BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 18) — Scott Bloomquist rekindled his love affair with Volusia Speedway Park Wednesday night.
The veteran 51-year-old racer from Mooresburg, Tenn., mastered the half-mile oval's tricky clay surface during Wednesday night's DIRTcar Nationals feature, leading all 40 laps of the caution-free race for a $10,000 UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Late Model victory.
"I love this racetrack," said Bloomquist, who recorded his 10th career DIRTcar Nationals triumph as Volusia closed out its stretch of UMP DIRTcar action ahead of three straight nights of World of Outlaws Late Model Series programs Thursday through Saturday. "It's so demanding and has so much character. There's nothing like it really anywhere. It's definitely one of my top three racetracks I love coming to."
Bloomquist, who has now claimed at least one DIRTcar Nationals victory in every season since 2011, was nearly untouchable in racing to his first win of the season. He took command from the outside pole and never looked back.
Third-starting Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., briefly closed within striking distance as Bloomquist entered lapped traffic midway through the race, but Bloomquist quickly stretched his advantage once he cleared the slower cars.
"Sometimes a good car drives itself," said Bloomquist, who steered his Durham-powered Sweet-Bloomquist Race Car to the convincing triumph. "But you got to work at this place. I love racetracks that are a challenge."
McDowell settled for the runner-up finish, 1.923 seconds behind Bloomquist. Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, was third with reigning WoO champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., advancing from the ninth starting spot to finish fourth. Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., who won Monday’s DIRTcar Nationals opening round feature, started and finished fifth, but he slipped as far as eighth early in the race and rallied late, even briefly slipping ahead of Lanigan on lap 38 before ceding fourth place back.
Making his first appearance at this year's DIRTcar Nationals, McDowell at times appeared to be able to keep pace with Bloomquist in traffic, but he was never able to mount a serious challenge. The veteran driver, who spent the first week of the DIRTcar Nationals assisting UMP Modified drivers Austin and Ty Dillon, fell just short of claiming his third career DIRTcar Nationals victory.
"It took me a little bit of time there to get going," said McDowell, who hasn't won a DIRTcar Nationals A-Main since winning in back-to-back seasons in 1998-99. "I've been working with modifieds this week and this was our first night out with this thing. We did good. We made some adjustments, but we've got some work to do for tomorrow night.
"We'll work on this thing and see if we can't get it closer to the front — one spot more tomorrow night."
After dropping back to fourth form his pole starting spot, Bagley recovered to take third from Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., on lap 16 on his way to recording his first DIRTcar Nationals podium finish.
"It wasn't a bad night," said Bagley, whose previous best DIRTcar Nationals performance was a sixth-place finish in 2012. "We finally got qualified good and got to start up front. We just got to work on this thing and get her better so maybe we can get up there and get us a trophy."
Landers slid back to sixth at the finish after pressuring McDowell for second early in the race. Three-time WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., advanced from his 17th starting spot to finish seventh with Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., eighth. Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., ran in the top 10 throughout the distance and finished ninth with fellow Keystone State driver Gregg Satterlee of Rochester Mills, Pa., rounding out the top 10 after starting seventh.
Notes: After ending the 2014 season with a historic run of success, Bloomquist’s first win of ’15 came in his ninth start of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks. He had three previous top-five finishes. … Bloomquist ranks second on the Volusia’s alltime DIRTcar Nationals win list behind the 19 tallied by Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who finished 13th in Wednesday night’s feature. His first triumph in the February meet came in 1994. … The 40-lap event was completed in 12 minutes, 46.621 seconds. … The DIRTcar Nationals continue Thursday at Volusia with the first of three straight nights of $10,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series programs.
With the 30-lap DIRTcar big-block modified feature complete — Brett Hearn of Sussex, N.J., was victorious in the non-stop race, with notable Late Model faces Tim Fuller finishing 16th and Vic Coffey placing 23rd — the 40-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Late Model feature rolled onto the track at 10:15 p.m.
First B-main (10 laps; top 2 transfer): Tyler Brueing, Kenny Pettyjohn, Dennis Franklin, Chad Hollenbeck, Terry English, Billy Ogle Jr., Rick Eckert, Justin Rattliff (DNS) Steve Francis, Stacy Boles, Jordan Yaggy.
Second B-main (10 laps; top 2 transfer): Mason Zeigler, TIm McCreadie, Earl Pearson Jr., Stormy Scott, Chase Junghans, Dan Stone, Tyler Clem, Ricky Weiss, James Rice, Casey Roberts.
Third B-main (10 laps; top 2 transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Boom Briggs, Mark Dotson, Michael Norris, Gregg Hill, Donny Schatz, Walker Arthur, Jeff Beyers, Mike Hammerle (DNS) Rodney Sanders.
Dale McDowell outgunned polesitter Billy Moyer for the lead at the start and kept the Hall of Famer at bay, winning by 1.305 seconds. Eric Wells briefly threatened Moyer late in the distance but settled for third place.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Dale McDowell, Billy Moyer, Eric Wells, Mark Dotson, Michael Norris, Gregg Hill, Walker Arthur (DNS) Rodney Sanders.
Shane Clanton continued his strong DIRTcar Nationals showing, leading from flag-to-flag to defeat Frank Heckenast Jr. by 1.838 seconds. Josh Richards finished a distant third.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Shane Clanton, Frank Heckenast Jr., Josh Richards, Dennis Erb Jr., Boom Briggs, Donny Schatz, Jeff Beyers, Mike Hammerle.
Scott Bloomquist rolled to the checkered flag, leading all the way and beating Chub Frank by 1.541 seconds. Kyle Bronson took the third and final transfer spot, holding off Mason Zeigler, who slid high on the opening lap and fell from the pole to fourth. A caution flag flew on lap two due to debris — a piece of a header pipe — on the homestretch.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Chub Frank, Kyle Bronson, Mason Zeigler, Earl Pearson Jr., Chase Junghans, Casey Roberts, James Rice.
Jonathan Davenport absolutely dominated the 8-lap prelim, leading every circuit to defeat Darrell Lanigan by a commanding margin of 4.712 seconds. Lanigan, who started fifth, passed Tim McCreadie for third on lap three and overtook Kent Robinson for second entering turn one on the final lap. Robinson settled for third, while McCreadie finished fourth and will have to run a B-Main.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Jonathan Davenport, Darrell Lanigan, Kent Robinson, Tim McCreadie, Stormy Scott, Dan Stone, Ricky Weiss, Tyler Clem.
Morgan Bagley cruised to victory, beating Don O'Neal by 1.479 seconds. Brandon Sheppard turned back a challenge from Kenny Pettyjohn to finish third and move on to the A-Main.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Morgan Bagley, Don O'Neal, Brandon Sheppard, Kenny Pettyjohn, Dennis Franklin, Justin Rattliff, Billy Ogle Jr., Stacy Boles.
Jared Landers overtook Gregg Satterlee for the lead on lap two and beat Satterlee to the finish line by 1.413 seconds. A three-car battle for the third and final transfer spot saw Charles LaPlant top Tyler Bruening and Chad Hollenbeck for the show position. Just six cars contested the event; Steve Francis and Jordan Yaggy scratched (Yaggy entered the evening's program just to take hot laps), while Rick Eckert tagged the rear just to get some practice circuits on his new car.
Finish (top 3 transfer): Jared Landers, Gregg Satterlee, Charles LaPlant, Tyler Bruening, Chad Hollenbeck, Terry English, Rick Eckert (DNS) Steve Francis, Jorday Yaggy.
Picking up where he left off with a victory on Monday night, Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., blazed around the half-mile oval in 15.788 seconds during group qualifying to register the overall fastest lap. He will start from the pole position in Heat 5.
Other group fast-timers and heat polesitters are Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark.; Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind.; Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga.; Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa.; and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.
Four drivers did not record a qualifying time: Steve Francis, who crashed during hot laps; Jordan Yaggy; Casey Roberts; and Walker Arthur.
Francis crashes hard
Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., barely got up to speed in hot laps before he jumped the cushion in turns one and two and slammed the outside wall. The fierce impact ripped off the right side bodywork of his Clint Bowyer Racing machine; its right-front tire was pulled from the rim and a wheel-cover ended up lodged in the steel guardrail.
"We don't know what happened," said Francis, who escaped the accident without injury. "It bounced a little and then turned dead right. I thought it was gonna hit head-on, but I managed to get it turned a little bit."
Despite the severe look of his damaged car, Francis reported the machine wasn't in that bad of shape.
"We could actually be ready for the heat," said Francis, noting that the bulk of the damage was to the bodywork (plus the right-front lower-control arm and shocks). "But we're just gonna take our time and get it ready for tomorrow night."
After a rainout on Tuesday, the DIRTcar Nationals continue Wednesday with a 40-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned event paying $10,000 to win. The World of Outlaws Late Model Series takes the spotlight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights — all shows topped by 50-lap A-Mains paying $10,000 to the victor.
Wednesday night’s program includes group qualifying, six heat races, three B-Mains and the 40-lap headliner. Group qualifying by heat races will be utilized.
After rain soaked the track from early Tuesday afternoon until shortly after midnight, the skies have cleared and the sun is shining over Volusia for Wednesday’s action. Temperatures have cooled into the 50s, however, and a brisk wind is blowing as well. … Several drivers will hit the track tonight after sitting out Monday’s program, including Steve Francis, Don O’Neal, Jonathan Davenport, Dale McDowell, Dennis Franklin, Morgan Bagley, Stormy Scott and Jared Landers. … Jimmy Owens said he will take tonight’s program off and start racing Thursday evening because he still has some work to do on his car, including an engine change that his crew had underway late this afternoon. … WoO rookie aspirant Jorday Yaggy was planning to be a spectator tonight after losing an engine during a heat race on Monday night, but he made a last-minute decision to enter the program after installing a backup powerplant … Kentuckian James Rice has his Dirt Late Model out for the first time. His brother, Josh, ran a UMP modified for the past week. … With his feature rollover on Monday night leaving his MasterSbilt by Huey car with “too much (damage) to fix here,” Rick Eckert said will enter a car tonight that hasn’t yet hit the track. The 49-year-old Eckert, who wasn’t injured, reported that Monday marked the first time in his distinguished career that he’s flipped a Dirt Late Model — though Eckert did experience a rollover when he ran a sprint car early in his career. … Frank Heckenast Jr. parked his car on Friday night after noticing fuel-pressure problems during hot laps. While he has installed a backup motor for tonight’s action, he said he shut off his car on Monday before the powerplant suffered serious damage. … Two familiar faces to Dirt Late Model fans — Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., and Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y. — aren’t in full-fender action this week but have arrived in the pit area with their big-block modifieds.
Heat race lineups
(8 laps; top 4 transfer; lineups set from group qualifying results)
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 16.116
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 16.292
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.736
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Mo., 17.039
Terry English (96), Benton, Ky., 17.259
Chad Hollenbeck (4ds), Kingsley, Pa., 17.343
Rick Eckert (7V), York, Pa., 17.574
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., no time
Jordan Yaggy (77), Rochester, Minn., no time
Don O'Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 16.271
Morgan Bagley (14M), Tyler, Texas, 16.28
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 16.523
Brandon Sheppard (b5), New Berlin, Ill., 16.580
Dennis Franklin (2), Gaffney, S.C., 16.747
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.858
Stacy Boles (11), Clinton, Tenn., 16.884
Billy Ogle Jr. (201), Knoxville, Tenn., 16.939
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 16.445
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.524
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 16.556
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingly, Manitoba, 16.582
Dan Stone (21d), Thompson, Pa., 16.664
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 16.664
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.669
Tyler Clem (14), St. Petersburg, Fla., 17.160
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.422
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.594
Chase Junghans (18c), Manhattan, Kan., 16.604
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 16.702
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.728
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.887
James Rice (11), Verona, Ky., 17.251
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., no time
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.788
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99Jr), Orland Park, Ill., 16.238
Boom Briggs (99b), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.272
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.779
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.962
Donny Schatz (15), Fargo, N.D., 17.24
Jeff Beyers (27), Pana, Ill., 18.385
Mike Hammerle (16), St. Charles, Mo., 19.437
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 16.099
Dale McDowell (17M), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.63
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.632
Rodney Sanders (20), Happy, Texas, 16.757
Mark Dotson (85d), Cameron, Mo., 16.991
Gregg Hill (8), Evelith, Minn., 17.356
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 17.469
Walker Arthur (87), Forrest, Va., no time