UNION, Ky. — While some competitors in the 30th annual Ralph Latham Memorial were forced to take the high road, and others were stuck on the low road, Scott Bloomquist led most of the way by running the middle of the road.
That’s to say the 52-year-old driver from Mooresburg, Tenn., was fastest in the smoother middle groove virtually all 75 laps Thursday while racing to a whopping $30,000 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory that marked his first on the tour at the half-mile northern Kentucky oval since 2006.
“I saw the signals (from crew members) that (his pursuers) were close at the end,” Bloomquist said. “I didn't want to get up on that cushion and take a chance at messing up and getting in the fence. I stayed right in the middle, even in the slick the car was awesome.
“That's just the slickest part of the racetrack and we could manage it and just had to really be careful not to spin the tires. Just a lot of poise, I think I got cramps in my leg from not pushing on (the accelerator), it's like your pulling back as hard as your pushing.”
Bloomquist’s conservative right foot helped him lead all but the first four laps of the 75-lap feature that marked one of the richest weeknight events in Dirt Late Model history, thanks to a June rainout. And it’s just the beginning of three scheduled nights of racing during the richest weekend in track history with the Sunoco North-South 100 coming up Friday (a preliminary program feature double heat races) and Saturday (highlighted by the $50,000-to-win main event).
“It’s been a good year so far. Hopefully we can keep it up,” said Bloomquist, who notched his 10th Lucas Oil Series victory of the season and series-leading 72nd of his career. “We need to get it to North-South on Saturday.”
Bloomquist, who overtook teammate Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., on the fifth lap, turned back the mid-race charge of 10th-starting Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., who settled for the second spot after battling 18th-starting Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., most of the last 25 laps.
Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., who started alongside Pierce in the ninth row, stole the third spot from Pierce on the last lap while Landers rallied after a lap-49 spin to take fifth from fast qualifier Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., in the race’s final stages.
By the time O’Neal got to second on the 18th lap, Bloomquist had built a comfortable lead. O’Neal gained ground in lapped traffic, diving hard into turn three to overtake slower cars and cut Bloomquist’s lead to eight-tenths of a second by lap 43. The lap-49 caution for the Landers spin gave Bloomquist clear racetrack that benefitted the winner, O’Neal said.
“I really didn't want to see the yellow flag there out on that long green-flag run, because the lapped traffic, he was having trouble,” said O’Neal, a two-time winner of Florence’s North-South 100. “I could get a good run of (turn) two and get around the lapped cars. … Well, that's the way it is, so we'll keep digging.”
O’Neal, Pierce and Erb had a tight battle late in the race — O’Neal and Pierce mostly in the high groove, Erb in the low groove — while Bloomquist plugged along in the middle of the track.
"I just had to drive too hard up there,” O’Neal said. “He was better; he can just drive down (in the middle) and be really good. … Hopefully we'll get a little better when we're out here Saturday night.
Erb’s third-place finish marked his best series run at Florence.
“It was quite a way up there to get to third. I had a good car. Hopefully, I'll be getting this thing here Saturday night … 100 laps, we'll see what happens,” Erb said. “Each time we come here, I think we pick up on a few things. We just keep plugging away at it, and hopefully we can get a win here someday.”
Pierce made up most of his ground on the high side, but with O’Neal using much the same groove, he briefly slipped by O’Neal once but couldn’t hold the spot.
“(O’Neal) had a good line I just couldn't do anything with him,” Pierce said. “Scott had his line up through the middle. He was just so fast, I don't know if I could have gone around O'Neal. I might have had something for him, but me and O'Neal are about the same speed. Erb starting coming on the bottom and then started getting a little wide.”
Jackie Boggs of Grayson, Ky., who was looking to stretch a personal eight-race winning streak, led the first two laps but retired when his crank trigger broke, causing him to lose ignition just before leading the field back to green on a restart.
The race was marred by Dustin Linville’s scary rollover accident on the 14th lap as the Bryantsville, Ky., driver’s car was forced into the infield and he slammed a huge, buried tire barrier, his car flipping upside down. Linville quickly emerged apparently unscathed, but the car was heavily damaged.
Besides Linville’s red-flagged accident, the feature was slowed by six cautions, including when fourth-starting Chris Madden spun on the third lap after slight contact with Bloomquist as Darrell Lanigan and Brandon Sheppard got a piece of Madden on the way by.
Other cautions appeared for a bad first start, the departure of Boggs (lap two), a slowing Earl Pearson Jr (lap 13), the Landers spin (lap 49) and when Jason Feger got crossed up on the frontstretch (lap 60).
Along the the rest of a busy racing weekend, the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame will induct its 2016 class on Saturday afternoon at Florence with four championship-winning Midwestern drivers among inductees. Georgia standout Fulmer Lance will be joined by Iowa drivers Tom Hearst of Muscatine, the inaugural NASCAR Weekly Racing Series champion in 1982, and late NASCAR start Tiny Lund of Harlan, along with nine-time Santa Fe Speedway champion Tony Izzo Sr. of Chicago, Ill., and three-time Silver 1000 champion Leon Plank of Mondovi, Wis.
The five drivers in the Class of 2016 will be joined by three contributors, including engine builder and North Carolina team owner Lee Roy Rumley; Steve Norris of Batesville, Ark., long-time crew chief for Billy Moyer; and Ed Petroff, the prolific race sponsor of Caseyville, Ill.-based Petroff Towing.
Notes: Thirteen starters completed 75 laps and 18 were running at the finish. … Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished 16th in his Rocket Chassis debut piloting the Barry Wright Race Cars house car through through July. He pitted several times and ran as high as 15th after starting in the 10th row. … Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., never recovered from damage to his car in the third-lap incident as he retired after 59 laps while running 13th. … In Thursday’s consolation action, two drivers lost late chances at transferring to the main. Josh Rice of Verona, Ky., spun while charging on the high side and Jake O’Neil of Tucson, Ariz., briefly edged ahead of Steve Francis at the white flag before slipping back to third.
Preliminary results and notes:
First consolation finish (top two transfer): Jimmy Owens, Dustin Linville, John Whitney, Dale McDowell, Gregg Satterlee, Matt Miller, Ray Cook, Doug Drown, Chris Brown, Robby Hensley, Colton Flinner, Chad Stapleton, John Gill, Adam Bowman, Tim Dohm, Nick Latham, Kyle Bronson, Joe Godsey, Kayne Hickman, Stan Freeman, Justin Rattliff
Second consolation finish (top two transfer): Jason Feger, Devin Moran, Steve Francis, Jake O’Neil, Mason Zeigler, Tommy Bailey, Jesse Lay, Cody Mahoney, Kolby Vandenbergh, Mike Marlar, Jason Jameson, Ethan Burgess, Scott James, Nick Hoffman, Zak Blackwood, Steve Landrum, Dustin Nobbe, Trevor Landrum, Jerry Gibson Jr., Nathan Vawter, Josh Rice, James Lay, Jeff Alsip
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Matt Miller, Dustin Linville
Row 2: Jimmy Owens, Dale McDowell
Row 3: John Whitney, Ray Cook
Row 4: Robby Hensley, Chris Brown
Row 5: Gregg Satterlee, Justin Rattliff
Row 6: John Gill, Doug Drown
Row 7: Tim Dohm, Kayne Hickman
Row 8: Kyle Bronson, Adam Bowman
Row 9: Nick Latham, Colton Flinner
Row 10: Joe Godsey, Stan Freeman
Row 11: Daniel Dial, Chad Stapleton
Row 12: Austyn Mills, Mike Benedum
Row 1: Devin Moran, Josh Rice
Row 2: Jason Feger, Mason Zeigler
Row 3: Kolby Vandenbergh, Steve Francis
Row 4: Tommy Bailey, Jake O’Neil
Row 5: Cody Mahoney, Jesse Lay
Row 6: Scott James, Nick Hoffman
Row 7: Jeff Alsip, Ethan Burgess
Row 8: Steve Landrum, Jason Jameson
Row 9: Zak Blackwood, Dustin Nobbe
Row 10: Trevor Landrum, Jerry Gibson Jr.
Row 11: Nathan Vawter, Mike Marlar
Row 12: James Lay
Heat winners Jared Landers and Jackie Boggs will start on the front row for the 75-lapper. Boggs has an eight-race Late Model winning streak; he’s unbeaten in the division since July 1. … Dale McDowell spun out of the third spot in the first heat when Timothy Culp slid under and made contact in turn three. McDowell rallied back to fifth while Culp transferred with a third-place finish. “He got a lot more bent than I thought he would,” Culp said of the contact, hoping McDowell wasn’t too upset. “I think Dale’s a pretty good guy.” …. Earl Pearson transferred in the second heat, but when he got out of shape in turn one on the first lap, he collected outside-row starters Nick Latham and Joe Godsey, knocked them out of the race. Afterwards, Latham’s team was making major repairs to the spoiler and rear decking of his throwback car. … In battling for the third spot in the third heat, Dennis Erb Jr. and Jimmy Owens swapped the position several times before Erb finally secured it. … On the first lap in the fourth heat, a wild scrambled exiting turn two saw Tommy Bailey get completely sideways midway down the backstretch. “It was a little dangerous, wasn’t it,” Bailey said with a smile later. “Bailey and several other drivers with damaged cars continued while Mike Marlar was the biggest victim, suffering left-front damage that forced him to the infield. Marlar’s team was reassambling a new left-front suspension with hopes to make the consolation race … Devin Moran and Jason Jameson were battling for second at one point during the fourth heat, but neither ended up transferring. Jameson spun trying to dive under Moran in turn one, while Moran gave up in the third and final transfer spot in the last corner, getting sideways and making contact with Mason Zeigler, who first made contact with Ricky Weiss that sent him into Moran. Weiss ended up going from fifth to third in the race’s last 100 yards. “It made it a lot easier for me,” said Weiss, who is piloting a car backed by Tennessee engine builder Vic Hill. …. Mike Benedum of Bristol, W.Va., scratched when he broke a rocker arm while sitting in the lineup chute before hot laps. The Eric Hudkins-owned team plans to make repairs to run the rest of the weekend, using the engine that had just been freshened after a 1,600-lap run. … A big weeknight crowd is on hand for the first of three nights of racing with RVs and campers seemingly all over the track’s grounds.
Heat race results
First heat finish (top three transfer): Jared Landers, Billy Moyer, Timothy Culp, Matt Miller, Dale McDowell, Robby Hensley, Justin Rattliff, Tim Dohm, Adam Bowman
Second heat finish (top three transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Kent Robinson, Earl Pearson Jr., Dustin Linville, John Whitney, Chris Brown, John Gill, Kayne Hickman, Nick Latham, Joe Godsey
Third heat finish (top three transfer): Brandon Sheppard, Jonathan Davenport, Dennis Erb Jr., Jimmy Owens, Ray Cook, Gregg Satterlee, Doug Drown, Kyle Bronson, Colton Flinner, Stan Freeman
Fourth heat finish (top three transfer): Jackie Boggs, Tim McCreadie, Ricky Weiss, Devin Moran, Mason Zeigler, Tommy Bailey, Jesse Lay, Jeff Alsip, Jason Jameson, Trevor Landrum, Mike Marlar
Fifth heat finish (top three transfer): Chris Madden, Don O’Neal, Michael Chilton, Josh Rice, Kolby Vandenbergh, Jake O’Neil, Scott James, Ethan Burgess, Zak Blackwood, Jerry Gibson Jr., James Lay
Sixth heat finish (top three transfer): Scott Bloomquist, R.J. Conley, Bobby Pierce, Jason Feger, Steve Francis, Cody Mahoney, Nick Hoffman, Steve Landrum, Dustin Nobbe, Nathan Vawter
Group B fast-time Jackie Boggs of Grayson, Ky., is making just his second appearance at Florence in what he believes is 15 years, but he looked like he’s raced the the track every week. “We just found the racetrack and them other boys didn’t,” Boggs modestly said, saying he was fortunate to be the group’s first qualifying. Minus a recent scratch from a front-row starting spot at Brushcreek Motorsports Park, Boggs is on a stunning winning streak — 10 victories in a row counting his Late Model and modified action. He has a combined 26 victories between the divisions overall. … Chris Madden was second quick in Group B, but his team quickly went to work after time trials to repair right-rear damaged caused when Madden got into the wall (on his best lap, no less). In his first race back since an early July concussion, right back in the saddle, Chris? “Yeah, I guess,” he said with smile. … Dustin Linville was second-quickest in the first qualifying group in the 2012 Swartz Car that’s put him in the North-South 100 each of the last four seasons (he was eighth last year). The car was formerly for sale when Linville made a mid-season switch to a Pierce Race Car, but Linville retreated to the older machine when “we just couldn’t get going” in the Pierce. He’ll start on the pole of a heat, but figures the track might be top-dominant in the prelims. He like to run high at Florence, but “you’ve gotta flirt with disaster.” … Nick Latham of Winchester, Ohio, paid tribute to his late grandfather and race honoree Ralph Latham with a throwback graphics scheme, a red No. 29 with detailed like the 1965 Plymouth Belvedere that Latham drove to victory in ARCA action at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in 1967. After the younger Latham was quickest in his group in hot laps, he was asked if he might be forced to keep the Lanigan Auto Sales scheme for a while if the night turns out well. “I thought about that,” Latham said. … The Lucas Oil auxiliary trailer is locked up tight in the Florence pits. It holds the right-rear tires the series will provide for tires in the impounding experiment the series plans for Saturday’s 100-lapper.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Billy Moyer, Jared Landers
Row 2: Robby Hensley, Dale McDowell
Row 3: Adam Bowman, Timothy Culp
Row 4: Matt Miller, Tim Dohm
Row 5: Justin Rattliff, Daniel Dial
Row 6: Chad Stapleton
Row 1: Dustin Linville, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 2: Darrell Lanigan, Nick Latham
Row 3: John Gill, Joe Godsey
Row 4: Kent Robinson, Chris Brown
Row 5: John Whitney, Kayne Hickman
Row 6: Austyn Mills
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Gregg Satterlee
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Doug Drown
Row 3: Jimmy Owens, Kyle Bronson
Row 4: Dennis Erb Jr., Ray Cook
Row 5: Colton Flinner, Stan Freeman
Row 1: Jackie Boggs, Mason Zeigler
Row 2: Jason Jameson, Devin Moran
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Jesse Lay
Row 4: Tommy Bailey, Tim McCreadie
Row 5: Mike Marlar, Trevor Landrum
Row 6: Jeff Alsip
Row 1: Chris Madden, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Kolby Vandenbergh, Josh Rice
Row 3: Michael Chilton, Ethan Burgess
Row 4: Scott James, Jake O’Neil
Row 5: Zak Blackwood, James Lay
Row 6: Jerry Gibson Jr.
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, R.J. Conley
Row 2: Cody Mahoney, Jason Feger
Row 3: Bobby Pierce, Dustin Nobbe
Row 4: Steve Francis, Nick Hoffman
Row 5: Steve Landrum, Nathan Vawter
Jimmy Owens has unveiled a new Rocket Chassis, the latest in a series of mid-season chassis changes. Other drivers on hand who’ve made recent switches include Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn. (Longhorn Chassis) and Timothy Culp of Sheridan, Ark. (GRT). … The 75-lap feature, patterned off the regular Lucas Oil purse with extra money on the winner, has a steep dropoff for second place. The runner-up receives $5,500, $24,500 less than the winner. The race pays $1,200-to-start. … Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., is making his first start since suffering a concussion in a wreck in the July 9 Lucas Oil Series event at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn. … Jackie Boggs of Grayson, Ky., whose late father Jack was a three-time North-South 100 winner at Florence, is making a relatively rare appearance at the northern Kentucky oval. He’s never made the starting field for the North-South, Florence’s biggest race. … Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., is driving the No. 11B Capital Race Car of his car owner Stacy Boles instead of his usual No. 53. … Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., is entered in the Bryan Klinedinst No. 43a, a Pennsylvania-based car he fields when he’s not in his own No. 25z. … Duane Chamberlain of Richmond, Ind., is among no-shows. He injured his right foot five days ago and is in a cast that will keep him out of action up to a month.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 16.050
Dustin Linville (D8), Bryantsville, Ky., 16.224
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 16.305
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 16.316
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.321
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 16.377
Robby Hensley (21X), Walton, Ky., 16.380
Darrell Lanigan (15L), Union, Ky., 16.380
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 16.424
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.461
Nick Latham (29), Winchester, Ohio, 16.492
Doug Drown (240), Wooster, Ohio, 16.503
Adam Bowman (77), Seymour, Ind., 16.550
John Gill (75g), Mitchell, Ind., 16.564
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Ky., 16.592
Timothy Culp (C8), Sheridan, Ark., 16.603
Joe Godsey (14V), Edinburgh, Ind., 16.637
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 16.695
Matt Miller (3), Whitehouse, Ohio, 16.741
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ind., 16.802
Dennis Erb Jr. (28E), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.861
Tim Dohm (6T), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 16.940
Chris Brown (21B), Spring, Texas, 16.990
Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., 17.020
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 17.248
John Whitney (oh1o), Clarksville, Ohio, 17.259
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 17.622
Daniel Dial (11d), Lawrenceburg, Ky., 17.715
Kayne Hickman (H3), Soddy Daisy, Tenn., 17.742
Stan Freeman (2s), Warsaw, Ky., 19.504
Chad Stapleton (32s), Edinburgh, Ind., no time
Mike Benedum (1M), Salem, W.Va., no time
Austyn Mills (1AM), Alexandria, Ky., no time
Jackie Boggs (4B), Grayson, Ky., 16.361
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.372
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.381
Mason Zeigler (43A), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.432
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 16.464
R.J. Conley (71c), Wheelersburg, Ohio., 16.601
Jason Jameson (12J), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 16.615
Kolby Vandenbergh (15V), Ashland, Ill., 16.637
Cody Mahoney (4), Madison, Ind., 16.680
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 16.682
Josh Rice (11R), Verona, Ky., 16.713
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingley, Manitoba, 16.766
Michael Chilton (97), Salvisa, Ky., 16.788
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 16.793
Jesse James Lay (33), Walton, Ky., 16.809
Ethan Burgess (18EX), Sharonville, Ohio, 16.839
Dustin Nobbe (5N), Batesville, Ind., 16.911
Tommy Bailey (11B), Corbin, Ky., 16.942
Scott James (15J), Bright, Ind., 17.079
Steve Francis (15F), Ashland, Ky., 17.096
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 17.105
Jake O’Neil (J0), Tucson, Ariz., 17.142
Nick Hoffman (2), Mooresville, N.C., 17.182
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 17.192
Zak Blackwood (93), Columbus, Ind., 17.647
Steve Landrum (18), Erlanger, Ky., 17.782
Trevor Landrum (18L), Erlanger, Ky., 17.826
James Lay (33J), Walton, Ky., 18.242
Nathan Vawter (17V), Columbus, Ind., 18.683
Jeff Alsip (78), Florence, Ky., 18.708
Jerry Gibson Jr. (47), Crittenden, Ky., 18.762
6 p.m. - Hot laps
- Late Models
6:30 p.m. - Time trials
- Late Models
7:30 p.m. - Heat races
- Late Models (10 laps)
- Modifieds (8 laps)
- Late Models (12 laps)
- Modifieds (10 laps)
- Late Models (75 laps)
- Modifieds (20 laps)