FARMER CITY - Defending series champion Shannon Babb and the other full-time drivers in the United Midwestern Promoters Summernationals will be the favorites tonight when the 27-event, eight-state marathon stops at Farmer City Raceway.
Don't count out the Farmer City late model regulars, even though they face some long odds in their pursuit of the $10,000 first prize.
"Everybody has a chance, but it takes the right circumstances," said Bloomington late model driver Billy Drake, who will enter the majority of the Summernationals races. "They have a chance because they know the track. In Central Illinois these guys are as good of weekly racers as there are in the country.
"Every once in awhile somebody can pull one off, but these are part-time guys running against full-time racers with full-committed teams behind them. It's tough, but it can be done."
Veteran driver Kevin Weaver of Gibson City plans to run the full Summernationals schedule. He isn't discounting any of his competitors.
"I think anybody has a chance anymore, especially when you go to somebody's home track," said Weaver, the 2000 Summernationals series champion. "There are a lot of drivers out there that may only go to two tracks a week, and they can get their cars dialed in for those tracks.
"The way the competition is anymore, your set-up is pretty damn important. If they have a good set-up for that track, that local guy is going to be pretty tough to beat."
Bloomington's Jason Feger, one of the "local" guys at Farmer City, accepts his underdog status.
"We're definitely going there to win, but it's not going to be easy that's for sure," Feger said. "That's what they do for a living, and they're just good. We've got good equipment, but we don't have near the supply of equipment they have. We have one really good car and motor and they have three really good cars. If they tear one up they pull out their spare car and they're ready to go."
There have been four different winners in the first four races of the series: Babb, who claimed a record 15 victories last year; Dennis Erb Jr., Randy Korte and defending Farmer City winner Don O'Neal.
Wendell Wallace holds the early points lead with 333 followed by Korte (341), Jeep Van Wormer (322), Babb (313) and Erb (300).
Weaver is in sixth place with 297 points including a second-place finish at Kankakee Motor Speedway.
"We're still in contention," Weaver said. "It's just a matter of getting some better finishes and hoping some of the guys in front of us fall back or fall out. If a guy consistently runs in the top five or six he has a chance to win it."
Running consistently near the front is easier said than done.
"Our sport isn't much different from NASCAR. It's just as competitive as they are," Weaver said. "Racing anymore is really, really tough. It seems weird but years ago there was always one guy that dominated because he had a lot of money. Now it seems like there are 20 guys out there that look like they have a lot of money.
"You used to be able to out-money a lot of people. That's not the case anymore. It's coming back to experience and driving ability because the equipment is out there."
Drake, who finished second in the Summernationals event at Kamp Motor Speedway in Boswell, Ind., is tied for 12th in the point standings with Tonica's Ryan Dauber at 191. Feger, who placed fifth at Boswell, is 16th with 136 points.
"Like a lot of guys we want to win as many of these as we can," Drake said. "You just have to take it race by race and try to do the best you can. You can't even look at setting a number of wins, even though maybe in the back of your head you're thinking that.
"So much is circumstantial. You have to get good draws. Some of these tracks are one lane on the top and if you draw the bottom you're in trouble. It can be the difference between winning and losing whether you start on the inside or the outside. You have to be good and you have to be lucky, too."
General admission tickets are $20 for adults, while children ages 12-under will be admitted free. The gates will open at 3 p.m. with hot laps at 6:30 and qualifying at 7.
Here's a list of the past United Midwestern Promoters Summernationals winners at Farmer City Raceway:
2005 n Don O'Neal
2004 n Shannon Babb
2003 n Don O'Neal
2002 n Shannon Babb
2001 n Don O'Neal
2000 n Rick Aukland
1999 n Billy Moyer
1998 n Bill Frye
1997 n Bill Frye
1996 n Bill Frye
1995 n Bob Pierce
1994 n Billy Moyer
1993 n Billy Moyer
1992 n Tom Rients
1991 n Scott Bloomquist
1990 n Jim Leka
1989 n Jim Curry
The World of Outlaws late model race rained out last month at Farmer City Raceway has been rescheduled for Wednesday. The late model drivers will be vying for a $10,000 first prize. The program will also include a $1,000-to-win modified feature.
All tickets and pit passes purchased previously will be honored.
Easter Seals fund-raiser
Easter Seals will hold a fund-raiser in conjunction with tonight's Summernationals event at Farmer City. Special edition T-shirts will be available including one signed by the drivers for a special drawing. For more information, call Easter Seals at (309) 686-1177 and ask for Debbie Hess or contact Steve Brandt at (309) 472-6340 or by e-mail at email@example.com.