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Cedar Lake Speedway

Doar finally has an edge at home-track USA Nat'ls

August 1, 2011, 9:15 am
By Kevin Kovac
World of Outlaws Late Model Series
Pat Doar
Pat Doar

Pat Doar has always been sort of an interloper in his hometown track’s biggest Dirt Late Model race of the season — specifically, a small-engine specialist trying to make noise in an open-motor extravaganza.

But that won’t be the case for the 24th annual USA Nationals presented by U.S. Steel at Cedar Lake Speedway, a 100-lap, $50,000-to-win spectacular on Aug. 4-6 that ranks as the highest-paying event on the 2011 World of Outlaws Late Model Series. | Complete USA Nationals coverage

The 47-year-old Doar, whose home in New Richmond, Wis., sits just 5 miles from Cedar Lake, is crisscrossing the country this season as a first-time WoO LMS regular. It’s the most sustained open-competition Dirt Late Model racing he’s ever done since debuting in the full-fender division in 1994, so he’ll enter the USA Nationals with his confidence buoyed, if not exactly soaring.

“It’s always been the same for us at the Nationals — we run there for three days with the big motor and by the time everybody’s done and driving out the pit gate (after the 100-lapper), I’m like, ‘We’re just starting to get the hang of this big-motor stuff,’ ” said Doar, who currently leads the WoO LMS Rookie of the Year points standings over fellow veterans-turned-national-travelers Ron Davies, 53, of Warren, Pa., and John Lobb, 41, of Frewsburg, N.Y. “This year I know I’ll be better prepared than I normally am. Now when I unload I know I’ll be ready for time trials and the heats and I’ll be more comfortable running the big motor because we’ve been doing it all summer.”

The USA Nationals, which kicks off on Thursday with a $5,000-to-win Dart Corn Belt Clash program before continuing with WoO time trials, heats and a dash on Friday and last-chance events and the 100-lapper on Saturday, presents a quandary to Doar.

While he’s an acknowledged standout at Cedar Lake with four career Dirt Late Model championships and dozens of feature wins to his credit, all of his success has come in the track’s weekly series that utilizes a more restrictive engine-rules package than the open-motor specs that are in place for the USA Nationals. As a result, Doar has annually found himself at a disadvantage in his home track’s marquee show, either due to his inexperience with open-motor racing or, in some cases, sheer horsepower.

“A lot of years we didn’t have any open (competition) engines so we’d try to qualify for the Nationals with the smaller motor to get the starting pay,” said Doar, who fields his own racing equipment. “We got in the show like that several times, but not recently. Open motors have gotten that much better, so it’s not really a contest anymore. You have to run a big motor if you expect to even have a chance.”

Doar has qualified for the USA Nationals seven times, but he hasn’t recorded a single top-10 finish. His career-best finish was 13th in 1996; since then he’s run 19th (’97), 23rd (’99), 22nd (’03), 23rd (’05), 20th (’06) and 23rd (’07). He fell three spots short of transferring into last year’s USA Nationals, which flew the WoO banner for the first time since 2005.

Perhaps the most memorable USA Nationals performance for Doar came in 2003, when he was a race-long contender for a top-five finish despite running his small motor. He couldn’t make it to the checkered flag, however.

“It was a 75-lapper that year and I ran out of fuel on like lap 67,” recalled Doar. “We were (running) on alcohol and just couldn’t make it on fuel. We were pretty good in that one. That was our best shot at it.”

Doar’s history in the USA Nationals is filled with early retirements, usually because his underpowered car made pulling off the sensible option. On one occasion, however, he experienced a painful DNF.

“A few years ago — 2006, I think — I started in the back and was just gonna mind my own business and see how far I could go,” said Doar. “The next thing I know, an official was asking me if I was all right. I asked him, ‘What are you doing out here on the track?’ I apparently got hit in the head with a clod of mud and didn’t know what was going on for a second. I was knocked out and hit the wall a little bit.”

Doar is hoping that this year’s edition of the $250,000-plus weekend in his backyard will turn out better. He’s not expecting anyone to list him as a favorite to win the $50,000, but he would like to believe the open-motor education he’s received on the WoO this season will put him in the mix for a top-10 finish.

“You never know ... things could go my way,” said Doar, who sits 11th in the current WoO points standings with a rookie-leading five top-10 finishes on his ledger (a sixth-place finish is his best outing to date). “But I think realistically, and I don’t think I’ve raced enough with the open-motor stuff yet to be going for a win in the Nationals. It’s a tall order to beat these (WoO LMS) guys. They’re the best in the country and you just don’t go out and beat ‘em. You gotta put some time in and learn how to do it.

“For the last 10 or 15 years we’ve been traveling a lot through the Upper Midwest, and I did race a little bit with Jimmy Mars, so I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy coming out here (on the WoO LMS) and racing with these guys. I just figured, If I can stay around long enough to kind of weather the storm, it’ll get better. And we are getting better. We still have to get the whole night together, but there’s usually at least a part of each night now where I feel like I run well.

“I think it’s gonna take a little more time for me to learn what all needs to be done in a 100-lap deal,” he continued. “I haven’t hardly ever run many 100-lappers. We’ve run some over the years (he’s won three small-motor 100s at Cedar Lake since 1999), but we’ve mostly just done 40- or 50-lappers. One hundred laps is a whole different deal.

“In the Firecracker (100) at Lernerville (Speedway in Sarver, Pa., on June 25), we started out and got a flat right away and went to the tail. I was passing cars and got up to about mid-pack, and then about lap 60 I just totally fell off. I don’t know if it was me or my car, but I was like, ‘Oh, man, I got some learning to do on these longer races.’ ”

Whether Doar can figure out the secret to success in the USA Nationals 100 will be determined on Aug. 6. He’s looking forward to the challenge of facing off on home turf with WoO stars like Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., Rick Eckert of York, Pa., Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., as well as former USA Nationals winners Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., and Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa.

“I think I’ve pretty much been there for all of them,” said Doar, who was a race fan and crew member when the USA Nationals began in 1988. “I’ve sat and watched a bunch of them, so in theory I know what you gotta do. But it’s easier said than done. It’s like watching Tiger Woods hit a golf ball — that looks pretty easy, but it ain’t.

“It’s going to be pretty fun going to Cedar for the Nationals this year,” he added. “It’s one of the biggest races in the country and it’s right by my house, so it’s exciting to go in feeling a little better about our chances.

“I think this year, with traveling around like we’ve done, maybe I’ll be better because I won’t be so nervous or worked up about the race like I have in years past. We’ve been racing bigger races all over, so hopefully it’ll let me think better and things will go better.”

The 2011 USA Nationals weekend will also feature complete shows each night for Cedar Lake’s NASCAR Late Models with the winners walking away with $2,500.

Plenty of off-track activities will give once again give the USA Nationals a more-than-just-a-race feeling. Cedar Lake officials will accent the racing with an exciting array of pre- and post-race entertainment, including a Saturday-morning golf scramble at the nearby New Richmond Links Golf Course; a Ladder Ball competition in the wooded camping area at 12 noon on Friday; the popular Apple River Tubing expedition during the afternoons before the races; the FansFund Luncheon on Saturday afternoon that allows contributors an opportunity to meet the drivers they helped bring to the USA Nationals; a driver autograph and meet-and-greet session prior to Saturday night’s first green flag; go-karts in the backstretch parking lot; and the Party in the Pits under the Big White Tent following the Thursday and Friday programs.

Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and on-track action at 6:30 p.m. each day.

Advanced tickets for the USA Nationals are available by calling 612-363-0479 or by visiting www.cedarlakespeedway.com. Regular camping is sold out but additional spots have been added and can be purchased by calling the number above.

Fans who can’t make the trip to Cedar Lake can still catch all the action through a live pay-per-view broadcast of the event over the web produced by DirtonDirt.com.

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