NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Brian Herbert competes during a URSS 305 sprint car heat race earlier this season at Rush County Speedway in La Crosse. Herbert won the national title in the series this season.
By NICK SCHWIEN
Brian Herbert's life got a little easier after Saturday night.
No more pressure. No more wondering what he needed to do. No more watching and crunching numbers.
The driver from Dodge City in the United Rebel Sprint Series 305 class made history at his hometown track after another long, grueling season. Herbert became the first driver to win multiple titles in the series after just missing out on the feat last year to Jetmore's Ray Seemann.
"It's a relief to get it done," said Herbert, who had two wins in 2012. "I think Ray Seemann said it best last year when he said this URSS championship is hard to win. You have to be consistent and run up front the best you can. It feels good for a lot of different reasons -- my brother, Myers Engine."
Herbert, who won the title in 2008 as well, was pressured the majority of the season by Hill City's Jeff Radcliffe and Colorado's Jake Bubak, a teenager competing in his first full season with the Rebels.
Radcliffe started the season strong, winning the second night of the URSS Spring Nationals in Beaver, Okla. That included a large $1,500 payout.
"We came out so hot from the get-go, winning at Beaver," said Radcliffe, who won four races this season. "Then we thought about looking at national points. Then we had some motor issues that set us back."
Midway through the season, Herbert and Radcliffe were playing catch-up to Bubak. The teenager won four races and eventually won the Colorado Region title and national rookie of the year honors.
Herbert started to get momentum at a track where he hadn't run well in past years. Three races at the Belleville High Banks, including a pair of runner-up finishes, was the shot in the arm the team needed.
"I think it was after the first time we went to Belleville," Herbert said. "(Luke) Cranston has everyone's number and still does there, but I'd never felt comfortable at Belleville. Then we had the Myers engine, and we had that two-day race there. We needed to finish good at those national races. Once we were done with Belleville and didn't have any issues, then it set in we had a chance of winning the deal. We'd usually finished sixth or seventh, but we were second twice there."
Herbert was second to Cranston the first race at the High Banks, then followed it up with a sixth-place finish on the first night of the two-day URSS 305 Belleville Nationals at the track. The next night, he was second to Cranston in the $2,000 payout event.
"Last year, we blew up and didn't even make the A feature," Herbert said. "At that race track, it's like the race for the NASCAR championship like this weekend at Talladega. It's a place where things can get tore up and bad things can happen. That's the way Belleville is. It's so hard on motors. Once we made it past those three races, we felt better about things."
When Herbert got confidence, he started to surge toward the front of the national points chase. The quest for the second title nearly fell apart at Oberlin, though.
The inaugural Bob Salem Memorial races Aug. 24 and 25 saw Herbert battle engine issues -- and help coming from an unlikely source. The Radcliffe family, who Herbert was locked in a points battle with, offered engine assistance.
"There's a lot of factors that play into the championship as well," Herbert said. "I'm not sure we would have won it without Radcliffes loaning a motor to us at Oberlin. We blew up our motor the first night. What a bunch of class-act guys they are."
Herbert finished 15th the first night, then was third the final night of the event.
"I got to know Brian a lot better than in the past after battling him all year," Radcliffe said. "He's a lot better guy than I thought he was. He'd always come up and say anything in his trailer we can use or borrow. When he had motor problems, we told him to get our back-up motor. I learned a lot from him this year."
Herbert and Radcliffe also helped bring out the best in each other on the track while their friendship grew.
"We've become good friends over this year," Herbert said. "We got to know each other a lot better."
Herbert finished the season with 2,974 points, while Bubak was second with 2,932. Radcliffe was third with 2,874 points.
Herbert also edged Radcliffe for the Kansas Region title with 2,992 points. Radcliffe had 2,954, and Koby Walters won the Kansas Region rookie of the year honors.
Herbert has a race left in the NCRA 305 series Oct. 13. He leads that point chase, too.
After another tough schedule this year, he plans to take more time off.
"I am going to not do as much racing next year," he said. " ... Since '10 and '11, we've hit it pretty hard. I imagine I'll come back and do it again sometime, but I'll probably pick and choose a few races next year.
"It feels good to win it a second time, though, because any given night, anyone can go out and win. Just like the Bubak kid. He came in and cleaned up this year. He's got a great future ahead of him."