GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 17) — Scott Bloomquist started the week in a hospital bed. He ended it in victory lane.
Showing no ill effects from the infected finger on his left hand that landed him under a doctor’s care and cost him him three nights of racing, Bloomquist emerged triumphant in Friday evening’s 50-lap Wrisco Industries Winternationals feature at East Bay Raceway Park.
Bloomquist, 53, of Mooresburg, Tenn., passed Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., for the lead on lap 16 and was never headed en route to the $10,000 top prize and his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win of 2017. The tour’s defending champion kept Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., at bay throughout the race’s second half to secure a checkered flag that he couldn’t help savoring after his hospital admittance had put his entire Winternationals in doubt.
According to Bloomquist, he “didn’t know for sure” if he would do any racing at all until he was cleared by doctors after being released Wednesday night. And even after returning to competition in Thursday night’s non-point event, he admitted, “My hand was pretty sore still.”
But Bloomquist’s finger — which he injured early Sunday morning when he plunged a wire cutter under his nail, causing an infection that sent him to a Tampa-area hospital on Monday — felt “much better” on Friday. When it came time for the week’s first Lucas Oil Series points race, he had his Sweet-Bloomquist vehicle ready.
After a caution flag on lap 30 snuffed out Richards’s best opportunity to take the lead, Bloomquist controlled the remainder of the distance on a icy-slick third-mile oval that developed a single fast lane around the bottom. The 28-year-old Richards — a first-time Lucas Oil Series regular after winning his record fourth World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series title in 2016 — couldn’t find sufficient traction to seriously threaten Bloomquist down the stretch and settled for a runner-up finish, 1.038 seconds behind the victor.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., advanced from the ninth starting spot to finish third. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., placed fourth — rallying from the 17th starting one night after winning from 18th — and the polesitting O’Neal finished fifth after leading laps 1 and 3-15 and surviving a scare on lap 27 when he slid completely sideways in turn three from contact with Davenport.
Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, also led the race, nosing ahead to pace lap two. He faded from contention, however, and finished 16th.
Bloomquist credited the knowledge he gained during his quiet run to a seventh-place finish in Thursday night’s 45-lapper for helping propel him to his 78th career Lucas Oil Series triumph.
“We were fast time in our group (Thursday) and were starting on the pole (in a heat), but we didn’t make it out for our heat race and just pulled out in the back (due to an electrical problem),” Bloomquist said. “I just wanted to get in the (feature) race to feel the car out. I really wasn’t that concerned. It wasn’t a points night. I knew if I could feel out a few things last night it would help me for tonight, and it sure did.”
Once the racetrack largely locked down during the feature’s second half, Bloomquist maintained his customary calm, cool approach and stuck strong to the preferred inside line to prevent Richards from mounting any real late-race charge.
“I thought maybe I was a little too low because it was a little bit slick if you got too low,” Bloomquist said. “But I didn’t want to get a little high and then drift out, so it was really a tough decision where to go. But I knew I was gonna say low. You can look a little bit to the outside to see if you see anyone coming, but the car felt good enough that I was pretty confident.”
And thus Bloomquist turned the tables on Richards, who won the Feb. 11 Lucas Oil Series event at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga., over Bloomquist. That makes a pair of one-two finishes already for the two reigning national series champions who are expected to wage a season-long war across the country.
Bloomquist, of course, is ready for the challenge from Richards.
“You know, I always say, ‘I like ‘em all here,’” Bloomquist commented. “I don’t like going home and saying, ‘Well, if so-and-so would’ve been there.’ I like going to races where we race everybody.”
Richards didn’t go down quietly, though. He hustled his Best Performance Motorsports XR1 Rocket forward from the eighth starting spot to second with a lap-26 pass of O’Neal and ducked underneath Bloomquist three circuits later, but the lap-30 caution flag flew before he could complete a pass.
“We got to moving around a little bit and I started to move down, and I think I found the grip (on the inside) right before Scott did and was able to pull up alongside of him,” said Richards, who won Tuesday night’s feature. “I think had the caution not come out we could’ve got by him and then held him off. But the cautions fell the way they did, and he still did a great job tonight.”
Richards did attempt one last-ditch bid, moving to the outside of turns three and four on lap 41 in hopes of finding the traction necessary to overtake Bloomquist. There was none there, though, and he barely dived back to the bottom of turn one in time to stay ahead of Davenport.
“I was like, ‘Well, I’ll just try it. I’m running second, so I’ll give the top a shot,’” Richards said. “I tried it, and it was definitely not the way to go so I got back in line. Had I not been points racing I might have tried the top again back in (turns) one and two, but we just needed to get a good, solid night in tonight so I didn’t.
“We’ll take a second tonight,” he added. “We kind of threw some stuff at it for the feature because in the heat race we messed a shock up and I was riding wheelies out there. Luckily we finished the heat race in second and we were able to salvage the finish we did.”
Davenport, 33, was in sight of the leaders at the end of the race, building his confidence in his new Icon by Barry Wright machine.
“We’re gaining on this new Icon race car,” Davenport said. “It gets better and better every night. We’re getting a little more comfortable qualifying, and we’re definitely better in the feature than we are throughout the night. If we get us a good starting spot and don’t have to pass so many cars, we might have a chance to win tomorrow.”
Six caution flags slowed the feature, including one on a lap-16 restart when cars ran over the series’s restart cone in turn four.
Other cautions were needed for Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. (slowed on lap 16); debris on the homestretch on lap 17; a lap-23 spin by Zack Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va.; Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa. (slowed on lap 30); and Kenny Pettyjohn of Millsboro, Del., who slowed off turn two on lap 45 — right in front of the leaders — when his car’s oil-pressure light blinked on.
Notes: Bloomquist’s victory was his sixth since 2010 at East Bay. He has eight career Winternationals overall but once went 17 years between triumphs. … Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., ran in the top five for most of the feature’s first half but faded to 11th at the finish. … Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., was the race’s hard charger, advancing from the 23rd starting spot after using a provisional to finish seventh. … Steve Francis of Bowling Green, Ky., registered a season-best finish of sixth. … Pierce recovered from his early troubles to finish 14th in his cameo behind the wheel of Missouri driver Gordy Gundaker’s second Pierce Chassis car. ... Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., was running fifth during the lap-23 caution period when he retired to the pit area due to a blown power-steering fitting.
Preliminary results and notes:
The feature field took the green flag just after 8:40 p.m. ... Veteran Don O’Neal and Scott Bloomquist will share the front row for the 50-lap feature. … Zack Dohm starts fourth, one row ahead of his father Tim. … Lucas Oil provisional spots went to Earl Pearson Jr. and Colton Flinner while Nick Davis received the fast-time provisional. … Timothy Culp made his first feature of the week, finishing third in a very competitive second B-main. … Boom Briggs switched to his backup car after experiencing terminal mechanical trouble during his heat and nearly advanced from the rear of the first B-main to transfer, climbing all the way to third place before slipping to sixth at the finish.
Row 1: Don O’Neal, Scott Bloomquist
Row 2: Darrell Lanigan, Zack Dohm
Row 3: Doug Drown, Tim Dohm
Row 4: Hudson O’Neal, Josh Richards
Row 5: Jonathan Davenport, Kyle Bronson
Row 6: Steve Francis, Jimmy Owens
Row 7: Gregg Satterlee, Corey Conley
Row 8: Jared Miley, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 9: Tim McCreadie, Austin Hubbard
Row 10: Kenny Pettyjohn, Dustin Linville
Row 11: Bobby Pierce, Timothy Culp
Row 12: Earl Pearson Jr., Colton Flinner
Row 13: Nick Davis, Doug Horton
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash results
Finish (8 laps): Doug Horton, Gordy Gundaker, David Breazeale, Bob Gardner, Boom Briggs, Austin Rettig, G.R. Smith, Pancho Lawler, Brian Ligon, Ricky Weiss.
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash lineup
Row 1: Doug Horton, David Breazeale
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Ricky Weiss
Row 3: Boom Briggs, Gordy Gundaker
Row 4: G.R. Smith, Bob Gardner
Row 5: Pancho Lawler, Austin Rettig
First B-Main finish (top 3 transfer): Tim McCreadie, Kenny Pettyjohn, Bobby Pierce, Doug Horton, Mason Zeigler, Boom Briggs, Nick Davis, G.R. Smith, Pancho Lawler, Brian Ligon (DNS) Freddie Carpenter.
Second B-Main finish (top 3 transfer): Austin Hubbard, Dustin Linville, Timothy Culp, Earl Pearson Jr., David Breazeale, Ricky Weiss, Gordy Gundaker, Bob Gardner, Austin Rettig, Colton Fllinner, Chad Hollenbeck, Todd Frank, Davey Johnson.
(12 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 2: Doug Horton, Nick Davis
Row 3: Bobby Pierce, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Michael Lake, G.R. Smith
Row 5: Pancho Lawler, Brian Ligon
Row 6: Boom Briggs, John Gardner Jr.
Row 7: Freddie Carpenter
Row 1: Austin Hubbard, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 2: Ricky Weiss, Dustin Linville
Row 3: David Breazeale, Timothy Culp
Row 4: Gordy Gundaker, Bob Gardner
Row 5: Chad Hollenbeck, Davey Johnson
Row 6: Colton Flinner, Austin Rettig
Row 7: Todd Frank
Zack Dohm controlled the event from start to finish, beating Josh Richards to the finish line by 0.912 of a second. Jimmy Owens finished farther back in third and Dennis Erb outdueled Earl Pearson Jr. for fourth.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Zack Dohm, Josh Richards, Jimmy Owens, Dennis Erb Jr., Earl Pearson Jr., Dustin Linville, Timothy Culp, Bob Gardner, Davey Johnson, Austin Rettig.
Scott Bloomquist led from flag-to-flag, keeping Tim Dohm at bay to beat the West Virginian by 0.687 of a second. Kyle Bronson was a distant third and Corey Conley claimed the final transfer spot over Austin Hubbard.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Tim Dohm, Kyle Bronson, Corey Conley, Austin Hubbard, Ricky Weiss, David Breazeale, Gordy Gundaker, Chad Hollenbeck, Colton Flinner, Todd Frank.
Darrell Lanigan pulled a slider on Hudson O'Neal in turn four to take command on lap seven and marched away to victory. O'Neal held on to finish second, while Steve Francis was third and Jared Miley overtook Nick Davis late in the distance to grab the final transfer spot.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Hudson O'Neal, Steve Francis, Jared Miley, Kenny Pettyjohn, Nick Davis, Mason Zeigler, G.R. Smith, Brian Ligon (DNS) Freddie Carpenter.
Don O'Neal dominated the action, leading the entire distance. Doug Drown overtook Jonathan Davenport for second early in the race and finished second, 1.750 seconds behind the victor. Davenport held off a last-lap challenge from Gregg Satterlee to finish third, while Thursday-night winner Tim McCreadie missed transferring with a fifth-place finish. A caution flag flew on lap six for Boom Briggs, who was running fourth when his car belched a bright flame and came to an abrupt stop in the turn-one cushion; his powerless car was pushed back to the pit area.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Don O'Neal, Doug Drown, Jonathan Davenport, Gregg Satterlee, Tim McCreadie, Doug Horton, Bobby Pierce, Michael Lake, Pancho Lawler, Boom Briggs (DNS) John Gardner Jr.
It’s another gorgeous day in the Sunshine State with clear skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. … A 42-car field is signed in. … The big news of the day is the addition to the field of reigning UMP DIRTcar Summernationals champion Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., who arrived at East Bay with his father, Bob, on Thursday night but only to spectate. The 20-year-old Pierce brought his racing gear along in case a ride opportunity opened up, and this afternoon he was offered the opportunity to drive Missouri racer Gordy Gundaker’s second Pierce car. “Gordy asked me if I wanted to run his other car today at 1 o’clock,” said Pierce, who until this year had entered the Winternationals with his family-owned team annually since 2011. … Teenager Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., has his machine repaired for tonight’s action after it sustained significant nose damage — including a buster radiator — during Thursday night’s feature when he ran into the spinning car of Florida’s Kyle Bronson, who twirled after contact with O’Neal’s father, Don, while battling for the lead. … Corey Conley of Wellsburg, W.Va., also had to make some extensive repairs after his career-best East Bay run in Thursday night’s feature ended in bitter fashion. Conley was in contention for a top-five finish on lap 23 when a turn-two scrape with Hudson O’Neal knocked out the right-front suspension of Conley’s Kryptonite machine, which appeared to be getting faster as the race wore on. “We had a real good car,” said Conley, who expressed his displeasure with the teenage O’Neal after climbing from his damaged car on the racetrack. “I really think we could’ve finished in the top five. This car is at its best when the track slows down and its stop-and-go in the corners, so that’s why I was so happy that the track was getting slicker as (the race) went on.” … Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., decided to stay at East Bay rather than travel to the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series opener tonight at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., indicating he hopes to travel the Lucas Oil Series for the first time in 2017. ... Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., is celebrating his 25th birthday. ... Drivers who headed home following Thursday night’s action were Greg Oakes of Franklinville, N.Y., Stephen Breeding of Isom, Ky., and Craig Wolford of St. Louisville, Ohio.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series runs the fourth round of the 41st annual Winternationals on Friday night with a 50-lap feature paying $10,000-to-win topping the card. After three non-points events (Wednesday night was rained out), the Friday and Saturday shows will offer full points toward the Lucas Oil Series championship.
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., registered his first East Bay victory since 2011 on Thursday evening, rallying from the 18th starting spot to grab the lead from Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., on lap 24 of the 45-lap A-main.
Friday’s program is made up of hot laps, time trials, heat races, consolations, the DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash and the 50-lap main event.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Doug Drown
Row 3: Boom Briggs, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Doug Horton, Bobby Pierce
Row 5: Michael Lake, Pancho Lawler
Row 6: John Gardner Jr.
Row 1: Hudson O’Neal, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Steve Francis, Nick Davis
Row 3: Jared Miley, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Kenny Pettyjohn, Brian Ligon
Row 5: G.R. Smith, Freddie Carpenter
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Tim Dohm
Row 2: Corey Conley, Kyle Bronson
Row 3: Austin Hubbard, David Breazeale
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Gordy Gundaker
Row 5: Ricky Weiss, Colton Flinner
Row 6: Todd Frank
Row 1: Zack Dohm, Josh Richards
Row 2: Jimmy Owens, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Timothy Culp, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 4: Bob Gardner, Dustin Linville
Row 5: Davey Johnson, Austin Rettig
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.907
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.982
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 14.993
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 15.038
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.153
Steve Francis (15), Bowling Green, Ky., 15.241
Doug Drown (240), Wooster, Ohio, 15.254
Nick Davis (92), Gumboro, Del., 15.295
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.304
Jared Miley (H1), South Park, Pa., 15.311
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.328
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.341
Doug Horton (27H), Ruskin, Fla., 15.344
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 15.442
Bobby Pierce (11B), Oakwood, Ill., 15.492
Brian Ligon (4), Augusta, Ga., 15.717
Michael Lake (27), Uniontown, Pa., 15.745
G.R. Smith (22*), Cornelius, N.C., 15.91
Pancho Lawler (93v), Hanover, Pa., 16.149
Freddie Carpenter (K), Parkersburg, W.Va., no time
John Gardner Jr. (38c), Germantown Hills, Ill., no time
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.94
Zack Dohm (17), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 14.949
Tim Dohm (6T), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 14.96
Josh Richards (1R), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.974
Corey Conley (14), Wellsburg, W.Va., 15.031
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.167
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.176
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.223
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 15.223
Timothy Culp (c8), Prattsville, Ark., 15.341
David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., 15.352
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.358
Chad Hollenbeck (4Ds), Kingsley, Pa., 15.358
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 15.456
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 15.457
Dustin Linville (D8), Bryantsville, Ky., 15.506
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingley, Manitoba, 15.514
Davey Johnson (1J), Latrobe, Pa., 15.555
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 15.753
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 15.832
Todd Frank (21), Montrose, Iowa, 16.5