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Volusia Speedway Park

Rallying Francis ends Speedweeks drought

February 14, 2009, 6:12 pm
By Kevin Kovac and Todd Turner
Francis is flanked by his parents in victory lane. (thesportswire.net)
Francis is flanked by his parents in victory lane. (thesportswire.net)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 14) — Steve Francis saved his best for the last night of the 38th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH. With a stirring drive forward from the eighth starting spot to win the 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series main that ended the 12-night extravaganza at Volusia Speedway Park, Francis headed home to Ashland, Ky., with a smile on his face and $10,100 in his pocket. | Complete Volusia coverage | Slideshow

“I shouldn’t say, ‘It was about time,’ because no racetrack ever owes you anything,” said Francis, whose best finish in the week’s five other Super Late Model events was a fourth in Thursday’s WoO season opener. “But when you struggle as much as we have down here, it just makes you feel good when you leave here with a win. Now we get to be the guy who won the last race — and we get a month to think about it.”

Francis, 41, nailed the tire choice for his Dale Beitler-owned Rocket car after a post-heat race shower dampened the half-mile oval and delayed the program for one hour. He reached second with a lap-20 pass of Jacksonville, Fla.’s Earl Pearson Jr. and then chased down race-long pacesetter Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., finally grabbing the top spot for good on lap 36.

Smith, who started outside the front row in his Bloomquist Race Car, settled for a runner-up finish, 1.878 seconds behind Francis. The $5,000 outing came after the hopeful 2009 WoO regular failed to qualify for the tour’s lidlifter on Thursday night because of a heat-race accident.

Rick Eckert of York, Pa., finished third in the Raye Vest Racing Bloomquist car, giving him four top-five finishes in six events at Volusia. Completing the top five was fifth-starter Kelly Boen of Henderson, Colo., who enjoyed his best Volusia finish, and Pearson, who ran as high as second after starting sixth. Both drivers were behind the wheel of Rocket cars.

Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who entered the evening’s action with back-to-back $10,000-plus victories in WoO (Thursday) and UMP (Friday) competition, saw his hot streak end with a seventh-place finish. He started 12th.

Francis credited his 21st career WoO triumph — the most of any driver on the national tour since 2004 — to his starting spot and tire choice.

“With the (heat) inverts (in UMP events) and how everything has played out, we haven’t been able to see the front of the field much this week,” said Francis, who previously won WoO races at Volusia in 2004 and 2006. “Tonight we were finally able to start closer to the front and it made a big difference. We just didn’t have to kill our car the first 20 laps to get into contention. We were able to save some tires and some car.

“We went a little soft on tires because of the showers. I was afraid that after three or four laps we’d start seeing a black line, but I just saw some spotty black spots so I knew we could just keep chasing that cushion because we had on a little softer tires. Then we were able to save enough so we could go to the bottom and pass Brady (for the lead).”

Smith, 31, mourned the pair of caution flags that slowed the race, on lap 24 (for the stopped car of Batesville, Ark.’s Wendell Wallace) and lap 25 (a homestretch spin by Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa.).

“After the last restart I didn’t go as good,” said Smith, who built as much as a half-straightaway lead during the race’s first half. “I got some wheelspin, so I believe my right-rear sealed over. We actually had on a harder tire than (Francis), but that tire has got a tendency to seal over.

“I think if the race would’ve went all green we might’ve been able to hold on, but you always have ifs, ands or buts. We’re just happy we had a good run here to end our Speedweeks.”

Eckert, 43, thought tires and the mid-race caution flags were his downfall. “I think Steve was a little bit softer on tires than us,” Eckert said. “I didn’t think the softer tires would’ve kept going the whole way, but those two cautions probably helped him more than us because his soft tires cooled down and it took me a while to get going after the restarts.”

Finishing in positions 6-10 was Shane Clanton of Locust Grove, Ga., who surged to fourth following the lap-25 caution flag but slipped backward because he couldn’t hold the outside groove; Richards; defending WoO champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky.; 18th-starting Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn.; and Dale McDowell of Rossville, Ga.

Lanigan’s quiet run left him winless at Volusia, but his steady week, topped by three runner-up finishes, earned him the week’s overall points championship.

Notes: Francis drives the Beitler Motorsports Rocket Chassis with a Cornett engine and sponsorship from Reliable Painting, Valvoline and Integra Shocks. ... Seventeen of 28 starters finished 50 laps. ... Twenty-two drivers were running at the finish. ... Jimmy Owens retired on lap 13 and Shannon Babb a lap later. ... Dillon Wood was out on lap 18 while Wallace and Frank retired after their mid-race cautions. ... Vic Coffey had to go to a backup car after overheating following his consolation race, so he started on the tail. ... Clint Smith and Tim Fuller took emergency provisionals provided for contracted series drivers. ... A 55-minute rain delay halted the night's action between Late Model heats and consolation races. The rain appeared ominous but track workers labored to whip the racing surface back into shape. "Thank God it quit," Rick Eckert said of the rain. ... The World of Outlaws take a break before a two-feature weekend at Deep South Speedway in Loxley, Ala., on March 13-14. The opener pays $7,000 to the winner with $12,000 going to the winner of the finale.

WoO @ Volusia: (1) Steve Francis, (2) Brady Smith, (3) Rick Eckert, (4) Kelly Boen, (5) Earl Pearson Jr., (6) Shane Clanton, (7) Josh Richards, (8) Darrell Lanigan, (9) Scott Bloomquist, (10) Dale McDowell, (11) Dennis Erb Jr., (12) Dan Schlieper, (13) Chris Madden, (14) Tim Fuller, (15) Darren Miller, (16) Justin Rattliff, (17) Billy Decker, (18) John Blankenship, (19) Jordan Bland, (20) Vic Coffey, (21) Tyler Ivey, (22) Clint Smith, (23) Scott James, (24) Chub Frank, (25) Wendell Wallace, (26) Dillon Wood, (27) Shannon Babb, (28) Jimmy Owens. Fast qualifier (among 56 cars): Madden, 16.125 seconds. Heat race winners: Wallace, B. Smith, Madden, Eckert, Boen, Pearson. Consolation winners: Rattliff, Ivey, Owens. Provisional starters: Frank, Babb, C. Smith, Fuller.

Third consolation

Taking the lead when polesitter Russ King's car went up in smoke on the 10th lap, sixth-starting Jimmy Owens led the final two circuits for a 12-lap victory. Fourth-starting Dale McDowell got the second and final transfer spot with Ivedent Lloyd Jr. missing the feature with his third-place finish. King was in control through the first 10 laps before he pulled up lame exiting turn four. Two cautions slowed the feature. Outside front-row starter Tommy Weder Jr. had a flat tire on the initial start and restarted on the tail. Mark Pettyjohn spun in turn two on an early restart to draw a caution; he was towed to the infield.

Finish: Jimmy Owens, Dale McDowell, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Jason McBride, Tommy Weder Jr., Chuck Hummer, Greg Kendall, Ronnie Rihn, Russ King, Chub Frank, Mark Pettyjohn.

Second consolation

Outside front-row starter Tyler Ivey outran polesitter Scott James for a 12-lap victory. James stayed with him the first half of the race before Ivey put him away. James stayed ahead of the third-finishing Brandon Kinzer, who started fourth. Clint Smith was fourth. Scheduled polesitter David Breazeale scratched before the race.

Finish: Tyler Ivey, Scott James, Brandon Kinzer, Clint Smith, John Anderson, Austin Hubbard, Brent Robinson, Chas Shellenberger, Joe Isabell. Scratched: David Breazeale, Billy Moyer.

First consolation

Justin Rattliff won the 12-lapper from outside the front row while polesitter Vic Coffey got the second transfer spot. Dan Stone was a distant third. Fourth-starting Shannon Babb pulled to the outside pits on the first lap. Following the race, Coffey's car appeared to overheat before he got to the scales.

Finish: Justin Rattliff, Vic Coffey, Dan Stone, Greg Johnson, Dustin Hapka, Boom Briggs, Jill George, Mike Hammerle, Gregg Hill, Shannon Babb.

Rain delay

After a 55-minute rain delay, action is getting back under way about 9:20 p.m. Consolation race fields are forming in the infield. Misty rain and then harder rain hit just after the big-block modified heat races. Track workers whipped the track surface back into shape with a variety of push trucks and agricultural equipment.

Sixth heat

Bouncing back from mechanical problems and a heat-race wreck earlier in the week, Brady Smith led all 10 laps from outside the front row. Third-starting Josh Richards outdueled polesitter Tommy Weder Jr. in the early laps to get second, while fifth-starting Scott Bloomquist got the third and final transfer spot after Weder got too high in turn four for the second time in the race. Bloomquist himself nearly got too high in turn four on the final lap, but Weder couldn't capitalize. Weder ended up fourth with Dale McDowell closing late in fifth.

Finish: Brady Smith, Josh Richards, Scott Bloomquist, Tommy Weder Jr., Dale McDowell, Jimmy Owens, Jason McBride, Ronnie Rihn, Chuck Hummer.

Fifth heat

Starting outside the front row, Wendell Wallace turned around his disappointing Speedweeks performances with a narrow heat race victory over fourth-starting Darrell Lanigan. Lanigan pressured Wallace throughout the second half of the race, but Wallace fought off his inside moves. Polesitter Billy Decker was a distant third and Russ King further back in fourth.

Finish: Wendell Wallace, Darrell Lanigan, Billy Decker, Russ King, Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Chub Frank, Mark Pettyjohn, A.J. Kirkpatrick, Greg Kendall.

Fourth heat

Outside front-row starter Earl Pearson Jr. built a half-straightaway lead by the second lap and cruised to an easy victory. Fourth-starting John Blankenship was second, barely holding off third-starting Darren Miller, who got the third and final transfer spot. Tyler Ivey was fourth. Polesitter Billy Moyer, whose team swapped engines earlier today, slowed on the backstretch of the fifth lap to draw a caution; he was pushed to the pits.

Finish: Earl Pearson Jr., John Blankenship, Darren Miller, Tyler Ivey, Brandon Kinzer, Clint Smith, Joe Isabell, Chas Shellenberger, Billy Moyer.

Third heat

Rick Eckert blitzed polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. at the outset and edged away for another Speedweeks heat victory. Erb held second all the way while third-starting Jordan Bland joined them for a three-car breakaway and got the final transfer spot. David Breazeale was fourth after fighting off challenges from Scott James throughout the race. Fourth-starting John Anderson slipped high out of the groove twice in the early laps and ended up sixth.

Finish: Rick Eckert, Dennis Erb Jr., Jordan Bland, David Breazeale, Scott James, John Anderson, Austin Hubbard, Brent Robinson, Tyler Reddick.

Second heat

Outside front-row starter Kelly Boen got the jump on polesitter Steve Francis and kept Francis at bay throughout the race for a 10-lap victory. Dillon Wood outdueled Justin Rattliff in the early laps to secure the third and final transfer spot. Third-starting Shannon Babb got out of shape in turn four as the green flag flew and never recovered, running fifth.

Finish: Kelly Boen, Steve Francis, Dillon Wood, Justin Rattliff, Shannon Babb, Shanon Buckingham, Greg Johnson, Eddie Carrier Jr., Mike Hammerle, Jill George.

First heat

Polesitter Chris Madden cruised to an easy victory in the first 10-lap heat race while front-row Shane Clanton held on to second all the way. Third-starting Dan Schlieper got the third and final transfer spot in the uneventful prelim while Vic Coffey ran fourth. Tim Fuller slipped high exiting turn four on the fifth lap and retired shortly thereafter

Finish: Chris Madden, Shane Clanton, Dan Schlieper, Vic Coffey, Dan Stone, Boom Briggs, Gregg Hill, Dustin Hapkta, Peter Mantha, Tim Fuller.

Qualifying

Racing a broken bone in his lower right hand, Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., didn't let it bother him in topping 56 qualifiers for Saturday's World of Outlaws Late Model Series event at Volusia Speedway Park. Madden posted a 16.125-second lap at Volusia Speedway Park's half-mile oval in the finale of the 38th Alltel DIRTcar Nationals. Madden will start on the pole of the first heat race preceding the night's $10,000-to-win feature event. Other heat race polesitters are Steve Francis, Dennis Erb Jr., Billy Moyer, Billy Decker and rookie Tommy Weder Jr.

Pre-race notes

The 56 entries is the lowest Late Model count of the week at Volusia and the second lowest of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks. ... With a 40 percent chance of rain, the track is implementing hurry-up mode. ... Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., trying to notch his second three-race win streak during Speedweeks, was the 18th fastest qualifier and starts inside the second row in the sixth heat.

Heat race lineups

First heat
Row 1: Madden, Clanton
Row 2: Schlieper, Coffey
Row 3: Fuller, Stone
Row 4: Hapka, Briggs
Row 5: Hill, Mantha
Second heat
Row 1: Francis, Boen
Row 2: Babb, Wood
Row 3: Buckingham, Rattliff
Row 4: Carrier, G. Johnson
Row 5: George, Hammerle
Third heat
Row 1: Erb, Eckert
Row 2: Bland, Anderson
Row 3: Breazeale, Robinson
Row 4: James, Hubbard
Row 5: Reddick
Fourth heat
Row 1: Moyer, Pearson
Row 2: D. Miller, Blankenship
Row 3: Ivey, Kinzer
Row 4: Isabell, C. Smith
Row 5: Shellenberger
Fifth heat
Row 1: Decker, Wallace
Row 2: King, Lanigan
Row 3: Frank, Lloyd
Row 4: Pettyjohn, Kirkpatrick
Row 5: Kendall
Sixth heat
Row 1: Weder, B. Smith
Row 2: Richards, McDowell
Row 3: Bloomquist, Owens
Row 4: Rihn, McBride
Row 5: Hummer

Time trials (unofficial)

Pos. Driver (car no.), hometown
  1. Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.125
  2. Steve Francis (19), Ashland, Ky., 16.191
  3. Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.199
  4. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 16.228
  5. Billy Decker (91), Unadilla, N.Y., 16.251
  6. Tommy Weder Jr. (02), Woodward, Okla., 16.271
  7. Shane Clanton (25), Locust Grove, Ga., 16.306
  8. Kelly Boen (07), Henderson, Colo., 16.38
  9. Rick Eckert (24), York, Pa., 16.384
  10. Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.388
  11. Wendell Wallace (88), Batesville, Ark., 16.393
  12. Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 16.398
  13. Dan Schlieper (9), Sullivan, Wis., 16.407
  14. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 16.417
  15. Jordan Bland (12), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.42
  16. Darren Miller (32D), Milledgeville, Ill., 16.433
  17. Russ King (56), Bristolville, Ohio, 16.434
  18. Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 16.44
  19. Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 16.45
  20. Dillon Wood (26), New Smyrna Beach, Calif., 16.452
  21. John Anderson (2), Omaha, Neb., 16.454
  22. John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 16.48
  23. Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 16.499
  24. Dale McDowell (17m), Rossville, Ga., 16.511
  25. Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 16.512
  26. Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 16.513
  27. David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., 16.516
  28. Tyler Ivey (47), Tallahassee, Fla., 16.516
  29. Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.525
  30. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.526
  31. Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 16.542
  32. Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 16.548
  33. Brent Robinson (3), Smithfield, Va., 16.549
  34. Brandon Kinzer (18), Allen, Ky., 16.556
  35. Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21), Ocala, Fla., 16.583
  36. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.654
  37. Dustin Hapka (18), Grand Forks, N.D., 16.667
  38. Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 16.674
  39. Scott James (83), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 16.676
  40. Joe Isabell (7j), Pennellville, N.Y., 16.69
  41. Mark Pettyjohn (49), Milton, Del., 16.732
  42. Ronnie Rihn (29), Bloomer, Wis., 16.745
  43. Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 16.757
  44. Greg Johnson (19), Bedford, Ind., 16.76
  45. Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 16.772
  46. Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 16.81
  47. A.J. Kirkpatrick (12k), Castroville, Calif., 17.22
  48. Jason McBride (77), Carbondale, Ill., 17.319
  49. Gregg Hill (8), Eveleth, Minn., 17.595
  50. Jill George (22), Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 17.661
  51. Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 17.682
  52. Chas Shellenberger (56), Winfield, Pa., 17.685
  53. Greg Kendall (32), Paoli, Ind., 17.69
  54. Chuck Hummer (25), Ottawa Lake, Mich., 17.884
  55. Peter Mantha (1m), Gatineau, Quebec, 17.931
  56. Mike Hammerle (16H), St. Charles, Mo., 17.941

Feature lineup

Row 1: Wallace, B. Smith
Row 2: Madden, Eckert
Row 3: Boen, Pearson
Row 4: Clanton, Francis
Row 5: Erb, Blankenship
Row 6: Lanigan, Richards
Row 7: Schlieper, Wood
Row 8: Bland, D. Miller
Row 9: Decker, Bloomquist
Row 10: Rattliff, Ivey
Row 11: Owens, Coffey
Row 12: James, McDowell
Row 13: Frank, Babb
Row 14: C. Smith, Fuller
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