GREENWOOD, Neb. (July 18) — Watching Jonathan Davenport go on a Dirt Late Model hot streak for the ages certainly brought out the best in Scott Bloomquist.
The proof was in the results of Saturday night’s fifth annual Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway.
Turning the tables on the sport’s most sizzling driver, Bloomquist passed Davenport for the lead on lap 31 of the 80-lap feature and never looked back en route to repeating as the champion of the fast-growing Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event. The 51-year-old veteran from Mooresburg, Tenn., earned $32,000 for capturing the race in consecutive years.
Davenport, 31, of Blairsville, Ga., wasn’t around at the finish after smacking the turn-three wall and breaking his car’s driveshaft on lap 56 while running second and attempting to chase down Bloomquist, but that fact didn’t dampen Bloomquist’s joy. The Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer was confident he had Davenport, who entered the weekend with 11 victories in his last 13 starts, covered at the 4/10-mile oval.
“We were better than he was tonight,” Bloomquist said after beating a hard-charging Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., to the finish line by 0.990 of a second for his second Lucas Oil Series triumph of 2015. “He’s been running really good … he’s been making us all have to go to work, and we’re up for it.
“We’re just chipping away at it. We’ve got a few more things we want to try to play with and hopefully we’ll get things better than where we are.”
Jesse Stovall of Billings, Mo., finishing third, advancing from the 19th starting spot to back up his fifth-place run in the July 12 Show-Me 100 presented by ProtectTheHarvest at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., with another top-five performance. Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., ceded third place to Stovall on lap 62 but hung on to place fourth in his first-ever visit to I-80 and fourth-starter Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., rallied to finish fifth after being shuffled out of the top early in the feature.
Bloomquist, who started ninth in his self-designed Sweet-Bloomquist car, moved quickly to the front of the 31-car field. He reached second place with a lap-21 pass of Owens, who started third, and, after swapping the position twice with Owens, broke free to run down and overtake Davenport for the top spot on the 31st circuit.
Davenport, who started from the pole position after his two heat wins on Friday night earned him the most passing points under the event’s unique two-round heat-race format, had led laps 1-32 but couldn’t turn back Bloomquist’s inside move off turn four on lap 31. Owens and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., dropped Davenport back to fourth place over the ensuing 10 laps, but after a caution flag flew on lap 50 for Clay Daly of Salinas, Calif., the Lucas Oil Series points leader appeared to find a second wind and swept by Moyer for third place on the restart.
Soon after, on lap 54, Davenport passed Owens for second place and set his sights on Bloomquist. But when Davenport sailed into the third turn on lap 56, his K&L Rumley Longhorn Race Car hopped the cushion and contacted the wall rear-first, causing the machine’s driveshaft to break and ending his bid for his second win worth $30,000 or more in a week following his Show-Me 100 score six days earlier.
Bloomquist spent the remainder of the distance searching for the fastest way around the Kosiski family’s track.
“The groove kept moving around, and we just kept moving around, moving around,” said Bloomquist, who wasn’t hampered by any slowdowns after Davenport’s troubles brought out the third and final caution period of the race on lap 56. “You could gauge off of the lapped cars a little bit. If I lost a little ground, I’d just try another line.”
Once his drive to victory was complete, Bloomquist was full-on enamored with I-80 Speedway. He had nothing but praise for the racing that the track produces.
“I was a little bit concerned about how wet it was early,” Bloomquist said. “I thought the cushion might end up getting to be real tall to where everybody had to kind of depend on it, but they did a great job with the racetrack.
“This is a great racetrack — that’s what I said last year. We really look forward to coming out here. This is getting to be one of my favorite racetracks … it’s probably getting close to being in the top five.”
Owens, 43, was unable to get alongside Bloomquist in a bid for the lead after a fleeting challenge on lap 53, but the three-time Lucas Oil Series champion didn’t go down without a flight. After falling more than two seconds behind Bloomquist on lap 70, Owens threw caution to the wind and used the outside lane to cut his deficit to less than a half-second in a matter of three circuits.
But on lap 74 Owens slipped high in turn four, costing him precious ground to Bloomquist. He gathered himself and raced back within a half-second of Bloomquist as the white flag was displayed, but another slip on the final circuit resigned him to runner-up money.
“The bottom was pretty good and I could run down there and was pretty quick, but you just had to hit it perfect,” said Owens, who drove his Rowland Racing Club 29 Race Car. “And then I felt like I could run the middle of the track in the groove Scott was running and be nearly as good as him, but nearly-as-good wasn’t getting it done so I thought, Well, you know what? I’ve seen Brian Birkhofer tag that cushion for several laps and get to the lead, so I got up yonder and hammered (the outside) pretty good and caught him. Then I jumped the cushion (allowing Bloomquist to get away) and I was thinking, Well, I seen J.D. (Davenport) go out, so we’ll sit there and it’ll be a good points night. But then I thought, Well, the heck with it, I’m gonna go for the win.
“We run (Bloomquist) back down again and we was closing in on him,” he added. “I know that last lap I was gonna run the bottom because we could do the bottom pretty good, but (Bloomquist) cut down to the bottom there so I thought, We’ll just banzai the top a little harder than usual and maybe we won’t jump (the cushion) … but we jumped it. We gave it our best though.”
Before Daly and Davenport brought out mid-race caution flags, the most serious incidents of the race occurred in the early laps.
First, on lap eight, defending Lucas Oil Series champion Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., tangled with Rodney Sanders of Happy, Texas, in turn two and was clipped by R.C. Whitwell of Tucson, Ariz. O’Neal and Sanders were towed off the track while Whitwell limped into the pit area.
A red flag was needed on lap 10 after Matt Buller of Henderson, Neb., found himself lying upside down on the inside of turn four in the middle of a tangle that included Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa, Jake O’Neil of Tucson, Ariz., and Ben Schaller of Omaha, Neb. Buller emerged from his car without injury.
Lineups, results and notes from Saturday night's program:
During a driver autograph session in front of the grandstand before the Belt Bash, I-80 promoter Joe Kosiski told Lucas Oil Series announcer James Essex over the p.a. system that he plans to pay the winner of the 2016 Silver Dollar Nationals a whopping $40,000. The $8,000 jump in the first-place check continues the event’s steady climb — from $25,000 to win in 2011 to $26,000 in ’12, $27,000 in ’13, $30,000 in ’14 and $32,000 this year. “We want this thing to keep growing,” Kosiski said. “At $40,000, you’re putting it up there as one of the biggest races in the country.” … Polesitter Jonathan Davenport got the pit area talking earlier in the program by opting to skip hot laps for Friday night’s heat transfers. … The track surface has stacked up a substantial cushion, making the top side of the 4/10-mile oval dominant for much of the night. But Belt Bash winner Kyle Berck said during the post-race ceremonies that he thought the conditions would change during the 80-lap feature. … Lucas Oil Series provisional starting spots were claimed by Steve Francis and Jason Papich. … Other provisional starters are Ryan Gustin, Jake O’Neil, Matt Buller and Ben Schaller. … Texan Rodney Sanders, who starts 15th in the Silver Dollar Nationals, won the 35-lap USMTS open-wheel modified feature for the second consecutive night. He earned $4,000. … The feature took the green flag at 11:30 CT.
Belt Bash results
Kyle Berck of Marquette, Neb., pulled off a dramatic victory at his home track, passing Corey Zeitner coming to the white flag to grab the lead and march on to take the checkered flag in the 20-lap non-qualifiers’ event 0.905 of a second in front of Pennsylvania’s Chad Hollenbeck.
The veteran driver had the option of taking the $3,000 first-place prize or relinquishing it in favor of starting the feature from the tail (31st) — and after some deliberation, Berck opted to transfer to the 80-lap headliner, which pays $1,500 to start.
Hollenbeck, who led the race’s first 10 laps before being overtaken for the top spot by Zeitner on a mid-race restart, also slipped past Meitner on the final lap to take the runner-up spot. Meitner settled for third, followed by Bill Leighton Jr. and Dave Eckrich.
Belt Bash finish (20 laps): Kyle Berck, Chad Hollenbeck, Corey Zeitner, Bill Leighton Jr., Dave Eckrich, Mike Stadel, Justin Duty, Kyle Dumpert, John Hampel, Bill Koons, Bob Milander, Brad Perdue, Curt Drake, Ray Sveeggen, Andrew Kosiski, Brian Kosiski, Mike Wiarda, Junior Coover, J.C. Wyman.
Belt Bash lineup
(20 laps; winner has option to transfer)
Row 1: Chad Hollenbeck, Mike Stadel
Row 2: Mike Wiarda, Bill Leighton Jr.
Row 3: Kyle Berck, Corey Zeitner
Row 4: Justin Duty, Dave Eckrich
Row 5: Brad Perdue, Bill Koons
Row 6: Curt Drake, Kyle Dumpert
Row 7: Andrew Kosiski, John Hampel
Row 8: Junior Coover, Bob Milander
Row 9: J.C. Wyman, Ray Sveeggen
Row 10: Brian Kosiski, John Duty
Both B-Main winners — Jesse Stovall and Earl Pearson Jr. — controlled the 15-lap distances from flag-to-flag. … A red flag was needed on lap one of the first consolation when Iowa’s Alan Hoff slammed the wall between turns three and four and came to rest with his car’s front end perched on the guardrail. He wasn’t injured. … The first B-Main included caution flags for home-stater Brian Kosiski, who scraped the turn-four wall, and Iowa’s Ryan Gustin, who slowed on lap seven while in contention for a transfer spot. … The second consolation was punctuated by a dramatic finish after a caution flag flew on lap 13 for Oregon’s John Duty, who stopped in turn three. Following the restart second-running Chris Simpson slowed with apparent problems, ceding second to Jeremy Payne and on lap 14 fading completely out of the top 10. Seizing on Simpson’s troubles was Nebraska’s Jordan Grabouski, who slid into third place on the final circuit after starting ninth to make the Silver Dollar Nationals field in his first-ever open-competition Late Model start driving for Minnesota’s Jason Krohn.
First consolation finish (15 laps; top 3 transfer): Jesse Stovall, Dennis Erb Jr., Garrett Alberson, Jason Papich, Steve Francis, Mike Wiarda, Kyle Berck, Matt Buller, Justin Duty, Brad Perdue, Curt Drake, Andrew Kosiski, Junior Coover, J.C. Wyman, Ryan Gustin, Brian Kosiski, Alan Hopp (DNS) Chris Spieker, Robbie Anderson, Randy Timms, Denny Eckrich.
Second consolation finish (15 laps; top 3 transfer): Earl Pearson Jr., Jeremy Payne, Jordan Grabouski, Chad Hollenbeck, Mike Stadel, Bill Leighton Jr., Ben Schaller, Corey Zeitner, Dave Eckrich, Bill Koons, Kyle Dumpert, John Hampel, Bob Milander, Ray Sveeggen, Chris Simpson, John Duty, Mike Collins, Jason O’Brien, Jake O’Neal (DNS) Austin Siebert, Keegan Nordquist.
Sultry conditions prevail again with temperatures soaring into the upper 90s. … Despite winning heat races on Friday night, Lucas Oil Series regulars Earl Pearson Jr. and Dennis Erb Jr. did not earn enough passing points to make the feature lineup and will have to run B-Mains. … Chris Spieker is scheduled to start fifth in the evening’s first B-Main, but he has scratched from the event because a family emergency forced him to head home early to Massena, Iowa. … Scott Bloomquist’s wife, Katrina, also had to leave the track and return home to Mooresburg, Tenn., because her mother is experiencing health issues. … Californian Jason Papich switched cars for Saturday night's action, opting to run his white, largely-unlettered Club 29 machine. He kept his pole starting spot in the first B-Main because Lucas Oil Series rules for two-day shows permit drivers to change cars without penalty. ... Steve Francis also switched cars for Saturday's racing after experiencing engine problems on Friday night.
I-80 Speedway’s annual Silver Dollar Nationals weekend concludes Saturday with consolation races and the a $32,000-to-win main event for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association. United States Modified Touring Series competitors are also in action with a complete racing program.
The three-day event kicked off Thursday with an open practice for Lucas Oil and USMTS competitors along with a complete racing program for the Nebraska-based Super Late Model Racing Series won by Tad Pospisil of Norfolk, Neb.
Friday's racing program included 12 total races for the event-record 60 Late Model competitors as well as a complete racing program for USMTS drivers. No time trials were used for Late Models; lineups for the two rounds of heats were set by draws, and combined passing points from the prelims determined the 18 transfers to Saturday night’s 80-lap finale.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., is scheduled to start on the pole of Saturday's main event with Pospisil alongside. The two drivers earned the most passing points in Friday’s heats — Davenport winning both of his prelims, and Pospisil coming from 10th to win his first-round qualifier and finishing as the runner-up in the second round.
Jason Papich of Nipomo, Calif., and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., start on the pole of Saturday's consolation races. Each race will transfer three additional drivers to the 80-lap finale, which will have its 32-car field filled out by multiple rows of provisional starters.
Saturday's card, which also includes the $3,000-to-win Belt Bash for Late Model non-qualifiers, is scheduled to get under way with hot laps at 7:15 p.m. CST.
Row 1: Jason Papich, Jesse Stovall
Row 2: Dennis Erb Jr., Ryan Gustin
Row 3: Chris Spieker, Kyle Berck
Row 4: Steve Francis, Brian Kosiski
Row 5: Matt Buller, Garrett Alberson
Row 6: Junior Coover, Andrew Kosiski
Row 7: Alan Hopp, Mike Wiarda
Row 8: Brad Perdue, Denny Eckrich
Row 9: Curt Drake, J.C. Wyman
Row 10: Justin Duty, Randy Timms
Row 11: Robbie Anderson
Row 1: Earl Pearson Jr., Jeremy Payne
Row 2: Ben Schaller, Chris Simpson
Row 3: Jake O’Neil, Chad Hollenbeck
Row 4: Mike Collins, Jason O’Brien
Row 5: Jordan Grabouski, Dave Eckrich
Row 6: Mike Stadel, Bill Koons
Row 7: John Duty, Corey Meitner
Row 8: Bob Milander, Corey Dumpert
Row 9: Ray Sveeggen, Bill Leighton Jr.
Row 10: Keegan Nordquist, John Hampel
Row 11: Austin Siebert