Francis heading in right direction at Bulls Gap
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
BULLS GAP, Tenn. (Oct. 12) — So far, so good for Steve Francis. The World of Outlaws Late Model Series points leader took another step toward his first career tour championship, winning Friday's heat race during opening-night action of the Tennessee Fall Brawl 100 at Volunteer Speedway.
Francis, 40, of Ashland, Ky., won the first 15-lap preliminary in dominating fashion, setting himself up to start among the first four rows in Saturday night’s $20,000-to-win main event. The first- and second-place finishers in each of the four heats will redraw for the top-eight starting spots prior to the 100-lapper. Other heat winners were Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., who came within five laps of winning Volunteer’s Scorcher 100 on Aug. 23; Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga.; and Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C. A total of 52 cars were signed in for the second WoO event of the season at Joe Loven’s 4/10-mile oval.
Francis enters the weekend leading the WoO championship standings by 40 points over Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. With only the Outlaws World Finals weeekend Nov. 1-3 at the Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway remaining, Volunteer will be critical in the race for the $100,000 points title.
Frank is hoping to finish ahead of Francis in the 100-lapper to close the gap heading to Lowe's, but he’ll have his work cut out for him after a subpar qualifying-night performance. After watching Francis sweep to a convincing prelim triumph, Frank struggled with handling problems in the second heat and finished sixth, forcing him into a consolation race.
The evening began with southern standout Rick Rogers of Knoxville, Tenn., surprising the field by setting fast time with a lap of 12.364 seconds. His first career National Interstate Insurance Fast Time award earned him a $100 bonus. Rogers, a 48-year-old, second-generation racer, went on to finish second to Francis in the first heat, earning himself a redraw berth for the feature.
First heat: Francis, Rogers, Weaver, C. Smith, White, Moran, Arms, Roberts, Eller, Kinzer, Wells, Goddard, Neubert
Second heat: Owens, Hill, Bloomquist, Shirley, B. Smith, Frank, Eckert, Jones, Miller, Carrier, Davidson, Fultz, S. Smith. Scratched: Solomon.
Third heat: McDowell, Clanton, Lanigan, Douglas, M. Smith, Babb, Arp, Hendrix, Jackson, Buckingham, Stone, Mitchell
Fourth heat: Cook, England, Schlieper, Richards, Dillon, Neat, Ogle Jr., Wyatt, Blankenship, C. Ogle, Lester, Crabtree. Scrathed: Giffin.