NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 1) — Jimmy Owens’s quest to add another crown jewel victory to his resume got off to a great start Friday night at Cedar Lake Speedway.
Owens, the 42-year-old veteran dirt Late Model racer from Newport, Tenn., won the last of six 15-lap heat races during Friday's USA Nationals preliminary action at the 3/8-mile oval and led every lap of the dash among heat race winners to earn the pole starting spot for Saturday's $50,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main.
"You try to win every race, but this is one we'd really like to get," said Owens whose best USA Nationals finish is a runner-up performance in 2012. "I'd love to win in front of this crowd. These people just get so pumped up and it gets you pumped up and really makes you wanna run good."
After qualifying seventh in the second of two qualifying groups, Owens took advantage of a nine-car invert to claim the sixth heat race from the pole. He later drew the pole for the dash and pulled away from Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., and Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., in the six-lap race. Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., finished fourth with defending USA Nationals winner Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and surprise heat winner Jordan Yaggy of Rochester, Minn., completing the finishing order.
"We've had a pretty good car all weekend," said Owens, who finished third behind Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., in Thursday night's USA Nationals tune-up race. "We came up through there last night and tonight we ran pretty good in our heat and were OK in that dash. I think we've got a good hot rod. We've just gotta play our cards right and pace ourselves, and we should be good tomorrow."
Feger started from the outside pole of the dash and challenged Owens through the first two laps before Owens eased away. Feger, the former DIRTcar Summer Nationals and UMP national champion, was disappointed not to win the race, but was satisfied to grab the outside pole for the start of Saturday's 100-lapper.
"I was frustrated because I really wanted to beat Jimmy," said Feger, whose best USA Nationals finish in five starts is an eighth-place finish in 2009. "But after I got out of the car I was like, 'Hey, maybe we're better off starting second.' It's a long 100 laps; it'd be hard to go that long on the top here. But the cars working really good, so we're gonna do our best to be there at the end.
"To win a crown jewel is what we've been after for a few years. This is an awesome place with awesome fans and probably the coolest trophy in my mind. That eagle would look awful nice sitting in our shop."
Feger opened the heat race action with a convincing victory in the first of the 15-lap prelims. Starting from the outside pole, he outdueled polesitter Jimmy Mars to grab the lead early and pulled away through the remaining distance.
Mars, who earned his second WoO LMS victory of the season in Thursday's tune-up race, held off Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., in a side-by-side finish for second. Babb pressured Mars for most of the distance before settling for the third and final transfer spot.
Of the six heat race winners, Davenport's performance in the second race was perhaps the most impressive. Davenport charged from third to first on the race's opening lap and never looked back, building a half-track advantage over Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., and Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.
McCreadie led all the way in the third heat but had to survive heavy pressure from five-time USA Nationals winner Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., for most of the distance. Moyer searched high and low to find a way around McCreadie before finally using a low-side run to pull even with McCreadie off the final turn. But McCreadie was up to the challenge and edged ahead to win in a side-by-side finish.
Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., took advantage of Mason Zeigler's miscue to grab the third and final transfer spot. Continuing his breakout summer, Zeigler, of Chalk Hill, Pa., started the night by posting fast time during Ohlins Shocks Time Trials. But his night ended on a sour note when he jumped the turn-three cushion and slapped the wall while battling McCreadie and Moyer midway through the race.
Pierce used a three-wide pass to move from third to first on the opening lap of the fourth heat race and pulled away through the remaining distance. Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., charged from sixth to second, while WoO LMS points leader Darrell Lanigan recovered from a lap-one miscue to take third from Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., on the final lap.
Yaggy pulled of a surprise prelim victory in the fifth heat. The 23-year-old Super Late Model newcomer started from the pole and survived heavy pressure from Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, to score the victory. Birkhofer settled for second with Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., just behind in third.
Owens led every lap of the sixth and final heat, pulling away from five-time USA Nationals winner Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., after an early battle. Nick Anvelink of Navarino, Wis., finished third to earn the final A-Main transfer.
Saturday's USA Nationals finale, which also includes a full program for NASCAR Late Models, is scheduled to begin with hot laps at 6:15 p.m. CDT. Two 20-lap B-Mains will lead off the Late Model portion of the action, with a last-chance race and the 100-lap A-Main to follow.
Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, found the fast way around Cedar Lake Speedway in the FANSFund Dash, roaring forward from the fourth starting spot to capture the 12-lap sprint.
In a race that allowed invited drivers to race for their USA Nationals appearance money from the FANSFund, Drown drove away from Wendell Wallace’s mid-race threat to take the $2,500 first-place prize.
Wallace settled for second, about six car lengths behind Drown at the finish. Jason Feger advanced from the seventh starting spot to place third, with ninth-starter Bobby Pierce and John Blankenship completing the top five.
FANSFund dash finish: Doug Drown ($2,500), Wendell Wallace ($2,200), Jason Feger ($2,000), Bobby Pierce ($1,900), John Blankenship ($1,800), Travis Dickes ($1,700), Jonathan Davenport ($1,650), Ryan Unzicker ($1,600), Garrett Alberson ($1,550).
Jimmy Owens took advantage of a pole starting spot in the 6-lap dash for heat winners, dominating the race.
With the victory, Owens earned the pole position for Saturday night’s 100-lap USA Nationals feature. The Dirt Late Model superstar has never won the event.
Jason Feger finished second in the dash, giving him the outside pole in Saturday’s headliner. Bobby Pierce finished third, Jonathan Davenport was fourth, Tim McCreadie placed fifth and Jordan Yaggy took sixth.
FANSFund Dash lineup
(12 laps; $2,500 to win)
Row 1: Garrett Alberson, Travis Dickes
Row 2: Ryan Unzicker, Doug Drown
Row 3: Wendell Wallace, John Blankenship
Row 4: Jason Feger, Jonathan Davenport
Row 5: Bobby Pierce
Jimmy Owens cruised to victory, grabbing the lead at the initial green flag and running the entire distance unchallenged. “We missed a little qualifying but it worked out for first,” said Owens, who started from the pole thanks to a nine-car invert. Scott Bloomquist held second the whole way and crossed the finish line a half-straightaway behind Owens, while Nick Anvelink finished third, nearly a full straightaway behind Bloomquist.
Finish (top three transfer): Jimmy Owens, Scott Bloomquist, Nick Anvelink, Don O’Neal, Adam Hensel, Ryan Unzicker, Doug Drown, Tim Fuller.
Jordan Yaggy, a young Minnesota driver who just returned to the cockpit three weeks ago after undergoing knee surgery, stayed smooth-and-steady for the entire distance to score a flag-to-flag win. He turned back a mid-race challenge from Brian Birkhofer to beat the former USA Nationals champion by five car lengths. Eric Wells finished third to grab the final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): Jordan Yaggy, Brian Birkhofer, Eric Wells, Gregg Satterlee, Frank Heckenast Jr., Davey Johnson, Jeff Provenzino, Shawn Polonoski.
Teenager Bobby Pierce slipped underneath Clint Smith for the lead on lap two and cruised the remainder of the distance, winning by a half-straightaway over Billy Moyer Jr. Darrell Lanigan, meanwhile, passed Smith on the outside of turn two on the 13th lap to grab the third and final transfer spot and sliding high on the race’s opening lap and falling from second to fifth.
Finish (top three transfer): Bobby Pierce, Billy Moyer Jr., Darrell Lanigan, Clint Smith, Brian Shirley, Shane Clanton, Lance Matthees, Garrett Alberson.
In a race that was competitive from start-to-finish, Tim McCreadie emerged victorious by less than a half car length over Billy Moyer. Moyer threw an inside charge at McCreadie on the final lap, but the cushion-riding McCreadie was able to beat the five-time USA Nationals champion to the finish line. “When it’s got a lip like that I foam at the mouth,” McCreadie said of the track’s cushion. Steve Francis, meanwhile, finished third. Fast-timer Mason Zeigler ran into problems on lap nine, jumping the cushion and slowing between turns three and four just as he was moving in to begin challenging McCreadie and Moyer for the lead. He was pushed into the pit area after a caution flag was thrown.
Finish (top three transfer): Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer, Steve Francis, Morgan Bagley, A.J. Diemel, Chad Simpson, Boom Briggs, Mason Zeigler.
Jonathan Davenport absolutely dominated the event, surging from third to first on the opening lap and blasting away to win by over six seconds. Brady Smith finished a distant second and Brandon Sheppard was a couple car lengths back in third. Polesitter Chase Junghans slid high through turns one and two on the opening lap and finished fourth.
Finish (top three transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Brady Smith, Brandon Sheppard, Chase Junghans, Dennis Erb Jr., Wendell Wallace, Chub Frank, Doug Blashe.
Jason Feger ran away with the 15-lap prelim — and he knew he had a pretty large lead over the battle for second. “I was looking up at the Jumbotron (in turn one) and I could see Jimmy (Mars) and Shannon (Babb) having a pretty good race for second,” said Feger. Mars ended up holding off Babb for the runner-up spot, crossing the finish line a straightaway behind Feger. Mars and Babb were lapping Todd Frank on the final lap — with Babb underneath Mars on the backstretch — when Frank lost control and spun in turn four.
Finish (top three transfer): Jason Feger, Jimmy Mars, Shannon Babb, Chris Simpson, John Blankenship, Rick Eckert, Brandon Overton, Travis Dickes, Todd Frank.
Returning to the supersonic form he flashed over the past two weeks but lost during Thursday night’s World of Outlaws program, Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., clicked off a lap of 14.002 seconds during Group 1 to earn overall fast-time honors.
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., meanwhile, was fastest in Group 2 with a lap of 14.301 seconds.
With the top nine from each group inverted to line up the six 15-lap heats, the fast-timers will start third in their respective prelims.
Polesitters will be Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., Jorday Yaggy of Rochester, Minn., and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn.
The top three finishers from each heat race will transfer to Saturday night’s USA Nationals 100. Each heat winner will redraw for a starting spot in Friday night’s 6-lap dash, which will have its finishing order determine the first six starting positions in the headliner.
Drivers experiencing problems during time trials included Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., who slapped the backstretch wall and stopped on the track after completing one off-the-pace circuit; A.J. Diemel of Elk Mound, Wis., who rolled to a stop between turns three and four without completing a circuit; and Travis Dickes of Madison, Neb., who slowed on the speedway.
• Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., swapped engines on Friday afternoon after experiencing some problems under the hood Thursday night, while Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, pulled out his second Dave and Michelle Runkle-owned car for Friday’s competition after feeling that the machine he ran on Thursday evening was plagued by a “flat” motor.
The 32-year-old Drown, by the way, is not only making his first appearance at Cedar Lake, but also racing farther west than he ever has in his career.
• Garrett Alberson, the Las Cruces, N.M., driver who is now living in Shreveport, La., while working at Ronnie Stuckey’s shop, had the engine in his Roger Rister-owned car melt down during a B-Main on Thursday night. The up-and-coming 25-year-old driver had to drop Rister’s backup powerplant in the machine for the remainder of the weekend, which isn’t great news for Alberson or his Friesen, La.-based car owner.
The engine Alberson is now using is a spec engine — the same piece that helped Alberson to a runner-up finish in a recent SUPR tour event at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark. — so he’ll be approximately 200 horsepower down to his competition.
“Think the water truck driver takes bribes?” Alberson joked, noting that he needs a dry track to have any hope of keeping pace with his open-competition rivals.
• Thursday-night WoO winner Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., has a veritable army of his MB Customs No. 28 machines sitting ready for action in the pit area. Not only does he have his own spec-engine car unloaded so he can pull double-duty — he’ll run the NASCAR Late Model show in addition to the WoO program — but he’s also fielding a second spec-motor vehicle for A.J. Diemel of Elk Mount, Wis., to join him in the NASCAR-sanctioned action.
Diemel, who works for Jimmy and Chris Mars at the MB Customs shop, was victorious in his last appearance in Mars’s car just one week ago at Cedar Lake.
Mars, meanwhile, is making just his third start of the season with his spec-engine mount. His only previous outings were a pair of weekend events in mid-May at his hometown Red Cedar Speedway, where in one of the races he went for a spin after a scrape with his brother-in-law Scott Gilbert.
• Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., is the only new addition to the field. He did not compete in Thursday night’s program because he was unable to get away from duties at his family’s business until the end of the work day.
Unzicker is making his first-ever appearance at the USA Nationals, but he’s no stranger to the track. He’s been making annual visits in recent years with the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals — in fact, he was at CLS just a month-and-a-half ago for the Hell Tour event.
Of course, Unzicker would like to forget his last trip to Cedar Lake. He broke two motors that night, forcing him to start the feature in a borrowed ride and make hastily rework his engine program to continue running the series.
Unzicker is hoping for better luck this time — though he did point out with a shudder, “We’re parked in the same spot (in the pit area) that we did in June.”
• Drivers who competed last night but are not entered in Friday’s action are Caley Emerson, Justin Hirt, Tim Isenberg and Brent Larson — all racers who will compete only in Friday’s NASCAR Late Model division. Their departure from the WoO field puts Friday’s car count at 50; there are 45 NASCAR Late Models signed in.
Mars, meanwhile, is one of four drivers who will pull WoO/NASCAR Late Model double-duty, joining Jeff Provenzino of Hibbing, Minn., Todd Frank of Montrose, Iowa, and Lance Matthees of Winona, Minn.
The 27th annual USA Nationals weekend continues on Friday night at Cedar Lake Speedway with a World of Outlaws Late Model Series qualifying program. Time trials and 15-lap heat races will be contested to set a portion of the field for Saturday night’s $50,000-to-win 100-lapper.
Two Late Model dashes will also be part of Friday’s card. One will pit the heat winners in a battle for starting spots in Saturday night’s 100-lapper, and the other will feature the drivers who came to Cedar Lake as part of the traditional FANSFund program.
Ten drivers accepted invitations to participate at Cedar Lake as part of the FANSFund, which annually raises money through fan and sponsor donations in an effort to attract additional entrants to the crown-jewel event. This year’s FANSFund drivers include Garrett Alberson of Las Cruces, N.M.; Travis Dickes of Madison, Neb.; Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio; Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Ark.; John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va.; Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill.; Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga.; Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill.; and Ryan Unzicker of El Paso, Ill., who wasn’t on hand for Thursday night’s action.
In a first for the FANSFund, the participating the drivers will compete in a dash to determine the amount of money they receive from the fund. The race will pay $2,500 to win and a minimum of $1,200 to start.
FANSFund invitees who were unable to enter the USA Nationals included Jason Hiett of Oxford, Ala., Jon Henry of Ada, Ohio, and Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va.
Friday’s program, which also includes a full show for Cedar Lake’s NASCAR Late Model division, is scheduled to begin with hot laps at 6:15 p.m. CT. Time trials are set for 7 p.m., followed by racing starting at 7:30 p.m.
(15 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Jimmy Mars, Jason Feger
Row 2: Shannon Babb, Chris Simpson
Row 3: John Blankenship, Rick Eckert
Row 4: Brandon Overton, Todd Frank
Row 5: Travis Dickes
Row 1: Chase Junghans, Brady Smith
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Wendell Wallace, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 4: Chub Frank, Doug Blashe
Row 1: Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Steve Francis
Row 3: Morgan Bagley, Chad Simpson
Row 4: Boom Briggs, A.J. Diemel
Row 1: Clint Smith, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Lance Matthees
Row 3: Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 4: Shane Clanton, Garrett Alberson
Row 1: Jordan Yaggy, Brian Birkhofer
Row 2: Frank Heckenast Jr., Eric Wells
Row 3: Davey Johnson, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Jeff Provenzino, Shawn Polonoski
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Nick Anvelink
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Adam Hensel
Row 3: Doug Drown, Don O’Neal
Row 4: Tim Fuller, Ryan Unzicker
Time trials results
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 14.002
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 14.152
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 14.161
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.17
Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 14.176
Jason Feger (25F), Bloomington, Ill., 14.189
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 14.213
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 14.284
Jimmy Mars (28M), Menomonie, Wis., 14.382
Chris Simpson (32s), Oxford, Iowa, 14.392
Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., 14.425
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 14.494
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 14.684
Wendell Wallace (1W), Batesville, Ark., 14.748
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 14.871
Rick Eckert (1), York, Pa., 14.877
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.898
Chad Simpson (25s), Mt. Vernon, Iowa, 14.931
Brandon Overton (5), Appling, Wis., 14.937
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.011
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 15.109
Todd Frank (21F), Montrose, Iowa, 15.283
Doug Blashe (1B), Marion, Wis., 15.365
A.J. Diemel (58), Elk Mound, Wis., N/T
Travis Dickes (6d), Madison, Neb., N/T
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.301
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Frankfurt, Ill., 14.365
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.379
Nick Anvelink (15a), Navarino, Wis., 14.418
Brian Birkhofer (15b), Muscatine, Iowa, 14.43
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 14.436
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.486
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., 14.58
Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 14.607
Lance Matthees (90), Winona, Minn., 14.709
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 14.711
Adam Hensel (33x), Baldwin, Wis., 14.714
Brian Shirley (81), Chatham, Ill., 14.716
Davey Johnson (1J), Latrobe, Pa., 14.792
Doug Drown (20d), Wooster, Ohio, 14.806
Billy Moyer Jr. (21Jr), Batesville, Ark., 14.808
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 14.847
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 14.912
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 14.951
Jeff Provenzino (28P), Hibbing, Minn., 14.989
Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 15.07
Garrett Alberson (4), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.125
Shawn Polonoski (316), Thunder Bay, Ont., 15.605
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 16.7
Gregg Hill (8), Evelith, Minn., N/T
Order of events
• WoO hot laps
• NASCAR Late Model hot laps
• WoO time trials (three cars at a time; two laps)
• NASCAR Late Model heats (12 laps)
• WoO heats (15 laps)
• NASCAR Late Model B-Main(s) (15 laps)
• FANSFund Late Model dash
• WoO heat winners dash (6 laps)
• NASCAR Late Model feature (40 laps)