Another Amazing Season For Devin Gilpin
CONCORD, N.C. – Devin Gilpin was spectacular in 2012. He might have been even better, though, in 2013.
Continuing his rapid ascension to the top of the open-wheel modified world, the 23-year-old driver from Columbus, Ind., won the DIRTcar UMP Modified national points championship for the second consecutive year with a 2013 campaign that was almost too good to be true.
After winning an amazing 36 UMP Modified features en route to his first-ever national title in 2012, Gilpin’s checkered-flag output totaled a slightly more modest 31 victories in ’13. But he captured those 31 races in 25 fewer starts than he made in ‘12, adding more luster to a season that saw him become just the fourth driver since 1984 to repeat as UMP Modified national champion.
“This year the goal was to race less and win more,” said Gilpin, who reduced his workload to 57 DIRTcar UMP-sanctioned points race in 2013 (from 82 in ‘12). “We won more than 50 percent of the races we ran, so it all panned out almost perfect.”
In fact, Gilpin put up a startling win percentage of .544 in 2013, significantly raising his victory rate from his already gaudy .440 mark in ’12. It was the type of standout success that makes him a worthy heir to UMP Modified racing’s previous back-to-back national champions: Danny Yanders (1995-96), Jimmy Owens (2000-02) and Mike Harrison (2010-11).
“Winning two championships in a row means everything to me as far as my career,” said Gilpin, who grew up watching his father, Todd, and grandfather, Don Fleetwood, drive UMP Modifieds before climbing behind the wheel himself at the age of 14. “I just wanted to win one, let alone two. This puts you in a category up there with Jimmy Owens (record four national championships) and Harrison (three titles). If your name’s on paper with those guys, you must be doing pretty well.”
Gilpin paused, and then added, “It’s real cool, real humbling, to be able to accomplish something like this. I know that one of these days people will forget about me, so right now I’m just trying to enjoy it and take it all in.”
It’s likely, of course, that Gilpin will remain a relevant figure in the dirt-track wars for years, perhaps decades, to come. Drivers – especially young drivers – don’t win at the clip Gilpin has (nearly 120 feature victories over the past five years) by accident. Clearly, special talent must be in play.
Consider the manner in which Gilpin kicked off his march to a second straight UMP Modified crown in 2013. Driving the same car 2012 Impressive Chassis machine owned by his grandfather that he piloted to his first title, Gilpin was victorious in 18 of his first 23 starts in ’13, including a sizzling streak of 13 consecutive wins from May 3 through June 13. That’s a superstar-quality stretch of dominance – no matter how much Gilpin tries to downplay it.
“Back there in May and June it was like we could do no wrong,” said Gilpin, who is single and works at his grandfather’s Dasco Race Supplies in Brownstown, Ind. “But I try not to think about it too much when things are going so good like that. I try to just go race-to-race and see what happens. When we win races in bunches like that, I like to think it’s because we just had a good program with our car and (Mike Shell) motors and everything was banging off all eight cylinders.”
Gilpin’s unforgettable spring essentially propelled him to the national title, which was determined using drivers’ 30 best finishes/points nights. The early cushion he built allowed him to withstand the most trying point of his season, a late-summer stretch in which his thoughts were with his ailing grandmother, Sherry Fleetwood, as she battled cancer before finally passing away on Sept. 1.