GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 11) — Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., led every circuit but the first one en route to capturing Thursday night’s 45-lap Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Winternationals A-Main at East Bay Raceway Park, but there was nothing pedestrian about his $7,000 triumph.
With defending Lucas Oil Series champion Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., mounting a relentless late-race charge, Bloomquist had to be at his best right to the checkered flag to reach victory lane during the Winternationals for the first time since 2013.
“There’s no driving with one hand and smoking a cigarette with the other,” Bloomquist said of the complete focus it took to keep his Sweet-Bloomquist car at the front of the pack on the fast third-mile oval with his young rival bearing down on him. “You better get it on.”
Bloomquist, 52, built an edge of over two seconds midway through the feature, but after the 31-year-old Davenport overtook Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., for second place on lap 33 the race’s outcome was suddenly very much in doubt. Davenport pushed his K&L Rumley Longhorn Race Car to the limit in search of a second consecutive Winternationals win, slicing the gap between him and Bloomquist to less than half of a second with just five laps remaining.
Davenport slid high in turn four on lap 41, however, and lost precious ground to Bloomquist. While Davenport managed to draw back within a couple car lengths of Bloomquist as the white flag was displayed, his last-ditch bid rounding turns three and four on the final circuit fell short as he crossed the finish line 0.369 of a second behind Bloomquist.
The victory made Bloomquist the first driver to break the Davenport-Josh Richards stranglehold on victory lane during George-Florida Speedweeks 2016. The six Speedweek events contested entering Thursday’s action — all sanctioned by the Lucas Oil Series — had been split between Shinnston, W.Va.’s Richards (four, including the first two of East Bay’s Winternationals) and Davenport (two).
Satterlee, who passed Davenport for second on a lap-28 restart and held the position for five circuits, settled for a third-place finish in his Rocket XR1 machine that was by far his best performance of the 2016 Winternationals. Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., started and finished fourth in NASCAR standout Clint Bowyer’s Club 29 Race Car and Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, advanced from the eighth starting spot to place fifth in Tommy Pope’s Barry Wright Race Car.
Outside polesitter Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., who shared the front row with the polesitting Bloomquist, led the race's first lap but faded to eighth at the finish.
After winning for the first time in the last 19 Winternationals races, Bloomquist had high praise for East Bay’s racing surface.
“The track did stay real fast, and wet, and racy,” said Bloomquist, who earned his first Lucas Oil Series win of 2016 and the 63rd of his career. “You could move all over. It had a of moisture on the bottom, and once they threw that to the top you could run out there. It was a really enjoyable but very fast race.”
Outrunning Davenport down the stretch made the evening especially memorable for Bloomquist, who anticipated that Davenport would be coming and was ready for him.
“I didn’t ever really know that he was that close,” said Bloomquist, who registered his seventh career win in East Bay’s Winternationals. “There was definitely enough (wet clay) that had gotten thrown on the top — if that’s where he was at, that there had to be some good traction out there. But there were still enough crumbs (in the outside lane) that I didn’t see him going by … and I was still using up the exits (of the turns) well enough that it would’ve been hard for him to get a good run at us if he was that good.”
Davenport, who watched his car’s left-rear tire go flat in victory lane after the feature, certainly left nothing on the table as he chased Bloomquist to the race’s finish.
“I was giving it all I had there those last couple laps,” said Davenport, who started fifth. “I probably should’ve moved to the top a couple laps before then to try help myself blow it off because there weren’t many people up there — it didn’t look like it, anyway.
“It got so slick getting in (turn) one here I couldn’t enter the top where I needed to. I was afraid I was gonna hit the fence — I already tore the fence down one time and tore the deck out (of the car while battling for the lead in the first heat with Bloomquist) so I didn’t need to do it again — but we kept gaining on it. I was trying to pace myself and not burn my right-rear tire up, not blister it so I could make a run at the end, and that’s what I did. We come up a little short, but we’ll try again tomorrow.”
Bloomquist’s night featured two victories over Davenport, who also finished second to Bloomquist in the highly-competitive first heat. The veteran superstar spoke highly of the driver whose historic success in 2015 has provided Bloomquist a needed push.
“I don’t compliment people much, but I’ve got to take my hat off to him,” Bloomquist said of Davenport. “Last year he ran great. He’s definitely improved a lot, he’s got a good race car under him, and he’s driving it for all its worth. He makes an old man step up to it a little bit.
“He’s still running good — can’t take nothing away from him,” he added. “And we’re still working hard. We’re up for the challenge, and we’re excited about tonight and looking forward to the rest of the week.”
Satterlee, 31, turned around his moribund Speedweeks with a podium finish. He started third and never slipped out of the top three positions during the A-Main after failing to qualify for Wednesday night’s headliner.
“It’s been tough,” said Satterlee, who nearly matched his career-best Winternationals finish of second, in 2014. “Our heads have been hanging a little bit in the pit area the last couple days, but we stay positive. We keep working on this new Rocket and I think we found something. We’ve finally got a good balance to steer and actually have some traction. It’s finally doing what it’s supposed to and looking a little more like that blue No. 1 (Richards) you’ve seen the last couple nights.
“We lost a little bit at the end, which was probably my fault for easing up a little too much and trying to protect the bottom. I guess I need to worry about going fast enough rather than slowing down and being conservative.”
Five caution flags slowed the event, including two — for a backstretch spin by Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., and a turn-four tangle involving Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., Sonny Conley of New Martinsville, W.Va., and Nick Davis of Delmar, Del. — before a lap was completed. Additional cautions flew on lap nine for Conley’s slowing car; the lap-nine restart for O’Neal’s turn-one spin; and lap 32 when Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., slowed on the backstretch due to a loose oil return line.
Preliminary results and notes:
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash results
Finish (6 laps; winner advances to A-Main): Nick Davis, Allen Murray, Colton Flinner, Josh Rice, Greg Oakes, Chad Hollenbeck.
Strawberry Dash lineup
Row 1: James McKeown, Colton Flinner
Row 2: Nick Davis, Jake Davis
Row 3: Chad Hollenbeck, Allen Murray
Row 4: Greg Oakes, Josh Rice
Ricky Weiss stayed in front from start-to-finish, turning back challenges from Justin Rattliff and Don O'Neal to grab the checkered flag. O'Neal's last-lap bid to overtake Weiss fell 0.239 of a second short, with Rattliff and Sonny Conley taking the final transfer spots. The race's lone caution flag flew on lap eight when James McKeown spun in turn three.
Finish (top four transfer): Ricky Weiss, Don O'Neal, Justin Rattliff, Sonny Conley, Nick Davis, Jake Davis, Allen Murray, James McKeown (DNS) Bobby Pierce, Jimmy Owens, Alex Ferree.
Steve Francis scored a flag-to-flag victory, staying several car lengths ahead of Kyle Bronson for the entire distance. Bob Gardner grabbed the third finishing position while the fourth and final transfer spot went to Freddie Carpenter, who started second but fell back when he slipped high in turn two on the opening lap.
Finish (top four transfer): Steve Francis, Kyle Bronson, Bob Gardner, Freddie Carpenter, Chad Hollenbeck, Colton Flinner, Josh Rice, Greg Oakes (DNS) James Rice, Brandon Sheppard, Chuck Julien.
(10 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Steve Francis, Freddie Carpenter
Row 2: Bob Gardner, Kyle Bronson
Row 3: Josh Rice, Colton Flinner
Row 4: Greg Oakes, Chad Hollenbeck
Row 5: Chuck Julien, James Rice
Row 6: Brandon Sheppard
Row 1: Ricky Weiss, Justin Rattliff
Row 2: Don O’Neal, Jake Davis
Row 3: Jimmy Owens, Sonny Conley
Row 4: Allen Murray, Bobby Pierce
Row 5: Nick Davis, James McKeown
Row 6: Alex Ferree
Darrell Lanigan slid ahead of Devin Moran through turns one and two on the opening lap and never looked back en route to victory in his Clint Bowyer Racing machine. Moran finished 0.730 of a second back in second, while Randy Weaver and John Gardner Jr. completed the top four. Bobby Pierce passed Weaver for third on lap six, but on the final circuit he slowed with apparent mechanical trouble and didn't make it to the finish line.
Finish (top four transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Devin Moran, Randy Weaver, John Gardner Jr., Justin Rattliff, Jake Davis, Sonny Conley, Bobby Pierce, James McKeown.
Tim Dohm led the entire distance, beating Earl Pearson Jr. to the finish line by 1.210 seconds. David Breazeale held off a final-lap challenge from Mason Zeigler to finish third. Jimmy Owens lumbered to a seventh-place finish after sliding sideways in turn four on the opening lap and absorbing a hit that left his car with left-side damage, while Alex Ferree stopped in turn four on the last lap while running in fifth place.
Finish (top four transfer): Tim Dohm, Earl Pearson Jr., David Breazeale, Mason Zeigler, Ricky Weiss, Don O'Neal, Jimmy Owens, Allen Murray, Nick Davis, Alex Ferree.
Enjoying his best run of the Winternationals, Gregg Satterlee surged off the outside pole to take the lead at the start and held off a late-race challenge from Jared Landers to grab the win. Mark Whitener and Dennis Erb Jr. claimed the final transfer spots. Brandon Sheppard, meanwhile, scratched from the prelim after his car was damaged when he slapped the wall during time trials.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Gregg Satterlee, Jared Landers, Mark Whitener, Dennis Erb Jr, Freddie Carpenter, Kyle Bronson, Colton Flinner, Chad Hollenbeck (DNS) Brandon Sheppard.
After assuming command when polesitter Jonathan Davenport slapped the turn-four wall on the race's opening lap, Scott Bloomquist turned back the relentless pressure of the battle-scarred Davenport to take the victory by .652 of a second over the defending Lucas Oil Series champion. Davenport's car sported right-rear damage but he still managed to race underneath Bloomquist for virtually the entire distance, sometimes falling short of leading laps by mere inches. Eddie Carrier Jr. finished a close third and Tim McCreadie was farther back in fourth.
Finish (top 4 transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Jonathan Davenport, Eddie Carrier Jr., Tim McCreadie, Steve Francis, Bob Gardner, Josh Rice, Greg Oakes, Chuck Julien.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., showed no signs of slowing down after winning his first-ever feature at East Bay on Wednesday night, rolling to the overall fastest time of Thursday’s qualifying session with a lap of 14.706 seconds in the first group.
Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., whose best finish of the 2016 Winternationals so far is a fourth in Monday’s opener, was quickest in the second group with a circuit of 15.005 seconds.
Davenport, Dohm, Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., will stop heat races from the pole position.
There seems to be a bit more pep in everyone’s step with Thursday’s weather shaping up as the best of the week so far. Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s prevail, but more notably the ever-present stiff wind that has kept conditions cool throughout the Winternationals is substantially calmer. … Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., and Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., all departed East Bay following Wednesday night’s action. Richards, Moyer and Shirley plan to compete in this weekend’s World of Outlaws Late Model Series doubleheader at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga.; it’s uncertain whether Marlar will stop at Screven or head directly home after experiencing trouble two consecutive nights (B-Main crash on Tuesday, damaged bodywork with his new car in Wednesday’s feature). … Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., has stepped out of the Leon Henderson-owned Billy Moyer Victory Race Car that he drove the first three nights of the Winternationals and will run his familiar Chip Stone-owned Longhorn mount. Henderson’s machine will still be in competition, however, with veteran David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., behind the wheel; Breazeale was planning to spectate at East Bay for the remainder of the week but brought his helmet and driver’s suit and will use it after the Henderson crew pealed Weaver’s No. 116 sticker off the car to reveal its usual No. 10. … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., will make his first start in his newest Longhorn Race Car after his final-lap accident on Wednesday night sidelined the vehicle he had run throughout Speedweeks. He reported that closer examination of the wrecked car revealed that the damage wasn’t as severe as he feared and might not need a new front clip. … James Rice of Verona, Ky., will join his younger brother Josh in the Winternationals field for the first time this week. Work commitments forced James to head home after competing in last weekend’s Lucas Oil Series events at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga.; he used a couple vacation days to fly to Florida today so he could tackle the third-mile oval for the first time in his career. … Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, and his crew spent most of the day repairing the significant body and rear bumper damage his Rocket car sustained in a heat-race scrape on Wednesday night. “We had five guys working on it all day,” said Weiss, who has been happy with the performance of his machine throughout the week. He started Wednesday night’s feature using a fast-time provisional in Wisconsinite J.R. Haley’s No. 33 machine, which he has along as a backup.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series runs the fourth round of the 40th annual Winternationals on Thursday with a $7,000-to-win non-points event.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., registered his first-ever East Bay victory on Wednesday evening, surviving a late challenge from Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who blew a right-rear tire and hit the turn-three wall while bidding to overtake Davenport on the final circuit.
Thursday’s program is made up of hot laps, time trials, heat races, consolations, the DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash and the 45-lap main event.
Heat race lineups
(8 laps; top 4 transfer)
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Scott Bloomquist
Row 2: Eddie Carrier Jr., Tim McCreadie
Row 3: Bob Gardner, Steve Francis
Row 4: Josh Rice, Greg Oakes
Row 5: Chuck Julien, James Rice
Row 1: Jared Landers, Gregg Satterlee
Row 2: Mark Whitener, Freddie Carpenter
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Kyle Bronson
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Colton Flinner
Row 5: Brandon Sheppard
Row 1: Tim Dohm, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, David Breazeale
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Jimmy Owens
Row 4: Allen Murray, Alex Ferree
Row 5: Nick Davis, Don O’Neal
Row 1: Darrell Lanigan, Devin Moran
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Randy Weaver
Row 3: John Gardner, Justin Rattliff
Row 4: Sonny Conley, Jake Davis
Row 5: James McKeown
Time trial results (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 14.706
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.03
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 15.204
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.444
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.487
Mark Whitener (5W), Middleburg, Fla., 15.517
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.537
Freddie Carpenter (K), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.561
Bob Gardner (4G), Washington, Ill., 15.58
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.751
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 15.757
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.796
Josh Rice (11), Verona, Ky., 15.913
Chad Hollenbeck (4Ds), Kingsley, Pa., 16.037
Greg Oakes (22G), Franklinville, N.Y., 16.182
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 16.445
Chuck Julien (57), Apopka, Fla., 17.898
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 49.000
James Rice (11R), Verona, Ky., N/T
Tim Dohm (6T), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 15.005
Darrell Lanigan (15L), Union, Ky., 15.128
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.269
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 15.275
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.305
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.329
David Breazeale (10), Four Corners, Miss., 15.341
Randy Weaver (116), Crossville, Tenn., 15.425
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingly, Manitoba, 15.473
John Gardner (38C), Germantown Hills, Ill., 15.546
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.574
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 15.66
Allen Murray (2M), San Antonio, Texas, 15.772
Sonny Conley (1x1), New Martinsville, W.Va., 15.895
Alex Ferree (47), Saxonburg, Pa., 16.107
Jake Davis (7D), Hackett, Ark., 16.489
Nick Davis (92), Delmar, Del., 16.51
James McKeown (60), Stanton, Mich., 17.597
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., N/T