Virginia Motor Speedway
Rebounding Bloomquist wins Commonwealth 100
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
JAMAICA, Va. (April 14) — Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., played the tire game to perfection Saturday night at Virginia Motor Speedway and earned $25,000 for a Commonwealth 100 victory that emphatically ended his recent streak of poor performances on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Starting from the 18th position, Bloomquist bolted on a hard-compound right-rear tire for the 100-lap feature and was one of only four drivers to finish the race without pitting for fresh rubber. He took the lead when Dennis Erb Jr. suffered a flat tire with 11 laps remaining after dominating the majority of the race.
“What I choose to run for the right-rear tire, in everybody’s mind in the whole pits was a big risk,” said Bloomquist, who charged into the top 10 early in the race and bided his time during the remaining distance. “The thing I was surprised about was how good it ran early. We were passing cars that had on (softer tires) and that’s when I knew that we were really good.
“We just wanted to try to get as far as we could before it rubbered-up and got one-laned on the bottom. We did that and then I just had to wait for things to play out.”
A number of things did play out through the course of the extra-distance race, and the majority of them were in Bloomquist’s favor. He was third behind Erb and 16th-starting John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., as the race entered its latter stages, but he didn’t have to pass either car to earn the win.
Blankenship gave up the second spot with his flat tire on lap 87 and Erb followed suit two laps later, handing Bloomquist the lead and ultimately the victory.
“I knew mine was staying even after seeing so many flats,” Bloomquist said of the confidence he had in his tire selection. “I couldn’t see any grooves on (Erb’s) right-rear tire and there was 13 to go. I thought ‘boy, I don’t think I could get that lucky if I was in that spot.’ And he didn’t.”
The victory marked a major turnaround for Bloomquist, a two-time Lucas Oil Series champion who entered the event 10th in series standings after scoring just two top-10 finishes in the tour’s first five points-paying races and twice finishing 23rd or worse. He continued to struggle during Friday’s preliminary action before a switch to his backup car propelled him to Saturday’s success.
“We’ve worked so much on both (cars), that when (the primary car) wasn’t good, I didn’t know what was going on. So I decided to get out the other one,” said Bloomquist, who won a consolation race to transfer into the main event. “After the consy, I felt like I had something good underneath me. I tuned it a little bit for the feature and we hit it pretty good.”
Bloomquist led a brigade of hard-chargers in a race in which none of the top five finishers started better than 15th. Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., rallied from the 27th starting position to finish second while 15th-starting Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., finished third. Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., advanced from 24th to fourth while leading series rookie Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., rounded out the top five from the 25th starting position.
Pearson, a four-time Lucas Oil Series champion, recorded his first top-five finish since Oct. 9 at Rome (Ga.) Speedway. After going winless for the first time in many years last season, Pearson began to believe he had a car capable of ending his winless streak midway through Saturday’s race, before slowing to conserve his tires in the closing laps.
“The mid-part of the race, we were actually better than Scott. We started 26th and we maneuvered through the field pretty good,” said Pearson, who with the finish moved into the top five of the Lucas Oil standings for the first time since finishing third in the final 2010 points rundown. “I knew at the end there would be a lot of tire issues. I was just praying mine would make it, cause I knew in another lap or two I would’ve been done.”
After dropping a number of spots early in the race, O’Neal was happy to gain so much ground and score the third-place finish.
“We struggled at the start bad, but the longer we went, it got better and better. So yeah, I’ll take the third-place for sure,” said O’Neal, who’s currently second in the series points standings. “Our race car just wasn’t very good at the start. We had on the same (tires) as Earl and Scott and they took off good while I went backwards. … We still dug and got us a good top three and a good points night, too.”
After starting fifth and taking the lead from polesitter Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., on lap 19, Erb appeared to be headed for what would have been the biggest victory of his career with a dominating performance for much of the race. He was pulling away from Bloomquist when his tire let go on lap 89.
“We went out with what we did and I just tried to roll around as smooth as I could and make it last,” Erb said. “It’s just one of them deals. I’ve been around this for a long time and I’ve seen races won and lost on tires. We just didn’t make it this time.”
Defending race winner Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va., shared the front row with Landers for the start of the race, but neither driver was much of a factor after they both faded and eventually pitted. Shaver ended up sixth with Landers seventh.
Reigning Lucas Oil Series champion and current points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., started fourth and was running fifth with one lap remaining when a flat tire cased him to drop to ninth on the final lap.
Notes: Bloomquist's self-designed car is powered by a Roush Yates Engine and sponsored by Miller Bros. Construction, Hawkeye Trucking, Sweet Mfg., Base Racing Fuels and Ohlins. … The race was slowed by 14 cautions, the majority of which were for flat tires or single-car spins. … The victory is Bloomquist’s first on the Lucas Oil Series since the tour’s third-to-last race of last season on Oct. 9 at Rome. … Super Late Model rookie Stevie Long of Mechanicsville, Md., ran among the top 10 for much of the race before dropping to 12th following a flat tire. … Rick Eckert of York, Pa., started third, but fell out early with ignition problems. … Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., was slated to start eighth, but missed the race after blowing an engine at the finish of his heat race on Friday. … Madden’s fourth-place finish came in a backup car with a smaller engine. He blew the engine in his primary car during Friday’s hot laps. … The Lucas Oil Series stays on the east coast for another week with a doubleheader weekend at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pa., Friday night and Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway Saturday night. Both events pay $10,000 to the winner.
Commonwealth 100: (1) Scott Bloomquist, (2) Earl Pearson Jr., (3) Don O’Neal, (4) Chris Madden, (5) Jonathan Davenport, (6) Steve Shaver, (7) Jared Landers, (8) Eric Wells, (9) Jimmy Owens, (10) Shane Clanton, (11) Stevie Long, (12) John Blankenship, (13) Dennis Erb Jr., (14) Austin Hubbard, (15) Steve Francis, (16) David Williams, (17) John Lobb, (18) Jared Hawkins, (19) Tim McCreadie, (20) Casey Roberts, (21) Tyler Reddick, (22) Kenny Moreland, (23) Jamie Lathroum, (24) Brian Birkhofer, (25) Ricky Elliott, (26) Rick Eckert. Fast qualifier (among 40 cars): Roberts, 17.058. Heat race winners: Shaver, Eckert, Owens, Landers. Consolation race winners: Hawkins, Bloomquist. Provisional starters: Davenport, Pearson, Wells. Non-qualifiers race winner: Gregg Satterlee.
In a redraw among heat race winners, Jared Landers has drawn the poll for tonight's main event. He'll be joined on the front row by Steve Shaver while Rick Eckert will start third and Jimmy Owens will start fourth. ... With the 100-lap main event the only action remaining, race officials are first taking a break for track prep. The track was mostly locked-down in the bottom groove during consolation races and the non-qualifiers race. ... Set to start deep in the field, Steve Francis doesn't think the extra time for track prep is going to help to provide passing. "It's just a waste of time if you ask me," Francis said as he and joined most of the other feature starts watched track crews grade off the track's top layer. ... With the redraw possibly taking away his front-row starting spot, Steve Shaver belives the race could come down to who draws the pole. "Oh boy, that redraw's going to be important," Shaver said when asked about his thoughts on the track surface. "I'm not sure there's gonna be much passing out there." ... Chris Madden made some passes in his consolation race to squeak into the starting field, but he agrees with the other drivers. "It's not gonna change anything," he said. "Everyboyd's gonna bolt on hard tires and putt-putt around."
After a quiet weekend at VMS, Gregg Satterlee rallied from his fifth starting spot and overtook polesitter Dean Bowen with two laps remaining on his way to winning the $3,000 Rumble on the River non-qualifiers race. After moving to second around lap 10, Satterlee stalked Bowen for a number of laps before using an impressive move on the high side to make the winning pass. Darryl Hills was second with Brandon Overton third. Bowen faded to fourth at the finish while Dennis Franklin rounded out the top five.
"I'm happy to end up here tonight after we had a rough weekend," Satterlee said in victory lane. "After the B-main we changed a lot on the car just to try it and it worked out pretty good. At least we have a little extra money to go home with."
Finish: Gregg Satterlee, Darryl Hills, Brandon Overton, Dean Bowen, Dennis Franklin, Kyle Lear, David Zona, Walker Arthur, Andrew Mullins.
Second consolation race
Polesitter Scott Bloomquist took control on the start of the race and led the entire distance of the 20-lapper. Jamie Lathroum stayed close to Bloomquist for the first half of the race, but faded late around the race's halfway point. Cautions on lap 12 and 18 gave Lathroum more shots at Bloomquist, but he never mounted a challenge and settled for the runner-up finish. John Lobb was third while Chris Madden rallied from the tail and outdueled Dennis Franklin in the final two-lap dash to the finish to claim the fourth and final transfer spot. Madden, the 2010 Commonwealth 100 winner, edged ahead of Franklin by less than a car lenth at the finish. Daryll Hills went to the pits with a flat right-rear tire under the lap-12 caution. He had battled with Franklin for fourth before the flat.
Finish: Scott Bloomquist, Jamie Lathroum, John Lobb, Chris Madden, Dennis Franklin, Jonathan Davenport, Kyle Lear, Daryll Hills.
First consolation race
Polesitter Jared Hawkins outdueled fellow front-row starter Austin Hubbard in a side-by-side battle for the first two laps, then turned back another challenge from Hubbard on lap five on his way to winning the 20-lapper. After losing the initial battle for the lead, Hubbard battled back and made significant contact with Hawkins on lap five as he pulled alongside in turn four. But Hawkins pulled back ahead and pulled away during the remaining laps. Hubbard held off Tim McCreadie in a late battle for second while Steve Francis finished in the fourth and final transfer position. The race was slowed with two laps complete when Walker Arthur spun in turn four.
Finish: Jared Hawkins, Austin Hubbard, Tim McCreadie, Steve Francis, Earl Pearson Jr., Dean Bowen, Eric Wells, Brandon Overton, Gregg Satterlee, David Zona, Walker Arthur.
Preliminary action for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event was held Friday with defending race winner Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va., and reigning Lucas Oil Series champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., earning front-row starting spots. … Two consolation races, a 30-lap non-qualifiers race and the 100-lap main event are the only races on tonight’s schedule for the Late Model-only event. … Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., will start from the tail of the field in David Zona's car. Stone was headed for a heat race victory when his engine let go only a few hundred feet from the finish line, allowing Jared Laders to sneak by. Stone, who coasted across the line second, has no backup car or engine for the remainder of the weekend. … Drivers not returning for Saturday's action include Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., who opted to compete in a $5,000 Southern All Stars race tonight after engine woes hampered his efforts Friday and Jason Covert of York Haven, Pa., who will compete at Winchester (Va.) Motor Speedway. ... Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., may have won a heat race Friday night, but that doesn’t mean his confident in his chances of winning tonight’s feature. Landers, who struggled through much of his heat and only took the lead when Stone slowed, says he’s having trouble selecting the correct line around the speedway. “This place is just tough for my driving style, I guess,” Landers said. “I can be fast, but it’s like some laps I just can’t get through the center of the corner. I really don’t know what we could do to make the car better. I just got to figure out how to get through the corner." ... Super Late Model rookie Stevie Long of Mechanicsville, Md., had an impressive performance in his heat race, finishing a close second to Rick Eckert of York, Pa. Long, who entered the weekend with four Super Late Model starts — including a victory earlier this year at Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek Md. — has plenty of experience at VMS. With multiple runner-up finishes in the track's Limited Late Model points, Long called himself the "Mark Martin of Virginia Motor Speedway." The 32-year-old driver says the track "owes me one" and hopes to cash in that debt with a strong run tonight.
Commonwealth 100 feature lineup
Row 1: Steve Shaver, Jimmy Owens
Row 2: Rick Eckert, Jared Landers
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Birkhofer
Row 4: Stevie Long, Dan Stone
Row 5: Casey Roberts, Ricky Elliot
Row 6: Shane Clanton, Kenny Moreland
Row 7: David Williams, Tyler Reddick
Row 8: Don O'Neal, John Blankenship
Row 9: Consolation race transfers
Row 10: Consolation race transfers
Row 11: Consolation race transfers
Row 12: Provisional starters
Row 13: Provisional starters
Consolation race lineups
First consolation race
Row 1: Austin Hubbard, Jared Hawkins
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Steve Francis
Row 3: Earl Pearson Jr., Jason Covert
Row 4: Gregg Satterlee, Dean Bowen
Row 5: Walker Arthur, David Zona
Row 6: Brandon Overton, Eric Wells
Second consolation race
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Jamie Lathroum
Row 2: John Lobb, Darryl Hills
Row 3: Dennis Franklin, Ronnie DeHaven Jr.
Row 4: Kyle Lear, Jonathan Davenport
Row 5: Chris Madden, Andrew Mullins
Row 6: Mike Marlar, Tim Shelton