NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 2) — Jimmy Owens added another crown jewel to his lustrous resume Saturday night at Cedar Lake Speedway, claiming a dramatic $50,050 victory in the 27th annual USA Nationals.
Owens, the 42-year-old veteran Dirt Late Model driver from Newport, Tenn., gave up the lead three times in the 100-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series event but battled back each time to regain the top spot en route to his first career USA Nationals victory.
The race's most dramatic moments came in the final 20 laps when Owens raced back and forth with 17-year-old Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. The two drivers swapped the lead and swapped paint multiple times as the laps counted down before Owens finally pulled ahead for good on lap 95 and edged away to an advantage of 1.083 seconds at the finish.
"There was way too much excitement going on for me," said Owens, whose victory came in his sixth career USA Nationals feature start. "To bring this race home in front of a crowd like this is pretty awesome, especially putting on a show like we did."
Pierce, making just his third USA Nationals start, settled for second after leading laps 79-86 and 94. Two-time USA Nationals winner Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., finished third after charging forward from the seventh starting spot to lead laps 17-37. Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., advanced from the 15th starting spot to finish fourth while 10th-starting Billy Moyer Jr. of Batesville, Ark., rounded out the top five in a race that ran green after three cautions in the first seven laps.
Mars was the first to seriously challenge Owens, reeling in both him and Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who ran second for much of the race's opening laps. Just as Mars was beginning to look under Davenport, Owens jumped the cushion in turn two, forcing Davenport to check up and allowing Mars to take second and pull alongside Owens for the lead.
Mars and Owens ran side by side for the following two laps before Mars pulled ahead on lap 17 and began to ease away. But Owens battled back, catching Mars just a handful of laps later as slower traffic came into play.
Owens pressured Mars for the next 15 circuits while Pierce worked his way into contention. It was a three-car battle for the lead by lap 30, as Owens began to pull to the outside of Mars and Pierce used the extreme low groove to look under both cars ahead of him.
Owens cleared Mars to retake the lead on lap 37, while Pierce pulled into second on lap 43. Pierce ran down Owens in traffic and was taking looks under the leader by the race's halfway point.
Owens and Pierce ran nose to tail for the majority of the next 25 laps with Mars just behind in third. Pierce upped the pressure around lap 75 before making a bold move to take the lead on 78.
With Owens held up slightly by a slower car in turns three and four, Pierce was able to pull alongside Owens and edged ahead at the completion of lap 78. The two drivers raced door to door into turn one, where heavy contact between the two cars allowed Pierce to pull into the lead and sent Owens up the track as Mars drove into second.
Owens quickly recovered, however, and jumped to the high side as he began making up the lost ground. Owens retook second from Mars on lap 84 and set his sights on Pierce as traffic again became a factor.
The high-running Owens wasted little time moving back ahead of Pierce, catching and passing the low-running leader by lap 87. He began to pull away from there and appeared to be headed for victory before another mistake of his own doing nearly cost him the race.
With Pierce pressuring him in traffic, Owens got too high down the back straightaway on lap 94 and scraped the wall. Owens was able to correct his machine without much damage, but the lost momentum allowed Pierce to pull alongside and edge ahead at the line.
Owens again battled back on the high side, driving alongside Pierce down the back straightaway and pulling ahead after the two cars made contact in turns three and four.
The third time out front proved to be the charm for Owens, as he pulled away in the final five laps.
"It's just good hard racing. We put on a show for the fans," Owens said of his back-and-forth, contact-filled battle with Pierce. "I knew Bobby was real good on that bottom. Once he got by me I knew I was gonna have to do something.
"I really was (surprised) because Bobby's really good at running that bottom. Once I got up on the top there and started rolling I thought 'Well man, I should've been up here the whole time.' "
Pierce attempted to mount one final charge after losing the lead, but his run was stymied by traffic in the closing laps. He was denied what would've been the biggest victory of his young career but settled for a runner-up finish worth more than $20,000.
"That was one of the most exciting races I've ever been in," said Pierce, who scored his third top-10 finish in three career USA Nationals A-Main starts. "To do it with Jimmy Owens just makes it that much more awesome. Coming here, I just was hoping to make the race. Finishing second, it's just phenomenal."
Like Owens, Pierce wasn't fazed by the late-race contact between him and Owens.
"We were both going for that spot and there's a lot of money on the line," Pierce said. "We don't get many opportunities to race for money like this and to be in that opportunity, it was just good hard racing. You just gotta go for it in that situation."
The back-and-forth battle between Owens and Pierce had Mars hoping he may be able to capitalize, but he ended up two positions shy of earning his first USA Nationals victory since 2009.
"We had a good car and got in the lead there. It kinda went away a while and then started coming back at the end," said Mars, who was gunning for a weekend sweep after winning Thursday's WoO tuneup and claiming both of the weekend's NASCAR Late Model features. "They got to running pretty hard there and I thought maybe something would happen between them two and maybe I'd luck up and get this thing anyway. But it didn't work out."
The race was slowed by three cautions, all in the first seven laps. The first appeared with two laps complete when fast qualifier Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., spun in turn two. A stackup between Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., Brian Birkhofer or Muscatine, Iowa, and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., on the ensuing restart left Bloomquist spun in turn four. The final caution waved with seven laps complete when Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., slowed on the front straightway.
Lap 100: Owens slapped the backstretch wall on lap 93 and Pierce went inside to lead lap 94, but then Owens powered off the outside of turn four the following circuit to go back ahead lap 95 and held on to win over Pierce, Mars, Francis and Moyer Jr.
Lap 87: Owens back to lead with outside move by Pierce.
Lap 79: Pierce takes lead from Owens with inside move turn one....contact sends Owens up track and Mars grabs second.
Lap 62: Owens leads Pierce by few car lengths....Mars, Moyer Jr. and Francis follow....
Lap 38: Owens powers off outside to take lead from Mars....Pierce battles Mars for second.
Lap 17: Mars runs the inside to take lead from Owens....
Lap 7: Caution for Chub Frank, who stopped in turn four. Owens had short edge over Davenport; Pierce took third from Feger on lap six with a slider in turn four, while Mars passed McCreadie for fifth just before the caution.
Lap 2: Caution flies again on the restart as a mid-pack scramble coming to the green leaves Bloomquist sitting on the inside berm in turn four. Billy Moyer went through the infield while Birkhofer spun completing around and kept going.
Lap 2: Caution for Zeigler, who spun in turns one and two....Owens leads Davenport, Feger, Pierce and McCreadie....
Green flag: The race went green at 12:06 p.m. CT with Owens leading the first lap.
Pre-race: Cedar Lake's famed driver introductions — the track lights were turned off, music was played and fans waved blinking bracelets as cars rolled onto the track bathed in a spotlight — ended at 11:55 p.m. CT. The lights are now coming back on and the field will be assembling momentarily.
Jimmy Mars was triumphant in the 40-lap NASCAR Late Model feature that ended about 11:10 p.m. CT, making him three-for-three this weekend. He also won Thursday night’s WoO A-Main and Friday evening’s rain-shortened NASCAR Late Model headliner, putting him in position to pull off an unprecedented four-race USA Nationals sweep if he can capture the 100-lap finale. … Provisional starting spots in the USA Nationals were taken by Morgan Bagley and Chub Frank (WoO points); Rick Eckert (top finisher in Thursday night’s WoO feature who didn’t qualify); and Ryan Unzicker (FANSFund). … Fifth-starter Tim McCreadie will bid to become just the third driver to win back-to-back USA Nationals features, joining Billy Moyer (1988-90, 1992-93) and the late Jack Boggs (1994-95). … At 11:25 p.m. CT, the track crew is on the speedway reconditioning the 3/8-mile oval for the USA Nationals 100. It is expected to take at least 20 minutes — and with driver introductions added in, the start of the 100-lapper is looking like it will come around midnight.
Last Chance Race
Wendell Wallace surged into the lead at the initial green flag and never looked back en route to capturing the 15-lap event and a berth in the USA Nationals. Mason Zeigler, who jumped the cushion and slapped the wall between turns three and four while in a transfer spot during a Friday heat race, rebounded well on Saturday; he climbed forward from deep in a B-Main field to finish fourth and then drove to a second-place finish in the Last Chance Race, moving him into the USA Nationals for the first time in his career. Zeigler grabbed second place on lap six with a physical inside move on Morgan Bagley; Zeigler made hard contact with Bagley’s left-side door but hung on to his machine and drove away while Bagley faded to a fourth-place finish.
Finish (top two transfer): Wendell Wallace, Mason Zeigler, Clint Smith, Morgan Bagley, Gregg Satterlee, Ryan Unzicker, Dennis Erb Jr., Frank Heckenast Jr., Shane Clanton, Brandon Overton, John Blankenship (DNS) Brian Shirley, Adam Hensel, Davey Johnson.
Last Chance Race lineup
(12 laps; top two transfer to feature)
Row 1: Morgan Bagley, Wendell Wallace
Row 2: Mason Zeigler, Clint Smith
Row 3: Gregg Satterlee, Ryan Unzicker
Row 4: Brandon Overton, Adam Hensel
Row 5: Frank Heckenast Jr., Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 6: Davey Johnson, Brian Shirley
Row 7: John Blankenship, Shane Clanton
WoO rookie Chase Junghans was flawless from start-to-finish en route to a convincing victory that moved him into his first-ever USA Nationals starting field. Don O’Neal, who took second place from Clint Smith on lap 11, made a bid for the lead with five laps remaining but slid high in turn two and settled for the second and final transfer spot. Wendell Wallace finished third, close to O’Neal’s back bumper after overtaking Smith in a metal-bumping pass on lap 13. A caution flag flew on lap 12 for New Mexico’s Garrett Alberson, who slowed in turn four.
Finish (top two transfer to feature; 3-9 to last-chance race): Chase Junghans, Don O’Neal, Wendell Wallace, Clint Smith, Ryan Unzicker, Adam Hensel, Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Shirley, Shane Clanton, Doug Drown, Tim Fuller, Doug Blashe, Lance Matthees, Garrett Alberson, Chub Frank.
Rebounding from a tough Friday night that saw him drive his spec-motor Late Model in heat action after his open competition machine was sidelined by mechanical trouble during time trials, A.J. Diemel had his Super Late Model purring as he raced to a convincing victory. He passed Chris Simpson for the lead after a lap-seven restart and walked away to a full straightaway margin of victory over the Iowa driver, who claimed the second and final transfer spot. Morgan Bagley pressured Simpson to the finish and Mason Zeigler caught Simpson Bagley on the last lap after grabbing fourth place on lap 14. Caution flags flew on lap four for Jeff Provenzino, who bounced over the cushion between turns three and four but continued on, and lap seven for Rick Eckert, who stopped in turn two with a flat left-rear tire.
Finish (top two transfer to feature; 3-9 to last-chance race): A.J. Diemel, Chris Simpson, Morgan Bagley, Mason Zeigler, Gregg Satterlee, Brandon Overton, Frank Heckenast Jr., Davey Johnson, John Blankenship, Travis Dickes, Boom Briggs, Jeff Provenzino, Todd Frank, Chad Simpson, Rick Eckert, Shawn Polonoski.
8:45 p.m. CT: Opening ceremonies
Hot laps are complete and the racetrack is ready for the start of competition just over 70 minutes later than originally scheduled. The program will begin with four NASCAR Late Model heat races followed by the pair of 20-lap USA Nationals B-Mains.
8:30 p.m. CT: Hot laps underway
Super Late Model drivers in the USA Nationals B-Mains are now on the track practicing on a surface that is shaping up to be lightning-fast — a big difference from the past two nights of competition on a drier, slicker speedway.
Update: 8:10 p.m. CT
The rain is stopped and NASCAR Late Models are on the speedway completing the track run-in process. The drivers were actually given the signal to speed up their circuits just moments ago.
At 7:20 p.m. CT, the track crew is on the speedway working to dry the racing surface after it was hit by moderate showers for nearly a half-hour beginning at 6:35 p.m. — just 10 minutes before the scheduled start of hot laps. Some rain is still dancing around the area, but the precipitation has slowed to light drizzle and it is hoped that action will start once the speedway is rolled in. … Jordan Yaggy of Rochester, Minn., who won a heat race Friday night and will start sixth in the 100-lapper, was forced to pull his primary powerplant and install a backup after developing problems during Friday’s dash for heat winners. … Yaggy is currently the lone driver in the USA Nationals starting field for the first time. Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., is the current starter with the most USA Nationals feature appearances (23). … Brandon Overton of Appling, Ga., has switched to his Troy Baird-owned team’s second car for Saturday’s B-Main. “We just sucked with the other one,” said Overton, who is making his first-ever visit to Cedar Lake. “Something’s messed up with it, so we’re gonna try this other one.” … Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., had a simple answer when asked why he pulled out of his heat race on Friday. “Embarrassed,” said Fuller, who was off the pace in the prelim and now must try to qualify from the back of a B-Main. … WoO points leader Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., plans to take some time off after tonight’s action. Rather than enter next weekend’s North-South 100 at his hometown’s Florence Speedway, he plans to vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with his family. Lanigan’s crew chief, Jason Jameson of Lawrenceburg, Ind., will drive one of Lanigan’s Club 29 machines — the same machine he steered to a UMP DIRTcar Summernationals triumph last month at Florence — in the North-South 100.
(20 laps; top two transfer to feature; 3-9 to Last Chance Qualifier)
Row 1: Chris Simpson, Morgan Bagley
Row 2: Gregg Satterlee, John Blankenship
Row 3: A.J. Diemel, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 4: Rick Eckert, Chad Simpson
Row 5: Davey Johnson, Brandon Overton
Row 6: Boom Briggs, Jeff Provenzino
Row 7: Travis Dickes, Mason Zeigler
Row 8: Shawn Polonoski, Todd Frank
Row 1: Chase Junghans, Clint Smith
Row 2: Don O’Neal, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Brian Shirley, Adam Hensel
Row 4: Wendell Wallace, Shane Clanton
Row 5: Ryan Unzicker, Doug Blashe
Row 6: Lance Matthees, Doug Drown
Row 7: Chub Frank, Garrett Alberson
Row 8: Tim Fuller
The 27th annual USA Nationals weekend concludes on Saturday night at Cedar Lake Speedway with the running of the 100-lap feature paying $50,000 to win.
Two 20-lap B-Mains (with two transferring from each) and a 12-lap last-chance race (two more qualifiers) are on the agenda for the WoO Late Models. The field will be rounded out by two WoO points provisionals; the highest finisher in Thursday night’s WoO A-Main who does not make the feature cut; and a FANSFund provisional.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., earned the pole position for the USA Nationals with his victory in Friday night’s 6-lap dash for heat winners. Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., will take the green flag from the outside pole.
Six of the eight former USA Nationals winners entered in the weekend’s action transferred to the feature through a heat race on Friday night. The elite group includes defending race champion Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. (starts fifth), Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis. (seventh), Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. (ninth), Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa (11th), Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn. (12th), and Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky. (16th). Past victors still not in the field are Rick Eckert of York, Pa., and Davey Johnson of Latrobe, Pa.
With no time trials necessary, Saturday’s action is scheduled to kick off a half-hour later with hot laps at 6:45 p.m. CT. Racing is set for a 7:35 p.m. CT green flag.
Past USA Nationals winners
2013: Tim McCreadie, Watertown, N.Y.
2012: Darrell Lanigan, Union, Ky.
2011: Josh Richards, Shinnston, W.Va.
2010: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2009: Jimmy Mars, Menomonie, Wis.
2008: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2007: Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
2006: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2005: Dale McDowell, Rossville, Ga.
2004: Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
2003: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
2002: Rick Eckert, York, Pa.
2001: Dale McDowell, Rossville, Ga.
2000: Davey Johnson, Greensburg, Pa.
1999: Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
1998: Donnie Moran, Dresden, Ohio
1997: Rick Aukland, Fargo, N.D.
1996: Jimmy Mars, Elk Mound, Wis.
1995: Jack Boggs, Grayson, Ky.
1994: Jack Boggs, Grayson, Ky.
1993: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1992: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1991: Rick Aukland, Fargo, N.D.
1990: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1989: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
1988: Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Order of events (all times CT)
• 6:45 p.m.: Hot laps (all cars except Friday’s USA Nationals A-Main qualifiers)
• 7:20 p.m.: Invocation
• 7:25 p.m.: National anthem
• 7:30 p.m.: Flyover
• 7:35 p.m.: NASCAR Late Model heats (10 laps)
• 8 p.m.: Track prep
• 8:15 p.m.: B-Mains (USA Nationals – 20 laps; NASCAR LM – 12 laps)
• 8:45 p.m.: Hot laps (Friday’s USA Nationals A-Main qualifiers)
• 9:05 p.m.: USA Nationals Last Chance Qualifier (15 laps)
• 9:15 p.m.: NASCAR Late Model feature (40 laps)
• 9:45 p.m.: Intermission/track prep
• 10:05 p.m.: USA Nationals driver introductions
• 10:20 p.m.: USA Nationals 100-lap feature