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Sheppard & Gilpin Celebrate National Titles At 30th Annual DIRTcar Racing ‘Night of Champions’ Awards Banquet
Distribution Of Over $350,000 In Points-Fund Cash Brings Down Curtain On 2013 DIRTcar Season
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Jan. 13, 2014 – Two of the Midwest’s brightest young stars celebrated their spectacular 2013 seasons during Saturday night’s 30 th annual DIRTcar Racing ‘Night of Champions’ Awards Banquet inside the Springfield Crowne Plaza Hotel’s ballroom.
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., and Devin Gilpin of Columbus, Ind., shared the spotlight on a gala evening that saw over $350,000 in points-fund awards distributed to drivers who raced under the DIRTcar banner in 2013.
Sheppard, 20, made history in ’13, becoming the youngest driver ever to win the DIRTcar Summer Nationals ‘Hell Tour’ and Late Model national weekly series championships. He also emerged as the fourth driver to win both of the organization’s marquee full-fender titles in the same season – a sweep that earned him the lion’s share of the $46,135 in points-fund checks he collected on Saturday evening.
The 23-year-old Gilpin, meanwhile, captured the DIRT UMP Modified weekly series national championship for the second consecutive year, making him just the fourth driver since 1984 to secure back-to-back crowns. He won a circuit-leading 31 features – just five less than his 2012 total despite entering 25 fewer races – and pocketed a points-fund payout of $22,435.
Nearly 900 attendees from more than a dozen states and Canada attended the banquet, which feted the accomplishments of drivers in DIRTcar UMP’s eight weekly divisions.
Sheppard’s points-fund take was the second-largest for a Late Model driver over the past five years, surpassing the $45,200 earned by 2013 Summer Nationals/national champ Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., but falling just short of the $51,400 that Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., accumulated primarily for sweeping the two points titles in 2008.
“It feels awesome,” said Sheppard, who joined Shirley, Erb (2007-08) and John Gill of Mitchell, Ind. (1986) on the short list of drivers with same-season Summer Nationals/national title sweeps on their resumes. “UMP is the big thing around us – has been since I was little kid, really. I’ve been around it my whole life, so it’s real special for me personally to win both championships.
“We’ve been working really hard for a lot of years to get where we’re at right now and it was a long season, but it was all worth it.”
The son of former DIRTcar UMP Late Model regular Steve Sheppard Jr., ‘B-Shepp’ grabbed his first career Summer Nationals championship by a 75-point margin (1,675-1,600) over 16-year-old Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. He beat Pierce by 47 points (2,549-2,502) to top the national weekly series points standings, which were determined using drivers’ best 35 finishes/points nights in sanctioned events.
Sheppard, who turns 21 on Jan. 27, drove his family-owned cars to 14 feature wins at nine different tracks in 2013, including four Summer Nationals triumphs. He picked up $25,000 for the ‘Hell Tour’ title; $20,000 for the national crown; $1,000 for finishing second in the Southwest States standings; and $135 for eighth in the Northeast States points.
Gilpin continued to run roughshod over the UMP Modified division, storming to his second straight national title with a campaign that was arguably better than his standout effort in ’12. He reduced his DIRTcar UMP workload from 82 starts in 2012 to 57 in ’13 but significantly improved his winning percentage – from .440 in ’12 to a startling .544 in ’13.
“The goal was to race less and win more,” Gilpin said of his 2013 assault. “We won more than 50 percent of the races we ran, so it all panned out almost perfect.”
Driving the same car 2012 Impressive Chassis machine owned by his grandfather, Don Fleetwood, that he piloted to his first title, Gilpin was victorious in 18 of his first 23 starts in ’13 – including a sizzling streak of 13 consecutive wins from May 3 through June 13 – on his way to capturing 31 features at 13 tracks in four states. He beat Jacob Poel of Spring Lake, Mich., by 77 points (2,314-2,237) for the championship, which was determined using drivers’ best 30 finishes/points nights.
Gilpin, who also won once in a handful of DIRTcar UMP Late Model starts in 2013, joined a list of back-to-back UMP Modified national champions that includes Danny Yanders (1995-96), Jimmy Owens (2000-02) and Mike Harrison (2010-11).
“Winning two championships in a row means everything to me as far as my career,” said Gilpin, who has been competing in the division since 2005. “I just wanted to win one, let alone two. This puts you in a category up there with Jimmy Owens (record four national championships) and Harrison (three titles). If your name’s on paper with those guys, you must be doing pretty well.”
Gilpin’s ’13 points-fund take include $20,000 for the national title; $2,000 for winning the Indiana State points crown; $300 for finishing 13th in the Summit Racing Equipment UMP Modified Nationals standings; and $135 for eighth in the Southeast States battle.
The Summit Racing Equipment UMP Modified Summer Nationals championship was claimed by three-time UMP Modified national titlist Mike Harrison of Highland, Ill., who edged Rusty Griffaw by 38 points on the strength of four victories while following the series that primarily ran in conjunction with the Summer Nationals ‘Hell Tour’ for Late Models.
Harrison, 39, earned $2,000 for championship and another $600 for finishing 23rd in the national points standings.
The night’s third-largest national championship check was presented to Aaron Heck of Mt. Vernon, Ill., who pocketed $10,000 for capturing the DIRTcar UMP Pro Late Model title. The 22-year-old driver, who recorded 24 wins in 2013, also collected $500 for winning the Southern States standings.
Jon Ripperda, 29, of Bartelso, Ill., was honored as the national champion in the DIRTcar UMP Sportsman class. The 15-time ’13 winner fabricator received $3,200, including $200 for capturing the Western States points title.
Josh Frye of Coopersville, Mich., became a first-time national champion, rolling up 20 feature wins en route to the Stock Car crown. He earned $3,200, including a $200 check for winning the Eastern States points standings.
Brad DeYoung of Wheatfield, Ind., accepted accolades for winning the DIRTcar UMP Limited/Pro Modified national crown. He topped nine features en route to his $1,000 champion’s check.
Adam Webb of Decatur, Ill., won 15 times on his way to clinching the DIRTcar UMP Sports Compact division national crown. He earned $1,200, including $200 for topping the Western States points.
Jason Worley of St. Genevieve, Mo., emerged as the DIRTcar UMP Factory Stock national champion, winning 11 times to secure the $1,000 title.
State champions recognized during the banquet included:
* Late Models ($2,000 each): Alex Ferree (Eastern), Trevor Glaser (Northwest), Michael Kloos (Southwest), Scott Lewis (West), Scott Schmitt (Northeast), Chris Shelton (South), Eric Spangler (North) and Justin Wells (Deep South).
* UMP Modifieds ($2,000 each): Gilpin (Indiana South), Nick Allen (Illinois East), Jerry Bowersock (Northeast), Erik Bruce (Illinois West), Rusty Griffaw (Southwest), Josh Harris (South), Derek Losh (Indiana North), David Mielke (Michigan), Scott Mooers (Deep South) and Weasel Rhodes (Southeast).
* Pro Late Models ($500 each): Heck (South) and Nick Lyons (North).
* Sportsman ($200 each): Ripperda (West) and Steve Peeden (East).
* Stock Car ($200 each): Frye (Eastern), Josh Griffith (Illinois South), Don Hilleary (Illinois North) and Mike Hodges (South).
* Sport Compact ($200 each): Webb (West), Greg Garrison (East), Kenny Butterfield (North) and Jamie Casteel (South).
Other DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned series titlists recognized during Saturday’s festivities were Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Mich. (American Late Model Series National and East), Rich Neiser of Fruitport, Mich. (Michigan Dirt Cup for Late Models), David Mielke of Gladwin, Mich. (Michigan Dirt Cup for UMP Modifieds) and Bryan Barber of Greensburg, Ky. (American Modified Series).
McKay Wenger of Fairbury, Ill., received a $1,000 check for winning the 2013 DIRTcar UMP Late Model Rookie of the Year award. He finished 38th in the national standings.
A number of special awards determined by a vote of the DIRTcar UMP membership were handed out:
* Chris Shelton of Paducah, Ky. (Late Models) and Steven Brooks of New Lenox, Ill. (Modifieds) received Sportsman of the Year trophies.
* Blake Kemp Irvin, who turns wrenches on Sheppard’s Late Models, and Don Fleetwood, Gilpin’s grandfather, car owner and crew chief, were presented the Mechanic of the Year awards.
* Tom and Loris Helfrich’s Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., was announced as the DIRTcar UMP Track of the Year.
* Tony Izzo of LaSalle (Ill.) Speedway was presented the DIRTcar UMP Promoter of the Year award.
Morey Denney, who built Spoon River Speedway in Banner, Ill., and promoted the track for 27 years, was the recipient of the prestigious ninth annual Bob Memmer Achievement Award, which honors the memory of the circuit’s late founder. Denney’s son, Brad, now promotes the oval, but the well-known Midwesterner is still involved with the track.
Rocket Chassis of Shinnston, W.Va., earned two special nods during the evening, receiving recognition as the 2013 Late Model national champion chassis builder and the division’s Chassis Builder of the Year. Rocket machines won 132 DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned features in ’13.
In the UMP Modified division, Donnie Jumper of Impressive Race Cars was honored as the 2013 national champion chassis builder while Bob Pierce Race Cars, with 111 features wins in ’13, was named the Chassis Builder of the Year.
Brad Mullins of Mullins Racing Engines doubled up, winning the Late Model national champion engine builder honor and the UMP Modified Engine Builder of the Year Award. Mullins-powered UMP Modifieds won 114 features in 2013.
Bill Schlieper’s Pro Power Engines in Sullivan, Wis., meanwhile, earned billing as the 2013 DIRTcar UMP Late Model Engine Builder of the Year (42 wins) while Mike Shell was honored as the UMP Modified national champion engine builder.
DIRTcar UMP Sponsor of the Year awards were presented to Rocket Chassis (Sheppard’s backer) in the Late Model class and A-1 Pallets (Gilpin’s sponsor) in the UMP Modified division.
The banquet began for the sixth consecutive year with an awards ceremony for the top drivers in the Kid Modz division, a four-cylinder version of a UMP Modified that car builder Bob Pierce launched to help bring youngsters into the sport. Zane Ulmer of Vandalia, Ill., was hailed as the division’s 2013 champion.
The 2014 DIRTcar UMP season begins with UMP Modified events on Jan. 29-Feb. 1 at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. Sanctioned UMP Modified racing in the Sunshine State is also scheduled for Feb. 6-8 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala; Feb. 7-9 at North Florida Speedway in Lake City; and Feb. 11-18 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., as part of the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment.
The DIRTcar UMP Late Model division will also jump-start the 2014 season in Florida, running a $5,000-to-win special on Sun., Feb. 9, at North Florida Speedway before competing as part of the DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit at Volusia Speedway Park. Six nights of full-fender action at Volusia includes three under the DIRTcar UMP banner (Feb. 17-19) and three co-sanctioned World of Outlaws Late Model Series programs (Feb. 20-22).
For more information on DIRTcar Racing and to see the complete final points standings for all DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned divisions, visit www.dirtcar.com.