GREENWOOD, Neb. (July 21) — Steve Francis has experienced an utterly frustrating 2017 season. After Friday night’s Imperial Tile Silver Dollar Nationals qualifying program at I-80 Speedway, however, he’s set up to completely flip his fortunes.
With a victory from the third starting spot and a runner-up finish from the eighth position under the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event’s double-heat format, Francis accumulated the most passing points to earn the pole position for Saturday night’s seventh annual 80-lap finale that boasts a record $53,000 first-place prize.
Francis, 49, of Bowling Green, Ky., topped a qualifying card that saw the 10 heat races won by 10 different drivers. It marked the fourth time in the seven-year history of the Silver Dollar Nationals that there were no repeat victors in the two rounds of heat action.
Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., captured Round 1’s second heat and finished second in Round 2’s fourth prelim, securing him the outside pole for the SDN A-main. He won the inaugural event in 2011.
Other heat winners in Round 1 were Chad Simpson of Mount Vernon, Iowa, Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., while Round 2 victors were Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., Rodney Sanders of Happy, Texas, and Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.
The only heat winner who wasn’t among the 18 drivers to lock into Saturday night’s SDN feature was Sheppard, who failed to gain enough passing points because he was knocked out of his Round 1 prelim by a busted radiator and fan his Rocket Chassis house car sustained in an opening-lap scramble and he won his Round 2 heat from the pole. He is scheduled to start fifth in Saturday’s second B-main.
Francis enjoyed a virtually problem-free qualifying card, moving forward with his self-owned Capital Race Car in both heats.
“It was pretty good,” Francis said. “For as bad as we were last night (in hot laps), it kind of shocked me. We made two or three little changes today, I talked with (Capital’s) Marshall (Green) two or three times about things I was feeling and things I didn’t like the feeling of, and we thought about it a little bit. Then we spent about half the day on the spring smasher (in the trailer) working on stuff.”
While Francis has registered just a single top-five finish in Lucas Oil Series competition this season — fifth on July 6 at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway — he is hopeful that his weekend-starting performance at I-80 signals that the recent improvement he’s experienced will lead to better feature results.
“We seem to be getting our heat-race program a whole lot better,” said Francis, who sits 10th in the Lucas Oil Series points standings. “I think we’ve run first or second in our last five or six heat races, so we’re starting to put our whole program together. Now we’ve got to get our whole race program together.
“We’ve been kind of disappointed in the year, but it’s not because of lack of effort on anybody’s part. What everyone doesn’t always realize is that in December we had nothing for a race team. We built a whole race team that’s competitive on the Lucas schedule in six months. That’s kind of hard to do.”
Francis is thankful that his supporters — Green, engine builder Jack Cornett, Penske Shocks’ Ronnie Crooks, his crew — have not lost faith in him as he’s wallowed through a Lucas Oil Series winless drought dating back to February 2014.
“All those guys have stood behind me: ‘We know you still know how to do this. You didn’t forget how to do this. We just have to get you something you’re comfortable with,’” Francis related.
At least on Friday night, Francis found a combination that had him feeling good.
“I don’t know if I’m gonna say I’m confident, but I’m comfortable in my race car right now,” said Francis, whose career-best finish in four previous SDN feature starts is third, in 2012. “We seem to always, every night, have that one restart or something that just kind of snake-bites us — we get in the wrong lane on a restart, I do something dumb. So that’s the biggest thing we have to avoid right now. If we can do that (in the 80-lapper), I think we’ll be alright.”
SDN passing points totals
1. Steve Francis 128.08
2. Don O’Neal 126.32
3. Brian Shirley 122.32
4. Scott Bloomquist 122.32
5. Earl Pearson Jr. 118.32
6. Darrell Lanigan 116.56
7. Chad Simpson 112.56
8. Chase Junghans 112.56
9. Shannon Babb 110.80
10. Jason Krohn 110.80
11. Rodney Sanders 110.80
12. Dennis Erb Jr. 105.04
13. Billy Moyer 105.04
14. Hudson O’Neal 105.04
15. Tim McCreadie 105.04
16. Tony Jackson Jr. 101.04
17. Kyle Bronson 99.28
18. Mason Zeigler 95.28
19. Josh Richards 93.52
20. Terry Phillips 93.52
21. Timothy Culp 93.04
22. Mike Marlar 89.52
23. Gregg Satterlee 89.52
24. Clay Daly 89.52
25. Corey Zeitner 87.76
26. Chris Simpson 87.28
27. Tad Pospisil 85.52
28. Brandon Sheppard 82.00
29. Jake O’Neil 81.52
30. Jimmy Mars 79.76
31. Ben Schaller 79.28
32. Jimmy Owens 74.00
33. Joey Moriarty 74.00
34. Kyle Berck 74.00
35. Jesse Stovall 70.00
36. Randy Timms 69.52
37. Dave Eckrich 69.52
38. Al Humphrey 69.04
39. Justin Duty 66.00
40. Brantlee Gotschall 59.76
41. Jeremy Grady 58.00
42. Austin Siebert 58.00
43. Bob King 58.00
44. Mike Stadel 58.00
45. J.C. Wyman 58.00
46. Boom Briggs 55.28
47. Matt Buller 54.00
48. Allan Hopp 54.00
49. Brian Kosiski 54.00
50. John Duty 54.00
51. Bill Leighton Jr. 46.00
Preliminary results and notes:
Recovering from his early exit in the first round of heats, Brandon Sheppard led every circuit of the final 12-lap prelim to take the checkered flag. Winning from the pole, however, didn’t earn him any extra passing points. Kyle Bronson finished about 1 second behind in the runner-up spot.
Finish: Brandon Sheppard, Kyle Bronson, Corey Zeitener, Shannon Babb, Chad Simpson, Dennis Erb jr., Ben Schaller, Bob King, Matt Buller, Jesse Stovall.
Rodney Sanders ran away with the 12-lapper, beating Don O’Neal with 1.772 seconds. Polesitter Tad Pospisil slipped to third in the final rundown.
Finish: Rodney Sanders, Don O’Neal, Tad Pospisil, Hudson O’Neal, Gregg Satterlee, Chris Simpson, Josh Richards, Brian Kosiski, Mike Stadel, Bill Leighton.
Scott Bloomquist rolled off the outside pole to assume command at the initial green flag and never looked back en route to a convincing 12-lap victory. A caution flag flew on lap eight when Justin Duty stopped in turn four.
Finish: Scott Bloomquist, Earl Pearson Jr., Billy Moyer, Darrell Lanigan, Mason Zeigler, Al Humphrey, Dave Eckrich, Allan Hopp, Jimmy Owens, Justin Duty.
Tim McCraedie took advantage of his pole position start to score a flag-to-flag triumph in the 12-lap event. Kyle Berck finished a distant second, nipping Timothy Culp at the checkered flag a full straightaway behind the victor.
Finish: Tim McCreadie, Kyle Berck, Timothy Culp, Jake O’Neil, Clay Daly, Tony Jackson Jr., Terry Phillips, J.C. Wyman, John Duty, Brantlee Gotschall.
Brian Shirley grabbed the lead from Boom Briggs on lap two and went to grab the 13-lap victory over Steve Francis, who burst forward from the eighth starting and crossed the finish line less than 1 second behind the winner. Mike Marlar brought out a caution flag on lap two when he spun between turns three and four while attempting to make a move for third place and Austin Siebert slowed on lap 11 for another caution.
Finish: Brian Shirley, Steve Francis, Jason Krohn, Chase Junghans, Jimmy Mars, Mike Marlar, Joey Moriarty, Jeremy Grady, Randy Timms, Austin Siebert, Boom Briggs.
Second round heat lineups
Row 1: Boom Briggs, Brian Shirley
Row 2: Jimmy Mars, Jason Krohn
Row 3: Jeremy Grady, Mike Marlar
Row 4: Joey Moriarty, Steve Francis
Row 5: Austin Siebert, Chase Junghans
Row 6: Randy Timms
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Kyle Berck
Row 2: Brantlee Gotschall, Clay Daly
Row 3: John Duty, Jake O’Neil
Row 4: Timothy Culp, J.C. Wyman
Row 5: Terry Phillips, Tony Jackson Jr.
Row 1: Dave Eckrich, Scott Bloomquist
Row 2: Earl Pearson Jr., Mason Zeigler
Row 3: Billy Moyer, Darrell Lanigan
Row 4: Jimmy Owens, Allan Hopp
Row 5: Justin Duty, Al Humphrey
Row 1: Tad Pospisil, Rodney Sanders
Row 2: Brian Kosiski, Chris Simpson
Row 3: Mike Stadel, Hudson O’Neal
Row 4: Bill Leighton Jr., Gregg Satterlee
Row 5: Josh Richards, Don O’Neal
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, Ben Schaller
Row 2: Kyle Bronson, Corey Zeitner
Row 3: Bob King, Shannon Babb
Row 4: Matt Buller, Jesse Stovall
Row 5: Dennis Erb Jr., Chad Simpson
Dennis Erb Jr. scored a wire-to-wire triumph, beating Chase Junghans by 1.419 seconds. Scott Bloomquist accumulated plenty of passing points charging from ninth to finish third. A caution flag was needed on lap five when Jake O’Neil pulled up lame in turn four with the Gressel Racing machine; he returned after making a pit stop.
Finish: Dennis Erb Jr., Chase Junghans, Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens, Gregg Satterlee, Tim McCreadie, Corey Zeitner, Jake O’Neil, Jeremy Grady, Brian Kosiski.
Darrell Lanigan quickly shot forward from fifth to grab the lead from Tony Jackson Jr. on lap one and never looked back on his way to the 12-lap victory. Jackson finished 1.290 seconds back in second while Jason Krohn grabbed third from Jesse Stovall rounding turns three and four for the final time. A caution flag flew on lap 11 when Bill Leighton’s car went up in smoke on the homestretch; Lanigan was coming off turn four to take the checkered flag when Leighton slowed, but officials put out a caution when Leighton’s car flared up momentarily and then ran another circuit.
Finish: Darrell Lanigan, Tony Jackson Jr., Jason Krohn, Jesse Stovall, Rodney Sanders, Kyle Bronson, Austin Siebert, Dave Eckrich, John Duty, Bill Leighton.
Third-starter Steve Francis controlled the entire 12-lap distance, crossing the finish line 2.284 seconds in front of Terry Phillips. Hudson O’Neal closely tailed Phillips throughout the race but couldn’t overtake the veteran.
Finish: Steve Francis, Terry Phillips, Hudson O’Neal, Billy Moyer, Clay Daly, Ben Schaller, Jimmy Mars, Tad Pospisil, Matt Buller, Al Humphrey.
Don O’Neal dominated the action, pacing every lap en route to beating sixth-starter Shannon Babb by 2.268 seconds. Brian Shirley picked up six spots to finish third. Brandon Sheppard retired without completing a lap after his Rocket Chassis house car sustained right-front damage in an original-start scramble that was triggered by J.C. Wyman’s turn-two spin. Wyman spun again in turn two on the ensuing restart, sending him to the pits.
Finish: Don O’Neal, Shannon Babb, Brian Shirley, Mason Zeigler, Justin Duty, Joey Moriarty, Brantlee Gotschall, Mike Stadel, J.C. Wyman, Brandon Sheppard.
Chad Simpson held off a last-lap challenge from Josh Richards to score a flag-to-flag victory in the 13-lap prelim. Earl Pearson Jr. was the big mover in advancing from ninth to finish third, while Mike Marlar slipped past Chris Simpson on the final circuit to place fourth.
Finish: Chad Simpson, Josh Richards, Earl Pearson Jr., Mike Marlar, Chris Simpson, Randy Timms, Timothy Culp, Boom Briggs, Bob King, Allan Hopp, Kyle Berck.
First round heat lineups
Row 1: Randy Timms, Chad Simpson
Row 2: Josh Richards, Allan Hopp
Row 3: Timothy Culp, Mike Marlar
Row 4: Bob King, Chris Simpson
Row 5: Earl Pearson Jr., Kyle Berck
Row 6: Boom Briggs
Row 1: Don O’Neal, Justin Duty
Row 2: J.C. Wyman, Joey Moriarty
Row 3: Shannon Babb, Mike Stadel
Row 4: Mason Zeigler, Brantlee Gotschall
Row 5: Brian Shirley, Brandon Sheppard
Row 1: Al Humphrey, Terry Phillips
Row 2: Steve Francis, Matt Buller
Row 3: Hudson O’Neal, Billy Moyer
Row 4: Clay Daly, Jimmy Mars
Row 5: Ben Schaller, Tad Pospisil
Row 1: Tony Jackson Jr., Austin Siebert
Row 2: Jesse Stovall, Bill Leighton Jr.
Row 3: Darrell Lanigan, John Duty
Row 4: Jason Krohn, Kyle Bronson
Row 5: Rodney Sanders, Dave Eckrich
Row 1: Chase Junghans, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 2: Gregg Satterlee, Jimmy Owens
Row 3: Jake O’Neil, Jeremy Grady
Row 4: Corey Zeitner, Brian Kosiski
Row 5: Scott Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie
The Silver Dollar Nationals has brought typically scorching summer conditions with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees and a heat index climbing even higher. The temps are actually slightly cooler than they were for last year’s SDN. … Many teams have strung tarps between the lift gates of their trailers to provide some shade from the punishing sun. … After flipping wildly during Thursday night’s hot laps, Jesse Stovall of Billings, Mo., has parked his thoroughly damaged No. 00 for the weekend. He has picked up a ride in Springfield, Mo., veteran Terry Phillips’s backup Black Diamond car and will hot-lap to see if he’s feeling well enough to race. … Justin Duty of Portland, Ore., has been on the road racing in the upper Midwest for two weeks; this weekend, however, he’s joined by his father John, who flew out to compete in his car that’s been in the trailer with Justin. Pro Power’s Bill Schlieper dropped off a fresh engine for John’s car at the track on Thursday en route to a Lucas Oil Off-Road event in Wheatland, Mo., and father and son dropped it in the car on Thursday afternoon. “It’s lovely weather for motor installation, “ Justin said of the sweat-soaked job. … Austin Siebert of Kansas City, Mo., is making his first Dirt Late Model start of the season after sitting out the first half of 2017 while recovering from wrist surgery. … Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., is entered in the weekend’s action with the Rocket Chassis house car, but he’ll compete without the operation’s owner, Mark Richards, calling the shots in the pits. Richards was at the track for Thursday night’s open practice but flew home this afternoon to attend his daughter’s wedding this weekend. … Andrew Kosiski of Omaha, Neb., the son of I-80 promoter Joe Kosiski, was forced to abandon his plans to compete in the SDN after breaking a motor during Thursday night’s Malven Bank Super Late Model Series preliminary program. … One note to consider for Friday night’s double heat-race show: only four drivers have won two heat races under the event’s unique format. The group includes Brian Birkhofer (2012), Tyler Reddick (’12), Jonathan Davenport (’14) and Jared Landers (’16) — none of whom are in this weekend's field.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association join together to co-sanction the seventh annual Silver Dollar Nationals at I-80 Speedway, a half-mile oval outside Omaha owned and promoted by Nebraska’s well-known Kosiski family. A record first-place prize of $53,000 has been posted for Saturday night’s 80-lap A-main, which boasted a $25,000 payoff for its inaugural edition in 2011 and offered a $40,000 check one year ago.
The three-day event kicked off Thursday with an open practice for Lucas Oil competitors along with a complete racing program for the Nebraska-based Malvern Bank Super Late Model Racing Series. The preliminary event’s $5,300 top prize was captured by Kyle Berck of Marquette, Neb.
Friday night’s card features hot laps and two rounds of heat races for the Late Model competitors on hand along with a identical two-round heat-race format for United State Modified Touring Series entrants. No time trials will be contested for the Dirt Late Model division; heat races will be aligned by a draw with the distance determined by the number of starters plus two laps, and combined passing points from the prelims will set the lineups for Saturday’s main event.
The top 18 drivers in heat race passing points will be locked into the 80-lap feature, while remaining drivers will run consolation races on Saturday to secure feature starting spots. The 32-car feature field will then be filled out with multiple rows of provisional starters.
Saturday’s grand-finale card also features the Belt Bash for Late Model non-qualifiers, which gives the winner the option of taking the $3,000 first-place prize or a feature starting spot, and the conclusion of the $10,000-to-win USMTS program.
With temperatures once again soaring in the neighborhood of 100 degrees, officials have pushed back the start of Friday's hot laps to 7:30 p.m. CST.
Silver Dollar Nationals roster
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn.
Tad Pospisil (04), Norfolk, Neb.
Matt Buller (1), Henderson, Neb.
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va.
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill.
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla.
Jake O'Neil (2T), Tucson, Ariz.
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill.
J.C. Wyman (4), Griswold, Iowa
Brantlee Gotschall (4G), Nevada, Mo.
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind.
John Duty (5), Portland, Ore.
Randy Timms (5T), Wheatland, Okla.
Al Humphery (6), Giltner, Neb.
Jason Krohn (7K), Slayton, Minn.
Timothy Culp (c8), Prattsville, Ark.
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky.
Kyle Berck (14), Marquette, Neb.
Justin Duty (15), Portland, Ore.
Steve Francis (15), Bowling Green, Ky.
Austin Siebert (16), Kansas City, Mo.
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan.
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill.
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn.
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark.
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa.
Bill Leighton (24), Lavista, Neb.
Chad Simpson (25), Mt. Vernon, Iowa
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa.
Corey Zeitner (26), Omaha, Neb.
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill.
Jimmy Mars (28M), Menomonie, Wis.
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa
Clay Daly (32d), Salinas, Calif.
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y.
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla.
Jeremy Grady (43), Story City, Iowa
Bob King (45), Independence, Mo.
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz.
Brian Kosiski (52x), Omaha, Neb.,
Tony Jackson Jr. (56), Lebanon, Mo.
Dave Eckrich (58), Oxford, Iowa
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind.
Terry Phillips (75), Springfield, Mo.
Jesse Stovall (75J), Billings, Mo.,
Allan Hopp (80), Harlan, Iowa
Mike Stadel (81), Rapid City, S.D.
Ben Schaller (98), Omaha, Neb.
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa.
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn.
Schedule of events
7 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
7:30 p.m.: Late Model/Modified hot laps
- Heats Round 1 (Modifieds/Late Models)
- Heats Round 2 (Modifieds/Late Models)
- USMTS modified dash