ROSSBURG, Ohio — On a historic day of racing with plenty of dramatics expected, Chris Ferguson made sure there wasn't any drama in Thursday afternoon's opening Eldora Million prelim.
The Mount Holly, N.C., driver cruised to victory from his pole position at Eldora Speedway, dominating all 25 laps and deftly handling lapped traffic en route to a $12,000 payday that should put him in solid position to contend for Thursday evening's $1,002,022 payday, the richest Dirt Late Model purse in history.
"This is that moment, you know, this is where you win at the biggest track there is in the world," Ferguson said in victory lane. "We might might not be the best every week but right now we're standing up here and just I can't believe it. This year has been awesome."
Ferguson sliced through slower cars fast enough to prevent any challenges from runner-up Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., who took the checkers 1.635 seconds behind the winner. Overall fast qualifier Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., was third followed by Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, and eighth-starting Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill.
In a caution-free affair, Ferguson took command early and raced to his second straight victory, following his $50,000 Show-Me 100 triumph on May 28 at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo.
"I'm so freaking happy," Ferguson said in victory lane. "My dad, my brother, Tadpole, all the crew guys, my girlfriend, my mom, the whole family. A lot of people put a lot into this program and I'm just a lucky guy, the guy to drive today. I'm just blessed. God's great and it feels good to finally get one here."
Dusty conditions made it difficult for some drivers to see signals from crew members, but Ferguson's brother, Brandon Conard, was able to let Ferguson know he had a comfortable margin over Madden.
"I struggled a little bit in (traffic) — we were just a little free in dirty air — but I this is just amazing. Thanks to all my sponsors, man. I'm just so happy to be here and looking forward to racing for a million dollars later on."
Does he think he can come back a few hours later for a seven-figure paycheck? "We have a shot at it," Ferguson said. "We just gotta go out there and race a clean race and be there at the end."
The daytime track surface that was super-slick during heat and consolation races got a little work before the 25-lapper, but Madden elected not to make changes on his Rocket Chassis.
Madden struggled seeing in the dusty conditions, but "got a good start and got to second there behind Chris. Chris, you know, he's got a really good car right now. They've definitely picked up their pace and congratulations to him and his guys.
"But we had a great race car. We didn't do what I thought we needed to do, I didn't do it (with suspension changes). I told my guys, I said, 'We'll just go like we are and see where we're at.' We missed our balance just a little bit, but we'll be great in the Million tonight."
Maddne is looking forward to battling with Ferguson and others in the 101-lap main event.
"I love this place," Madden said. "It's my favorite place to race at. You know, what a way to to bounce back from all the ifs and should-haves and all that you know to win this Million here."
Notes: Ferguson notched his third overall victory of 2022; his other two wins paid $50,000 at the Show-Me 100 and in XR Super Series action at a dirt-covered Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. ... Seventeen of 24 starters completed 25 laps. ... The only two dropouts: Hall of Famer Billy Moyer, who pulled to the infield after 16 laps, and Ross Robinson, who parked after eight laps.
Row 1: Chris Ferguson, Devin Moran
Row 2: Chris Madden, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Daulton Wilson, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Shane Clanton, Kyle Bronson
Row 5: Dennis Erb Jr., Shannon Babb
Row 6: Ricky Weiss, Billy Moyer
Row 7: Tyler Erb, Ashton Winger
Row 8: Kenny Collins, Cade Dillard
Row 9: Frank Heckenast Jr., Mark Whitener
Row 10: Boom Briggs, Wil Herrington
Row 11: Colton Flinner, Ross Robinson
Row 12: Jake Timm, Jeep Van Wormer
Consolation race results
(12 laps; top two transfer)
First consolation: Colton Flinner, Jake Timm, Dale McDowell, Steve Casebolt, Chub Frank, Kent Robinson, Coleby Frye, Kye Blight, Jensen Ford, Austin Neely, Dustin Nobbe, Manny Falcon, Mario Gresham, Todd Brennan, Cody Overton, Gregg Hasketll, Jason Miller, Doug Drown, Dakotah Knuckles, Mack McCarter. Scratched: Scott James, Jeremy Shaw.
Second consolation: Ross Robinson, Jeep Van Wormer, Chad Simpson, Cameron Weaver, Andrew Reaume, Dona Marcoullier, John Blankenship, Donny Schatz, Kyle Hammer, Jay Johnson, Mike Provenzano, Ross Bailes, Austin Kirkpatrick, Bump Hedman, Steven Roberts, Mike Benedum, Ryan Missler, Brenden Smith, Eric Midkiff. Scratched: David Webster.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Colton Flinner, Doug Drown
Row 2: Steve Casebolt, Mack McCarter
Row 3: Austin Neely, Jake Timm
Row 4: Kye Blight, Kent Robinson
Row 5: Dustin Nobbe, Chub Frank
Row 6: Gregg Haskell, Jensen Ford
Row 7: Mario Gresham, Dakotah Knuckles
Row 8: Dale McDowell, Jason Miller
Row 9: Todd Brennan, Cody Overton
Row 10: Coleby Frye, Manny Falcon
Row 11: Scott James, Jeremy Shaw
Row 1: Chad Simpson, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 2: Ross Robinson, Cameron Weaver
Row 3: Andrew Reaume, Dona Marcoullier
Row 4: Brenden Smith, Jay Johnson
Row 5: Austin Kirkpatrick, Donny Schatz
Row 6: Ryan Missler, Ross Bailes
Row 7: Mike Benedum, Mike Provenzano
Row 8: Bump Hedman, John Blankenship
Row 9: Steven Roberts, Eric Midkiff
Row 10: David Webster, Kyle Hammer
Heat race notes
Overall fast-timer Mike Marlar flexed his muscle in the first heat, advancing from the fourth starting spot to emerge victorious. … Eldora Million pre-race favorite Dale McDowell saw his weekend get off to a rough start in the first heat when rear-end failure — perhaps the result of a blow to the back of his car from an unknown pursuer — caused him to limp into the pits while running fourth with one lap remaining. … Carolina drivers Chris Madden and Chris Ferguson — two drivers who enter the Million carrying plenty of momentum from recent rich triumphs — both raced to convincing heat wins. Ferguson unofficially earned the pole position for the preliminary feature. … Ross Bailes’s Billy Hicks-owned car was left with right-rear bodywork damage after a scrape with Kyle Hammer while battling for third sent him spinning into the backstretch’s inside wall on the first lap of the fourth heat. … Seeking his family’s first Eldora checkered flag since his father Donnie won the inaugural Eldora Million in 2001, Devin Moran ran away with the fourth heat. The 27-year-old crossed the finish line ahead of Daulton Wilson, who grabbed second on a late restart from 64-year-old Billy Moyer, one of 14 drivers in today’s field who competed in the 2001 Million.
Heat race results
(12 laps; top five transfer)
First heat: Mike Marlar, Mason Zeigler, Dennis Erb Jr., Tyler Erb, Frank Heckenast Jr., Colton Flinner, Steve Casebolt, Austin Neely, Kye Blight, Dustin Nobbe, Gregg Haskell, Mario Gresham, Dale McDowell, Todd Brennan. Scratched: Scott James.
Second heat: Chris Madden, Kyle Bronson, Shannon Babb, Ashton Winger, Mark Whitener, Doug Drown, Mack McCarter, Jake Timm, Kent Robinson, Chub Frank, Jensen Ford, Dakotah Knuckles, Jason Miller, Cody Overton, Manny Falcon, Jeremy Shaw.
Third heat: Chris Ferguson, Shane Clanton, Ricky Weiss, Kenny Collins, Boom Briggs, Chad Simpson, Ross Robinson, Andrew Reaume, Brenden Smith, Austin Kirkpatrick, Ryan Missler, Mike Benedum, Bump Hedman, Steven Roberts, David Webster.
Fourth heat: Devin Moran, Daulton Wilson, Billy Moyer, Cade Dillard, Wil Herrington, Jeep Van Wormer, John Blankenship, Cameron Weaver, Dona Marcoullier, Jay Johnson, Donny Schatz, Ross Bailes, Mike Provenzano, John Blankenship, Eric Midkiff, Kyle Hammer.
Heat race lineups
(12 laps; top five transfer)
Row 1: Mason Zeigler, Austin Neely
Row 2: Dale McDowell, Mike Marlar
Row 3: Dennis Erb Jr., Kye Blight
Row 4: Tyler Erb, Frank Heckenast Jr.
Row 5: Steve Casebolt, Dustin Nobbe
Row 6: Colton Flinner, Coleby Frye
Row 7: Gregg Haskell, Todd Brennan
Row 8: Mario Gresham, Scott James
Row 1: Shannon Babb, Doug Drown
Row 2: Kyle Bronson, Chris Madden
Row 3: Kent Robinson, Jason Miller
Row 4: Mark Whitener, Ashton Winger
Row 5: Mack McCarter, Chub Frank
Row 6: Jake Timm, Jeremy Shaw
Row 7: Jensen Ford, Cody Overton
Row 8: Manny Falcon, Dakotah Knuckles
Row 1: Brenden Smith, Chris Ferguson
Row 2: Shane Clanton, Kenny Collins
Row 3: Ross Robinson, Boom Briggs
Row 4: Ricky Weiss, Andrew Reaume
Row 5: Ryan Missler, Bump Hedman
Row 6: Chad Simpson, Mike Benedum
Row 7: Austin Kirkpatrick, Steven Roberts
Row 8: David Webster
Row 1: Cade Dillard, Kyle Hammer
Row 2: Ross Bailes, Devin Moran
Row 3: John Blankenship, Billy Moyer
Row 4: Wil Herrington, Daulton Wilson
Row 5: Donny Schatz, Cameron Weaver
Row 6: Jay Johnson, Jeep Van Wormer
Row 7: Dona Marcoullier, Mike Provenzano
Row 8: Eric Midkiff
After heavy rain postponed Wednesday’s Eldora Million preliminary program to a Thursday morning start, teams are racing under partly skies with temperatures in the 70s. … The 124-car field assembled for the Million is just over half the 235 cars that were signed in for the original event in 2001, but it’s one of the largest turnouts for an Eldora crown jewel in more than 10 years. The last time the World 100 drew more entries was in 2010 (134 cars) while the Dream last exceeded today’s roster in 2007 (146 cars). What’s more, the last 100-plus crown jewel fields at Eldora came in 2018 (World 100 with 104 cars) and 2010 (Dream with 104 cars). … The hefty field has Eldora’s overflow upper pit area teeming with haulers. With the track’s helicopter pad surrounded by rigs, the chopper landing and taking off certainly is noticeable. “Stuff (in pit stalls) flies everywhere,” joked upstate New Yorker Dale "Scratch" Munn, a longtime supporter of Watertown, N.Y.’s Tim McCreadie. … Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., the most prolific crown jewel winner in Eldora history and fast-timer and third-place finisher in 2001’s Million, wasn’t yet at the track when Wednesday’s postponement was announced. He arrived shortly thereafter in order to register, draw his qualifying pill and have his car inspected as mandated by officials. … Bloomquist is fielding a second car for open-wheel modified ace Zane DeVilbliss of Farmington, N.M., who has had Bloomquist drive one of his modifieds in special events. … Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., who was the second fastest qualifier in 2001’s Million and finished 24th in the feature, is making his first Eldora crown jewel start in several years. He’s filling in as his cousin Boom Briggs’s teammate with Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., sidelined by the shattered nose he suffered May 29 when a mud clod smashed into his helmet during Eldora’s Johnny Appleseed Classic, but Frank has opted to run his own No. 1* rather than one of Richards’s cars. … The Barry Wright Race Cars house car — fielded by All-Star Concrete’s Benji Cranford — is back in action with modified star Nick Hoffman of Mooresville, N.C., behind the wheel. … Hall of Famer Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., is continuing his recent return from semi-retirement by entering the weekend’s action as a teammate to Illinois veteran Tim Lance. Moyer, who has made four starts for Lance over the past two weeks, has his familiar No. 21 on his machine this week. … World of Outlaws Sprint Car star Donny Schatz of Fargo, N.D., is making his first attempt at a Dirt Late Model crown jewel at Eldora. … Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., has his car sporting a wrap design resembling a machine the fictitious Ricky Bobby drove in the movie Talladega Nights. His crew also is wearing T-shirts resembling those won by Bobby’s team in the comedy flick.
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
- Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 15.584
- Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 15.634
- Kenny Collins (1c), Colbert, Ga., 15.877
- Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 15.879
- Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.923
- Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.927
- Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.935
- Ross Bailes (79), Clover, S.C., 15.944
- Austin Neely (3), New Tazewell, Tenn., 15.963
- Doug Drown (12), Wooster, Ohio, 15.979
- Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 16.026
- Kyle Hammer (45), Clinton, Ill., 16.034
- Mason Zeigler (9z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.141
- Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 16.148
- Brenden Smith (17ss), Dade City, Fla., 16.174
- Cade Dillard (97), Robeline, La., 16.199
- Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.205
- Kent Robinson (7), Bloomington, Ind., 16.211
- Ross Robinson (7), Georgetown, Del., 16.232
- John Blankenship (23), Knoxville, Tenn., 16.235
- Kye Blight (31k), Bunbury, Western Australia, 16.250
- Jason Miller (94), Berryville, Va., 16.256
- Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.261
- Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 16.279
- Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 16.283
- Mark Whitener (5), Middleburg, Fla., 16.300
- Ricky Weiss (7), Headingley, Manitoba, 16.304
- Wil Herrington (19), Cochran, Ga., 16.309
- Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.356
- Ashton Winger (89), Hampton, Ga., 16.388
- Andrew Reaume (88), Blenheim, Ontario, 16.398
- Daulton Wilson (18D), Fayetteville, N.C., 16.402
- Steve Casebolt (C9), Richmond, Ind., 16.419
- Mack McCarter (51m), Gatlinburg, Tenn., 16.457
- Ryan Missler (50), Belleville, Ohio, 16.479
- Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 16.485
- Dustin Nobbe (5N), Batesville, Ind., 16.544
- Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.584
- Bump Hedman (B22), Sugar Grove, Pa., 16.617
- Cameron Weaver (17w), Crossville, Tenn., 16.649
- Colton Flinner (48), Allison Park, Pa., 16.686
- Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 16.730
- Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, 16.733
- Jay Johnson (93), West Burlington, Iowa, 16.738
- Coleby Frye (F1), Dover, Pa., 16.742
- Jeremy Shaw (1s), Millport, Ala., 16.790
- Mike Benedum (25), Salem, W.Va., 16.800
- Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 16.801
- Gregg Haskell (21rh), Chatham, Ontario, 16.806
- Jensen Ford (83), Johnson City, Tenn., 16.839
- Austin Kirkpatrick (11), Harrisburg, N.C., 16.891
- Dona Marcoullier (6m), Houghton Lake, Mich., 16.918
- Todd Brennan (20), Zanesville, Ohio, 16.967
- Cody Overton (97), Evans, Ga., 16.976
- Steven Roberts (111), Sylvester, Ga., 17.108
- Mike Provenzano (M27), Marseilles, Ill., 17.172
- Mario Gresham (21), Rome, Ga., 17.280
- David Webster (44), Monroe, Wis., 17.724
- Manny Falcon (995), Pine Grove, La., 17.764
- Eric Midkiff (1m), Whitehall, Mich., 18.397
- Dakotah Knuckles (21k), Ewing, Va., 17.557 (disqualified; light at scales)
- Scott James (83), Bright, Ind., no time (crash)
7-9:30 a.m. - Breakfast in turn four
9:30 a.m. - Grandstands cleared
10 a.m. - Spectator gates open
10 a.m. - Drivers' meeting
11 a.m. - Hot laps with racing to follow
4:30 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
6:30 p.m.: Hot laps
8 p.m.: Racing begins