Dennis Erb, Jr. (photos by Jesse Norgaard)
Concord, NC – Dennis Earp, Jr. has added the most important piece to his late model resume in 2022 – the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series Championship.
However, what makes his nickname unique is his way of getting there.
Unlike many of the teams on the late model dirt scene today, the Carpentersville, IL driver owns his gear and races on a shoestring budget. It’s something that makes accomplishment sweeter, Earp said, knowing that years of hard work has paid off.
“We race against high-dollar teams, and I never strayed from them,” Earp said. “I know what we’re dealing with. I know the costs, the work, and nothing to ever complain about. We just go out and do our job.”
“It makes it more satisfying because we know we accomplished this, having it all ourselves on the budget that I had, making money to put it back in and keep fighting for it. It definitely feels real good knowing the way we did it.”
While it is the veteran driver’s first championship, it is also the first for his longtime crew chief Heather Lynn. She became the first female championship-winning crew chief in a late model Dirt National Series and North American Motorsports Series.
Due to the way Erb and Lyne run their team – as the only two members of the crew – Lyne dubbed the underdogs “Dynamic-Duo”.
The two have been working together since 2001, when she volunteered to join the team. Since then, they’ve racked up many accomplishments, including the 2016 Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora and three consecutive Summer DIRTcar National Championships.
These accomplishments paved the way for their first duo championship on a national tour.
“It’s been a long time,” Lynn said. “It was an amazing, amazing feeling. I’m very proud of our accomplishments. We worked hard. We didn’t get the funding and help that many other teams had, so we kind of classify ourselves as somewhat of an underdog. But we make up for it in our work ethic and planning.” .
That planning led to a renewed focus early in the season for Erb, who said he felt the team was in a position to push him towards winning the championship.
He opened the season with a top-five finish at Volusia Speedway Park during the Sunshine Nationals, which resulted in a 22nd top-five finish.
“Like I said earlier in the year, I had a focus on getting out there and doing it this year,” Earp said. “I feel like we’ve been getting better every year, and I think we were at the point where things were where they were to begin with.
“It started well, we continued to work well, and I think after a few weeks I had a really good idea that we had a good chance of doing it.”
One of the things that helped Erb and Lyne down the road to championships was their change of approach.
Lyne is challenged with balancing her full-time job as an engineer and being crew chief for a full-time national team. Although the balance isn’t easy, she’s mastered the obstacles and still finds ways to keep the team more efficient than ever this year.
“We’re really starting to focus and get a better, more efficient process going up and down the road,” said Lynn. “We kind of blocked out a lot of the distractions that we had before. With my work as well, I always had this extra pressure and extra workload, but I didn’t put in as many hours as in years past, so we can really start to focus on that.”
This efficient approach has helped cement Erb’s consistency in 2022. Along with his 22 top-five finishes, he’s taken four wins and finished outside the top ten only eight times throughout his nearly 50-plus racing season.
Earp mathematically claimed his first championship at US 36 Raceway with three races remaining, letting some weight off his shoulders before the World of Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track in Charlotte.
“It was a huge relief, because we knew we were finally locked in,” Earp said. “All the hard work paid off, and then we can go to Charlotte and not worry about anything. It’s a race. Anything can happen. You can have a streak of bad luck and things can turn very quickly.
“Just to be able to hear that it’s been done and to know all the hard work that’s been done over the season and over the years to get to this point has made me feel really good.”
The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models title will always be remembered, no matter who wins it. But for Erb and Lyne, this is a unique path that they can cherish for the rest of their lives.
However, as Lin mentioned, even though they won the championship, there was still work to be done.
“We set the bar, now we have to clear it,” said Lin.