Virginia Motor Speedway
Hubbard impressive in WoO prelims at VMS
By Kevin KovacWorld of Outlaws Late Model Series
JAMAICA, Va. (April 15) — Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., kicked off the second annual NAPA of King William Commonwealth 100 weekend at Virginia Motor Speedway just like he hoped — with a powerful heat-race victory during Friday night’s qualifying program.| Slideshow | Video
A rising 19-year-old star who started his Dirt Late Model career at Bill Sawyer’s gorgeous half-mile oval, Hubbard stamped himself as a favorite to capture Saturday night’s $25,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series event. He dominated the first of Friday’s four 15-lap qualifying heats and later drew the third starting spot for the Commonwealth 100.
The 100-lap main event, originally sheduled for Saturday, has been postponed until Sunday because of wet weather and a gloomy forecast. Gates open at 2 p.m. Sunday with hot laps at 3 following the main event and a $3,000-to-win non-qualifiers' race.
“In the interest of economics and safety for our race fans and competitors, it’s best to just push the race back one day rather than create the unnecessary situation of bringing everyone out to the track to sit through a long day in ugly weather,” Sawyer said. “We have a great, sunny forecast for Sunday, so it’s going to be a wonderful day for racing.”
A talent-laden field of 43 drivers signed in for Friday night’s action, which set the complete 26-car starting field for the Commonwealth 100. Two 20-lap consolation races originally scheduled for Saturday evening were added to Friday’s card to streamline the weekend program.
Also winning heat races were Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who led last year’s Commonwealth 100 until blowing a tire on lap 91; Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who beat Rick Eckert of York, Pa., by a full straightaway margin; and Steve Shaver of Vienna, W.Va. Lanigan and Bloomquist are the only A-Main victors so far this season on the WoO, with each boasting two victories.
Hubbard shined brightest during Friday’s competition, winning a preliminary to move one step closer to victory lane in a race he considers one of his biggest of the season. After failing to qualify through a heat for last year’s inaugural Commonwealth 100 and finishing a disappointing 23rd , he’s back with a more relaxed approach.
“It’s just another race; that’s what I’m telling myself,” said Hubbard, the 2010 WoO Rookie of the Year and the 2007 Late Model track champion at VMS. “I definitely want to win this one, but I’m just trying to treat every race the same this year and not do anything stupid, and so far it’s working out.”
Hubbard ran unchallenged throughout the first heat, crossing the finish line three seconds ahead of last year's Commonwealth 100 winner Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., who later drew the pole position for Saturday night’s 100-lapper.
“We started on the outside and got a better run into one and it was kind of smooth sailing from there,” said Hubbard, who drove Dale Beitler’s familiar Reliable Painting Rocket No. 19. “(Crew chief) Robby (Allen) definitely had the car right and that new Cornett (engine) we put in was working great, so we’re excited. We got a car and motor combination that’s right so I’m confident about our chances tomorrow.”
Friday’s program wasn’t as good to two-time defending WoO champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who was forced to make a rare consolation race appearance after missing the cut in the third heat. He won the second consy and will start 18th in the Commonwealth 100.
Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., suffered the worst luck of the WoO regulars. After falling less than a car length short of transferring through his heat, the 49-year-old veteran led most of the first consy until falling back and ultimately pitting due to a deflating left-rear tire.
Frank will be one of four provisional starters in the Commonwealth 100, joining fellow tour followers Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who experienced trouble during the first B-Main; Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., who drove Clint Smith’s backup car renumbered with his usual 19; and Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va.
Reigning UMP DIRTcar Summernationals champion Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., was fastest in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, turning a lap of 17.086 seconds. It was his second career WoO fast-time honor and came in his first-ever appearance at VMS.
Feger tumbled backward on the first lap of his heat race, however, because his tire compound choice that was too hard and was involved in a mid-race tangle with Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., that forced him to make a pit stop. He missed transferring by three spots but came back to take the runner-up position in the first consy, which was won by Jeremy Miller of Gettysburg, Pa.
43. Jill George (22), Cedar Falls, Iowa, 18.942
(15 laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Hubbard, Madden, Davenport, Heckenast, Elliott, McCreadie, Feger, King, Lobb, McCool, Mann
Second heat: Lanigan, Covert, Birkhofer, Pearson, Frank, Miller, B. Robinson, Davies, Doar, Jackson. Scratched: Owens
Third heat: Bloomquist, Eckert, McDowell, Mars, Richards, Neat, Fuller, Arthur, Hollidge, George, Pilkerton.
Fourth heat: Shaver, Francis, Landers, Clanton, Lathroum, C. Smith, Hills, Coffey, Ruhlman, Pettyjohn
(20 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Miller, Feger, McCool, B. Robinson, Jackson, Doar, Mann, King, Frank, McCreadie, Davies, Elliott, Lobb. Scratched: Owens.
Second consolation: Richards, C. Smith, Lathroum, Neat, Fuller, Arthur, Coffey, Ruhlman, Hollidge, George, Pilkerton, Pettyjohn, Hills.