WEST PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (July 2) — Portsmouth Raceway Park is quickly becoming one of Scott Bloomquist’s favorite tracks.
Picking up where he left off at the 3/8-mile oval on the banks of the Ohio River in 2015 — when he swept PRP’s pair of Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series events, including a $100,000 victory in the season-ending Dirt Track World Championship — the Hall of Fame driver from Mooresburg, Tenn., returned on Saturday night with the Lucas Oil tour to record a dominant flag-to-flag triumph in the Independence 60.
Bloomquist, 52, pocketed $12,000 for his sixth Lucas Oil Series win of the season — and, giving his performance added significance, he ascended to the top of the circuit’s points standings. He left Portsmouth leading the title battle by 20 points over defending champion Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who placed eighth in the 60-lap feature.
The night’s action was completely controlled by Bloomquist, who set a new track record in time trials, won his heat race and led the entire 60-lap A-Main off the pole position. He wasn’t seriously challenged on his way to crossing the finish line 1.583 seconds in front of Batesville, Ark.’s Jared Landers, who advanced from the seventh starting spot to chase his Sweet-Bloomquist chassis builder and mentor under the checkered flag.
Steve Francis of Bowling Green, Ky., lost the runner-up spot to Landers following a lap-47 caution period but held on to record a Lucas Oil season-best finish of third in his Tim Logan Racing Black Diamond machine. Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and former PRP track champion Rod Conley of Wheelersburg, Ohio, completed the top five.
Bloomquist, who won for the second time in the last three Lucas Oil Series events, saw his hard work pay off grandly once again. He had to put in some extra preparation time after a late-race scrape in the previous evening’s unsanctioned Bob Miller Memorial at 201 Speedway in Sitka, Ky., caused him to blow a right-rear tire while leading.
“Everyone has to be pretty tired after driving back home from a race in Kentucky last night,” Bloomquist said in victory lane. “We tore the whole right side of the body off the car last night so we went back (to the shop) to get this (other car) ready.”
Bloomquist couldn’t have been more pleased with his his machine performed.
“We have got two good cars now,” Bloomquist asserted. “This is the car I wanted to run here to get ready for the ($100,000-to-win) Dirt Track (World Championship) later this year. I think we are pretty happy with where we are at. This car can just get around this track so well.”
Lucas Oil Series rookie Colton Flinner of Allison Park, Pa., brought out the race’s fourth and final caution flag on lap 58, but having to deal with a green-white-checkered restart didn’t bother Bloomquist.
“I wasn’t worried with that caution with two laps to go,” said Bloomquist, who registered his 68th career Lucas Oil Series victory. “It was getting a little difficult to pass.
“When I got into traffic I tried to stay low,” he added. “Then I moved to the top and that wasn’t any good for us. We tried to get in and crowd the lapped cars … that helped us out because we could then make the pass.”
Landers, 34, was unable to mount a major charge at Bloomquist, but he was satisfied with his third runner-up finish of 2016 on the Lucas Oil Series.
“I took advantage of that last restart to get by Steve (Francis),” said Landers, who sits third in the tour’s points standings. “It was a pretty much a race for second …Scott was just too strong tonight.”
The 48-year-old Francis chalked up his first podium run of 2016 as another step out of his frustrating early-season struggles.
“I could see him (Bloomquist) up there,” said Francis, who started sixth but quickly hustled forward to second. “I was hoping he would slip up and we could catch him … but we will take third and keep improving over the last half of the season.”
Notes: Bloomquist’s sixth Lucas Oil Series win of 2016 leaves him one behind Davenport for the season’s lead in the checkered flag category. … Bloomquist’s qualifying lap of 14.129 seconds beat the existing track record of 14.15 seconds held by Jackie Boggs of Grayson, Ky., who brought out a caution flag on lap 55 and finished 19th one night after winning the $10,000 Bob Miller Memorial at 201 Speedway. … Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., finished seventh in his second start in Jake Keaton’s Rocket following the recent disbanding of his longtime ride with the Grover Motorsports team. … Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who won the last Lucas Oil Series event on June 18 at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss., had to rely on a provisional to start the A-Main. He climbed from the 23rd starting spot to finish 12th. … Four caution flags slowed the feature, which saw 18 of its 25 starters running at the finish.