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Eldora Speedway

Bloomquist OK, but rare flip ruins bid at Eldora

June 10, 2024, 8:24 pm
By Kevin Kovac
DirtonDirt.com senior writer
Scott Bloomquist walked away from his scary wreck. (Tyler Carr)
Scott Bloomquist walked away from his scary wreck. (Tyler Carr)

ROSSBURG, Ohio (June 8) — Scott Bloomquist was standing on the roof of his trailer in the Eldora Speedway pit area after Saturday’s Dream XXX heat races when fellow driver Dale McDowell climbed the ladder to pay him a visit.

“I’m just checking on you,” McDowell told Bloomquist. “Us old guys can’t be crashing like that.” | Complete Dream coverage

Mooresburg, Tenn.’s Bloomquist — at 60, two years older than his racing pal from Chickamauga, Ga. — laughed. He told McDowell that he was OK, but he understood his concern. The Hall of Famer had, after all, just survived a wreck during the second heat race that just might have been the worst of his storied career.

That Bloomquist was able to spectate from atop his hauler warmed the hearts of McDowell and everyone else in the Dirt Late Model world. There was a true hush that fell over the Eldora property — and no doubt in every home watching on FloRacing — when Bloomquist’s familiar No. 0 went into a wild series of gyrations at the end of the backstretch and came to rest upside down in a smoldering heap.

But Bloomquist was conscious when safety crews reached him, and, after his car was gently righted, he climbed out. He gingerly walked toward the ambulance — his gait, of course, is already hampered by the leg injuries he suffered in a March 2019 motorcycle accident and a subsequent hip replacement surgery — and gave the crowd a double victory-sign wave before entering the vehicle to take a ride to the infield care center for a checkup.

“It’s really just another day in paradise, how’s that?” Bloomquist, his sense of humor intact, told DirtonDirt.com’s Derek Kessinger in an interview on his trailer roof after he had been cleared by the medical team and changed into street clothes.

Bloomquist was a bit perturbed by the turn of events, though. He was his ever-confident self entering the evening’s finale, declaring during the afternoon autograph session that his felt he could take advantage of a pole starting spot in his heat, start up front in the 100-lap feature and claim the six-figure winner’s purse for a ninth time. After the crash turned his Terry Wolfenbarger-owned Team Zero machine into a mangled mess, he felt he had been robbed of his shot at a return to glory at the half-mile oval where he owns a record 12 crown jewel triumphs.

The incident occurred on the fourth lap of the prelim. Bloomquist had slipped backward into a battle for fourth place with Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who has run Bloomquist’s Team Zero Race Cars in the past. Exiting turn two on the fateful circuit, Babb slipped high while Bloomquist surged ahead off the inside. The left-front corner of Babb’s car and the right-rear of Bloomquist’s met in the middle of the backstretch, turning Bloomquist hard to the right.

Bloomquist nosed into the concrete wall — just a few feet before the metal crossover gate in turn three — and launched into a couple spectacular, parts-shedding rollovers. Babb sped away with further involvement and stopped on the track during the red flag with the rest of the field. Bloomquist blamed Babb for the wreck.

“Of anyone on this planet, I never would’ve expected that out of Shannon,” Bloomquist said. “It was pretty blatant, (him) not lifting.

“I felt really confident. I felt like we had no problem getting in the race, and I really felt confident about winning this race tonight. I ain’t really sure what Shannon was thinking there. It looked like, after watching the replay, it looked like he just finished me off and never cracked. You can’t be doing that on a slick racetrack and not be thinking, ‘F--- it.’

“My quarterpanel may not give as easy as he expected is the only thing I can give him any credit on. But they ain’t supposed to give so easy that you should be able to do that. I’ve done it to people. I’ve done it on purpose. I know what it looks like, and it looked like he said, ‘F--- it.’ It’s the highest speed spot on the whole racetrack, and I was not ready for that. I mean, I was racing hard.”

Babb, 50, didn't dispute that he made contact with Bloomquist, commenting, “We did, we bumped.” But he called it “a racing deal.”

“We were both racing hard,” said Babb, who went on to qualify for the Dream finale in a B-main but retired early for a 26th-place finish. “We slid each other twice like a lap before that in both corners, and on that one there, we were just going down the back straightaway and we was both going for the same spot on the racetrack. And we hooked, we hit. There’s a mark on my T-pole on my door where we hit.

“I mean, you never want to get hit in the right-rear going down the straightaways because it turns you in the wall every time. We’re both going wide-open and s--- happens fast. I absolutely feel terrible about it. I didn’t mean to do it, and I know he didn’t mean to do it. We’re just racing hard.

“That’s racing here at Eldora,” he added. “I just thank God that he’s OK. Race cars can be repaired, but as long as he’s walking, we’re good.”

Bloomquist acknowledged that he “made some mistakes” to end up fading from his front-row start. He set up for a heavy racetrack but it turned slick by the time he pulled onto the speedway.

“You’re lined up (in staging for the heat) and once you go past that (commit) line (in the pits) you can’t touch your car,” Bloomquist said. “Then the first heat goes out and you see something that’s not what you expected, so you gotta live and die with basically too loose of a race car, too much stagger.

“I had new tires on the right side, too. I’ve not run these (Hoosier NLMT) tires enough, but I’m hearing that that’s kind of taboo. You gotta get heat cycles on these things. I believe it now. These guys have been running this stuff for a couple of years and we’ve run a short amount of races. They’re definitely not what I’m used to. Just some things you live and learn, growing pains.”

The wild series of flips was an unusual experience for Bloomquist as well. It marked just the third time in his over four decades of racing that he had rolled a car.

“Well, one was a tip-over at Tampa. That wasn’t much,” he said, recalling a soft incident years ago at Florida’s East Bay Raceway Park. “But that one up north, Ray Cook turned me and I barrel-rolled down the fence. That was a good one.”

Bloomquist escaped his previous hellacious flip — in a heat race during a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event on Sept. 17, 2010, at Winchester (Va.) Speedway without injury. In fact, he pulled out a backup car and finished fifth in the feature, a historic race because it was Jonathan Davenport’s first-ever victory on the Lucas Oil tour.

On Saturday, Bloomquist walked away largely unscathed, but he did suffer a gash on his left hand and wrist that the paramedics wrapped in blue bandaging inside the Infield Care Center. He said he also felt some pain in his right elbow and left knee and was expecting his lower back to ache in the morning.

Never losing consciousness, Bloomquist said he was “present” through the entirety of the wreck, which meant he could recall the good and the bad of it.

“I actually enjoy when there’s nothing hitting, and you’re in the air,” Bloomquist said. “That’s the time you better enjoy, because something’s getting ready to happen. And this one landed on the top hard.

“Here’s the first thing you think when you’re upside down — you worry that one of the first guys that get to your car is gonna have a cigarette and goes, ‘Oh s---, let’s help him,’ and throws it down. You see all this fluid running everywhere and you’re just sitting there.”

Notably, Saturday was Bloomquist’s second hard crash in his last three starts. He took a vicious head-on hit from another racer amid a multicar tangle during May 3’s Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series feature at Ultimate Motorsports Park in Elkin, N.C., wiping out the Devin Jones-owned Team Zero car he was running and thus sidelining him until he put together an Eldora deal with Wolfenbarger, his friend and fellow Tennessee racer.

“I raced 36 years without flipping a car here (at Eldora),” Bloomquist said. “I’ve also never destroyed two cars in two weekends, let alone two cars in one year. I’ve never wrecked this many cars in such a short time ever.”

The two wrecks — sandwiching his 11th-place finish in Thursday’s 50-lap Dream preliminary feature — provided a further blow to Bloomquist’s hopes of coming back strong this season from his array of physical and medical issues, including a prostate cancer diagnosis one year ago that led to successful surgery last summer. He hasn’t won a feature since September 2020 and his Eldora aura has faded since his last victory there in the 2018 Dream (his lone top-10 finish in his last 10 crown jewel appearances is sixth in 2019’s World 100), but he still believes he can make noise on the racetrack.

“It’s tough when you go through as many different things health-wise as I have with cancer and hip replacement,” Bloomquist said. “I’m just trying to keep paying bills and you end up having to liquidate (things). I believe, though, people can see, I haven’t lost a damn thing, other than my financial support basically to be able to continue to do this.

“I just really wanna thank the people that have been helping me to try and get back racing again. Devin Jones especially — he’s not here, he couldn’t make it here tonight. And then Terry Wolfenbarger, he owns (Saturday’s) car. Scot Smith (Georgia driver Garrett Smith’s father), it’s his engine in the car.

“I think we’re way better than people got to see tonight and I just hope like hell I get back here for the World (in September),” he added. “I know I’m not done yet. I know I’m gonna win more races here.”

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