Volusia Speedway Park
Blankenship leads all 40 laps of Volusia nightcap
BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 24) – John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., registered the biggest win of his career Friday night, capturing the 40-lap UMP DIRTcar Late Model finale of the 41st UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park.
The 30-year-old driver was flawless in the feature, roaring off the pole position to lead the entire distance. He earned $10,000 for his first-ever victory at the half-mile oval, which hosted a day-night doubleheader on Friday due to a rainout of Wednesday evening’s scheduled program.
“The competition here is crazy, so to win here is kind of like winning at Eldora (Speedway),” said Blankenship, comparing Volusia’s talent-laden field with those that gather for the annual crown-jewel events at the famed Big E in Rossburg, Ohio. “We’ve always loved this racetrack. We’ve been coming down here for a while now and I’ve always wanted to win one down here.
“I was running out of time this week to get one in, so I’m really happy to finally win.”
Blankenship built a lead of as much as two seconds over outside-polesitter Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., during the race’s early stages, but both Lanigan and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., drew close after the halfway point. Lanigan and Owens were about to challenge Blankenship when Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., slowed on lap 26 to bring out the lone caution flag of the feature – a caution that effectively propelled Blankenship to victory.
With heavy lapped traffic no longer an issue for Blankenship and the caution period cooling his rivals’ tires, he was able to drive his Rocket Chassis car away from the pack on the restart. He wasn’t seriously challenged over the remaining circuits and beat Lanigan’s Rocket machine to the finish line by 1.153 seconds.
Owens settled for third place after starting 10th in a Team Zero by Bloomquist car. Third-starter Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., finished fourth in a Victory Circle mount and eighth-starter Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., placed fifth in a Capital Race Car.
“I think that caution probably saved us,” said Blankenship, whose equipment is owned by his father Don. “We had a heck of a car, but I was having trouble navigating around them (lapped cars). I kept having to check up and was losing my traction and my momentum. It was getting harder and harder to find ways around them.”
A clear track left Blankenship unbeatable. Neither Lanigan nor Owens could muster the threatening speed that had flashed before the caution flag.
Lanigan, 41, had to be satisfied with his second runner-up finish of the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit. He also was a bridesmaid in Tuesday night’s 30-lap UMP feature.
“We went a little different than everybody else on tires,” said Lanigan. “We tried something there, but I don’t know if we would’ve been any better with the other tires. We gave it everything we had.”
Owens, who turned 40 on Feb. 3, appeared to be the driver on the move until his momentum was dulled by the caution flag.
“We definitely liked the long greens,” said Owens, who has never won a Late Model feature at Volusia. “We didn’t need that caution at the end. I was kind of chomping at the bit when that caution came out because we were coming on.”
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., finished sixth after being replaced in the top five by Clanton on the lap-26 restart. Opening-night winner Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., was seventh; Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., slipped backward from the third starting spot to finish eighth; sixth-starter Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was never a factor en route to a ninth-place finish; and Rick Eckert of York, Pa., rounded out the top 10.
UNOH DIRTcar Nationals: (1) John Blankenship, (2) Darrell Lanigan, (3) Jimmy Owens, (4) Shannon Babb, (5) Shane Clanton, (6) Dale McDowell, (7) Steve Francis, (8) Bub McCool, (9) Josh Richards, (10) Rick Eckert, (11) Jimmy Mars, (12) Billy Moyer, (13) Scott Bloomquist, (14) Dennis Erb Jr., (15) Tim McCreadie, (16) Don O'Neal, (17) Vic Coffey, (18) Donnie Moran, (19) Frank Heckenast Jr., (20) Billy Moyer Jr., (21) Jared Landers, (22) Billy Decker, (23) Brandon Sheppard, (24) Morgan Bagley, (25) Bobby Pierce, (26) Eric Wells, (27) Jason Feger, (28) Chub Frank, (29) Mike Marlar. Fast qualifier (among 68 cars): Moyer, 15.965 seconds. Heat race winners: McCool, Blankenship, Richards, McDowell, Babb, Lanigan. Consolation race winners: McCreadie, Coffey, O’Neal. Provisional starters: Frank, Pierce, Bagley, Marlar.
John Blankenship will start from the pole of the main event after a redraw among heat race winners. Darrell Lanigan will join Blankenship on the front row while Shannon Babb and Bub McCool will share row two. Dale McDowell and Josh Richards will start fifth and sixth.
Third consolation race
Don O'Neal controlled the final consolation race, leading the entire distance for the victory. Eric Wells claimed the race's other transfer spot, topping Clint Smith in a close battle for second place at the finish.
Finish: Don O'Neal, Eric Wells, Clint Smith, Jack Sullivan, Morgan Bagley, Billy Ogle Jr., Jim Yoder, Dan Stone, Phil Ausra, Eric Jacobsen, Don Gordon, Chub Frank, Dennis Franklin.
Second consolation race
Vic Coffey led the majority of the second consolation race and held off a late charge by Billy Moyer Jr. for the win. Moyer used a late restart to challenge Coffey on the final lap, pulling alongside for the lead entering the final corner. But Coffey battled back and edged ahead to take the win in a photo finish. Both drivers will make the main event. Jason Feger ran second for much of the race, but fell out with engine problems. Feger pulled to the infield, where his engine briefly caught on fire. Feger scrambled out of his car while saftey crews quickly put out the fire.
Running at finish: Vic Coffey, Billy Moyer Jr., Jason McBride, Earl Pearson Jr., Jill George, Steve Iseberg, Todd Frank
First consolation race
Polesitter Tim McCreadie outdueled second-starting Jared Landers in an early back-and-forth battle for the lead and pulled away to claim the win and a feature starting spot. Landers faded late, but held off Brady Smith to finish second. Landers will join McCreadie in the main feature.
Finish: Tim McCreadie, Jared Landers, Brady Smith, Bobby Pierce, Mason Zeigler, Tyler Bruening, Charlie Sandercock, Kent Robinson, Chad Hollenbeck, Mike Hammerle.
Polesitter Darrell Lanigan cruised to the victory, leading every lap of the caution-free race. Fast qualifier Billy Moyer moved forward from the fourth starting position, but fell short of running down Lanigan late in the race. Scott Bloomquist used a three-wide move to overtake Chub Frank and Dennis Franklin for the third midway through the race and held on to the final transfer spot at the finish.
Finish: Darrell Lanigan, Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, Clint Smith, Chub Frank, Jack Sullivan, Morgan Bagley, Dennis Franklin, Eric Jacobsen, Dan Stone, Phil Ausra.
Shannon Babb charged from the fourth starting position and overtook polesitter Eric Wells midway through the caution-free race. Rick Eckert made a similar charge late in the race, but Babb held him off in a close finish. Eckert settled for second with Dennis Erb Jr. taking the third and final transfer spot. Wells faded to fourth at the finish.
Finish: Shannon Babb, Rick Eckert, Dennis Erb Jr., Eric Wells, Don O'Neal, Billy Ogle Jr., Jim Yoder, Donald Gordon.
Bringing back memories of a run-in between the same two drivers in an event last year at Cherokee Speedway, front-row starters Dale McDowell and Jonathan Davenport tangled entering turn one on the second lap, knocking Davenport out of the race while McDowell went on to win. Jimmy Owens charged through the field and moved by Jimmy Mars on the final lap to finish second. Mars settled for third and will join McDowell and Owens in the main event. McDowell and Davenport raced side-by-side on the opening lap when contact between the two cars spun Davenport and collected Pat Doar. Both Davenport and Doar had to be towed to the pit area. Austin Hubbard and Terry Casey, who was the group's fast qualifier, were both knocked out by mechanical woes.
Finish: Dale McDowell, Jimmy Owens, Jimmy Mars, Billy Moyer Jr., Vic Coffey, Earl Pearson Jr., Donald Beyers, Austin Hubbard, Terry Casey, Jonathan Davenport, Pat Doar.
Using a questionable slidejob to retake the lead from Steve Francis, polesitter Josh Richards moved back out front midway through the caution-free prelim and led the remaining distance. The third-starting Francis ran Richards down and moved by for the lead in turn four. Richards moved back to the inside of Francis down the front straightaway and slid into the high-running Francis in the middle of turns one and two, knocking Francis over the cushion. The incident allowed Brandon Sheppard to move by Francis for the second spot, but Francis recovered and retook the position late in the race. Sheppard finished third and will also make the feature lineup.
Finish: Josh Richards, Steve Francis, Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley, Jason Feger, Steve Isenberg, Jason McBride, Jill George, Todd Frank.
Polesitter John Blankenship took the lead when fellow front-row starter Jared Landers jumped the cushion in turn one and led every lap to take the win over fourth-starting Shane Clanton. After sliding back to fifth following the first-lap miscue, Landers recovered to challenge Billy Decker for the third late in the race, but fell just short in a close battle for the final transfer spot. Decker will join Blankenship and Clanton in the main event. The race was slowed with one lap complete when Gregg Satterlee spun in turn two and collected Jared Hawkins.
Finish: John Blankenship, Shane Clanton, Billy Decker, Jared Landers, Bobby Perice, Mason Zeigler, Stacy Boles, Chad Hollenbeck, Mike Hammerle, Satterlee, Jared Hawkins.
Bub McCool moved to the lead on the start of the first 10-lap heat race and led ever lap to beat a pair of 99s at the finish. Donnie Moran challenged McCool early in the caution-free race, finished second after letting McCool slip away late in the race. Frank Heckenast Jr. held off Tim McCreadie to claim the third and final transfer spot.
Finish: Bub McCool, Donnie Moran, Frank Heckenast Jr., Tim McCreadie, Brady Smith, Dillon Wood, Tyler Bruening, Hunter Peacock, Lance Matthees, Charlie Sandercock.
Looking to claim his second victory of the week at Volusia Speedway Park, Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., was the fastest of 61 qualifiers Friday evening during time trials for the fifth round of the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment.
Moyer posted a lap of 15.965 seconds around the half-mile track to top the last of six qualifying groups. He’ll start fourth in his heat race coming up after an inversion of the top four drivers in each qualifying group. Other group fast timers: Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y.; Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga.; Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill.; Terry Casey of New London, Wis., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.
Heat race polesitters after inversions will be Frank Hecenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill.; John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va.; Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.; Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga.; Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky.; and Darrell Langian of Union, Ky.
The top three finishers from each eight-lap heat will transfer to the $10,000-to-win main event with the six prelim winners redrawing to determine their starting order. Three consolation races will each transfer two drivers apiece, while provisional starters will round out the remainder of the starting field.
Qualifying results (unofficial)
Top four in each group will invert for heat races
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.474
Donnie Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 16.532
Bub McCool (57j), Vicksburg, Miss., 16.540
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.545
Dillon Wood (1w), New Smyrna Beach, Fla., 16.678
Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 16.743
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.948
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ind., 16.980
Hunter Peacock (12), Macon, Ga., 17.022
Charlie Sandercock (57), Belleville, Ontario, 17.224
Lance Matthees (90), Winona, Minn., 17.267
Greg Johnson (49), Bedford, Ind., 17.478
Shane Clanton (25), Fayetteville, Ga., 16.510
Billy Decker (91), Unadilla, N.Y., 16.567
Jared Landers (5), Batesville, Ark., 16.613
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 16.630
Gregg Satterlee (22), Rochester Mills, Pa., 16.635
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 16.642
Stacy Boles (11B), Clinton, Tenn., 16.747
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.947
Jared Hawkins (37), Fairmont, W.Va., 17.120
Chad Hollenbeck (4DS), Kingsley, Pa., 17.782
Mike Hammerle (16), St. Charles, Mo., 18.641
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 16.364
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 16.468
Steve Isenberg (9), Marshfield, Wis., 16.526
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.534
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 16.568
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 16.694
Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 16.937
Todd Frank (21F), Green Bay, Wis., 17.042
Jill George (22), Cedar Falls, Iowa, 17.254
Jason McBride (77m), Carbondale, Ill., 17.365
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 17.833
Terry Casey (42), New London, Wis., 16.280
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 16.309
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.352
Jonathan Davenport (15), Blairsville, Ga., 16.410
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 16.503
Pat Doar (11), New London, Wis., 16.568
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.603
Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 16.606
Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.606
Jeff Beyers (27b), Pana, Ill., 16.704
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 16.955
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 16.129
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.372
Rick Eckert (24), York, Pa., 16.382
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.448
Don O'Neal (1D), Martinsville, Ind., 16.517
Billy Ogle Jr. (201), Knoxville, Tenn., 16.697
Mike Marlar (5), Winfield, Tenn., 16.784
Jim Yoder (27), Selinsgrove, Pa., 16.953
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 17.422
Don Gordon (33), Chatham, Ontario, 210
John Lobb (28), Frewsburg, N.Y., no time
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 15.965
Dennis Franklin (37c), Gaffney, S.C., 16.443
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.469
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 16.476
Eric Jacobsen (5), Seacliff Beach, Calif., 16.69
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.76
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 16.813
Jack Sullivan (1s), Greenbrier, Ark., 16.921
Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 16.93
Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 16.968
Phil Ausra (15), Dowagiac, Mich., 17.895