ROSSBURG, Ohio (June 6) — The satisfaction could be heard in Ricky Weiss’s faintly cracking voice as he stood in victory lane Thursday at Eldora Speedway. Exactly nine months to the day from when the Headingly, Manitoba, driver was forced to leave Eldora’s World 100 because his Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car didn’t pass pre-race tech inspection, Weiss returned to the famed Tony Stewart-owned half-mile oval in grand fashion, winning a 25-lap preliminary feature ahead of the weekend’s $125,000-to-win Dream XXV.
Weiss grabbed the lead from polesitter Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va., on lap 11 of Thursday’s second preliminary feature and led the rest of the way for a $10,000 victory, the Canadian standout’s first at Eldora.
“To tell me I was gonna win a preliminary night … I mean, we got a car to beat. The thing is just amazing,” said Weiss. “I can’t thank everybody who’s turned a wrench on this thing. There’s a lot of people helping this weekend. A lot of people drove a long ways … just … I’m kinda speechless actually.”
Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., finished second after starting on the front row alongside Hawkins, while Hawkins slipped to third after leading the first 10 laps. Seventh-starting Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., finished fourth after running as high as third, and eighth-starting Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., improved three spots to finish fifth.
“We left (the World 100 last season), we picked our heads up, we drove a long ways and it paid off for us in the end,” added Weiss, recalling his two victories at River Cities Speedway at Grand Forks, N.D., tallying more than $10,000 two days after he left Eldora last season. “But this is one of my favorite tracks. I’m happy to be here and happy to be standing here (in victory lane).”
Hawkins, the group’s overall fast qualifier, pulled away from fellow front-row starter Madden on the opening lap and set sail. Fourth-starting Weiss passed Madden for second on lap six and quickly caught the leader. Weiss caught Hawkins on lap 10 and made his winning pass as they worked lap 11.
“(When) the track’s slick, we’re good on that when the track’s like that and normally we’re better in longer races. To get it done in 25 laps it really shows how strong we are,” Weiss said. “The harder I’d drive in on the right front it started to give up a little bit here and there. You’d driver straighter and it’d come back. I seen Shawn’s (signaling) sticks there and knew they weren’t too far behind. Then when a lapped car went up and one went down, I thought I’d try to thread the needle. Then they threw the white flag and I thought maybe I didn’t need to do that.”
Weiss was quick to heap praise on his crew, especially crew chief and spotter Shawn Gage.
“They never get spoken about enough,” he said. “To know where they’re at, to know what they mean with their (signaling) sticks … and Shawn is always there. We’ve talked pretty good back and forth on visual, how I can see him. He was holding his sticks and he was closing ‘em a little bit and then he’d open them up. I mean, we made the pass on the bottom and I just didn’t know how long to stay there and then he just told me at the right time to start to move up and it felt better.
While Weiss crossed the line in front of the typical Eldora pyrotechnics, Madden and Hawkins finished in a shower of fireworks as well. Madden finally wrestled the runner-up spot from Hawkins, but on the final lap — after they flashed beneath the flagstand — contact between the two sent Madden spinning into the outside wall near the end of the straightaway. Madden, who said his car’s setup “just needs some minor changes” moving forward, managed to drive away and crossed the scales unassisted.
“The guy just turned me after the checkered flag,” Madden said of Hawkins. “I guess he felt like he had the position.”
Hawkins had a different perspective.
“I was on the outside, and he just took it from the bottom to the wall at the checker and we just met right there against the wall,” Hawkins said. “I’m sure he didn’t know I was out there.”
McDowell took third away from Hawkins on lap 19, but the West Virginian rallied back in the final five laps.
“We couldn’t rotate the bottom like I wanted,” said Hawkins. “Right there at the end I found the top. I think other people could have ran it too. It’s just I’ve spent a lot of time around that outside wall and we got it rolling pretty good. Part of me wishes maybe I would have moved up there earlier. Ricky was good. He was definitely the car to beat and we’re gonna have to go to work to keep up with him.”
Notes: Weiss finished 2.221 seconds ahead of Madden. ... All 24 starters were running at the finish, with 19 completing all 25 laps. ... Weiss was driving a relatively new Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car. After debuting it a few weeks back, he said he parked the car to save it for this weekend. … While thanking his sponsors, crew and family, Weiss gave a nod to Hall of Famer Scott Bloomquist, who returned to action for the first time since suffering serious leg and hip injuries in a March motorcycle accident. “It don’t matter if he’s in a wheelchair or in a walker, he’s still over here (working),” said Weiss. “It don’t matter if he’s on a razor blade or on a wrench, he’s still working on this thing. Hat’s off to him.” … Bloomquist, of Mooresburg, Tenn., finished 19th in the feature, where he started. … Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., drove a second car fielded by Bloomquist, starting sixth and finishing 11th. … Hawkins, who has won at Eldora in modifieds, has high hopes after setting the overall fast time in Group B. “I’m happy with a third-place run, don’t get me wrong, at the Dream weekend. But I thought early in the night we’d have a little more,” said Hawkins. … After getting to third, Dale McDowell said he stayed in the bottom too long. “They kinda cleaned up the middle there, so I got passed there late. I was actually gaining on Chris, so I was afraid to move,” said McDowell.
Row 1: Jacob Hawkins, Chris Madden
Row 2: Jimmy Mars, Ricky Weiss
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Shannon Babb
Row 4: Dale McDowell, Jimmy Owens
Row 5: Shane Clanton, Jonathan Henry
Row 6: Chase Junghans, Mike Marlar
Row 7: Shanon Buckingham, Kent Robinson
Row 8: Donald McIntosh, Brandon Sheppard
Row 9: Ricky Thornton Jr., Ross Bailes
Row 10: Scott Bloomquist, Don O’Neal
Row 11: Josh Richards, Tyler Bruening
Row 12: Kyle Strickler, Brent Larson
Tyler Bruening of Deborah, Iowa, grabbed the lead from Brent Larson on lap eight and led the rest of the second 12-lap consolation race. Larson chased him to the finish, settling for second, 2.306 seconds back. Jake Timm, 2007 Dream winner Steve Casebolt and Stormy Scott completed the top five. Bruening and Larson advanced to the feature. The caution waved on lap one for Josh Robertson.
Finish (top two transfer): Tyler Bruening, Brent Larson, Jake Timm, Steve Casebolt, Stormy Scott, Jesse Stovall, Duane Chamberlain, Colton Flinner, John Henderson, Blake Spencer, Joe Godsey, Josh Robertson.
Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., had no trouble winning the first consolation race, winning. Richards pulled away at the start and rode comfortably in front of runner-up Kyle Strickler for all 12 laps. Joey Moriarty finished third and Devin Moran finished fourth. Richards and Strickler are the only two to transfer to the main event.
Finish (top two transfer): Josh Richards, Kyle Strickler, Joey Moriarty, Devin Moran, Rod Conley, Ashton Winger, Robby Hensley, Tim Lance, Anthony Sanders, Bryant Dickinso, Forrest Trent,
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Josh Richards, Kyle Strickler
Row 2: Forrest Trent, Ashton Winger
Row 3: Joey Moriarty, Devin Moran
Row 4: Robby Hensley, Tim Lance
Row 5: Rod Conley, Anthony Sanders
Row 6: Bryant Dickinson, Rob Anderzack
Row 7: R.J. Conley
Row 1: Jake Timm, Brent Larson
Row 2: Steve Casebolt, Tyler Bruening
Row 3: John Henderson, Jesse Stovall
Row 4: Joe Godsey, Colton Flinner
Row 5: Duane Chamberlain, Blake Spencer
Row 6: Josh Robertson, Stormy Scott
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., won the fourth heat, leading flag-to-flag to win ahead of Shannon Babb. Mike Marlar used a slider on lap two to take third from Brandon Sheppard, then held Sheppard at bay the rest of the way to finish third. Sheppard settled for fourth, with Don O’Neal fifth.
Finish (top five transfer): Finish (top five transfer): Dale McDowell, Shannon Babb, Mike Marlar, Brandon Sheppard, Don O’Neal, Brent Larson, Tyler Bruening, Jesse Stovall, Colton Flinner, Blake Spencer. Scratched: Stormy Scott.
Jumping into the lead on the first lap from his pole starting position, Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Manitoba, pulled away to a comfortable 0.292-second victory over Chris Madden. Madden was never challenged in second, while Chase Junghans finished third. Donald McIntosh held of a last-lap surge from Scott Bloomquist to grab fourth at the stripe. Bloomquist, making his first start since Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, finished fifth to take the final transfer spot.
Finish (top five transfer): Ricky Weiss, Chris Madden, Chase Junghans, Donald McIntosh, Scott Bloomquist, Jake Timm, Steve Casebolt, John Henderson, Joe Godsey, Duane Chamberlain, Josh Robertson.
Powering by polesitter Jimmy Mars in turns three and four on the opening lap, Tyler Erb of New Waverley, Texas, drove away to win the second heat by .398 seconds ahead of Mars. Jonathan Henry, who started eighth, grabbed the third spot late in the run from fifth-starting Kent Robinson as the top five fanned out around the half-mile. Ross Bailes, who qualified second fasted in Group B, serviced a first-lap scuffle with Devin Moran and hung on to grab the fifth spot, despite his No. 87 trailing smoke for much of the heat.
Finish (top five transfer): Tyler Erb, Jimmy Mars, Jonathan Henry, Kent Robinson, Ross Bailes, Kyle Strickler, Ashton Winger, Devin Moran, Tim Lance, Anthony Sanders, Rob Anderzack.
Polesittter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., grabbed the lead on the opening lap and went on to lead every circuit of the caution-free heat. After turning back an opening lap, turn-four challenge from Shane Clanton, Owens eased away to win by 0.189 seconds. Clanton ran second for nine laps, but couldn’t hold off a charging Jacob Hawkins, the overall fast qualifier in Group B, who made a last-lap pass for second. Clanton settled for third, with Shanon Buckingham and Ricky Thornton Jr., completing the top five.
Finish (top five transfer): Jimmy Owens, Jacob Hawkins, Shane Clanton, Shanon Buckingham, Ricky Thornton Jr., Josh Richards, Forrest Trent, Joey Moriarty, Robby Hensley, Rod Conley, Bryant Dickinson.
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top five transfer)
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Shane Clanton
Row 2: Josh Richards, Jacob Hawkins
Row 3: Shanon Buckingham, Ricky Thornton, Jr.
Row 4: Forrest Trent, Joey Moriarty
Row 5: Robby Hensley, Rod Conley
Row 6: Bryant Dickinson, R.J. Conley
Row 1: Jimmy Mars, Tyler Erb
Row 2: Devin Moran, Ross Bailes
Row 3: Kent Robinson, Ashton Winger
Row 4: Anthony Sanders, Jonathan Henry
Row 5: Kyle Strickler, Tim Lance
Row 6: Rob Anderzack
Row 1: Ricky Weiss, Jake Timm
Row 2: Donald McIntosh, Chris Madden
Row 3: Chase Junghans, John Henderson
Row 4: Scott Bloomquist, Duane Chamberlain
Row 5: Steve Casebolt, Joe Godsey
Row 6: Josh Robertson
Row 1: Dale McDowell, Brandon Sheppard
Row 2: Mike Marlar, Shannon Babb
Row 3: Don O’Neal, Jesse Stovall
Row 4: Tyler Bruening, Brent Larson
Row 5: Stormy Scott, Blake Spencer
Row 6: Colton Flinner
The pair of Team Zero entries for Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., sport identical looks and new sponsorship from the Great American Steak Company. … Making his first start since February’s Georgia-Florida Speedweeks after suffering serious right hip and leg injuries in a March motorcycle accident, Bloomquist is noticeably hobbling around his pit area. … Back with Bloomquist’s team for at least this weekend is veteran mechanic Tommy Hicks, who spent five years working for Bloomquist before moving to Eric Wells’s operation for two seasons and briefly assisting Chris Madden late in 2016. Hicks said he hasn’t helped any national-level teams since his stint with Madden but does take care of three Crate Late Models for drivers who race in eastern Tennessee. … Making his Eldora debut is Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., who has already won on both national series this season driving the Barry Wright house car. Wright had some advice for Bailes’s Eldora attempt: “Drive straight.” The veteran chassis builder thinks Bailes will be fine, though. “One thing about him — he listens,” Wright said. “He’s one of the few.” The low-key Bailes was keeping a cool, calm outlook. “Like any other track, you just got to get the feel for it,” said Bailes, who has never even been a spectator for an Eldora event. … Another very excited Eldora crown jewel first-time is Kyle Strickler of Troutman, N.C. “I’m so pumped,” enthused the driver of the Wells and Sons Motorsports No. 8, who has enjoyed open-wheel modified success at Eldora but has never steered a Late Model around the track. … Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, is back in his 2017-18 car owner Tye Twarog’s No. 9, which has a slightly new look with green stripes incorporated into its scheme. Moran has been on the road for just over a month; his younger brother/crewman Wylie, meanwhile, made a quick pit stop back at their North Carolina apartment on Sunday to drop off their Dunn Benson Racing hauler at the team’s shop before heading back out to rejoin Devin in Ohio and prep Twarog’s machine. … Tim Lance of Brimfield, Ill., is driving a second Bobby Pierce XR1 Rocket entry with the No. 48 on its doors. … Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio, is driving an XR1 Rocket team car to his buddy Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill.; both racers tuned up for Eldora by testing on Wednesday at Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway. Henry’s vehicle sports the No. 33 rather than his usual No. 15. Why the change? He remarked that since Heckenast runs a No. 99 and “the square root of 9 is 3,” he’d double up and go with 33. He also noted that he celebrated his 33rd birthday on Wednesday. … Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va., is entered in Eric Hudkins’s Sweet-Bloomquist No. 8 hot off a $5,000 victory last Saturday night at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va. … Teenager Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., is making his first Eldora start after rain washed out his hopes of getting some laps around the half-mile oval last month, but his father, GW Performance shock guru Gary Winger, demonstrated no nervousness about seeing his boy speed around the challenging track. When asked what he thought about Ashton’s first Eldora appearance, Gary just shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’ll be fine.”
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Jacob Hawkins (20), Fairmont. W.Va., 15.582
Ross Bailes (87), Clover, S.C., 15.681
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 15.760
Shannon Babb (0B), Moweaqua, Ill., 15.877
Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.881
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 15.911
Donald McIntosh (7), Dawsonville, Ga., 15.919
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 15.931
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.944
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 15.962
Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 15.976
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 15.987
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.021
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 16.040
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 16.040
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.045
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 16.080
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 16.081
Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 16.089
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 16.135
Ricky Thornton Jr. (99rt), Chandler, Ariz., 16.142
Ashton Winger (12), Hampton, Ga., 16.152
John Henderson (2x), North Augusta, S.C., 16.167
Jesse Stovall (00), Billlings, Mo., 16.170
Forrest Trent (101), Morristown, Tenn., 16.199
Anthony Sanders (421), Spartanburg, S.C., 16.203
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.230
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.240
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 16.242
Jonathan Henry (33), Ada, Ohio, 16.295
Duane Chamberlain (20c), Richmond, Ind., 16.306
Brent Larson (B1), Lake Elmo, Minn., 16.310
Robby Hensley (21H), Walton, Ky., 16.326
Kyle Strickler (8S), Mooresville, N.C., 16.380
Steve Casebolt (C9), Richmond, Ind., 16.382
Stormy Scott (2), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.425
Rod Conley (71R), Wheelersburg, Ohio, 16.579
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 16.620
Joe Godsey (14G), Bentonville, Ark., 16.643
Blake Spencer (6S), St. Augustine, Fla., 16.696
Bryant Dickinson (5D), Ionia, Mich., 16.974
Rob Anderzack (8A), Swanton, Ohio, 17.180
Josh Robertson (P3), Defiance, Ohio, 17.298
Colton Flinner (48), Allison Park, Pa., no time
R.J. Conley (71C), Wheelersburg, Ohio, no time
5 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
6:30 p.m.: Hot laps followed by time trials
7:55 p.m.: Invocation and national anthem
8 p.m.: Racing begins
- Heat races (10 laps; alternating Group A/Group B with top five transferring to main event)
- Consolation races (12 laps; two for each group; top two transferring to main event)
- Group B feature race (25 laps)