CLOSE POINTS RACE WILL GO DOWN TO THE WIRE
CLOSE POINTS RACE WILL GO DOWN TO THE WIRE
(Courtesy Greg Billing)
ROSSBURG – Eight points separate Jacob Hawkins and Jonathan Taylor heading into the final DIRTcar UMP Modified points race at Eldora Speedway. Off the track, the drivers are even closer.
Hawkins, from Fairmont, W.Va., and Taylor, from Saltsburg, Pa., have known each other about 15 years, going back to the days when Taylor’s dad raced modifieds with Hawkins’ cousins. Hawkins and Taylor will add to that history Sunday when Eldora hosts the season-ending Last Call For Them All, featuring the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars and the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.
“We’re good buddies. They’re a really good family,” said Hawkins, who enters with three wins in seven races at Eldora this season. “His dad calls me and gives me a hard time on the phone every once in a while. I don’t see this creating any problems.”
Also this weekend, the 48th annual World 100 will settle the DIRTcar UMP Late Model points. Devin Gilpin, of North Vernon, Ind., leads the standings by fifteen points over five-time track champion Matt Miller of Whitehouse, Ohio.
The World 100 resumes Friday and Saturday after heavy rain forced the three-day event to be postponed. The Thursday preliminary show ran Sept. 6, but the shows on Sept. 7-8 were washed out by rain.
Gilpin has one win in seven races at Eldora. Miller is still looking to visit Eldora’s victory lane stage. Doing it at the World 100 would be perfect timing.
Miller, who won the Dirt Late Model Dream in 2005, has 12 World 100 feature appearances. His best finish was fourth in 2008.
“You can’t really worry about it. Obviously I’m aware of (the points battle) and I did not have the first night of the World that I hoped for,” Miller said. “You just go out there and race as hard as you can. The big picture is obviously I want to do well at the World, in the feature itself.”
Gilpin, meanwhile, is looking to qualify for his first World 100 feature.
“I don’t know Devin since I race on such a limited basis I know he wins a lot of races and he’s a good racer,” Miller said. “I know he’s going to come down here and be competitive, for sure. … But I think we’re all going to be chasing the zero car (of Scott Bloomquist).”
Past Eldora track champions have received fire suits and large banners proclaiming their division championships. There’s a sense of pride walking through Eldora’s pits wearing a champion’s fire suit. Miller has won so many Eldora late model track titles (2000, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014) that he asked for a helmet to go with his suit. He also has several winner’s jackets hanging in his closet.
“That’s a nice little perk. That’s pretty cool they do that for you,” Miller said. “When we were traveling around (early in my career) we didn’t chase points. But as I get into the later stages of my career chasing this (World 100 globe) trophy is what we’re going after. We would like to add that to the collection, for sure.”
Miller isn’t sure how much his Eldora experience will help this weekend, especially in a late model field loaded with talent. As many as eight former World 100 champions are among the early entries including Jonathan Davenport, Bobby Pierce, Scott Bloomquist, Brian Birkhofer, Jimmy Owens, Shane Clanton, Earl Pearson Jr. and Dale McDowell.
“I watched the highlights of the 4-Crown Nationals and if they put the track just like that, you’ll see a hell of a race for late models,” Miller said.
As for the modified race on Sunday, Hawkins anticipates a slick track from Friday and Saturday’s late model action. That won’t change Hawkins’ racing style. As Taylor figures it, should Taylor win then Hawkins needs to finish seventh or worse for Taylor to overtake Hawkins and win the points title.
“Just attack it like every other weekend,” Hawkins said. “I’m going (there) to win the race. We’ll worry about the points later.”
Both Hawkins and Taylor ran for points at Eldora Speedway the first half of the season primarily to qualify for the modified feature that ran as in support of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Dirt Derby. They both decided to keep coming back with both high in the modified standings.
“Obviously Eldora is a really prestigious track,” said Hawkins, who won that modified feature at the Dirt Derby. “I would really like to win the points there just to say we’ve done it. I’ve always enjoyed going there. At the end of the year they usually do a nice banner and it would mean a lot.”
In addition to the points chase at Eldora Taylor has another track on his mind this weekend. He competes at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., for the Steel City Stampede. Taylor won the Stampede last season and Lernerville’s major summer race last season. His brother, Evan, won the the summer race this year.
“There’s concern for me making it through those two days with a car left to come to Eldora,” Taylor said. “We have a back-up plan.”
Getting past Hawkins once he gets there? Well, that’s another obstacle.
“The prestige of Eldora? Man, that would be something to be my first track title. Whoa, that’d probably top the charts for me,” Taylor said. “That is unlikely, I think, because Jake is such a stout competitor.
“I would consider us pretty good friends. They’re family friends we’ve know growing up and we’ve watched him race a lot. He’s a heck of a ‘shoe. You put him in anything and he can drive it up front. He’s going to almost impossible to beat because he’s just been on a roll lately. … I’ll be happy for him if he does win. I’m a pretty laid back guy, but going into this weekend I do want to go after the championship. I’m going to give it my best shot and if it’s not quite good enough, then we’ll have to try it again next year.”