ROSSBURG, Ohio – official release — Jim Denhamer photo — Young driving sensation Bobby Pierce let everyone know that his newly earned DIRTcar UMP National Late Model championship was no fluke and veteran Brian Ruhlman put on a modified driving clinic as the pair roared to victories in Saturday’s DIRTcar UMP Fall Nationals at Eldora Speedway.
A wide top-to-bottom race track produced a near non-stop 40-lap finale as only one caution flag slowed the pace with a handful of laps remaining. It was the fast pace that played right into the hands of second generation Pierce, who rim-rode the high banks inches from the concrete wall.
Pierce fell short to Duane Chamberlain in the opening heat race for the 43 late models on hand, but a successful re-draw at the scales turned that frown upside-down as he drew the pole starting position for the $5,000 to win finale.
From that pole position Pierce shot into the lead, as Mason Ziegler, Frank Heckenast Jr. and Scott James followed in pursuit. None of that trio had anything for the high-flying Pierce, so they engaged in their own little battle.
By the eighth tour around the one-half mile clay oval, Pierce was into lapped traffic and the front runners began threading their way through the pack, using every available inch of the track.
Heckenast developed mechanical issues and had to retire to the pit area, leaving Zeigler holding off James and a fast-moving Kent Robinson from his 12th starting slot.
Matt Miller and Jeep VanWormer soon joined the fray that found the frozen fans focusing in on the battle for second through fifth. As they one-by-one were able to get by Ziegler the hottest battle on the track soon developed between James and Robinson. They traded spots repeatedly for several laps before Robinson was able to trigger the move he needed to bolt into second.
With that move made, he zeroed in on Pierce, but the number of available laps to get the job done ran out and had to settle for second behind the jubilant Pierce. James hung on to finish third, with Miller and VanWormer completing the top five.
A highly competitive three-night progressive racing format narrowed the 118 entered UMP Modifieds down to 32 for their final 2014 showing at Eldora.
Bringing that field down to the green flag was Kenny Wallace and he responded with a commanding lead over Ruhlman, Nick Hoffman and Evan Taylor.
Despite the number of cars on the track, lapped traffic was minimal and Wallace looked to be unstoppable with the clear road ahead of him. That was until near the half-way point of the 25-lap chase and Ruhlman used his many years of Eldora experience to play his cards.
He began reeling in Wallace and after a couple laps of swapping back and forth around the massive oval he made the decisive move on lap 19. Hoffman, with two feature wins to his credit during the Nationals, studied Ruhlman’s moves intensely and with three laps remaining put those studies to work as he inched closed to Ruhlman.
Time ran out however for Hoffman as he concluded the weekend with a second place finish. Matt Mevert also came on the scene in the final laps and squeezed by Wallace for fourth.
Earlier in the night, Devin Gilpin was introduced as the 2014 UMP National champion and a retiring Randy Korte was saluted for his many years of dedication and support of late model racing.