Miller edges Bloomquist, captures North-South
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com chief writer
UNION, Ky. (Aug. 9) — Polesitter Darren Miller didn't have to be reminded of the challenge he faced at the 26th annual Sunoco Race Fuels North-South 100 at Florence Speedway. Starting alongside Miller on the front row of the $50,000-to-win event was Hall of Famer Scott Bloomquist, who entered the race with three of the richest 100-lap victories of the 2008 season. | Slideshow
"When it comes to these big races," the Milledgeville, driver said, "he's the guy to beat."
Rising to the challenge, Miller dueled with Bloomquist all race long, eventually taking command with 21 laps remaining with a turn-four slide job and fending off a last-lap charge to grab the richest victory of his career. "We've been close to a couple of them, but this is just awesome," the 31-year-old Miller said in victory lane. "And $50,000? I needed that."
Bloomquist led all but two laps through the first two-thirds of the race, but Miller began stalking him after the second of two cautions on the 65th lap and dove underneath Bloomquist for the winning move after running the high-side most of the previous 14 laps. Bloomquist stayed with Miller as they worked through occasional lapped cars through the race's final stages, ramping up a last-lap charge that fell short as he crossed the finish line with his nose just behind Miller's rear deck.
Sixth-starting Matt Miller, a Waterville, Ohio, driver unrelated to the winner, took third from Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., late in the race while Carrier settled for the fourth, the same position he started. Bart Hartman, the 2005 North-South winner from Zanesville, Ohio, rallied from 11th to finish fifth and 21st starting Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, made the race's biggest move in racing up to sixth.
Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who started 10th, was running fifth on the final lap, but pulled to the infield with flames licking out from the engine compartment. Babb ended up 14th, the last driver on the lead lap. Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., was part of a three-car duel up front through most of the first half of the race, but Francis was knocked from contention when he got into the wall between turns one-and two on lap 51 to draw the race's first caution.
Darren Miller, whose previous richest victory came with a $20,000 triumph in the unsanctioned Late Model Shootout at Outlaw Motor Speedway in Muskogee, Okla., in May 2004, jumped atop his car in celebrating in victory lane at Florence as he joined the exclusive club of drivers with victories of $50,000 or more.
"This is just awesome. I needed this so bad," said Miller, who also earned $20,000 two years ago for finishing second to Bloomquist at Batesville (Ark.) Motor Speedway's Topless 100. "I had a new motor coming and wasn't even sure how I was going to pay for it, but I guess I can pay for it now."
Miller never was more than a half-straightaway behind Bloomquist at any point in the race, and actually slipped underneath the Mooresburg, Tenn., veteran to lead laps 34-35 amid heavy traffic before Bloomquist swept back around. Following the lap-65 caution, it was a two-car race the rest of the way and Miller was able to find the winning groove.
"That last caution there, (my crew) told me Carrier was up top and to try and go up there, and I did that, and then the track started cleaning up down lower, and that helped me down there, too," Miller said. "We got to those two lapped cars that were kind of racing each other, and I thought, 'Come on guys, get single-file so I can go.' I managed to get through them and had a little clear track there, and felt pretty good then."
Miller never got anxious about the final laps because he said he wasn't even certain how many more laps remained as Bloomquist tried to track him down and regain the lead over the final 20 laps.
"The funny thing is, I was just trying to run my race there, and here there's no (score) board or anything to watch to know the laps," Miller said. "The white came out, it was like, 'Great, one more lap.' I didn't even have those five laps that I was counting down. I was just trying to run my race and the white flag came out and, I was like, 'Oh, I've just gotta make one more lap good and make it count.' "
Miller, who missed much of the 2007 with serious thyroid condition that sapped him of his strength, made it count to win his second career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event and become the 21st winner on the circuit in 2008 in denying Bloomquist his fourth megapurse victory of the season. Bloomquist pocketed $42,000 at West Plains (Mo.) Motor Speedway's Show-Me 100 over Memorial Day weekend, $100,000 at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway's Dream XIV two weeks later, and $50,000 the weekend prior to the North-South 100 at Cedar Lake Speedway's USA Nationals in New Richmond, Wis.
Bloomquist got the jump at the green flag with Miller, Francis, Carrier and Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., in tow. Eighth-starting Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., worked his way into the top five by the fifth lap and the top three of Bloomquist, Miller and Francis battled through the early stages.
The frontrunners entered the heaviest traffic of the race on the 30th lap will Miller ducking under Bloomquist to go ahead on lap 34. Miller led another lap before Bloomquist swept around the slower car of Freddy Smith and regained the lead from Miller on lap 36. Francis began running the extreme high groove and he got too high on lap 51 while running just behind the leaders, getting into the wall between turns one and two and heading to the infield for attention from his crew.
Bloomquist and Miller led Carrier, Matt Miller and Phillips back to the restart, and Phillips began to fade just past the halfway point and Hartman was holding fifth at the lap-65 caution for a slowing Steve Casebolt on the backstretch. It was a two-car race the rest of the way as Miller moved to the high side, setting up his race-winning slide job.
Miller's Victory Circle Chassis has a Pro Power engine and sponsorship from NAPA, Graphic Arts Express, McLaughlin Freight Service, J.C. Dubil Racing Parts, Cobra Graphics, Ideal Ready Mix, VP Racing Fuels and Port City Racing. ... Pro Power's Bill Schlieper, always an exuberant figure for his drivers in victory lane, joined Miller for photos after a post-race hug. "We've been working on some things here lately, and it's been working really well helping," Miller said. ... Miller has five big-purse victories in 2008, including three on the UMP DIRTCar Summernationals tour. ... Miller's previous Lucas Oil Series victory came Aug. 3, 2006, at Cedar Lake Speedway. ... Third-place Matt Miller was just a tick away from being in the mix up front late in the race. "If I could've gotten by Eddie (Carrier) on that last restart with about 30, 35 to go, without a doubt I think I could've gotten up there and mixed it up with Darren and Scott," he said. ... Rocket Chassis was tops among chassis manufacturers in the North-South 100 with nine drivers among 25 starters. The rest of the breakdown: GRT (5), Bloomquist (4), Victory Circle and Mars with two apiece and one apiece for Pierce, MasterSbilt and Warrior. ... Another big-money race is up next for the Lucas Oil circuit. The 16th annual Topless 100 pays $40,000 to the winner on Aug. 15-16 at Batesville Motor Speedway in Locust Grove, Ark.
Provisional starters: Lanigan, Pearson, Casebolt, Lay
A blog-style report of the North-South 100:
11:52 p.m. (lap 100): Miller triumphs
Scott Bloomquist gave it all he had, but Darren Miller crossed the finish line just ahead of Bloomquist for his richest career victory. Shannon Babb pulled into the infield on the final laps with flames coming from his engine compartment, but he was OK.
11:50 p.m. (lap 92): Miller in control
Darren Miller is trying to hold off Scott Bloomquist in the final 10 laps. It's a two-car race. Miller has a few lapped cars to deal with.
11:48 p.m. (lap 100): Miller holds on
Scott Bloomquist gave Darren Miller his best shot, but Miller held on for his richest career victory.
11:44 p.m. (lap 77): Still tight
Scott Bloomquist is still a length or two ahead, but Darren Miller is using the extreme high side to gain momentum. Miller slid underneath Bloomquist exiting turn four to take the lead on lap 79.
11:42 p.m. (lap 72): Tight up front
Scott Bloomquist and Darren Miller are both flirting with the high side as the top two have broken away. Miller appears faster exiting turn four and is staying right with the leader. The rest of the top five: Eddie Carrier Jr., Matt Miller and Shannon Babb.
11:38 p.m. (lap 65): Restart coming
Scott Bloomquist is out front and the double-wide restart behind him has Eddie Carrier Jr. on the inside and Darren Miller on the outside. Miller went to the extreme high side on the restart.
11:35 p.m. (lap 65): Casebolt slows
Steve Casebolt slowed on the backstretch with a flat to bring out the race's second caution. Before the yellow flew, the top five were on the same straightaway with sixth-running Shannon Babb losing touch. Scott Bloomquist is out front of Darren Miller while the third spot was tight among Eddie Carrier Jr., Matt Miller and Bart Hartman. Sixth is Shannon Babb followed by Terry Phillips, Tim McCreadie, Skip Arp, Clint Smith, Darrell Lanigan, Brian Birkhofer, Jimmy Mars, Jeremy Payne and Jerry Rice. Jimmy Owens has pulled to the pits.
11:33 p.m. (lap 60): Groove report
Leader Scott Bloomquist is running mostly in the middle with Darren Miller trending a little lower. Eddie Carrier Jr. runs higher and Matt Miller is running nearly the same as the unrelated Darren Miller.
11:32 p.m. (lap 55): Rolling again
Scott Bloomquist has built his biggest lead as he's nearly a half-straight ahead of Darren Miller. Eddie Carrier Jr., Matt Miller and now Bart Hartman hold the top five spots. Hartman started 11th.
11:28 p.m. (lap 51): Francis into wall
Third-running Steve Francis, running the highest among the frontrunners, got into the turn-two wall to draw the race's first caution. The rundown just past halfway: Scott Bloomquist, Darren Miller, Eddie Carrier Jr., Terry Phillips, Matt Miller, Shannon Babb, Tim McCreadie, Bart Hartman, Skip Arp, Jimmy Mars, Darrell Lanigan and Brian Birkhofer. Clint Smith follows with Jerry Rice, Jeremy Payne, Jimmy Owens, Billy Moyer and Steve Casebolt. Everyone else is a lap down. Freddy Smith has ducked into the pits. Francis didn't return.
11:27 p.m. (lap 50): Bloomquist at halfway
Scott Bloomquist leads at halfway with a few slower cars ahead. Darren Miller and Steve Francis are right behind Bloomquist with Eddie Carrier Jr. fourth and still hanging in. Fifth is Terry Phillips followed by Matt Miller, Shannon Babb, Tim McCreadie and Bart Hartman.
11:25 p.m. (lap 40): Top 10 rundown
Scott Bloomquist, Darren Miller, Steve Francis, Eddie Carrier Jr., Terry Phillips, Matt Miller, Tim McCreadie, Shannon Babb, Bart Hartman and Skip Arp.
11:23 p.m. (lap 33): Miller leads briefly
Darren Miller slipped into the lead for a few laps, but Scott Bloomquist went back ahead two laps later as the leaders dealt with heavy lapped traffic. Traffic has cleared and Bloomquist runs ahead of Miller and Steve Francis. Fourth-running Eddie Carrier Jr. is catching them but still has a couple of slower cars to get by.
11:22 p.m. (lap 30): Traffic ahead
Leader Scott Bloomquist faces several slower cars, including Earl Pearson Jr. and Billy Moyer. Darren Miller is running second and peeks underneath Bloomquist in the corners while Steve Francis has caught back up with the leaders and is running the extreme high side.
11:20 p.m. (lap 25): Top two pull away
Scott Bloomquist and Darren Miller have edged away from Steve Francis. Jack Sullivan is the race's first dropout and fourth-running Eddie Carrier Jr. is having trouble lapping Eric Jacobsen. Fifth is Terry Phillips followed by Matt Miller, Shannon Babb, Skip Arp and Bart Hartman. Tim McCreadie is all over Hartman.
11:18 p.m. (lap 20): Tight up front
With the leaders lapping Eric Jacobsen, Scott Bloomquist is narrowly ahead of Darren Miller, while Steve Francis is right in the mix, too. Fourth-running Eddie Carrier Jr. is a half-straight behind the frontrunners.
11:16 p.m. (lap 15): Bloomquist on top
After 15 laps, Scott Bloomquist is a few lengths ahead of Darren Miller. The rest of the order: Steve Francis, Eddie Carrier Jr., Terry Phillips, Matt Miller, Shannon Babb, Skip Arp, Bart Hartman, Tim McCreadie and Jimmy Mars. Behind Mars is Brady Smith, Clint Smith, Jerry Rice, Darrell Lanigan, Jeremy Payne, Freddy Smith, Steve Casebolt, Jimmy Owens, Brian BIrkhofer, Billy Moyer, Jack Sullivan, Jesse Lay, Earl Pearson Jr., and Eric Jacobsen.
11:13 p.m. (lap five): Tight up front
Scott Bloomquist is narrowly ahead of Darren Miller after five laps. Steve Francis is five lengths back in third followed by Eddie Carrier Jr. and eighth-starting Terry Phillips.
11:11 p.m. (lap one): Bloomquist leads
The race is under way with Scott Bloomquist ahead followed by polesitter Darren Miller, Steve Francis and Eddie Carrier Jr.
11:10 p.m.: Green flag coming
Cars are warming up tires and engines following the four-wide parade laps. Water was sprinkled in the high groove before the race and co-promoter Josh King thought the high side might be the fast way for 60 laps before all the grooves evened out.
11:05 p.m.: Cars roll
The field is slowly rolling around the track for the first time. A four-wide salute is coming up as part of the parade laps. Everyone was able to fire without any problems. Pacing the field is a Corvette carrying the track's trophy girls. Besides the packed grandstands, the infield has perhaps 300 people with crews, photographers and other onlookers.
11:00 p.m.: Engines fired
The jam-packed crowd, enjoy beautiful weather with temperatures in the high 60s, are ready for action as the command to start engines has been given. Darren Miller and Scott Bloomquist are poised to start on the front row.
10:52: p.m.: Driver intros begin
Driver introductions are under way at Florence with the Florence staff decked out, as usual, in rented white tuxedos. Each driver is being walked to the car by track trophy girls.
10:42 p.m.: Cars roll onto track
Pre-race ceremonies are beginning at 10:40 p.m. after a period of track preparation. Crews have brought their equipment to the infield and cars began pulling on the track about 10:42.
Brian Birkhofer won an early duel with polesitter Earl Pearson Jr. and pulled away to earn the lone transfer spot in the third consolation race. Darrell Lanigan overtook Pearson on the final lap to finish second, but there was good news for both Lanigan and Pearson as they earned provisional starting spots, Lanigan as the fastest qualifier not in the field and Pearson with a series provisional.
Finish: Brian Birkhofer, Darrell Lanigan, Earl Pearson Jr., Josh Richards, Chub Frank, David Spille, Vic Hill, Mike Marlar, Rodney Combs, Rod Conley, Justin Rattliff, Steve Shaver, Jeff Alsip, Herman Goddard, Josh Williams, Donnie Moran, Eric Myers, Chris Wilson, Bobby Carnes. Scratched: Brian Shirley, Stacy Taylor, Tim Prince, Mike Jewell, Anthony Ferguson, Steve Duderstadt Jr.
Polesitter Freddy Smith grabbed the lead from Greg Johnson the fifth lap and led the rest of the way to earn the lone transfer spot. Johnson settled for second with fifth-starting Jeep Van Wormer third in the caution-free 12-lapper. Jesse Lay finished sixth but is in line for a track provisional for the feature. On the tuneup lap, Jeremy Crisp went into turn one too hard trying to warm up his tires and slammed into the car of Larry Pickelheimer Jr.
Finish: Freddy Smith, Greg Johnson, Jeep Van Wormer, John Blankenship, Josh McGuire, Jesse Lay, James Ward, Billy Drake, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Tony Knowles, John Mason, Steve Landrum, Joey Tackett, Adrian Nichols, Rick Corbin, Larry Pickelheimer Jr., Jason Whitaker, Dustin Webber, Jeremy Crisp. Scratched: Shanon Buckingham, Barry Doss, Gary Stuhler.
Polesitter Billy Moyer cruised to an easy 12-lap victory for the lone transfer spot. Third-starting Steve Casebolt worked past Dustin Neat on the sixth lap to get into second, but Moyer was ahead by more than a full straightaway by then. Sixth-starting Dale McDowell was third with Neat fourth in the first consolation. Casebolt was in line to get a series provisional.
Finish: Billy Moyer, Steve Casebolt, Dale McDowell, Dustin Neat, Eric Wells, Don O'Neal, Shane Clanton, Michael England, Jordan Bland, Kevin Claycomb, Brad Neat, Shon Flanary, Scott James, Wayne Chinn, John Gill, Al Purkey, Tyrel Todd, Jason Jameson, Dan Schlieper. Scratched: Wendell Wallace, Cody Mahoney, Ray Cook, Joe Armes, Chris Combs, Duke Whiseant.
Scott Bloomquist made it a sweep for outside front-row starters as he outran polesitter Jimmy Mars at the outset and pulled away to win by a straightaway. Mars finished a comfortable second, a half-straightaway ahead of overall fast qualifier Jeremy Payne, who fought off serious challenges from Brian Birkhofer early and edged away.
Finish: Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Mars, Jeremy Payne, Brian Birkhofer, Josh Richards, Vic Hill, Mike Martlar, Rod Conley, Stacy Taylor, Rodney Combs, Jeff Alsip, Josh Williams, Eric Myers. Scratched: Mike Jewell, Anthony Ferguson, Steve Duderstadt Jr.
Darren Miller made it 5-for-5 for outside front row starters as he got the jump on polesitter Bart Hartman and cruised to victory in the first caution-free heat, lapping three competitors. Miller crossed the finish line about a half-straightaway ahead of Hartman while third-starting Jimmy Owens grabbed the third and final transfer spot without a challenge.
Finish: Darren Miller, Bart Hartman, Jimmy Owens, Earl Pearson Jr., Darrell Lanigan, Chub Frank, David Spille, Steve Shaver, Justin Rattliff, Brian Shirley, Donnie Moran, Herman Goddard, Chris Wilson, Tim Prince, Bobby Carnes.
Matt Miller won easily from outside the front row while third-starting Shannon Babb held the second spot the whole way. Jerry Rice won a tight race for the third and final transfer spot. Dustin Webber spun to draw two cautions. Josh McGuire and Greg Johnson had a tight battle for the third spot midway through the race with Rice, who started eighth, catching them on the high side. Rice used a restart to sweep into the third spot while Johnson and McGuire settled for fourth and fifth.
Finish: Matt Miller, Shannon Babb, Jerry Rice, Greg Johnson, Josh McGuire, Jesse Lay, Billy Drake, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Tony Knowles, Rick Corbin, Larry Pickelheimer Jr., Adrian Nichols, Bob Lanter, Jason Whitaker, Dustin Webber.
Brady Smith survived a wild lap-10 restart when contact with second-running James Ward nearly triggered a wreck involving the entire field heading into turn one. A caution saved Smith and he restarted up front and led the final two laps while more craziness developed behind them when Ward, at the center of much of the race's action, got sideways in turn two after Jeep Van Wormer, Ward and Clint Smith went into turn one three wide. Ward's near-spin collected Van Wormer and Clint Smith, who started seventh, slipped around to get the second transfer spot while Eric Jacobsen, who started eighth and wasn't in contention at all until the final two laps, got the third transfer spot. Freddy Smith ended up fourth (and third among the unrelated Smiths) while polesitter John Blankenship, who ran second for seven laps before a poor restart sent him tumbling back in the field, was fifth. Jeremy Crisp spun on laps 7 and 10 to draw cautions. The last of three cautions came on the lap-10 restart when the jumbled field saw Gary Stuhler get sideways in turn two and he collected Joey Tackett and Barry Doss.
Finish: Brady Smith, Clint Smith, Eric Jacobsen, Freddy Smith, John Blankenship, Jeep Van Wormer, James Ward, John Mason, Steve Landrum, Shanon Buckingham, Barry Doss, Joey Tackett, Tony Brewer, Gary Stuhler, Jeremy Crisp.
Eddie Carrier Jr. took command from outside the front row and roared to victory with only third-starting Terry Phillips able to keep up. Carrier finished less than a half-straightaway ahead of Phillips at the finish while the rest of the field was way behind the top two most of the race. Polesitter Jack Sullivan held on to finish third ahead of fourth-starting Dustin Neat while Don O'Neal, who started eighth, made a quick move toward the front but settled for fifth ahead of fifth-starting Dale McDowell. The first start was called back after offiicals ruled Sullivan jumped the start; sixth-starting Wayne Chinn got crossed up on the backstretch during the slowdown. After the race, there was a jam-up on the backstretch as the top five headed for the scales.
Finish: Eddie Carrier Jr., Terry Phillips, Jack Sullivan, Dustin Neat, Don O'Neal, Dale McDowell, Michael Engliand, Jordan Bland, Wayne Chinn, John Gill, Tyrel Todd, Robby Hensley, Cody Mahoney, Jason Jameson. Scratched: Duke Whiseant, Chris Combs.
Taking the lead from outside the front row at the outset, Steve Francis cruised to a 12-lap victory in the first heat race. Francis took the checkered flag a straightaway ahead of runner-up Skip Arp, who started on the pole but fell back to third before regaining the second spot from Tim McCreadie on a lap-five restart. McCreadie finished a close third for the final transfer spot while third-starting Billy Moyer, the fastest qualifier in the group, was fourth. Fifth-starting Dan Schlieper got too high on the lap-five restart and ended up ninth. Brad Neat spun on the second lap in turn two to bring out the race's first caution; another yellow appeared on the fifth lap when Wendell Wallace, in Tim Logan's No. 11, also spun in turn two.
Finish: Steve Francis, Skip Arp, Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer, Steve Casebolt, Eric Wells, Shane Clanton, Shon Flanary, Dan Schlieper, Kevin Claycomb, Al Purkey, Brad Neat, Wendell Wallace. Scratched: Ray Cook.