The Hell Tour 2011: The Most Grueling Month In Dirt Track Racing
I have to admit, anyone who wants to drive a 800 horsepower dirt late model, has to be a little bit crazy. I mean I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to drive it, but I know I’m crazy. The drivers that contend in the U.M.P. Summer Nationals have to be borderline psychotic. There’s a reason why the shorter name of the U.M.P. Summer Nationals is “The Hell Tour”. To show you just how crazy the Hell Tour is, let’s first take a look at another popular dirt late model series.
image credit: The Hell Tour
The World of Outlaw Late Model schedule is considered to be very grueling. And make no bones about it; it is a very tough schedule. 45 races or events over 52 weeks. But let’s break it down further. There are 45 A-mains scheduled from when the season kicks off on February 17th through November 5th at the World Finals. This means they will race 45 A-mains in 261 days.
Now let’s compare the Hell Tour. The Hell Tour, in which you can see the schedule posted at the bottom of this page, currently has 25 events on their schedule with more to be added before the season kicks off June 15th at Brownstown Speedway in Brownstown, Indiana. The season’s finale is July 16th at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio. That mean’s from June 15th to July 16th there is (as of the time of this writing) a total of 25 A-Mains in 32 days! If they fill the open dates on the schedule, it will total 28 A-Mains in 33 days.
The Travel – 4,493 miles
This would be easy if it were 25 events at the same track, but that is not the case. This is 25 events at 25 different tracks across the Midwest. At the time of this writing, the schedule currently features one race in Iowa, three races in Indiana, twelve races in Illinois, two races in Wisconsin, one race in Michigan, two races in Tennessee, one race in Kentucky, one race in Missouri, and then finally two races in Ohio.
That is a grand total of 9 states featuring the U.M.P. Summer Nationals in 33 days. By my count, and depending on how the teams travel they will have crossed the border of these nine states 30 times while traveling from event to event. This might end up being more when they do fill the three open dates in the schedule.
We couldn’t help ourselves here at OneDirt, so we Mapquested the route to every track on the schedule. The total came to 4,493 miles. This doesn’t include the travel time it takes to get to the first event. So, for some teams it could possibly stretch to almost 5,000 miles!
Let’s take a look at one particular stretch of travel that these teams will face. The series is gracious enough to give one day a week or so off to teams, but from June 28th to July 4th there are seven straight days of racing. The first night of action is Tuesday the 28th in Putnamville, IN. After the event teams then will travel 199 miles that night to Belle Clair Speedway in Belleville, IL for a race on Wednesday the 29th. After the featured races in Belleville, teams will pack up and make the 254 mile haul to Clay Hill Motorsports Park in Atwood TN for another race on Thursday, the 30th. Then it is a relatively short 98 mile haul to Paducah, KY for the event on Friday, July 1st at Paducah International Raceway.
With no break, teams will pack up from Paducah and travel 158 miles to I-55 Speedway in Pevely, MO for the race on Saturday the 2nd. The next day might be Sunday, but there is still no break as teams will leave Pevely Saturday night and drive 158 miles to Lincoln Speedway in Lincoln, IL for the event on Sunday the 3rd. Then finally teams will make the 143 mile haul to 34 Raceway in Burlington, IA for their Monday, July 4th event to finish off seven straight days of racing. Teams will be greeted by a day off on Tuesday July 5th, only to pick it back up the next day in Peoria, IL. Are you starting to see why it is called “The Hell Tour”?
During that week alone, that is 1,010 miles of travel in between the times that teams are racing. There is no other series out there that tests a driver’s dedication to the sport of dirt track racing.
I grew up in the Midwest; there is nothing fun about the temperature during summer months in the Midwest. Except maybe days on the lake, and then nights at the dirt track. This isn’t NASCAR . These teams will unload their cars early in the morning at the track they are racing that evening and then work on making the necessary setup changes, fix any damage caused the previous night, and perform maintenance to their cars.
Teams will often change engines, drop rear-ends, and other big maintenance items at the track or sometimes even in gas station parking lots. Teams will do this in 85 – 100 degree temperature for 33 days.
So After All That, Why Do It?
image credit: The Hell Tour
That’s a good question, and I think it boils down to three things:
- The Competition
- The Money
- The Challenge
You would think that after all that travel and hot temperatures that there would be no way the best names in dirt racing would show up, but you would be wrong. At the 2010 season opening UMP Summer Nationals event at Brownstown Speedway, 50 dirt late models competed with Billy Moyer taking home the checkered flag. Dennis Erb Jr, Jeep Van Wormer, Shannon Babb, Brian Shirley, and Jason Feger were all in the A-main.
Nine drivers competed at every event of the 29 races in 32 days that made up 2010. But even more impressive that throughout the 29 races over 300 drivers competed in at least one event. Common thinking would be that as the season wears down, less and less drivers would show up. But, the season started off strong with 50 cars at their season opener. Even more impressive, the tour only dipped below thirty cars at four events, and averaged 38 cars throughout the grueling month.
Kenny Wallace, when asked about why he races the Hell Tour stated the same reason, “… The Summer Nationals have created such great race car drivers. You’re talking about Shannon Babb, Billy Moyer, Erb, Oneal, the list goes on and on. There are so many great race car drivers throughout the United States, but especially through Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin. The Summer Nationals bring out the big boys, and have made big names.”
Let’s face it, if there wasn’t money involved, then we wouldn’t have teams putting themselves through this amount of torture. The races vary on the winner’s check but the rule of thumb is that the events during the week are $5,000 to win and the events on the weekends are $10,000 to win. For 2011 (at the time of this writing) there are seven $10k to win races and 18 $5k to win races, for a grand total of $160,000 in winner’s checks. Some drivers have quite simply made a living off of the Hell Tour. Billy Moyer is a great example.
In 2009 Billy Moyer pocketed $46,000 just off of winner’s checks. That doesn’t include when he finished second or third. In 2010 Moyer ran a limited Summer Nationals schedule but captured six victories and still walked away with winners checks that totaled $40,000. Quite simply, if you can consistently run up front, you can expect to be rewarded for your efforts.
The series paid $25,000 to 2010 champ Jason Feger who used a late season charge to capture his first ever Summer Nationals crown. Feger finished in the top five 18 times with 22 top ten finishes. Over the course of the last 10 races, Feger made a hard charge for the championship posting two victories and four runner up finishes.
Ultimately, no matter what you do, everyone is looking for some sort of challenge. It’s the same reason people climb Mount Everest - because of the challenge it creates for men and women. And that’s what this series has brought to the drivers - a challenge. The nine drivers and teams that made it to all of the events throughout 2010 can look back and say “I conquered the Summer Nationals.” Sure, there can be only one series champion, but those teams have accomplished something that the other 300 drivers couldn’t. They drove the 5,000 miles of grueling travel, they battled the temperature and elements at every track, and they fought against the toughest drivers in the Midwest day in and day out.
If you haven’t seen a UMP Summer Nationals event in person, you really are missing out. I will never forget when I watched my first race at Lake Ozark Speedway a couple years back and couldn’t believe that I was seeing some of the biggest names in dirt track racing; racing on a Wednesday night and driving like it was the last laps at Eldora.
This series gives fans what they want; dirt track racing 7 days a week. It provides fans with multiple options of race weekends to be able to go out to their local short track and not only watch 800 horsepower dirt late models, but also the supporting divisions of modifieds or street stocks. So make sure you check out the current schedule below, and show up at the track to watch this incredible series. I guarantee you when the green flag drops and as some of the best late model drivers barrel off into turn one, they will leave you muttering “What the Hell!”
|5-Jun||WED||BROWNSTOWN SPEEDWAY||BROWNSTOWN, IN.|
|16-Jun||THUR||KANKAKEE MOTOR SPEEDWAY||KANKAKEE, IL.|
|17-Jun||FRI||CEDAR LAKE SPEEDWAY||SOMERSET, WI.|
|18-Jun||SAT||CEDAR LAKE SPEEDWAY||SOMERSET, WI.|
|20-Jun||MON||LASALLE SPEEDWAY||LASALLE, IL.|
|21-Jun||TUE||SPOON RIVER SPEEDWAY||CANTON, IL.|
|22-Jun||WED||HIGHLAND SPEEDWAY||HIGHLAND, IL.|
|23-Jun||THUR||FAYETTE CO. SPEEDWAY||BROWNSTOWN, IL.|
|24-Jun||FRI||TRI CITY SPEEDWAY||PONTOON BEACH, IL.|
|25-Jun||SAT||FAIRBURY SPEEDWAY||FAIRBURY, IL.|
|26-Jun||SUN||I 96 SPEEDWAY||LAKE OSDESSA, MI.|
|28-Jun||TUE||LINCOLN PARK SPEEDWAY||PUTNAMVILLE, IN|
|29-Jun||WED||BELLE CLAIR SPEEDWAY||BELLEVILLE, IL.|
|30-Jun||THUR||CLAY HILL MOTORSPORTS PARK||ATWOOD, TN.|
|1-Jul||FRI||PADUCAH INT. RACEWAY||PADUCAH, KY.|
|2-Jul||SAT||I 55 RACEWAY||PEVELY, MO|
|3-Jul||SUN||LINCOLN SPEEDWAY||LINCOLN, IL.|
|4-Jul||MON||34 RACEWAY||BURLINGTON, IA.|
|6-Jul||WED||PEORIA SPEEDWAY||PEORIA, IL.|
|7-Jul||THUR||MACON SPEEDWAY||MACON, IL.|
|8-Jul||FRI||FARMER CITY RACEWAY||FARMER CITY, IL.|
|9-Jul||SAT||CLARKSVILLE SPEEDWAY||CLARKSVILLE, TN.|
|10-Jul||SUN||TRI STATE SPEEDWAY||HAUBSTADT, IN.|
|15-Jul||FRI||ATTICA RACEWAY PARK||ATTICA, OH|
|16-Jul||SAT||OAKSHADE RACEWAY||WAUSEON, OH.|