A Look At Midwest Racing 2007-The Year In Review

Chicago, IL – Dennis Erb, Jr. might have had one of those ?once in a lifetime, career-best? racing seasons in 2007 as the Carpentersville resident won both the UMP DIRTcar Racing Summernationals, as well as the UMP National Dirt Late Model championship in a single season.

Erb, who turned 35 in October, captured a total of 23 feature wins in ?07, collecting victories at 10 different speedways in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Erb, a second generation driver who grew up around Chicago area tracks watching his late father race, competed in 87 events during the past season, racking up 44 ?top five? finishes. Highlighting his feature wins were four $10,000-to-win shows at Charter (Wis.) Raceway Park, Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway, Indiana?s Kamp Motor Speedway and at his ?home track??Kankakee Motor Speedway. Erb became the first driver in the history of UMP to win both the Summernationals crown and the overall UMP title in the same season.

?I started running late models (in 1990) and basically grew up racing UMP tracks when the organization was growing too,? said Erb, who had previously finished as high as second (2006) in the national UMP point standings. ?I?ve been part of UMP and watched it grow over the years.

?Heck, I remember going and running some Summernationals shows with one car, traveling up-and-down the road following (six-time Summernationals champion) Billy Moyer with his big semi (hauler) and now we have the equipment to go out and win championships too. I guess that growing up in UMP and finally winning a championship, winning both championships, means a lot to me and I think says a lot about what we can do.?

Eddie Hoffman had an impressive year on paved tracks. ?Fast Eddie? won a total of 18 features in ?07, grabbing nine of those during the weekly Friday night late model action at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris. The 47-year-old veteran driver got things off on the right track last January by winning the SpeedFest 200 at the U.S.A. International Speedway in Lakeland, FL. Hoffman garnered four wins in ASA Late Model Series action and won four times at Illiana Motor Speedway (Schererville, IN), including winning the track?s annual Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 lapper for the fourth time in his career.

Tom Smith was the ?07 Late Model champ at Grundy. Smith, who is also the owner and promoter of the Plymouth (IN) Speedway, won four feature races during the season. It was the first career Late Model title for Smith, who began Late Model racing in 1992. Second generation speedster Jeremy Bloomberg won the Mid American Sportsman title at Grundy, while Wisconsin?s Chad Proctor wrapped up his second career Street Stock crown. First year stockcar driver D.J. Werkmeister, son of Grundy Late Model pilot Rob Werkmeister, was the track?s 4 Cylinder division titlist.

Jeff Cannon, in his second full season of Late Model action, garnered top division honors at Illiana, the area?s only half-mile paved oval. Phil Splant was Illiana?s Limited Late Model ?top gun? with John Senerchia grabbing top honors in the speedway?s Mid American Sportsman class. Bill Serviss posted his second Turbo Stox title at Illiana with Mike Lindemulder winning the 4-cylinder Pure Stock division championship.

Over at the Rockford Speedway, Ricky Bilderback turned in quite an astonishing feat, capturing his seventh consecutive NASCAR-sanctioned Late Model track championship. Bilderback won five features races during the season and defeated another Rockford veteran, Jerry Gille, by a mere one point for the title. Fred Nason was the track?s NASCAR All-American Sportsman champion with B.J. Sparkman garnering top honors in the American Short Tracker division. It was the second career title for both Nason and Sparkman.

Other Rockford champions include: Charlie Frisch (Roadrunner), Sabrina Castillo (Winged Women on Wheels), Branden Allen (Legends), Nick Lasher (Hornets) and Chris Gantz (Figure 8).

Ralph Markham won nine feature races on his way to winning the dirt Late Model crown at the LaSalle Speedway. Milo Veloz was LaSalle?s Modified champ with Rick Koltveit winning Street Stock laurels. Showing he could get the job done on either dirt or asphalt, 14-year-old D.J. Werkmeister was the track?s 4-Cylinder champ, duplicating his Grundy efforts.

Second-generation racer Mike Provenzano, son of long time area dirt track front runner John Provenzano, was the UMP Late Model titlist at the Kankakee Motor Speedway. Veteran Tommy Kroll was the UMP Modified champ, besting 16-year-old newcomer Mike Spatola III. Billy Wicker won his second straight Street Stock division crown, which was his fifth of his career and Jerrod Thomas also won his second consecutive 4-cylinder Hornets title.

Kevin DeYoung took home top overall honors for UMP Modified action at the Shadyhill Speedway in Medaryville, IN. Butch Toosley was the track?s Super Street division champion. Other Shadyhill champs were Toby Howard (I-Mods), A.J. Cooley (Pure Street) and Bobby Brooks (Barefoot Minis). Gary Koehring was the Super Late Model division titlist at the Sycamore Speedway. Also grabbing championship honors on the dirt at Sycamore were David Radloff (Late Model), Jay Brendle (Spectator), Melissa Ermel (Powder Puff), Mike Cunz (Compact), Tim Haase (Demolition Derby) and Steve Gardner (Compact Demo).

The United Midget Auto Racing Association (UMARA) saw David Gough capture his third UMARA ?national? driving title. Gough claimed six features during the season, which also saw UMARA crown Mario Clouser as the USAC/UMARA Ford Focus titlist and Nick Grommes as the association?s sportsman champ.

Splitting away entirely from UMARA this past year, the Illini Racing Series saw Lamont Critchett win two feature races on his way to winning the group?s overall (sportsman-style) midget championship. Series competition featured racing on both pavement and dirt with the highlight of the season being a couple of visits to Wisconsin?s Angell Park Speedway. Greg de St Jean was the top driver in the Champion Racing Association (CRA) F.W.D Compacts division.

The season was not without sorrow as a number of ?old timers? passed away including Boyce Sparkman, Legs Whitcomb, Jim Para, Bob Perrine, Earl J. Hubert, Tony Saylor and Lou Fegers. Perhaps the saddest was the death of Nick Beinlich, who died at the age of 18. A former go-kart racer, Beinlich had been doing some ASA racing and had also won a Late Model feature at Rockford in 2007.

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