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Cedar Lake Speedway

Bloomquist survives wild last lap at Cedar Lake

August 2, 2008, 7:28 pm
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com chief writer
The throng on Cedar Lake's backstretch. (K.C. Rooney)
The throng on Cedar Lake's backstretch. (K.C. Rooney)

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 2) — The first 99 laps of the 21st annual Young Oil USA Nationals, which featured daring passes among five leaders, could've stood among the memorable races in Cedar Lake Speedway history. But throw in a can-you-believe-that final lap — when Scott Bloomquist drove the widest race car of his life to fend off charges by Shannon Babb and Brian Birkhofer — and you've got a 100-lapper the Cedar Lake faithful will rave about for years. | Saturday notebook | Friday notebook | Preliminary results | Saturday slideshow | Friday slideshow

After taking the white flag, Bloomquist felt serious heat — along with a couple of bumps from the nose of Babb's car — in racing towards his fourth USA Nationals trophy. The Mooresburg, Tenn., Hall of Famer's victory wasn't guaranteed until he swept wide off of turn four heading for the checkered flag, blocking Babb's high-side momentum, allowing him to flash across the finish line just barely ahead of Babb and an onrushing Birkhofer. The track's tradition of bringing the top three to victory lane was fitting on a night when the top three crossed the finish line within milliseconds of one another.

The ninth-starting Bloomquist's admired strategy of pacing 100 laps to be at his best at the finish worked once again, but it might not have worked for 101 laps against the polesitting Babb, who fell back as far as fourth, and the fifth-starting Birkhofer, who twice had to pit to change flat tires.

"At the end, we looked to the right and saw Shannon, and I was like, 'Whoa!' " said Bloomquist, who collected $50,000 after surviving a mini-collision with Babb just before taking the checkered flags. "When you're going for 50 on the last lap, it's all good. We had a little contact, but nothing too severe."

Babb, who led laps 27-33 and again from lap 40-52, made a do-or-die move on lap 99 by jumping to the high side as the leaders negotiated the slower car of Matt Miller in turn three. Bloomquist slipped under Miller just as Babb swept around him and the leaders flew into turn one with Babb cocking his car sideways as he nuzzled up to Bloomquist's rear bumper in turn two. He stayed up top through turns three and four but couldn't get alongside Bloomquist before the leader shut the door on him at the frontstretch wall.

"You can always throw those Hail Mary's in there. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't," Babb said. "It was close. It was one of those deals where I went for it, but I had to lift a little bit, or I'd be in the fence."

Birkhofer, who led laps 34-39 before a flat tire helped Babb get by him on a lap-39 restart, did his best to rally from a pair of pit stops and was poised to pounce if the top two bobbled on the final lap. But he knew Bloomquist wasn't going to make it easy on anyone.

"Scott made it as wide as he could going down the front straightaway," Birkhofer said. "I'd have done the same thing. You've gotta make that car wide on the last lap, especially when it's that tight."

Bloomquist added the $50,000 payday to a $42,000 victory at West Plains (Mo.) Motor Speedway's Show-Me 100 and a $100,000 victory at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway's Dream XIV while Babb and Birkhofer — both $40,000 winners this season — settled for second and third. Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., looking for his first USA Nationals victory in 15 years, started outside the front row and led 26 laps but was a fading fourth at the finish, just ahead of first-time Cedar Lake visitor Will Vaught of Crane, Mo., who rallied from 19th to finish fifth in a race slowed by nine cautions and a red flag.

Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., started third and aggressively attacked the high groove to take the lead from Babb on lap 53, but the center of his right rear wheel ripped out on the 71st lap, knocking him out of contention for his first victory at Cedar Lake.

The race was hampered by three stoppages in the first five laps, including for Eric Pember's slow rollover in turn four that brought out a red flag. Pember wasn't injured and Moyer resumed his lead through the early stages. Moyer never got comfortable up front, though, as Babb and McCreadie hounded him for several laps. When Moyer was briefly hung up by the slower car of John Kaanta, Babb made an inside move on the frontstretch to take control on lap 27.

But Birkhofer was right in the mix, too, and when Babb got too high exiting turn two on lap 34, Birkhofer rolled past and was leading Babb, Moyer, Matt Miller, Darren Miller, Bloomquist and McCreadie when Chris Simpson slowed to draw a lap-39 caution.

Babb went ahead on the restart as Birkhofer soon slowed with a flat right-rear tire. Matt Miller also had a flat a few laps later and Babb led at the halfway point over Moyer and McCreadie, who picked up speed when he committed to the high side. McCreadie blew around Babb exiting turn four to lead lap 53 and stayed in control through lap 70. But his right rear wheel bounded off the car on lap 71, and Bloomquist's 100-lap pacing appeared to be playing out just right as he inherited the lead.

The race ran caution-free the rest of the way, and Bloomquist wasn't able to put Babb away. Birkhofer worked from sixth to third over the final 29 laps and when the frontrunners came upon Miller's car in the closing laps, it set up the late-race theatrics that left the huge crowd at Cedar Lake buzzing following the track's most prestigious event.

USA Nationals: (1) Scott Bloomquist, (2) Shannon Babb, (3) Brian Birkhofer, (4) Billy Moyer, (5) Will Vaught, (6) Darren Miller, (7) Wendell Wallace, (8) Kevin Weaver, (9) Jeep Van Wormer, (10) Jack Sullivan, (11) John Kaanta, (12) Rick Hanestad, (13) Rodney Melvin, (14) Matt Miller, (15) James Ward, (16) Kerry Hansen, (17) Rob Moss, (18) Adam Hensel, (19) Keith Foss, (20) Tim McCreadie, (21) Denny Eckrich, (22) Jimmy Mars, (23) Brady Smith, (24) Chris Simpson, (25) Eric Pember. Fast qualifier (among 50 cars): Babb, 13.696 seconds. Heat race winners: Babb, Moyer, McCreadie, Van Wormer, Miller, Chris Simpson. Consolation winners: Sullivan, Hensel.

Blog-style coverage of the race:

11:23 p.m. (lap 100): Bloomquist wins (official)

Shannon Babb, making a wild high-side charge, twice bumped Scott Bloomquist on the final lap, but Bloomquist held on to win in a thrilling finish. Brian Birkhofer was just behind them in third with Billy Moyer and Will Vaught fourth and fifth. With Bloomquist trying to get under the slower car of Matt Miller between turns three and four heading for the white flag, Babb jumped to the high groove and went around. But Bloomquist cleared Miller's car at the same time and maintained his edge at the flagstand. Babb drove hard into turn two and stayed high, nuzzling Bloomquist's rear bumper in turn two. Babb got up enough momentum to again charge into turn three and give Bloomquist a run, but Bloomquist was strong enough to beat Babb to the checkered flag as Babb again made contact from behind on the frontstretch.

11:22 p.m. (lap 95): Still in doubt

Scott Bloomquist still leads, but Shannon Babb draws within a few car lengths charging into the corners. Brian Birkhofer has also nearly caught Babb while Billy Moyer is a distant fourth, just ahead of Will Vaught. The top three are close. Bloomquist must negotiate the slower car of Matt Miller in the final laps.

11:19 p.m. (lap 85): Babb closing in

As leader Scott Bloomquist catches lapped traffic, Babb is staying with him, still five lengths behind. Moyer is fading in third with Brian Birkhofer now in fourth ahead of Will Vaught. Tim McCreadie pulled out on lap 87.

11:17 p.m. (lap 75): Bloomquist leads

At the three-quarters mark, Scott Bloomquist has a five-length margin on Shannon Babb with Billy Moyer third. Will Vaught is up to fourth with Brian BIrkhofer fifth. Bloomquist is running high-middle, same as Babb, with Moyer a notch higher. Vaught is in the middle of the track and Birkhofer is switching grooves.

11:13 p.m. (lap-71 caution): T-Mac loses wheel

Leader Tim McCreadie lost his right rear tire on the 71st lap, drawing a caution and handing the lead to Scott Bloomquist. On the restart, Bloomquist will lead Billy Moyer, Shannon Babb, Darren Miller and 19th-starting Will Vaught back to green. Brian Birkhofer is sixth followed by Wendell Wallace, Jeep Van Wormer and Jack Sullivan.

11:11 p.m. (lap 70): Bloomquist second

Tim McCreadie is still out front, but ninth-starting Scott Bloomquist took second from Billy Moyer on the 67th lap and looks strong. Shannon Babb is trying to take third from Moyer with Darren Miller fifth and Will Vaught up to sixth.

11:08 p.m. (lap-65 caution): Eckrich slows

Denny Eckrich damaged his right front in the wall and stopped for a lap-65 caution. Tim McCreadie, continuing in the extreme high groove, had more than a half-straightaway lead over Billy Moyer at lap 70. Scott Bloomquist, running the middle groove, was just behind Moyer as the top three pulled away before the yellow. Shannon Babb got a poor restart on lap 59, fell immediately back to fourth and began to fade. In fifth for the restart will be Darren Miller followed by Wendell Wallace, first-time Cedar Lake racer Will Vaught, Brian Birkhofer (back after two pit stops) and Jeep Van Wormer.

11:03 p.m. (lap-59 caution): Mars out

Jimmy Mars might have a broken driveshaft, officials reported on the radio. He pulled up high in turn two on the 59th lap while running sixth. Tim McCreadie is out front ahead of Shannon Babb, Billy Moyer, Darren Miller and Scott Bloomquist. McCreadie favors the extreme high line and isn't holding back. Sixth is Wendell Wallace followed by Will Vaught, Kevin Weaver, Jeep Van Wormer and Jack Sullivan. Mars has been pushed back to his trailer.

11:01 p.m. (lap 59): T-Mac rolling

Tim McCreadie turned up the wick at the halfway point and started rolling in the high groove, He blew past Shannon Babb exiting turn four on lap 53 to take command and has a half-straightaway lead on lap 59 as the frontrunners are stretching out. A caution appeared on lap 59 when Jimmy Mars pulled up high in turn two.

11:00 p.m. (lap 50): Babb edging away

Shannon Babb built a half-straightaway lead on lap 46 and is edging away. At the halfway point, Billy Moyer is second followed by Tim McCreadie and Darren Miller. Behind them: Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Mars, Wendell Wallace and Will Vaught. McCreadie came alive at the halfway point and swept into the lead on lap 53.

10:53 p.m. (lap-43 caution): Matt Miller has flat

Matt Miller, running fourth, slowed with a flat right-rear tire on the 43rd lap for another caution. Shannon Babb leads followed by Billy Moyer, Darren Miller (who is making up ground in the low groove), Tim McCreadie and Scott Bloomquist in the top five. Brian Birkhofer, who led laps 34-39, went back to the pits, apparently to make a tire change. Sixth is Jimmy Mars followed by Jeep Van Wormer, Wendell Wallace, Will Vaught, Jack Sullivan and Kevin Weaver. Birkhofer returned to the track along with Matt Miller.

10:49 p.m. (lap-41 caution): Birky slows

Shannon Babb went to the lead on the restart and Brian Birkhofer, who led the field for six laps, slowed to draw a caution. He headed to the pits. Behind Babb is Billy Moyer, Darren Miller, Tim McCreadie, Matt Miller, Scott Bloomquist and Jimmy Mars as the lap-39 restart caused a serious shuffling among the frontrunners. Birkhofer made repairs at his hauler and is headed back to the track. Behind Mars is Jeep Van Wormer, Will Vaught, Kevin Weaver, Wendell Wallace, Denny Eckrich and Jack Sullivan. Vaught started 19th and is up to ninth.

10:47 p.m. (lap-39 restart): Lapped-car rule

Officials just announced that any car one lap down gets their lap back, so James Ward (the last car lapped) and several others are back on the lead lap.

10:44 p.m. (lap-40 yellow): Simpson slows

Chris Simpson slowed for a lap-40 caution. Brian Birkhofer is out front followed by Shannon Babb, Billy Moyer, Matt Miller, Darren Miller, Scott Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie, Jimmy Mars and Jeep Van Wormer. After that it's Brady Smith, Wendell Wallace, Kevin Weaver, Denny Eckrich, Will Vaught and Jack Sullivan. Everyone else, beginning with James Ward, is a lap down apparently. The top seven were bunched before heavy lapped traffic helped the top three of Birkhofer, Babb and Moyer break away. The caution is a break for the 16th-starting Mars, who was creeping toward the front pack.

10:41 p.m. (lap 34): Birkhofer leads

Sixth-starting Brian Birkhofer overtook polesitter Shannon Babb exiting turn two and swept ahead on lap 34. After 40 laps, Birkhofer is out front followed by Babb and Moyer as they've pulled away from the rest of the field. Matt Miller is a half-straight behind Moyer in fourth followed by Darren Miller, Scott Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie and Jimmy Mars.

10:39 p.m. (lap 27): Babb leads

Billy Moyer got caught up behind the lapped car of John Kaanta exiting turn four, and Shannon Babb snared the lead. He's out front on lap 30 followed by Brian Birkhofer, Moyer, Tim McCreadie, Matt Miller, Darren Miller and Scott Bloomquist. All are on the same straightaway

10:38 p.m. (lap 20): Top four battle

The frontrunners entered lapped traffic on the 12th circuit and it's a four-car battle for the lead with Matt Miller not far behind in fifth. Billy Moyer is barely holding off Shannon Babb, who was alongside him at the lap-19 flagstand, with Tim McCreadie and Brian Birkhofer hot on their heels.

10:34 p.m. (lap four): Green back out

Moyer led the field back to green and Tim McCreadie got a little out of shape on the backstretch but recovered to hold third behind Moyer and Shannon Babb. After 10 laps, Moyer is running the high side and leads Babb, who has his hands full with McCreadie. Brian Birkhofer is fourth and Matt Miller fifth.

10:29 p.m. (lap-four yellow): Yellow back out

Officials have rolled Pember's car back over and the field as rolled back to life. The running order: Billy Moyer, Shannon Babb, Tim McCreadie, Jeep Van Wormer, Brian Birkhofer, Matt Miller, Darren Miller, Chris Simpson, Scott Bloomquist, Wendell Wallace, Brady Smith, Jimmy Mars, Kevin Weaver, Denny Eckrich, Jack Sullivan, John Kaanta, Will Vaught, Rob Moss, James Ward, Rodney Melvin, Kerry Hansen, Adam Hensel, Rick Hanestad. Tagging the field is Keith Foss, who made repairs and is running four laps down. Four laps are complete.

10:25 p.m. (lap-five red flag): Pember rolls

Eric Pember did a slow rollover in turn four in a wreck that included Adam Hensel; one of Pember's wheels rolled away from the wreck. He emerged apparently unhurt. It appeared Hensel's left-rear tire was flat, but once he started rolling the tire appears OK.

10:22 p.m. (lap-four caution): Pember spins

Eric Pember, who started 10th, spun inside turn two to draw a lap-four caution. Billy Moyer is out front with Shannon Babb, Tim McCreadie, Jeep Van Wormer and Brian BIrkhofer in pursuit. A double-file restart is coming up. In sixth is Matt Miller followed by Darren Miller, Chris Simpson, Scott Bloomquist, Wendell Wallace and Brady Smith.

10:20 p.m.: Moyer out to early lead

The race restarted successfully with Billy Moyer out front of polesitter Shannon Babb on the first lap. The top five after three laps: Moyer, Babb, Tim McCreadie, Jeep Van Wormer and Brian Birkhofer. The reworked track surface is making for some quick laps.

10:15 p.m. (lap one): First-lap scramble

The initial green went right back to yellow with a second-turn scramble on the first lap as several cars swerved a tangle between Keith Foss and Rick Hanestad. Everyone else pulled away but Foss is being hooked to a wrecker and has major damage to the right front suspension. Hanestad headed to the pits. There will be a complete restart.

10:07 p.m.: Lights back up

The lights are back up and the 25-car field is forming for the 100-lap feature. Four previous winners (Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, Brian Birkhofer and Jimmy Mars) are among the starters.

9:50 p.m.: Driver intros

The lights dimmed at Cedar Lake for driver introductions for the main event beginning at 9:50 p.m. The field is being introduced from 25th to first and each car rolls out of the pits and onto the track under spotlights.

Feature lineup (25-car field)

Row 1: Shannon Babb, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 3: Matt Miller, Brian Birkhofer
Row 4: Chris Simpson, Darren Miller
Row 5: Scott Bloomquist, Eric Pember
Row 6: Rick Hanestad, Brady Smith
Row 7: Keith Foss, Wendell Wallace
Row 8: Kevin Weaver, Jimmy Mars
Row 9: Rob Moss, Denny Eckrich
Row 10: Will Vaught, Jack Sullivan
Row 11: Adam Hensel, John Kaanta
Row 12: James Ward, Rodney Melvin
Row 13: Kerry Hansen

Second consolation

Polesitter Adam Hensel raced to victory over fellow front-row starter James Ward while a flurry of drivers battled for the third spot behind them. Kerry Hansen held the third spot through most of the race, but he had his hands full with Curt Martin, Nick Anvelink and Chris Wall in the closing laps. Martin lifted Hansen's rear end at the flagstand on the 12th lap before dropping back, then Anvelink got rolling on the low side in the final laps. Anvelink edged ahead in the lower groove in turns three and four on the final lap, but Hansen's high-side momentum carried him to the third and final transfer spot. Third-starting Jason Utter, who battled with Hensel for the lead early and restarted second on the eighth lap, had a tight battle for third with Hansen for a few laps before slowing to draw a lap-11 caution. The race's first caution appeared on the eighth lap when Bryan Wennen slowed in turn four.

Finish: Adam Hensel, James Ward, Kerry Hansen, Nick Anvelink, Curt Martin, Chris Wall, Lance Matthees, Andrew McKay, Scott Gilberts, Tim Isenberg, Jason Utter, Bryan Wennen, Tom Nesbitt.

First consolation

Jack Sullivan won a duel with polesitter and fellow front-row starter John Kaanta through the first half of the 20-lapper, then edged away for a victory in the caution-free prelim. Fourth-starting Rodney Melvin got the third and final transfer spot over fellow second-row starter Jake Redetkze in a battle of 27s. Bill Frye drove Gregg Hill's car to a ninth-place finish

Finish: Jack Sullivan, John Kaanta, Rodney Melvin, Jake Redetzke, Chad Simpson, Justin Fegers, Frank Heckenast Jr., Dave Eckrich, Bill Frye, Jeff Provinzino, J.D. Auringer.

Consolation lineups

First consolation (20 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: John Kaanta, Jack Sullivan
Row 2: Jake Redetzke, Rodney Melvin
Row 3: Justin Fegers, Dave Eckrich
Row 4: Frank Heckenast Jr., Joey Jensen
Row 5: Chad Simpson, Ashley Anderson
Row 6: Jeremy Grady, Bill Frye
Row 7: Jeff Provinzino, D.J. Auringer
Row 8: Dustin Hapka
Second consolation (20 laps; top three transfer)

Row 1: Adam Hensel, James Ward
Row 2: Jason Utter, Cory Mahder
Row 3: Kerry Hansen, Curt Martin
Row 4: Tom Nesbitt, Andrew McKay
Row 5: Scott Gilberts, Lee Thomason
Row 6: Bryan Wennen, Nick Anvelink
Row 7: Lance Matthees, Chris Wall
Row 8: Tim Isenberg
 
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