BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 20) — Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., recaptured his 2015 DIRTcar Nationals form in the nick of time.
Flashing the speed that propelled him to four wins in five events one year ago, Clanton ran down race-long pacesetter Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., to take the lead on lap 45 and then held off a dramatic last-lap bid from Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., to capture Saturday night’s caution-free 50-lap World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series A-Main at Volusia Speedway Park.
Clanton, 40, earned $10,000 for his victory in the finale of the 45th annual DIRTcar Nationals — a triumph that he nearly celebrated too early. The defending WoO champion thrust his clenched left hand out the window of his car as the crossed the finish line unaware that the 52-year-old Bloomquist had charged to his inside off turn four and carried plenty of momentum toward the checkered flag.
Volusia’s start-finish line is close to the exit of turn four, however, and when Clanton crossed it his Capital Race Car was still ahead of Bloomquist’s Sweet-Bloomquist mount by a nose. Clanton’s margin of victory was a scant 0.056 of a second over Bloomquist, who won Wednesday night’s UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned finale of the DIRTcar Nationals.
Richards, 27, settled for a third-place finish in the Rocket Chassis house car after starting from the pole position and leading the race’s 44 laps — at times by more than a straightway. But he couldn’t turn back the fifth-starting Clanton, who passed Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., for second on lap 29 and erased Richards’s nearly four-second edge by the 40th circuit.
Clanton’s rally snuffed out Richards’s attempt to match Clanton’s unprecedented 2015 feat of sweeping all three WoO features during the DIRTcar Nationals. But with a week highlighted by two WoO wins and a Tuesday-night UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned victory, Richards claimed the overall DIRTcar Nationals points title and the gator trophy that goes with it for the fourth time in his career.
Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., ended his week on a high note, passing Davenport late in the distance to finish a Speedweeks-best fourth in his Billy Moyer Victory Race Car. Davenport, who has never won at Volusia, had to be content with a fifth-place finish after starting sixth and racing in the runner-up spot for laps 6-28 but fading late as his K&L Rumley Longhorn machine developed a tight handling condition.
Clanton’s second WoO win of 2016 and the 32nd of his career came after he was involved in a multi-car crash that knocked him out of Friday night’s 50-lapper. He worked with his crew to repair the damaged vehicle until 2:30 a.m. and then finished the job on Saturday afternoon — and after that, he installed a backup engine in the car that had been sidelined by a broken powerplant during Friday night’s heat action so it would be prepared in case it was needed.
With the rough Friday evening continuing his frustrating, winless DIRTcar Nationals, he dearly wanted a turnaround in the finale. He got it and couldn’t have been more satisfied with the manner in which he departed Volusia.
“This is a testament to our work,” said Clanton, who captured the national tour’s season-opening event on Feb. 12 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. “We’ve had our butts handed to us this week and we just put our heads down and worked as hard as we possibly could to get where we’re at. That car was in a million pieces last night. We changed the transmission and driveshaft before the feature just because we had a vibration, so I promise you it ain’t from lack of effort.”
Adding more luster to Clanton’s performance was the fact that he managed to defeat the week’s strongest force in Richards.
“There was one car that was pretty dominant and at the beginning of the night it was like he was gonna do it again,” Clanton said of Richards. “We just paced ourselves and made sure we saved our tires as long we possibly could and it paid off at the end. I think I had more tire left than (Richards) did.”
Clanton’s eyes grew wide when he reached second place and steadily closed the gap between himself and Richards.
“When I caught Josh they (Rocket crewmen) were signaling to him, signaling the bottom, signaling the middle,” Clanton said. “I knew he was in trouble because he couldn’t even pass (Tim) McCreadie (to lap the Watertown, N.Y., driver). When I got to his quarter-panel I could lunge through this hole over here in (turn) one and get a good run cross middle of the corner and then just wait and get into the traction heading down the backstraightaway … and then once I got beside and thought I had him cleared, I just drove harder.
“Then I caught McCreadie (to lap him) and was just biding my time, inching by him because I knew somebody couldn’t pass me if (McCreadie) was still alongside … but I didn’t know Scott had passed him.”
Indeed, Bloomquist, who started third but fell back as far as eighth early in the race, made a stirring last-ditch surge to steal the race from Clanton’s grasp. The Hall of Famer slipped underneath Richards for second in turn one the final lap and then nearly did the same to Clanton exiting turn four with the checkered flag flying.
Clanton believed he was home free heading to the finish line but he was actually very, very wrong.
“I thought McCreadie was still underneath me,” Clanton said of the final lap. “I raced McCreadie two or three laps and I thought McCreadie was still there. I said, ‘If I could just keep a lapped car underneath me, even if I don’t clear him, they can’t pass him.’ But as low as McCreadie was going, evidently Bloomquist passed him somehow and it was Scott there next to me at the checkered flag and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’
“Going into turn one (after the checkered flag) Scott went on by and I was like, ‘Whoa, that was a black car, not a red car (McCreadie).’ I was pretty confident I was still ahead (at the finish) because when I looked left I still couldn’t see him and who it was, but I still looked at the scoreboard going down the backstraightaway (on the cool-down lap) because the ‘1’ (Richards) was still in second at that time. Then they put the ‘zero’ (Bloomquist) to second and I knew I’d won then.”
Bloomquist admitted afterward that he made a gaffe of his own.
“We thought it was a 60-lap race,” Bloomquist said. “It’s kind of like one of my all-time dunce moves. I don’t know why … I heard everyone all day talking about, ‘Oh, yeah, this is a 60-lap race today.’
“You could see the scoreboard, and I’m watching it, and I’m just sitting there (late in the distance), feeling pretty good about things, and I thought we pretty much had their number. We go by (lap) 48 and I’m like, ‘Twelve to go, no problem.’ Then I saw the white (flag), and I’m like, ‘Whoa, we got a problem.’
“I think you cold see how much we picked it up the last lap. I got Josh (for second), and I got it on as hard as I could get it on then and got that close to winning the race.
“I can’t blame anyone but myself,” he added. “I should have researched (the feature distance) it a little more.”
In fact, though, Bloomquist noted that a 60-lap race shouldn’t have been necessary for him.
“We didn’t need another lap,” Bloomquist said. “We just needed another corner.”
Richards, meanwhile, saw his bid to duplicate Clanton’s DIRTcar Nationals WoO hat trick fall short.
“We probably didn’t tighten up enough and I was probably too conservative following McCreadie (late in the race),” Richards said. “Once I started following him then we were the same speed and I was just in dirty air. I should’ve tried to move up and got by him … when you’re leading like that on a track like that you don’t really know where to be.
“But Clanton did a great job rolling up through there. We just got beat tonight.
“I can’t be disappointed with our trip though,” added Richards, who won eighth times during Speedweeks, including a Crate Late Model victory. “We got beat tonight, but we had a phenomenal Speedweeks. We can’t complain at all.”
Preliminary results and notes:
First B-Main finish (top two transfer): Chub Frank, Don O'Neal, Eric Wells, Coleby Frye, Dennis Franklin, Reid Millard, Jason Feger, Mike Hammerle (DNS) Chris Ferguson, Austin Smith, Chuck Julien.
Second B-Main finish (top two transfer): Frank Heckenast Jr., Tim McCreadie, Mark Whitener, Tyler Erb, Morgan Bagley, Chase Junghans, Charles LaPlant, Pancho Lawler, Matt Sponaugle (DNS) Tyler Bruening.
Third B-Main finish (top two transfer): Billy Moyer Jr., Jimmy Owens, Rick Eckert, Rodney Sanders, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Chad Hollenbeck, Paul Wilmoth Jr., Tim Lance, Jordan Yaggy (DNS) Kyle Bronson.
(10 laps; top 2 transfer)
Row 1: Chub Frank, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Dennis Franklin, Eric Wells
Row 3: Coleby Frye, Jason Feger
Row 4: Reid Millard, Mike Hammerle
Row 5: Chris Ferguson, Austin Smith
Row 6: Chuck Julien
Row 1: Mark Whitener, Tim McCreadie
Row 2: Chase Junghans, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 3: Charles LaPlant, Tyler Erb
Row 4: Matt Sponaugle, Morgan Bagley
Row 5: Tyler Bruening, Pancho Lawler
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Rodney Sanders
Row 2: Billy Moyer Jr., Paul Wilmoth Jr.
Row 3: Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Rick Eckert
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Kyle Bronson
Row 5: Tim Lance, Jordan Yaggy
Shane Clanton ended a night of heat-race runaways, winning by 6.553 seconds. Boom Briggs placed second and Justin Rattliff held off Rodney Sanders to finish fourth
Finish (top three transfer): Shane Clanton, Boom Briggs, Justin Rattliff, Rodney Sanders, Paul Wilmoth Jr., Rick Eckert, Kyle Bronson, Jordan Yaggy.
Yet another heat-race blowout was authored by Brian Shirley, who beat Steve Francis by 3.541 seconds. Francis finished second after passing Jimmy Owens on lap seven and Dale McDowell placed fourth after also overtaking Owens, who was left on the outside looking in.
Finish (top three transfer): Brian Shirley, Steve Francis, Dale McDowell, Jimmy Owens, Billy Moyer Jr., Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Chad Hollenbeck, Tim Lance.
Jonathan rolled to a flag-to-flag victory by 3.940 seconds over Donny Schatz. Kenny Pettyjohn lost third to Tim McCreadie on lap three but regained the position with two laps remaining to take the final transfer spot. McCreadie settled for fourth.
Finish (top three transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Donny Schatz, Kenny Pettyjohn, Tim McCreadie, Frank Heckenast Jr., Tyler Erb, Morgan Bagley, Pancho Lawler.
Brandon Overton was another dominant prelim winner, leading all the way to defeat Dillon Wood for second. Dennis Erb Jr. was the final transfer. A scratch from the prelim was Tyler Bruening, who damaged the right side of his car when he slammed the turn-three wall during hot laps.
Finish (top three transfer): Brandon Overton, Dillon Wood, Dennis Erb Jr., Mark Whitener, Chase Junghans, Charles LaPlant, Matt Sponaugle (DNS) Tyler Bruening.
Josh Richards ran away with the race, beating Gregg Satterlee by a commanding margin of 4.713 seconds. Steve Casebolt finished close behind Satterlee in third place.
Finish (top three transfer): Josh Richards, Gregg Satterlee, Steve Casebolt, Don O'Neal, Eric Wells, Jason Feger, Mike Hammerle (DNS) Austin Smith.
Scott Bloomquist romped to victory, leading all the way and defeating Mason Zeigler by 3.864 seconds. Joey Coulter went around the outside of Chub Frank for third on lap six and finished in the last transfer spot. A scratch was Chris Ferguson, who decided to head home after qualifying.
Finish (top three transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Mason Zeigler, Joey Coulter, Chub Frank, Dennis Franklin, Coleby Frye, Reid Millard (DNS) Chris Ferguson, Chuck Julien.
Scott Bloomquist of Moorsburg, Tenn., was the fastest overall qualifier, ripping off a lap of 15.585 seconds in the first group to top the speed charts by nearly four-tenths of a second over Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va.
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., was fastest in the second group with a lap of 16.093 seconds.
One more day of gorgeous weather — mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s — closes out the 45th annual DIRTcar Nationals in fine fashion. … With Saturday night’s program completing six consecutive rain-free nights of Volusia action on top of last week’s six rain-free Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Winternationals shows at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., DirtonDirt.com’s Andy Savary checked the record books to find that this year marks the first time since 2005 that both tracks ran six straight clean events. Volusia and East Bay also ran complete weeks without any rainouts in 2001, 2003 and 2004, indicating that rain has certainly played a bigger Speedweeks factor over the past decade. … Saturday night’s field is down to 49 entries. Drivers bypassing the finale: Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who has uncharacteristically struggled all week with his Clint Bowyer Racing machine; Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., who retired from Friday night’s feature with mechanical trouble; Michael Norris of Sarver, Pa., who was involved in Friday night’s red-flag A-Main crash; and Freddie Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va. … Lanigan’s CBR teammate, Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., will compete in tonight’s program. … Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., has brought out his second Black Diamond car after breaking an engine in his primary machine during Friday evening’s heat racing. … Last year’s DIRTcar Nationals dominator, Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., had a busy day of work after a rough Friday night. On top of repairing his Ron Davies-owned Capital Race Car that was beaten up in a feature wreck, he had to drop a backup engine in the mount that was sidelined by terminal powerplant trouble during a heat race so he'll have it ready in case of an emergency. … Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., who was also involved in Friday night’s multi-car feature crash, parked that car (its nosepiece and front bumper was thoroughly crunched and its engine sustained a broken valve when he returned to the track in the nose-less machine to make a couple laps for WoO points) and will drive a Longhorn that he flipped last year at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. Briggs’s Saturday ride carries his cousin and teammate Chub Frank’s bodywork, however, so he’ll be listed as a No. 1*B tonight. … WoO Sprint Car champion Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D., is ready for the finale after his Rocket needed some front-bumper welding and other repairs due to a Friday feature crash. He nosed softly into the turn-four wall after losing control of his car because it hit a patch of water thrown into the racing groove. … Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., mourned another bad break that cost him a likely top-five finish in Friday night’s feature. He ran as high as second midway through the race and was still running fourth with 15 laps remaining when the bolts on his car’s right-front shock mount broke, effectively leaving him without a right-front suspension and his tire rubbing against his bodywork (the tire’s outside tread was ground away by the friction). “That turned out to not be a very good recipe for getting around the track,” said Satterlee, who faded to 11th in the final rundown. … Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., would certainly like to close Speedweeks with a victory for a special reason: his wife, Karen, is due to give birth to the couple’s second child (a girl) on Monday, so a $10,000 triumph would be a good way to celebrate the new arrival.
Round 6 of the six-night DIRTcar Nationals features a 50-lap World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series A-Main paying $10,000 to win. It’s the final event of three consecutive WoO programs to conclude the DIRTcar Nationals and Georgia-Florida Speedweeks.
Saturday night’s program includes split-group qualifying, six heat races, B-Mains and the 50-lap headliner. The heat winners will redraw for the first six starting spots in the feature.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Joey Coulter
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Chub Frank
Row 3: Dennis Franklin, Chris Ferguson
Row 4: Coleby Frye, Reid Millard
Row 5: Chuck Julien
Row 1: Josh Richards, Gregg Satterlee
Row 2: Steve Casebolt, Austin Smith
Row 3: Jason Feger, Don O’Neal
Row 4: Eric Wells, Mike Hammerle
Row 1: Dillon Wood, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Brandon Overton, Chase Junghans
Row 3: Charles LaPlant, Mark Whitener
Row 4: Matt Sponaugle, Tyler Bruening
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Donny Schatz
Row 2: Kenny Pettyjohn, Tim McCreadie
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Pancho Lawler
Row 4: Morgan Bagley, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 1: Brian Shirley, Steve Francis
Row 2: Billy Moyer Jr., Jimmy Owens
Row 3: Dale McDowell, Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Row 4: Tim Lance, Chad Hollenbeck
Row 1: Boom Briggs, Shane Clanton
Row 2: Rodney Sanders, Justin Rattliff
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Paul Wilmoth Jr.
Row 4: Rick Eckert, Jordan Yaggy
Time trials results
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 15.585
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.907
Dillon Wood (1W), New Smyrna Beach, Fla., 15.908
Joey Coulter (2c), Charlotte, N.C., 15.959
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 16.193
Dennis Erb Jr. (28e), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.249
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.337
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 16.448
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 16.467
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.479
Austin Smith (11s), Cedartown, Ga., 16.483
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 16.501
Dennis Franklin (2), Gaffney, S.C., 16.585
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 16.60
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Minn., 16.608
Chris Ferguson (22), Mt. Holly, N.C., 16.707
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 16.772
Mark Whitener (5W), Middleburg, Fla., 16.784
Coleby Frye (0F), Dover, Pa., 16.861
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.988
Matt Sponaugle (8), Wiley Ford, W.Va., 17.044
Reid Millard (14), Jefferson City, Mo., 17.511
Mike Hammerle (16H), St. Charles, Mo., 18.46
Chuck Julien (57), Apopka, Fla., N/T
Tyler Bruening (16T), Decorah, Iowa, N/T
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 16.093
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 16.121
Boom Briggs (1*B), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.121
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 16.224
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 16.338
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 16.351
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 16.364
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 16.386
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 16.425
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.452
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.457
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.509
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 16.529
Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.536
Kyle Bronson (5B), Brandon, Fla., 16.548
Pancho Lawler (93), Hanover, Pa., 16.608
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21L), Ocala, Fla., 16.612
Paul Wilmoth Jr. (B1), Clarksburg, W.Va., 16.68
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 16.777
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 16.871
Rick Eckert (7), York, Pa., 16.944
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.973
Chad Hollenbeck (4Ds), Kingsley, Pa., 17.112
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., 17.244