Red-hot Birky delivers FedEx 50 win at Tri-City
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
GRANITE CITY, Ill. (May 24) — Even the rain can't stop Brian Birkhofer. The red-hot Muscatine, Iowa, driver rolled on Sunday night with a $10,000 victory in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned FedEx 50 at Tri-City Speedway, his second straight series win and fourth overall.
On a night with off-and-on drizzles, the sixth-starting Birkhofer led the final 36 laps of the main event to cap a lucrative Memorial Day weekend that included Saturday's $40,000 victory in the O'Reilly Show-Me 100 at West Plains (Mo.) Motor Speedway.
"We are on a roll right now, no doubt about it," said the 37-year-old Birkhofer, "but I can't get cocky or too overconfident because the next time out we may not run worth a darn. ... when you outrun two of the best that there have ever been in this sport, then you've done something."
Birkhofer, winner of three of the last four Lucas Oil Series events, took the checkered flag over the 12th-starting Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., the series points leader, while four-time series champion Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., was third after advancing 14 positions. Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., rallied from 14th to finish fourth and 13th-starting Dale McDowell of Rossville, Ga., was fifth to complete an all-World 100 winner top five. Polesitter Eric Jacobsen of Seacliff Beach, Calif., faded to finish eighth.
Jacobsen and outside front-row starter Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., led the field to the green flag with Jacobsen leading Casebolt and Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., at the outset. Casebolt took command on the second lap, but Birkhofer was quickly in the mix from his outside third-row starting spot.
Birkhofer took second from O'Neal on the 10th lap, then used the bottom groove to catch Casebolt. After a side-by-side battle for three laps, Birkhofer took over on the 15th lap while the rest of the eventual top-five finishers were still battling back in the pack.
Eighth-starting Jimmy Mars tried to keep up with his fellow M-B Customs Chassis driver, moving past Casebolt to take second on the 19th lap. A lap-23 caution for a blown tire on the Scott James car reset the field, and Mars sustained rear damage on his car on the restart that flattened his rear tire, forcing him out on lap 25.
Birkhofer pulled away on the mid-race restart while Moyer worked his way into second. A final yellow on lap 36 bunched the field once again with Birkhofer leading Moyer and Bloomquist. The Hall of Famers couldn't keep up, though, as Birkhofer pulled away for the victory, withstanding Bloomquist's late charge in the low groove. Pearson charged up to finish third in the race's late stages.
Notes: Birkhofer's M-B Customs Chassis has a Pro Power engine and sponsorship from J&J Steel, Daufeldt Transport, Etchenberger Trucking and S&S Concrete. ... Among drivers failing to make the feature: Michael Kloos, Randy Korte, Jimmy Dehm, Chris Simpson, Brent Kreke, Billy Drake and Mark Voigt. ... Next up for the Lucas Oil circuit is the $10,000-to-win Ralph Latham Memorial on June 30 at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky.
FedEx 50: (1) Brian Birkhofer, (2) Scott Bloomquist, (3) Earl Pearson Jr., (4) Billy Moyer, (5) Dale McDowell, (6) Don O'Neal, (7) Jimmy Owens, (8) Eric Jacobsen, (9) Steve Casebolt, (10) Brad Neat, (11) Billy Moyer Jr., (12) Ray Cook, (13) Scott James, (14) Wendell Wallace, (15) John Blankenship, (16) Jeep Van Wormer, (17) Josh McGuire, (18) Dan Schlieper, (19) David Breazeale, (20) Will Vaught, (21) Kevin Cole, (22) Jimmy Mars, (23) Chris Madden, (24) Freddy Smith, (25) Chad Zobrist, (26) Rodney Melvin. Fast qualifier (among 40 cars): Billy Moyer, 14.384 seconds. Heat race winners: Jacobsen, Moyer Jr., Casebolt, O'Neal. Consolation winners: Pearson, Neat. Provisional starters: Schlieper, Breazeale, F. Smith.