ROSSBURG, Ohio — Former World 100 winner Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., took the lead on the fifth lap Thursday night at Eldora Speedway and never looked back, capturing the weekend’s opening preliminary feature at the 45th annual World 100.
McDowell, who became the first multiple-prelim winner since the Tony Stewart-owned track added two preliminary nights of action, had a 2.8-second lead at halfway and stretched it further in the race late stages while grabbing a $5,000 payday to kick off Dirt Late Model racing’s biggest weekend of the year.
Repeating his Thursday night victory from last year’s World 100, McDowell methodically worked the low groove at the historic track, moving past early leader R.J. Conley of Wheelersburg, Ohio on the fifth lap — his quickest feature lap of the night — and stayed ahead of the tight battle for second between Darrell Lanigan and Mike Marlar.
“We ran our race in the heat race up top, and you know, our setup and my driving style, whatever it is, is middle to the bottom and you can carry momentum and you can save your tires,” McDowell said in victory lane. “If you get up top, you’re really working your tires hard. It’s just getting in this thing, and I felt like we’ve got a good race car … we’re going to have another tough night tomorrow night, and then get in the big show, and then we’ve got a long 100 laps (on Saturday night).
“There’s an awful lot of good race cars behind us; they’ll be able to adjust and they’ll be coming after us, so we just hope we can get in that big show.”
The fourth-row starters Lanigan and Marlar made contact at the flagstand on the 18th lap but avoided catastrophe with Marlar holding the second spot until Lanigan regained it at the white flag. Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., improved seven positions to finish fourth while Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., survived a poor start to challenge the early leaders before settling for fifth
Last year’s World 100 winner Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., ran among the top three the first 10 laps but slipped back and eventually out of contention along with Conley, who ended up 14th, and polesitter Nick Latham, who was out of the top 10 by the race’s long caution on the seventh lap and ended up a lap down in 20th.
While McDowell depended primarily on the low groove for the victory, he knows that competitors who can run all over the track will be tough the rest of the weekend.
“Really, with the racetrack as racy as it was, top and bottom, that’s important to be able to do decent in our heat race,” the gray-headed 49-year-old said. “I’m too tight for the top, so we hurt a little bit qualifying. So we’ll have to work on it there. But shoot, all in all, it’s a good night for us.”
Lanigan and Marlar never got close enough to challenge McDowell, but they saw plenty of each other while mixing it up in the second half of the race.
“Our car was actually really good there on the bottom. I got stuck on that outside on that restart and tried that a little bit, but I got back to the bottom and got to second and actually had a pretty good hot rod,” Lanigan said. “That’s the best I’ve had a car up here in the bottom around that wall … I think we’ll have something for the weekend.”
Marlar was glad to turn in a solid run at a track where he’s mostly struggled in his Late Model career.
“I was running the bottom pretty good there, then me and Darrell got together,” Marlar said. “I thought it done something to my car or something — it kind of jarred me out of the bottom really, so I was forced out there, so once I got out there, and said, 'Well, I’m going to have to make it work.' It worked out good.”
Marlar continued a string of solid runs since a mid-season switch to a Capital Race Car.
“It’s been good and I’ve never really ever been happy with my performances at Eldora,” he said. “I told my guys this week, I said 'We’re going big or staying home, so we’re going to run good or quit going.' So I think maybe we’ll get to come back.”
Conley broke out of the all-Ohio front row from the outset, leading Bloomquist and McDowell over the first five laps while Lanigan broke into the top five.
McDowell went ahead two laps before the race’s lone caution for Austin Hubbard’s turn-one spin on the seventh lap.
McDowell led Conley, Bloomquist and Lanigan on the restart, but Madden took a spot from Madden and then Bloomquist as Marlar charged into contention. Lanigan reached the second spot by halfway, but McDowell was checking out, comfortably ahead at the Lanigan-Marlar frontstretch scrape as he pulled away.
Preliminary notes and results:
Scott Bloomquist wasn’t pleased with his engine’s performance at the start of the night, but he had everything purring nicely during his Heat 1 victory. “We increased the timing, did some carb stuff, and it felt a lot better,” he reported. … Josh Richards’s reward for setting the overall fast time in qualifying? A fourth-place starting spot in the second heat behind superstars Darrell Lanigan, Billy Moyer and Shane Clanton and just in front of Kent Robinson, who won a Dream preliminary feature last year. Richards wasn’t able to transfer, finishing fourth. … Shane Clanton pulled a slider on Lanigan to win the second heat and consider his run a good omen. “The top three cars for the Dream won the first three heat races,” he said, pointing out that he, Bloomquist and Jonathan Davenport were Dream lap leaders. … Coming off a victory at Georgia’s Dixie Speedway, Dale McDowell felt good about his Heat 3 win. “We’ve been trying some things to catch up because we feel like we’ve been a little bit behind,” he said. … After slipping from his outside pole starting spot to a fourth-place finish in Heat 3, Vic Hill pulled alongside runner-up Jason Feger after the checkered flag to flash some displeasure with something that happened on the racetrack. … R.J. Conley became the evening’s first heat-race winner from Ohio when he captured the fourth prelim. He wasn’t totally thrilled with his car’s performance, however. “I really had it too tight,” he said. “I couldn’t stay on the gas in the middle of the corner.” … Heat five winner Don O’Neal gave a post-race shout-out to his crew chief Jeremy Justice, who was unable to make the trip because he was hospitalized in North Carolina after a shop accident during the week. Justice suffered broken bones in his right wrist and hand and could be sidelined for much of the fall. … Nick Latham won the sixth heat, joining R.J. Conley as Ohio drivers with heat victories. His performance made his night a successful one. “Our goal was to make the feature so we’re happy,” he said. … Alex Ferree couldn’t have thought up a more memorable way to make the feature in his first-ever Eldora appearance than his last-lap pass of Billy Moyer for the third and final transfer spot in the first B-Main. “That’s something I don’t know will ever happen again for me,” Ferree said of overtaking the six-time World 100 winner. “I’d like to hope it will, but … that’s Mr. Smooth.”
Polesitter Chris Brown beat everyone into turns one and two and led all 10 laps, Devin Moran held on to the second spot all race long while Chase Junghans and Mason Zeigler and a tight battle for the final transfer spot. Zeigler was able to get the spot from Junghans as they battled amid a slower car on the final lap.
Finish (top three finish): Chris Brown, Devin Moran, Mason Zeigler, Chase Junghans, Jon Henry, Walker Arthur, Michael Chilton, Gordy Gundaker, James Rice, Andrew Reaume, Jeff Wolfenbarger, Donald McIntosh, Charles LaPlant, Shannon Thornsberry, Wayne Chinn, Doug Sanders, Bryant Dickinson.
Polesitter Tim McCreadie cruised to a 10-lap victory. Outside front-row starter Josh Richards held onto second while Billy Moyer edged past Scott James on the seventh lap, but he lost the third and final transfer spot to Eldora rookie Alex Ferree on the final corner of the last lap of the caution-free consy.
Finish (top three transfer): Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards, Alex Ferree, Billy Moyer, Scott James, Eddie Carrier Jr., Riley Hickman, Rusty Schlenk, Neil Baggett, Dan Stone, Chad Ruhlman, Scott Lewis, Casey Noonan, Brandon Kinzer, Austin Smith, Don Hammer, Brian Ledbetter, Tommy Bailey.
With the heat winners lining up inverted by qualifying time, Nick Latham of Winchester, Ohio, is set to start on the pole of the 25-lap feature. He'll start alongside R.J. Conley with former World 100 winners Scott Bloomquist and Dale McDowell on the second row. Don O'Neal and Shane Clanton fill the third-row slots.
Home-state hope Nick Latham got rolling n the high side, taking command from Jay Johnson on the third lap and racing to victory. Latham edged away for the victory while Johnson held onto the second spot. Chris Ferguson got a slow start but took the final transfer spot from Jeff Wolfenbarger midway in the caution-free prelim.
Finish (top three transfer): Nick Latham, Jay Johnson, Chris Ferguson, Jeff Wolfenbarger, Michael Chilton, Charles LaPlant, Andrew Reaume, Doug Sanders.
Outside front-row starter Don O'Neal swept off turn two on the first lap to blow past polesitter Mason Zeigler and cruise to an eight-lap victory. Third-starting Chris Madden took second from Zeigler before midway, then Zeigler nearly lost another spot when Dustin Linville rubbed past in turn one. Devin Moran joined the battle with Linville and Zeigler for the top spot with Linville going high to take the position at the white flag, leaving Moran fourth and a fading Zeigler fifth.
Finish (top three transfer): Don O'Neal, Chris Madden, Dustin Linville, Devin Moran, Mason Zeigler, Jon Henry, Donald McIntosh, Wayne Chinn, Bryant Dickinson.
R.J. Conley outdueled fellow front-row starter Ricky Weiss early and raced to an eight-lap victory. Sixth-starting Tim Manville rode the low groove to a second-place finish, nearly catching Conley in the final laps, while Weiss held onto the final transfer spot over Chris Brown. James Rice spun in turn one for a lap-two yellow.
Finish (top three transfer): R.J Conley, Tim Manville, Ricky Weiss, Chris Brown, Chase Junghans, Walker Arthur, Gordy Gundaker, James Rice, Shannon Thornsberry.
Outside front-row starter became the third former World 100 winner to win a heat among the first-feature competitors, jumping into the lead and cruising to victory. Polesitter Matt Westfull brushed the wall in turn one on the third lap but kept Earl Pearson Jr. in check to finish second while Pearson got the final transfer spot, comfortably ahead of seventh-starting Scott James. The first start was called back with Austin Smith docked a spot for jumping.
Finish (top three transfer): Dale McDowell, Matt Westfall, Earl Pearson Jr., Scott James, Eddie Carrier Jr., Riley Hickman, Austin Smith, Scott Lewis, Tommy Bailey.
Third-starting Shane Clanton went past polesitter before halfway and easily pulled away for an eight-lap victory. Lanigan held on to second from the low-side challenges of fifth-starting Kent Robinson, the last of three cars transferring to the feature. Fast qualifier Josh Richards was fourth and Sunday's Baltes Classic winner at Eldora was fifth.
Finish (top three transfer): Shane Clanton, Darrell Lanigan, Kent Robinson, Josh Richards, Billy Moyer, Dan Stone, Casey Noonan, Don Hammer, Brandon Kinzer.
Outside front-row starter Scott Bloomquist fended off an early challenge from Tim McCreadie and grabbed an eight-lap victory in the first of the night's 12 heat races. Polesitter Austin Hubbard, driving Chad Stapleton's car with an Indianapolis Colts wrap, regained second from McCreadie at halfway, but fourth-starting Mike Marlar swept around him on the seventh lap to grab the second spot. Hubbard got the third and final transfer spt while McCreadie was fourth in the caution-free prelim.
Finish (top three transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Mike Marlar, Austin Hubbard, Tim McCreadie, Neil Baggett, Alex Ferree, Rusty Schlenk, Chad Ruhlman, Brian Ledbetter.
Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., is behind the wheel of Indiana racer Chad Stapleton’s No. 32, which sports a wrap featuring Stapleton’s favorite NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts. That’s a direct conflict for Hubbard, who is a big fan of the Baltimore Ravens. … Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., has a logo on his car going special recognition to his Dunn-Benson Racing team’s 25th anniversary in the sport. This weekend marks the first time Pearson has driven a Dunn-Benson car at Eldora since he won the 2006 World 100 for the Dunn, N.C.-based team; Pearson drove Larry Moring’s car to a runner-up finish in June’s Dream. … Neil Baggett of Shannon, Miss., is driving one of three entries fielded by Columbus, Miss’s Rickman Racing operation. He joins brothers Rick and Brian Rickman in the ambitious World 100 effort. … Gordy Gundaker of St. Charles, Mo., is making his first attempt at the World 100. His father, Kevin Gundaker, started the World 100 twice during his racing days, finishing second in 1980. … Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and his Clint Bowyer Racing teammate Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., have gold numbers outlined in pink on their cars to raise awareness of pediatric cancer, which Bowyer Racing crewman Lance Wright’s daughter, Calleigh, is currently fighting. The added color certainly helps differentiate O’Neal’s machine from the No. B5 of New Berlin, Ill.’s Brandon Sheppard, whose similarly blue-and-white colored car has been mistaken for O’Neal’s often this season — although this weekend Sheppard has changed his look up as well with a prominently-displayed Valvoline logo and additional red coloring. … The usual blue-dominated color scheme on the car of Chalk Hill, Pa.’s Mason Zeigler has been replaced by a black-and-silver look. … Both of this year’s Canadian entrants, Andrew Reaume of Blenheim, Ont., and Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, are in the odd-number qualifying group. Reaume stands as the only Canadian driver to start the World 100 feature, finishing 16th in 2012.
Heat race lineups
(eight laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Austin Hubbard, Scott Bloomquist
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Rusty Schlenk, Neil Baggett
Row 4: Alex Ferree, Chad Ruhlman
Row 5: Brian Ledbetter
Row 1: Darrell Lanigan, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Shane Clanton, Josh Richards
Row 3: Kent Robinson, Brandon Kinzer
Row 4: Casey Noonan, Dan Stone
Row 5: Don Hammer
Row 1: Matt Westfall, Dale McDowell
Row 2: Riley Hickman, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 3: Austin Smith, Eddie Carrier Jr.
Row 4: Scott James, Scott Lewis
Row 5: Tommy Bailey
Row 1: R.J. Conley, Ricky Weiss
Row 2: Chase Junghans, Chris Brown
Row 3: James Rice, Tim Manville
Row 4: Gordy Gundaker, Shannon Thornsberry
Row 5: Walker Arthur
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Don O'Neal
Row 2: Chris Madden, Dustin Linville
Row 3: Devin Moran, Jon Henry
Row 4: Donald McIntosh, Wayne Chinn
Row 5: Bryant Dickinson
Row 1: Jeff Wolfenbarger, Nick Latham
Row 2: Jay Johnson, Chris Ferguson
Row 3: Michael Chilton, Andrew Reaume
Row 4: Charles LaPlant, Doug Sanders
Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was the fastest qualifier for the first feature and the fastest overall qualifier among 106 cars for the opening night of the 45th annual World 100. Richards tripped the clock at 16.604 seconds at the half-mile oval.
Thursday and Friday preliminary action at the 45th annual World 100 splits the 106 drivers into two groups running complete programs capped by a 25-lap, $5,000-to-win feature.
Thursday’s draw split drivers into 12 groups that will hot-lap, time-trial and heat-race together. The odd heats (first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth and 11th) will send three drivers apiece into the first feature. The even heats (second, fourth, sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th) will send three drivers apiece into the second feature.
Three drivers apiece from each of consolation race will fill out each 24-car starting field. The first three rows of each feature event will line up heat winners inverted by qualifying time.
A driver’s best combined finish in Thursday's and Friday’s action sets starting positions for Saturday’s six heat races.
Time trials (unofficial)
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 17.032
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 17.316
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 17.333
Austin Hubbard (32), Seaford, Del., 17.585
Rusty Schlenk (11), McClure, Ohio, 17.990
Neil Baggett (86B), Shannon, Miss., 18.077
Alex Ferree (47), Saxonburg, Pa., 18.184
Chad Ruhlman (49c), Bemus Point, N.Y., 18.427
Brian Ledbetter (07), Dallas, N.C., 19.657
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.604
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 16.755
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 17.010
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 17.123
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ind., 17.288
Brandon Kinzer (18), Allen, Ky., 17.857
Casey Noonan (1n), Sylvania, Ohio, 17.920
Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 18.248
Don Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill., 18.325
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 17.024
Riley Hickman (R1), Ooltewah, Tenn., 17.259
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 17.319
Matt Westfall (54), Ludlow Falls, Ohio, 17.405
Austin Smith (11), Cedartown, Ga., 17.430
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 17.451
Scott James (83), Bright, Ind., 17.470
Scott Lewis (99), Henderson, Colo., 18.197
Tommy Bailey (11B), Corbin, Ky., 18.339
Chris Brown (21), Spring, Texas, 17.264
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 17.330
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingley, Manitoba, 17.428
R.J. Conley (71c), Wheelersburg, Ohio, 17.445
James Rice (11r), Verona, Ky., 17.455
Tim Manville (33), St. Jacob, Ill., 17.489
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 17.862
Shannon Thornsberry (17), Martin, Ky., 18.025
Walker Arthur (87), Forest, Va., no time
Dustin Linville (D8), Bryantsville, Ky., 17.243
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 17.290
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 17.291
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 17.382
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 17.543
Jon Henry (15), Ada, Ohio, 17.903
Donald McIntosh (7), Dawsonville, Ga., 17.975
Wayne Chinn (15), Bradford, Ohio, 18.443
Bryant Dickinson (5*), Ionia, Mich., 18.742
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 17.510
Jay Johnson (93), West Burlington, Iowa, 17.666
Nick Latham (31), Winchester, Ohio, 17.819
Jeff Wolfenbarger (28), Clinton, Tenn., 18.217
Michael Chilton (97), Salvisa, Ky., 18.305
Andrew Reaume (88), Blenheim, Ontario, 18.350
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Mo., 18.360
Doug Sanders (42), Belmont, N.C., 18.516
5 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m. - Hot laps (by groups) followed by time trials
7:40 p.m. - Pre-race ceremonies
8 p.m. - Racing begins
• 12 heat races (four-car inversion; eight laps; top three transfer; first and second groups alternate)
• First consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• Second consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• Third consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• Fourth consolation (10 laps; top three transfer)
• First feature (25 laps; heat winners inverted by qualifying time)
• Second feature (25 laps; heat winners inverted by qualifying time)