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Daily Dirt 04/02/2023 03:54:27

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March 1
Cherokee Speedway,
Gaffney, SC
Sanction: XR Southern All Star Series (Ginger Owens Memorial March Madness) - $12,000
Information provided by: Series and track reports (last updated March 3, 6:22 am)
McDowell cruises to SAS March Madness victory
Ginger Owens Memorial March Madness
  1. Dale McDowell
  2. Michael Brown
  3. Jonathan Davenport
  4. Casey Roberts
  5. Chris Madden
  6. Kyle Hardy
  7. Brandon Overton
  8. Ross Bailes
  9. Pearson Lee Williams
  10. Ashton Winger
  11. Dennis Franklin
  12. Benji Hicks
  13. Sam Seawright
  14. Ryan Gifford
  15. Billy Franklin
  16. Darrell Lanigan
  17. Kyle Strickler
  18. Adam Yarbrough
  19. Mark Dodson
  20. Kenny Collins
  21. Zack Mitchell
  22. Chris Ferguson
  23. Trent Ivey
  24. Austin Kirkpatrick
presented by
Zack Kloosterman/ZSK Photography
Dale McDowell poses in Cherokee Speedway victory lane with the children of the late Ginger Owens.
What won the race: Winning his first race with the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series in more than a decade, Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., led flag to flag Sunday at Cherokee Speedway for his first career March Madness victory. McDowell earned $12,000 in finishing 0.225 of a second ahead of Michael Brown in the 60-lap main event.
Winner's sponsors: McDowell’s Bloomquist Race Car is powered by a Clements Racing Engine and sponsored by E-Z-Go, New Era Industrial, Quality Natural Gas, Will Kinzer Foundation, Cometic Gasket and Klotz Lubricants.
Points chase: It’s the season opener for the Southern All Stars. David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., is the reigning champion.
Current weather: Sunny, 56°F
Car count: 29
Fast qualifier: Dale McDowell
Time: 15.717 seconds
Heat race winners: Michael Brown, Dale McDowell, Casey Roberts, Jonathan Davenport
Consolation race winners: Benji Hicks, Sam Seawright
Provisional starters: Kenny Collins, Mark Dodson
Next series race: March 28, Thunderhill Raceway Park (Summertown, TN) $4,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
From staff and series reports

GAFFNEY, S.C. — There’s not much that Dale McDowell hasn’t accomplished in Dirt Late Model racing. The Chickamauga, Ga., driver is a National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame inductee and a winner of multiple crown jewels, including the 2014 Dream and 2005 World 100, both at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.

But despite a laundry list of accomplishments entering Sunday’s Ginger Owens Memorial March Madness XVIII — accomplishments that included 40 career South All Star Dirt Racing Series feature victories — the 1994 series champion had never won a Southern All Star race at South Carolina’s famed Cherokee Speedway, nor had he ever won Cherokee’s traditional season-opening event.

Check and check.

From his outside front row starting position, McDowell pulled ahead of polesitter Michael Brown of Pageland, S.C., on the opening lap and led all 60 circuits at the high-speed 4/10-mile oval, winning his first Southern All Star main event in more than a decade while earning $12,000. Brown finished a scant 0.225 of a second back in second, while four-time March Madness winner Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., was third. Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., finished fourth and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., completed the top five.

A poignant McDowell, speaking to Southern All Stars announcer Dewayne Keith in victory lane, shared what it meant to win the event, which, for the second year in a row, honored the late Owens, the former Cherokee Speedway scorer who died Feb. 20, 2019 after losing her battle with cancer.

“It was great to win this race … for Ginger (Owens), and (son) Jay, (daughter) Jaycee and their dad (Jason Owens), for everybody,” McDowell said. “She was a solid supporter. She actually worked for me up at Boyd’s Speedway doing some scoring at one time. We had the scoring all messed up and she come up there and she was awesome, an awesome person and put on an awesome fight. So, very honored to win this race and for you race fans to come out and support that cause. She fought hard with cancer … just awesome.”

The victory also came a week after the passing of Joe Dover, the stepfather and longtime supporter of McDowell and his brother and car owner Shane. Dover was buried Saturday.

“I lost my stepdad a couple days ago, so this win’s for him,” McDowell said. “Shane and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Joe Dover and his support and his sons Mack and Randy. He supported us back in the ‘80s when I ran some ARCA races. And then he and my mom got married and was married for, I don’t know, 20-something years. He was just really supportive.”

McDowell’s tribute was a flag-to-flag victory. While he was the leader on every scored lap, McDowell did have a tense moment just before the halfway mark as he caught the slower cars of Sam Seawright of Rainsville, Ala., and Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, N.C.

With everyone hugging the preferred line near the bottom of the track, McDowell patiently waited for a hole to open up only to have Brown drive even lower. Though he nosed ahead as they raced off of turn two and down the backstretch, Brown conceded the position in turn three and McDowell pulled back ahead.

“(The track) was so line sensitive in traffic,” McDowell said. “We went down there one time and they was beating and banging in front of us trying to pass and I moved out and Michael was right there and I was like, ‘Uh oh, I better get back to where I’m in guard mode.’ But he took it easy on me.”

After giving up the lead on the opening lap, Brown said he was counting on the traffic to perhaps lend some help.

“It was really one of them things where I was just hoping maybe lapped traffic would get in his way,” said Brown. “You know, obviously, (with a) clean track he had a lot better car than I had right there. So I was just hoping I could capitalize in lapped traffic and I got beside him one time, but wasn’t able to make the pass.”

In five previous March Madness starts, McDowell has been near the front, finishing in the top five in three of his first four March Madness features with a best finish of second in 2010 behind fellow hall-of-famer Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn.

Other solid finishes — including a third in ’09 and fifth in 2012 — pointed that the 53-year-old was close to a Cherokee breakthrough. But Sunday marked the first time he’d competed in the event since finishing 16th in 2014. McDowell credited his Bloomquist Race Car and his brother Shane for finally ending his March Madness skid.

“These cars are on point. My brother tweaks and does that stuff, so he had (the car) good enough that I couldn’t even mess it up today,” McDowell said. “So that’s pretty good. It was awesome to win here. I hadn’t been here in awhile. It was just one of them deals where, when we come back here we just needed a good qualifying effort and that worked out for us.”

Notes: Dale McDowell’s 41st career Southern All Stars victory ranks third on the tour’s all-time win list behind Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C. … His last SAS victory came on April 28, 2007 at Talladega (Ala.) Short Track. … McDowell’s last victory at Cherokee was on July 3, 2012. He drove then-teammate Ty Dillon’s car to victory in the Robert Pursley Memorial, leading all 40 laps and pocketing $5,000 in the Battle of the Eastern All Stars event. … Sunday’s race was slowed by a caution on the initial start, but went 60 caution-free laps after that. … On the opening lap Trent Ivey of Union, S.C., spun entering turn one, collecting Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., and four others, requiring a complete restart. Both Ivey and Austin Kirkpatrick of Ocala, Fla., were done for the day, while Ferguson retired after completing one lap. … It was the second race for runner-up Michael Brown in a new McLeod Racing-backed Rocket XR1 Chassis. “Hopefully we’ll build us a notebook and be strong this year,” he said. … McDowell led by 0.896 seconds at the halfway mark and extend his advantage to 1.603 seconds with 15 laps remaining before Brown began slicing into the deficit late. … Jonathan Davenport said he wasn’t planning to be in action this weekend, but made a late decision to enter the event about three hours from home. “Thanks to my guys Jason, Tyler and Matt. They done a great job,” said Davenport. “We weren’t gonna come here, but we decided to at the last minute, so thanks to them guys for getting (the car) ready.” … Fifteen of the 24 starters were running at the finish with 13 completing all 60 circuits. … Johnny Pursley, Tim Vance, Brian Ledbetter, Payton Freeman and Bubba Russell were among drivers failing to transfer to the feature. … The SAS tour made its lone stop at Cherokee on the 2020 season. … Bryan Mullis of Rock Hill, S.C., won the Crate Late Model feature.

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