Volusia Speedway Park
Capping Volusia's week of upsets, Bronson rules
BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 22) — Kyle Bronson of Tampa, Fla., became the latest upset winner of a World of Outlaws Late Model Series event, capturing Saturday’s 50-lapper at Volusia Speedway Park for his first-ever victory behind the wheel of a Super Late Model.
A 23-year-old modified standout in the Sunshine State, Bronson joined Thursday-night victor Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., as unexpected first-time WoO winners during the 43rd DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment. His $10,500 triumph in the finale of the mid-winter motorsports meet also was the second of the week for a home state driver following the win by Ivedent Lloyd Jr. of Ocala, Fla., in the DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned event on Feb. 17.
“This is unbelievable,” said Bronson, whose win came in the just the eighth Super Late Model start of his fledgling racing career. “I’ve never doubted myself, but I dang sure didn’t think I was gonna come here and win the race. If you would’ve asked me (about winning a WoO event) a couple days ago, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. We had our goals set (for the DIRTcar Nationals) to try and make all of (the features).
“I don’t know what to say. I’m so excited I don’t even know how to show it right now.”
Bronson started from the pole position but was outgunned for the lead at the initial green flag by John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va. Bronson held strong in second, however, and rallied to grab the top spot from Blankenship on lap 17.
Bronson then survived two caution flags, strong challenges from Blankenship and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., and a final-corner stumble to secure the milestone score. He crossed the finish line 0.706 of a second in front of two-time WoO champion and current points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who inherited second when McDowell retired on lap 41 with a broken right-rear caliper but wasn’t able to seriously threaten Bronson.
Blankenship settled for a third-place finish after leading laps 1-16. Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., slipped out of the top five midway through the race but came back to finish fourth and clinch the overall DIRTcar Nationals by Summit Late Model points title for the first time in his career. Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., completed the top five after starting 10th, earning his best finish of the week in his Clint Bowyer Racing mount.
Bloomquist, 50, emerged as the DIRTcar Nationals by Summit champion after never finishing worse than sixth in the week’s five A-Mains. He received a coveted gator-shaped trophy for his accomplishment.
“We’re proud to get it,” Bloomquist of the unique hardware that has become a trademark of the DIRTcar Nationals by Summit. “We’ve never run every race here during the week, but we decided to do it this year and I felt like we ran really good. We had a little problem with the car tonight that I don’t really want to mention, but we still had a decent run and were good all week.”
Bloomquist — nor anyone else in the talent-laden field — was able to handle Bronson. Running a Rocket-Pro Power chassis-engine combination owned by his uncle and aunt, Wayne and Shirlene Hammond of Tampa, Fla., Bronson demonstrated ability that belied his limited experience in open-competition engine Late Models.
When Blankenship jumped out to the early lead, Bronson didn’t lose his composure. He simply took the advice of Rocket co-owner Mark Richards, who provided valuable setup assistance throughout the week, and remained patient.
“Mark Richards told me at the beginning of the race that Blankenship was gonna drive real hard and he told me not to race him,” Bronson said. “He told me to ride as long as I could until an opportunity showed up. I tried to ride as long as I could, but when I had my opportunity (to make an outside pass for the lead on lap 17) I didn’t want to follow him no more. I kind of wanted to get myself in clean air.”
Moments after assuming command, Bronson was taken out of lapped traffic by a lap-20 caution flag for Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who slowed in turn three. The race’s only other caution flag, on lap 35 when Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., slowed with a crushed nosepiece sustained when he ran into the back of York, Pa. driver Rick Eckert’s car, also kept Bronson free of slower traffic.
“I usually hate seeing cautions, but I was actually happy to see every caution I seen because it got me back into clean air,” said Bronson, who was under heavy pressure from Blankenship and McDowell when the yellow flag flew on lap 35.
Once McDowell, who passed Blankenship for second place on the lap-35 restart, pulled off on lap 41 — just a few laps before he said he planned to step up his bid for victory — Bronson was effectively home free. His only scare was a slip rounding turn four with the checkered flag waving in front of him.
“I started getting tighter and tighter and kind of jumped the cushion down there, misjudged it,” Bronson said of the final lap. “I was kind of getting ready for a slide job (from a challenger) and actually just missed my corner. Fortunately I was able to gather it back up and hold on.”
Bronson got back in the groove in time to register by far the biggest win of his career, which he launched a mere three years ago. He’s already piled up more than 60 modified victories — including a DIRTcar Nationals triumph Feb. 12 — and a handful of wins in spec- and Crate-engine Late Model events in Florida, but none compare to this success.
“I just can’t thank all my guys enough, especially (team owners) Wayne and Shirlene,” said Bronson, whose two previous WoO starts resulted in finishes of 24th on Aug. 5, 2013, at Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway and 25th Thursday at Volusia (he failed to qualify for the 2013 USA Nationals at Wisconsin’s Cedar Lake Speedway in his WoO debut). “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be driving this race car. I’d be back at East Bay (Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla.) racing street stocks.”
With his victory, Bronson became the fourth first-time DIRTcar Nationals by Summit winner during this year’s five nights of Late Model competition. He also joined Roberts to become the first back-to-back first-time winners on the WoO since 2012 when Brad Neat (April 27 at North Alabama Speedway) and Bub McCool (April 28 at Tennessee’s Tazewell Speedway) logged career-first victories.
Frank Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill., finished sixth after running as high as fourth midway through the race. Eckert, meanwhile, quietly worked his way forward from the 16th starting spot to place seventh; Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., finished eighth; Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., guided the Rocket Chassis house car to a ninth-place finish after using a provisional to start 23rd; and Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., capped his strong Florida Speedweeks with a 10th-place outing.
The WoO will sit idle for one month before returning to action with a doubleheader on Fri., March 28, at Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore, Texas, and Sat., March 29, at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark.
43rd annual DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment: (1) Kyle Bronson, (2) Darrell Lanigan, (3) John Blankenship, (4) Scott Bloomquist, (5) Don O’Neal, (6) Frank Heckenast Jr., (7) Rick Eckert, (8) Steve Francis, (9) Brandon Sheppard, (10) Brady Smith, (11) Clint Smith, (12) Morgan Bagley, (13) Eric Wells, (14) Tim Fuller, (15) Ivedent Lloyd Jr., (16) Gregg Satterlee, (17) Boom Briggs, (18) Shane Clanton, (19) Tim McCreadie, (20) Casey Roberts, (21) Chub Frank, (22) Dennis Erb Jr., (23) Billy Moyer, (24) Dale McDowell, (25) Brian Shirley, (26) Kenny Pettyjohn, (27) Jimmy Owens. Fast qualifier (among 35 cars): Bloomquist, 16.726 seconds. Heat race winners: Bloomquist, Lanigan, McDowell, Heckenast. Consolation winners: Lloyd, Briggs. Provisional starters: Sheppard, Bagley, Wells, Shirley.
Consolation race finishes
First consolation: Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Tim Fuller, Casey Roberts, Morgan Bagley, Eric Wells, Kenny Moreland, Chase Junghans, Chub Frank, Chuck Julien.
Second consolation: Boom Briggs, Jimmy Owens, Kenny Pettyjohn, Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley, Jared Landers, Jack Sullivan, John Winge, Dan Stone.
Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., drew the pole for the 50-lap feature among the heat winners and runners-ups. He'll start alongside John Blankenship while Dale McDowell and Dennis Erb Jr. start on the second row. Scott Bloomquist and Frank Heckenast Jr. are on the third row while Tim McCreadie and Darrell Lanigan are in row four.
Consolation race lineups
Row 1: Kenny Moreland, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 2: Tim Fuller, Eric Wells
Row 3: Casey Roberts, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Chub Frank, Chase Junghans
Row 5: Chuck Julien
Row 1: Boom Briggs, Jimmy Owens
Row 2: Kenny Pettyjohn, Brian Shirley
Row 3: Jack Sullivan, Brandon Sheppard
Row 4: Jared Landers, Dan Stone
Row 5: John Winge
Frank Heckenast Jr. won an early side-by-side duel with polesitter Kyle Bronson and edged away for a victory. The winner made the middle groove work long enough to top the low-running Bronson while Gregg Satterlee used the high groove in charging from sixth to third. Rick Eckert was fourth. Each heat race caution-free.
Finish: Frank Heckenast Jr., Kyle Bronson, Gregg Satterlee, Rick Eckert, Jimmy Owens, Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard, Dan Stone.
Dale McDowell became the third straight polesitter to win a heat, sticking with the low groove in outrunning John Blankenship in the third prelim. Blankenship never challenged McDowell but held off Billy Moyer in third while Clint Smith got the fourth and final transfer spot. Boom Briggs was further back in fifth.
Finish: Dale McDowell, John Blankenship, Billy Moyer, Clint Smith, Boom Briggs, Kenny Pettyjohn, Jack Sullivan, Jared Landers, John Winge.
Polesitter Darrell Lanigan pulled away easily for a victory in the second heat, building a half-straightaway lead after three laps and cruising the rest of the way. Third-starting Tim McCreadie slipped under outside front-row starter Ivedent Lloyd Jr. at the outset and raced to a second-place finish while Don O'Neal dropped Lloyd to fourth on the sixth lap. O'Neal's teammate Steve Francis went around Lloyd late to get the final transfer spot. No cautions flew.
Finish: Darrell Lanigan, Tim McCreadie, Don O'Neal, Steve Francis, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Eric Wells, Morgan Bagley, Chase Junghans.
Fast qualifier Scott Bloomquist doiminated the first heat, outrunning Dennis Erb Jr. by more than a straightaway. Erb had his best performance of the week in second while Shane Clanton and Brady Smith got the other two transfer spots. Kenny Moreland ran fourth until the midway point and slipped back to a distant fifth at the finish. Thursday's winner Casey Roberts was seventh in the caution-free prelim.
Finish: Scott Bloomquist, Dennis Erb Jr., Shane Clanton, Brady Smith, Kenny Moreland, Tim Fuller, Casey Roberts, Chub Frank, Chuck Julien.
Heat race lineups
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Kenny Moreland, Tim Fuller
Row 3: Shane Clanton, Brady Smith
Row 4: Casey Roberts, Chub Frank
Row 5: Chuck Julien
Row 1: Darrell Lanigan, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Eric Wells
Row 3: Don O’Neal, Chase Junghans
Row 4: Steve Francis, Morgan Bagley
Row 1: Dale McDowell, John Blankenship
Row 2: Billy Moyer, Clint Smith
Row 3: Boom Briggs, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 4: Jared Landers, Jack Sullivan
Row 5: John Winge
Row 1: Kyle Bronson, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 2: Jimmy Owens, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Rick Eckert, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Dan Stone, Brian Shirley
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., was fastest of 35 qualifiers Saturday at Volusia Speedway Park for the finale of the 43rd annual DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment.
The first qualifier out, Bloomquist tripped the clock at 16.726 seconds on the D-shaped, half-mile oval for qualifying preceding the $10,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series event capping Georgia-Florida Speedweeks.
Besides Bloomquist, the only driver under 17 seconds in time trials, other heat race polesitters are Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., and Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla.
Four 10-lap heat races will transfer four drivers apiece to the main event along with three drivers apiece from each of two 12-lap consolation races.
With four winners in the week’s previous four races, a fifth winner on Saturday would give Volusia its first season without a repeat Super Late Model winner for the first time since 2010. …. Three of the winners are first-timers in Volusia Speedweeks action with Ivedent Lloyd Jr. of Ocala, Fla., Kenny Pettyjohn of Millsboro, Del., and Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., notching their first Speedweeks victories. Scott Bloomquist won Wednesday’s feature while Roberts captured Thursday’s WoO event to deny Bloomquist back-to-back victories. ... Bobby Pierce scratched after having problems in hot laps. ... Overcast skies in the afternoon gave way to later sunshine that helped dry the grounds at Volusia. The racing surface was packed tight before the rain and should be in good condition. ... Brandon Sheppard leads WoO points with 572 over Darrell Lanigan (568), Brady Smith (562), Rick Eckert (536) and Tim Fuller (528). … Volusia has a chance at getting four first-time winners for the week. The last time Volusia has had four first-time winners at the DIRTcar Nationals was in 2004 with Shannon Babb, Tim McCreadie, Greg Johnson and Jackie Boggs. ... Among Late Model drivers who left or are skipping Saturday's action include Mike Hammerle, Jeff Beyers, John Garvin Jr., Chad Hollenbeck, Eric Jacobsen and Mike Marlar. ... Big-block modifieds are also in action with a full program capped by a 50-lap feature. … Taking more than a month off after Speedweeks, WoO competitors return to action March 28-29 at Lone Star Speedway in Kilgore, Texas, and I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark.
Time trials (unofficial)
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.726
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 17.079
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 17.098
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21), Ocala, Fla., 17.141
Kenny Moreland (24), Waldorf, Md., 17.248
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 17.254
Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 17.304
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 17.305
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 17.315
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., , 17.342
Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 17.365
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 17.439
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., 17.503
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 17.564
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 17.584
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 17.680
Chuck Julien (57), Apopka, Fla., 18.552
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., no time
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 17.238
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 17.405
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 17.421
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Orland Park, Ill., 17.427
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 17.478
Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 17.514
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 17.526
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 17.527
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 17.533
Rick Eckert (24), York, Pa., 17.563
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 17.607
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 17.608
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 17.624
Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 17.628
Jack Sullivan (12m), Greenbrier, Ark., 17.828
Brian Shirley (81), Chatham, Ill., 18.023
John Winge (17J), Sioux Falls S.D., 18.969
6 p.m.: WoO Late Model hot laps
6:30 p.m.: Big-block modified hot laps/time trials
7 p.m.: WoO Late Model time trials
7:30 p.m.: Opening ceremonies
7:40 p.m.: Big-block modified dash
7:50 p.m.: Four big-block modified heats (8 laps; 5 transfer)
8:30 p.m.: Four WoO Late Model heats (10 laps; 4 transfer)
9:10 p.m.: Two WoO Late Model consies (12 laps; 3 transfer)
9:30 p.m.: Two big-block modified consies (10 laps; 2 transfer)
9:50 p.m.: WoO Late Model feature (50 laps)
10:20 p.m.: Big-block modified feature (50 laps)