Track Champion, Dan Dykman starting on the front row. Brandt Jr., would grab the early lead while the rest of the field would jockey for position behind them.
Several cautions plagued the feature event including one for Dykman who spun on lap seven. The veteran campaigner would then charge through the pack from the rear of the field and worked his way back up to second and began reeling in the race long leader. Brandt Jr., had the opportunity to clinch the 2011 Track Championship a week early depending on what defending Track Champion, Gary Vandermark did in the race. Vandermark’s fate was sealed early as he was involved in one of the numerous cautions.
Back up front, Dykman, who came into the night second in the UMP DIRTcar Racing Series Northeastern States points standings and seventh in the National points, searched high and low for a way around Brandt Jr., but the Lake Odessa, Michigan resident was up to the challenge as Brandt Jr., would lead all 20 laps in his Zylstra Construction Chevrolet to win his third Feature of the season and clinch the 2011 Renegade Racing Fuels & Lubricants UMP Street Stocks Track Championship a week early!
Dykman settled for a hard fought second over 2009 Track Champion, Aaron Wolf while Rich Sweet and Josh Frye completed the top five. Hillary Smith was sixth as Ron Harper, Duane Nelson, new Rookie of the Year points leader, 15-year-old Carlind Forsythe, and one more rookie, 19-year-old Trey Cotter completed the top 10. Brandt Jr., and Vandermark picked up wins in the Qualifier Heat Races.
After the post-race ceremonies involving the Tinney Automotive UMP Late Models, it was time for the 20-lap Jim’s Auto Body of Portland UMP Sport Compacts Feature and the front row would consist of Rookie Keith Brigance and Defending Track Champion, Dan Reimersma and it would be Reimersma pacing the field for the first seven laps before current points leader, Rick Peck drove by on lap eight to take over.
Just like Brandt Jr., in the UMP Street Stocks, Peck had the opportunity to clinch the 2011 Track Championship with a week to go providing he won the Feature! Once he got by Reimersma, he then had to deal with current UMP DIRTcar Racing Series Eastern States Points Leader, Paul Namey, who also came into the weekend fifth in the National points, who slipped by Reimersma on a restart to take over second spot and begin to challenge Peck.
Namey, the 2010 Runner-Up at I-96 who also came into the weekend fifth in the threw every trick he had in his arsenal at Peck, the 2010 18 & Over Rookie of the Year, but Peck in his Bob’s Repair Saturn fought off every challenge and the Hastings, Michigan driver would collect his third Feature win of the year and clinch the 2011 Jim’s Auto Body of Portland UMP Sport Compacts Track Championship with a week to go in the season!
Namey settled for second as Reimersma, current 18 & Over Rookie points leader, Kyle Brigance, and 2011 Winston Speedway Track Champion, Chad Tomczak wrapped up the top five. Another Rookie, Keith Brigance finished sixth while 13-year-old Harper Hotchkiss, current 17 & Under Rookie points leader, 15-year-old Jordan King, another rookie, 10-year-old Christopher Joyce, and yet one more rookie, 19-year-old Joe Pironello were the top 10. Namey, Peck, and rookie Mike Vezino won the Qualifier Heats.
The final Feature of the night would be for the Lane Automotive UMP Modifieds and starting on the front row and leading the field to the green flag would be Travis Stemler and his Father, Tim Stemler. The first caution of the race was for contact between points leader coming into the night, Mark Anderson and current UMP DIRTcar Racing Series Michigan State points leader, Jacob Poel, who also came into the weekend ninth in the National points. Anderson was done for the night after suffering heavy right front damage, while Poel only suffered cosmetic damage and was able to continue.
After another complete restart, it would be Travis Stemler grabbing the early lead while Poel charged up to the second spot from his fifth starting position. Coming into the night, Anderson carried a slim two-point lead over Poel and after Anderson pitted for the night, Poel would take over the points lead no matter where he finished. Nevertheless, Poel began applying pressure to Stemler for the lead.
On lap eight, Poel would be able to complete the pass to take over the top spot and from there, the Spring Lake, Michigan driver in his Poel’s PRO-ACT Welding & Fabrication Chevrolet, who won the Feature the previous night at Winston Speedway, would make it two for two on the weekend and walk away with his fourth overall I-96 Speedway Feature Win of the 2011 racing season and officially take over the points lead in the chase for the 2011 Lane Automotive UMP Modifieds Track Championship with a week to go!
Stemler finished second over former Two-Time Track Champion, Todd Feutz who pitted early and came from the rear of the field to finish third. Johnny DeYoung was fourth while Trevor Sloan completed the top five. 2007 Track Champion, Shannon Fisk was sixth over Ken Beutler while rookie, Nick Kurtz, Corey Bevard, and Ron Chaffee finished off the top 10. Anderson, Stemler, and Tyler Boggs picked up Qualifier Heat Race triumphs.