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East Alabama Motor Speedway

Polesitting Roberts ready for Sunday's Nat'l 100

November 2, 2008, 4:50 pm
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com chief writer
Gar Dickson prepares a tire for Sunday's National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway. (DirtonDirt.com)
Gar Dickson prepares a tire for Sunday's National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway. (DirtonDirt.com)

PHENIX CITY, Ala. (Nov. 2) — Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., has been on the pole for a race at East Alabama Motor Speedway before, but he hopes this year's National 100 turns out better than last year's Alabama State Championships. A turn-one tangle with Randle Chupp knocked Roberts out of that 2007 event, but he hopes to be around at the conclusion of Sunday's 34th annual National 100, an unsanctioned event paying $30,000 to the winner. | National 100 history

"It's always good to start up front," said Roberts, "but it's anybody's race in 100 laps."

One thing is for sure: Roberts will leave EAMS as the new track record-holder at the 3/8-mile oval after blistering the surface with a 13.74-second lap, improving on the former record by more than a half-second.

Roberts, who drives for the Augusta, Ga.-based Cushman Paint & Body team owned by Jimmy Cushman, will lead the field in his new Victory Circle Chassis, a car with two wins after just a handful of starts. Roberts switched to the Victory Circle in 2008, the M1 version tweaked by Hall of Fame driver Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. It's not often Roberts races at the same track as Moyer, but they'll be starting first and third at EAMS. Roberts has taken advantage of the time with Moyer. "He's real good about answering any questions I have," Roberts said.

The big question Sunday afternoon before the feature? Which Victory Circle car will have the best shot of winning.

Choosing rubber

Choosing the right tire compounds in any 100-lapper is tricky, but EAMS has the reputation for being as tricky as any track. Eighth-starting Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., has set aside three tire combinations and will decide which ones to go with once he sees how the track surface is prepared. The track was bolted-down with rubber after daytime racing of Late Model consolations and features in other divisions, but the surface is being redone before the 100-lapper.

"There ain't no science to it," Marlar said of his tire selection. "It's a guess for everybody. I don't care how smart you are, it's still a guess."

The way the race plays out, including the number of cautions, is key to which tire choice turns out to be correct, said Marlar, who is making his first-ever start at EAMS. For instance, a driver using medium-soft rubber might survive if cautions come out at opportune times, whereas a driver on the hardest rubber would likely get an advantage if the race runs caution-free.

Blowouts in consolations

The hard-packed, daytime racing surface for the consolation races meant that drivers burned up their tires quickly, even though the consies were just 12 laps. Even eight-time National 100 winner Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., burned up a tire as it went flat just as he took the checkered flag in second place.

Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., making his first appearance at EAMS in a Jimmy Mars backup car, realized quickly his tires weren't going to hold up when the green flag flew in his B-Main. "It was like John Force burnouts on everybody's cars," Doar said of the start. "I said, 'Oh no, we're in deep (trouble) now."

Doar was running in a transfer position in the consolation when his tire began deflating, but he wasn't the only one to suffer the same fate.

Odds and ends

The event drew 47 cars. ... Saturday night's heat winners were Casey Roberts, Dennis Franklin, Billy Moyer and Brady Smith .... Last year's National 100 winner Chris Madden and Aaron Ridley won consolation races. ... Madden, Clint Smith and Scott Bloomquist skipped Saturday's prelims at EAMS because they were competing in World of Outlaws Late Model Series competition at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. They all transferred through Sunday consolation races.

Feature lineup

Row 1: C. Roberts, D. Franklin
Row 2: B. Moyer, B. Smith
Row 3: J. Mars, B. Birkhofer
Row 4: R. Chupp, V. Hill
Row 5: R. Cook, M. Marlar
Row 6: E. Basey, D. Griffin
Row 7: G. Dickson, T. Pennington
Row 8: J. Blankenship, D. Erb Jr.
Row 9: A. Ridley, C. Madden
Row 10: S. Bloomquist, T. Knowles
Row 11: C. Smith, R. Williams
Row 12: J. Ward, W. Thomas
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