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ump banquetIllinois Driver Overcomes Setbacks to Claim $20,000 UMP National Points Title

A season's worth of hard work and determination culminated in one stellar night for Bobby Pierce at Eldora Speedway. Pierce, 17, of Oakwood, Ill., led every lap of Eldora's DIRTcar Fall Nationals A-Main to emphatically wrap up his first ever DIRTcar Late Model national points title, and in doing so become the youngest driver ever to claim the weekly-racing Late Model championship.

"It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into this deal and this year we had a little bit of all of that," said Pierce, whose 14 DIRTcar-sanctioned victories represent the upside of a 2014 campaign that also saw the second-generation driver experience his fair share of bad luck and unavoidable setbacks. "Our team definitely deserved (the championship). I think my team worked harder than anybody this year with everything we had to overcome. It's been a lot of fun this year, but it definitely took a lot of work for it all to pay off."

Indeed, Pierce's championship season on the whole didn't mirror its spectacular conclusion at Eldora. After a hot start to the season, Pierce soldiered through mid-summer slump plagued by mechanical woes and other bad luck circumstances that derailed his hopes of adding his first ever DIRTcar Summer Nationals 'Hell Tour' championship to his season's accolades. But Pierce kept his poise through his mid-season trials and with the help of his race team's hard work, overcame the setbacks to claim the $20,000 DIRTcar championship.

"When we first set out this year, our goal was to win the [DIRTcar] national championship and the Summer Nationals," said Pierce, who also claimed his first championship on the West division of the DIRTcar-sanctioned Sunoco American Late Model Series. "Things didn't work out with the Summer Nationals, but we still got the [DIRTcar] national championship. That's a big deal for us.

"It's been a year with many good things and some not so good. We've been in positions to win a lot of races and broke or other stuff like that happened. But all in all, to wrap up a championship with a win at Eldora - my second win at Eldora - I think it all turned out pretty good in the end."

Pierce may have missed out on a few extra victories along the way, but he still managed to put together a season of which most any regional racer would be envious. He was most successful during the first half of the 36-week season with 9 of his wins coming before Memorial Day. Besides his UMP Fall Nationals victory at Eldora, Pierce's other notable DIRTcar wins included his first-ever Eldora victory in April's Spring Nationals, a $10,555 payday in 34 Raceway's Slocum 50 and a Summer Nationals victory at Belle-Clair Speedway.

In all, Pierce drove his Champion Spark Plugs-sponsored Bob Pierce Race Car to DIRTcar victories at nine different tracks in tying Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., for the most DIRTcar Late Model victories in the country. He ended the season with 2,561 points to beat out Ryan Unzicker (2,423 points) of El Paso, Ill.

Coming off a runner-up finish to fellow young Illinois racer Brandon Sheppard in last season's national points chase, Pierce expected to not only contend for the title in 2014 but to also challenge to win every race he entered. Pierce credits that confident approach for his successful season.

"I joked before the year started that we were going to go out and win every single race," said Pierce, who also claimed a pair of Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series triumphs to push his overall season wins total to 16 races. "You know that's not going to happen, but that's really how I like to think about my racing. When you think you're gonna win, then when you're leading a race or racing a guy for the lead, you don't get distracted thinking 'Oh my God, I might win this race.' You're prepared for that and you do whatever you need to actually win the race."

Just as the Fall Nationals victory at Eldora marked a spectacular end to the season for Pierce, his first DIRTcar national points championship is a monumental achievement in his young career.

Born and raised in the heart of DIRTcar UMP country in central Illinois, Pierce grew up dreaming of one day matching his Hall of Fame father Bob Pierce in claiming a national championship. Likewise, the elder Pierce had such achievements in mind when he helped his son launch his Late Model career five years ago. But neither would've ever believed that a national title would come so soon.

"Out of everything, it's definitely one of the biggest accomplishments I have yet," Pierce said. "My dad, he won it back when he was racing and I knew it was something I wanted to do when I started racing. For me to win it now, at 17, it's crazy.

"I remember when I first got into racing and we'd go to Farmer City Raceway on Friday nights. I never really thought that today I would be racing at this level the way I am. It's pretty cool to think about that."

While he may find it hard to believe that he's already reached such lofty heights, Pierce isn't resting on his accomplishments. In fact, he's already looking forward to what he hopes is an even better season in 2015.

"I'm happy as long as we keep advancing and keep getting better," said Pierce, who recently added major sponsorship from Texas-based Allgayer Inc. to help with his plans of traveling more broadly in 2015. "That's really been my goal all along is just to keep improving, and I'm satisfied for now because I think we've been doing that. We'll enjoy this and have a good time at the banquet, but yeah, I'm already excited to see how much better we can do next year."

eldora oct4Bobby capped his UMP championship season on Saturday night by winning the $5,000 UMP Fall Nationals at Eldora. Taking the lead at the start from his pole position, he led all 40 laps. This race was the finale for the American Late Model Series season and Bobby was crowned the ALMS West Champion. -- Jim DenHamer Photo

Bobby clinched the 2014 UMP DIRTcar Late Model National Points Championship with his second place finish on Thursday night at Tri-City! At the age of 17, Bobby becomes the youngest Late Model weekly titlist in the three-decade history of the UMP DIRTcar organization. He follows in the tire tracks of his father Bob, who won the circuit's weekly crown in 1990.

tricity mod sep18Making his first start in an Open Wheel Modified since his days of racing in the KidModz Series, Bobby didn't miss a beat as he came from deep in the field (16th) to post a podium finish in third on Thursday night at Tri-City. This was after he came from 14th to fourth in the B-Main to advance into the feature. In a race that is tough to even make with so many cars on hand (72), it was an impressive return to the open wheel ranks. He also moved up in the Late Model feature as well as he came from ninth to finish second.

After finishing second in his heat race, Bobby rolled off tenth in the World 100 on Saturday night at Eldora. He was running sixth at lap 53 when mechanical problems would force him off the track, ending his night early.

fairbury aug16Bobby and Team 32 were at Fairbury on Saturday night looking for valuable UMP points as he chases his first series championship. It was a good points night. The Smooth Operator grabbed the lead at the start of the feature and built up a cushion of 4.643 sec at one point as he led every lap and cruised to a 3.572 sec win.

cedar lake aug2Taking the lead from Jimmy Owens on lap 79, Bobby looked to grab his biggest victory of his young career. But Owens battled back and retook the lead on lap 87. Bobby stayed close and when Owens slapped the backstretch wall on lap 93, Bobby went back to the front leading lap 94. Owens powered off the outside of turn four the next lap to go back ahead for good. Bobby had to settle for a heartbreaking $20,000 runner-up finish, 1.083 seconds behind Owens. "That was one of the most exciting races I've ever been in," said Pierce, who scored his third top-10 finish in three career USA Nationals A-Main starts. "To do it with Jimmy Owens just makes it that much more awesome. Coming here, I just was hoping to make the race. Finishing second, it's just phenomenal."

On Friday, Bobby slipped underneath Clint Smith for the lead on lap two and cruised the remainder of the distance, winning the heat by a half-straightaway over Billy Moyer Jr. He then ran third in the dash for heat winners, giving him the third starting position in the 100-lap, $50,000 to win USA Nationals feature on Saturday. To close the evening, Bobby participated in the FANSFund Dash, an invitation only event that allowed drivers to race for their appearance money from the FANSFund. Bobby started ninth and moved up to fourth at the finish, earning him $1,900. Thanks to all the fans for voting Bobby in and donating!

Fairbury made up their UMP Summer Nationals feature on Friday. Bobby started 11th in the 50 lap feature. At the drop of the green he was on his march toward the front, cracking the top five on lap 27. He grabbed fourth on the 30th lap and moved to third on lap 36. By this time the front two had distanced themselves from Bobby as he hoped for a late caution to bunch the field up. The yellow never came as he finished third, five secs back.

belleclair5000jul1Making his first start since his Sunday flip at Lincoln, Bobby was overall fast qualifier, won his heat by a straightaway and went on to pick up his first Summer Nationals win of the season Tuesday night at Belle Clair. Starting third, the "Smooth Operator" took the lead on lap 18 and held it until lap 26 but stayed close and retook the lead with four laps to go and scored the much needed win by 0.618 seconds. "When you're leading the race and then you end up losing it, no matter what you have to do, you want to get that lead back," said the 17-year-old Pierce. "I had a couple of good corners right in a row there, I caught Babb, and I knew that [a slider] was the only chance I had."

At the start of his heat race during Lincoln's Summer Nationals event, Bobby had a violent rollover accident in turns three and four while running second. He climbed out uninjured but his car was heavily damaged and he was done for the night.

Bobby took a provisional starting spot into the feature on Wednesday night at Clarksville after slowing in his heat race to avoid a near-spin in front of him. He didn't let that get him down though as he rallied to get a top five finish.

A weekend that started out strong with a runner-up finish in Thursday's opening night feature, ended prematurely on Saturday night with overheating problems. Starting on the pole of his heat race, Bobby jumped to the lead at the start and led a few laps but was forced to retire early from the heat and also from the event. The team will regroup and prepare for the upcoming Summer Nationals tour starting on Wednesday.

eldora may5Debuting a retro scheme of his father Bob's World 100 car from 1992, Bobby jumped to the lead at the outset of Thursday's feature at Eldora and led the first 14 circuits, building up a 10 car-length lead, before being overtaken by Jimmy Owens amid heavy traffic. Bobby held on for a runner-up finish on the opening night of the Dream weekend.

"I kind of wish some of those lapped cars would've gotten out of the way a little bit better when they got the move-over flag," said Pierce. "But you gotta race 'em — and it's good practice for the 100-lap race. I kind of realized how you gotta work those (lapped) guys and maybe use the right side (to pass them) if I have to.

"I got stuck behind those lapped cars and wasn't able to run my own race, and (Owens) had a good car to run right through that middle in (turns) one and two and three and four. But Jimmy has a ton of laps at this place, so just to run second behind him is really good."

showme100 may24At the first "crown jewel" of the season, Bobby made his way to third in his second ever Show-Me 100 after starting 12th. "We battled carburetor problems all-night; I didn't think I was going to make it to the end. I probably could have used a caution there towards the end, but we had pretty good momentum there when we went by Bloomquist and Owens for third. Overall, it is a great honor to race with these guys, this is just a fabulous facility, the race track was well-prepared and we look forward to coming back here next year for this race," said the driver of the Champion Spark Plugs, Pro Power Racing Engines, and Pierce Race Cars entry.

Bobby led all 30 laps from outside the front row for a $2,000 victory at Quincy on Sunday night. Pierce cleared polesitter Denny Woodworth exiting turn four on the first lap, built a straightaway lead by halfway and won the caution-free feature in just over 10 minutes. Runner-up Mark Burgtorf, who started fourth, was six seconds behind at the finish as Pierce lapped all but three competitors.

kankakee2000may9Bobby and his team made a last minute schedule change on Friday as Farmer City rained out their program, so the team headed north to Kankakee for a $2,000 American Late Model Series event. Bobby clocked in quickest of the 19 cars on hand. He followed that up by taking the heat race victory. Starting second in the feature, he looked for the sweep of the night. He grabbed the lead and cruised from there, winning by nearly a half-track margin.

macon12000may1Bobby scored the biggest win of his young racing career Thursday night at Macon Speedway. Pierce pocketed $12,000 for his win in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series sanctioned, St Louis U-Pic-A-Part 100. Pierce crossed the line a half a lap ahead of second place finisher, Brian Shirley.

"I can't believe how good the car was tonight, everything was great from the get-go. We set fast time, won our heat and led every lap in the feature. I got a little worried in traffic a few times, but everybody gave each other plenty of room. I hope the fans enjoyed the show tonight. To win the first Lucas Oil race here at Macon is special. My dad has a lot of wins here, and this is only the second time I have raced here in a Late Model."

"The track was good all night. That rain in the Modified feature, I think helped a little. There was enough cushion up against the wall to keep me from hitting it. I have to thank my mom and dad, all of my crew, Pierce Race Cars, Bill Schlieper with Pro Power Engines, and all of my sponsors: Champion Spark Plugs, The Pierce Posse of course, Queen City Appraisals, Brown's Quality Paint & Body, Petersen Aluminum, Keyser and everyone else." It was Pierce's second career LOLMDS victory. His first LOLMDS victory came in February at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, FL.

Bobby drew the fourth starting position to start the night. He wouldn't stay there long. Jumping to the lead on lap three, the "Smooth Operator" would go on and lead all the way until a lap 45 restart that saw him fall back to third. The latter part of the race saw the track take rubber which limited the chance to get back to the front. Bobby stayed in line and brought home a solid third place finish. Missing qualifying due to a failed MSD box and wiring problems, Bobby started last in his heat race on preliminary night of the Illini 100 Friday at Farmer City. He would not let that get him discouraged as he raced his way into the lead in only five laps en route to winning the heat race.

Bobby started third in the feature Saturday night at I-55, took the lead around lap eight, and went on to pick up his third win of the season.

eastbay7000feb15Bobby took the lead at the start of the race and never looked back as he went on to win Saturday afternoon at East Bay Raceway Park. It was his first ever win at East Bay as well as his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory.

"It feels great to win here at East Bay. My dad never won here. We have been coming down here for three years now and to finally break through with this win, I don't know what to say," said the 17-year-old, who became the second youngest driver to win a Winternationals event in a Late Model at East Bay.

"I am going to have to text my buddy Tyler Reddick, and tell him I won. He is the youngest to win here [when he was 15], so I have to rub it in a little. It was important to win that first heat and get the pole. We have had a tough week with our other car. I am not sure if something is bent on it or what, so we brought this one out today. If dad lets me, I guess I should drive it tonight," said the winner.

"My biggest challenge today was to conserve tires. Obviously, in a day race there was no moisture out there. You have to drive the car straighter. Traffic wasn't too bad out there. I kept some distance between myself and the last place car for a while, and then I thought I had better get going. I knew someone was close behind me, so I had to pick up the pace a little bit," said the driver of the Pierce Posse, Champion, Bob Pierce Race Cars, Pro Power Racing Engines, Chevrolet.

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