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Legit Speedway Park

Birkhofer shows the way at O'Reilly Show-Me 100

May 24, 2009, 8:17 am
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com chief writer
Brian Birkhofer tells the Speed channel about his victory. (thesportswire.net)
Brian Birkhofer tells the Speed channel about his victory. (thesportswire.net)

WEST PLAINS, Mo. (May 23) — Following the 17th annual O'Reilly Show-Me 100 at West Plains Motor Speedway, Brian Birkhofer thanked the fans that trekked to the Ozarks for one of Dirt Late Model's best-loved crown jewels. Then he apologized for boring them.

Don't worry, Brian, anyone who appreciates outstanding performances wasn't bored in the least. | Complete Show-Me 100 coverage

Taking command on the 20th lap and roaring to a dominating lead of more than three-quarters of a lap, the driver from Muscatine, Iowa, lapped all but six competitors in snatching a $40,000 payday in the event sanctioned for the first time by the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

Only fellow M-B Customs Chassis driver Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., could remotely stay in touch with Birkhofer's No. 15B, which carried Birkhofer to his second big-purse victory in Missouri over a 15-day stretch.

"I can't say enough, I won the Show-Me 100, this is a big win for us man," said Birkhofer, who added the West Plains triumph to a $30,000 victory two weeks earlier in Wheatland, Mo. "At one point tonight, I didn't realize I was that far ahead, so it may have gotten boring for the crowd ... but believe me, I was trying my hardest."

Birkhofer's best effort in a brand-new race car was all anyone could ask as he laid claim to the title of Dirt Late Model racing's hottest driver of the year. Starting fifth at the slick 3/8-mile oval in southcentral Missouri, Birkhofer was in the mix right from the outset, taking third from five-time Show-Me winner Scott Bloomquist early, slipping past Mars to take second and then wrestling the lead from polesitter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., after 20 laps.

When Birkhofer began pulling away from Owens, it was pretty much the last any contender would see of Birkhofer's No. 15B for the next 50 laps as he ratcheted up the domination.

By the time Jeremy Payne's lap-71 spin brought out a yellow flag, competitors were virtually waving the white flag as Birkhofer was within a straightaway of lapping everyone. Mars did his best to liven things up in the race's final stages by hanging with Birkhofer over the final 30 laps on a track surface where passing had become a premium, but he never got close enough to seriously challenge the 37-year-old driver who has won his last three races and finished out of the top five just once in 11 starts in 2009.

"I'll tell you what, Brian, he was just on the move. He was in a class of his own," said Mars, who finished three lengths behind Birkhofer at the checkered flag but more than a straightaway ahead of the third-finishing Bloomquist. "I'm happy I got second, you know. We passed some pretty good cars to get where we got. Brian was just a little better than us right there, and hat's off to him."

Birkhofer and Mars were the only drivers in the field in the M-B Customs cars they designed last year along with Jimmy's brother and crew chief Chris, and the not-yet-for-sale chassis is getting the kind of advertising you can't buy in becoming a key player in the chassis-manufacturing business.

"That's just awesome, our cars finished 1-2," Mars said. "When you get the best of the best here and we're able to finish 1-2, that's awesome."

Awesome is a perfect way to describe the performance of the limited-edition chassis. In the last six Dirt Late Model races paying more than $20,000-to-win going back to last season, M-B Customs has won five of them. And in the 10 most recent Dirt Late Model events overall based on biggest purses, M-B Customs has won six of them, led seven of them and had at least one top-three finisher seven times.

"I've seen Bloomquist show up with a brand new car and do some stuff, so I'm just glad I have something for them guys right now," Birkhofer said. "Jimmy and I are having fun racing these cars. We've built a good machine."

Bloomquist, who overtook Mars in the final laps of the 2008 with his 24th-to-first rally, ended up third from his outside front-row starting spot and never challenged for the lead. Owens was fourth and ninth-starting Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., rallied to round out the top five. Former race winner Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., and 19th-starting Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., were the only other drivers on the lead lap, but they were lucky they did. Only a narrowing track groove as the track picked up rubber by lap 60, and Birkhofer's mercy, saved them.

With virtually the entire field hung up behind the slower car of David Breazeale, Birkhofer lapped car after car and suddenly his closest competitors were just ahead of him on the same straightaway. Birkhofer noted the No. 28 of Mars listed on the board and realized he had more than a three-quarter lap margin on his second-running friend.

"When I actually could see Jimmy, I kind of slowed down, because I figured I could've hustled and got by a couple of more guys. ... I just kind of maintained and stayed out of trouble," Birkhofer said. "Then when the caution came out, I was just 'Don't mess up.' I knew I was going to run into lapped traffic, and I knew Jimmy would be good."

Mars was indeed clearly driving the second-best car, but even when Birkhofer was hampered by the occasional lapped car over the final 31 laps, he was never in real danger of losing his lead.

"There's one thing about it, there's a lot of trust between the two of us," Birkhofer said. "We raced pretty hard and never touched. I knew Jimmy wouldn't go in there and wreck me."

Notes: Birkhofer's M-B Customs Chassis has a Pro Power engine and sponsorship from J&J Steel, McDonald's of the Quad Cities, Daufeldt Transport and Port City Racing. ... Birkhofer's best previous Show-Me 100 finish was sixth in 2003. ... The Show-Me was the site of Birkhofer's first crown jewel when he competed in the event in 1997. He was the 44th quickest qualifier among 107 cars and finished 10th in his heat race, failing to make the feature field. ... The race was slowed by four cautions, including a first-lap melee between turns three and four that knocked Terry Phillips out of the race. Jeep Van Wormer, Scott James, Chris Wall and Dale McDowell were also involved but able to continue. ... Brian Shirley slowed to draw a lap-nine caution. ... A lap-10 yellow appeared when Eric Jacobsen, Wall and Shirley tangled in turn three. ... Jeremy Payne brought out the final caution on lap 71.

17th annual O'Reilly Show-Me 100

Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa, M-B Customs, $40,000
2. Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., M-B Customs, $20,000
3. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., Bloomquist, $10,000
4. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Bloomquist, $6,000
5. Don O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., MasterSbilt, $5,000
6. Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., MasterSbilt, $4,500
7. Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., Rocket, $4,000
8. Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., Bloomquist, $3,500
9. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., Victory Circle, $3,000
10. Brandon Kinzer (18), Allen, Ky., GRT, $2,600
11. Brad Neat (41), Dunnville, Ky., Mastersbilt, $2,550
12. Dan Schlieper (9), Sullivan, Wis., Wild, $2,500
13. Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., Rocket, $2,450
14. Scott James (83), Lawrenceburg, Ind., Rocket, $2,400
15. Dale McDowell (17m), Rossville, Warrior, $2,350
16. John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., Bloomquist, $2,300
17. Eric Jacobsen (5), Seacliff Beach, Calif., Bloomquist, $2,250
18. Josh McGuire (41), Grayson, Ky., Rayburn, $2,200
19. David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., MasterSbilt, $2,175
20. Jeremy Payne (74), Springfield, Mo., GRT, $2,150
21. Wendell Wallace (88), Batesville, Ark., GRT, $2,100
22. Chris Wall (71), Holden, La., MasterSbilt, $2,075
23. Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., Rocket, $2,050
24. Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., Rocket, $2,000
25. Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo., GRT, $2,000
Fast qualifier (among 67 cars): Owens, 15.575 seconds
Heat race winners: Owens, Bloomquist, Payne, Mars, Birkhofer, Kinzer
Consolation winners: Pearson, McDowell
Provisional starters: McGuire, Jacobsen, Breazeale

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