Fast Talk: On Bloomquist and everything Dreamy
Here's the latest edition of Fast Talk, a new DirtonDirt.com feature appearing each Monday. Staffers Michael Rigsby, Todd Turner and Joshua Joiner will gather weekly for a roundtable discussion about what's going on in Dirt Late Model racing:
Todd Turner: We'll focus primarily on Dream XVII in this edition, but let's take a brief look at the Lucas Oil tripleheader that, most significantly, saw Jimmy Owens take the points lead from Scott Bloomquist.
The two-time and reigning champ has been so dominant the last few seasons, I'm wondering if this chink in his armor is going to provide a shot of confidence for the other closest pursuers in series points. Is this just a hiccup for Bloomquist that will be quickly corrected?
Michael Rigsby: One things for sure, I haven't seen him that upset in awhile. After the wreck that knocked him out at Florence Saturday he walked over to Dale McDowell, and the two had a heated discussion about what took place — with obvious differing opinions.
It's staggering to think that this is the first time in two years he hasn't had the points lead. It's mainly just bad luck, and nothing that he's really doing wrong, so I wouldn't call it "chink in the armor," but just bad luck finally getting to him, when it hasn't in the past. I think we'll find out this weekend at Eldora just how mad he is, win or lose.
Joshua Joiner: While the pursuers may get a shot of confidence from Bloomquist's setback over the weekend, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it gives Bloomquist a shot of motivation. Everyone knows how competitive he is, and with the Dream coming up this weekend, what better place to get things back on track than there?
And if he doesn't get things turned around with a good run there, I'm sure he'll be back to his usual self by the time the Lucas Oil Series gets back going in a couple weeks. If I were Owens, or any of the other Lucas Oil regulars, I wouldn't relax on Bloomquist just yet. It's a long season, and he knows what it takes to make it to the end.
TT: The Tazewell wreck was definitely bad luck. Perhaps my perspective is different from watching the Florence video, but it didn't seem as much so there. It's not often you see Bloomquist with a car that's not quite keeping up. Scott James was certainly not giving Bloomquist an inch, and his tangle with Dale McDowell — looked 50-50 to me, or maybe Bloomquist came down a bit — seemed quite uncharacteristic.
MR: Oh I agree on Florence. I guess I'm saying more, it's not like Knoxville a few years ago when he was getting lapped in the feature, and just plain bad. He's been right up front, just "weird things" — at least for him — have been happening, that he's been able to avoid in the past.
TT: First things first with the Dream. We talked a little about car count last week, and we're coming off a year with the second lowest total in race history with 104. If we don't reach 100, I can already hear the gloomers and doomers predicting the end of the sports as we know it. Yes, I'm looking at you, Michael.
MR: That hurts. But come on, part of the mystique of Eldora is the car count. Period. Bottom line. End of story. It must be something that's engrained in me but I absolutely love huge car counts there, and it just adds something to the weekend that you can't really describe. Someone told me at Florence — and I respect their opinion — they can see 75 cars. That's too low in my estimation. I still say we get 100-110. Plus, how weird would it be to see an Eldora heat race with 12 cars in it? Truly bizarre.
JJ: I'm predicting an increase over last year's car count. I've heard it mentioned a lot over the past few weeks, and for good reason, but I really believe all the rainouts this spring are going to help the car count a bit this weekend. I don't think it'll be an overwhelming number, but I don't see it dropping under 100.
TT: I'd say around 100, but you can see why some of the guys have filtered off. Austin Hubbard and Rick Eckert running Appalachian Mountain Speedweek (among others), other guys like Ryan Unzicker sitting tight and waiting for the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals just four days later. Not to mention those big Eldora races just don't draw that mid-level Ohio/Michigan/Kentucky drivers like it did 10 years ago.
MR: Austin Hubbard's dad Mike said it simply to me: "More money to be made this week on the Speedweeks."
TT: You can't argue with that. The Appalachian Mountain Speedweek has really become an established presence in just a few years, and it was well-conceived to corral that solid bunch of Mid-Atlantic drivers there. I look for impressive car counts all week with that tour.
One thing related to Dream car count or lack thereof is picking winners, darkhorses or anything. Last week when I was writing my latest edition of Quick Time, I listed mostly likely first-time starters of the Dream. It wasn't as hard picking those guys as picking the guys I actually expected to show up.
But please, Michael, don't start weeping and wailing if you catch sight of a tumbleweed blowing by in the upper pit area.
MR: I won't be weeping, but maybe a single tear.
TT: Let's talk about Billy Moyer. He'll try to become the first driver to win back-to-back Dreams, and even more significant perhaps, the first driver to win three straight of Eldora's biggest events after sweeping last year's Dream and World 100.
He's been impressive overall this season, but the Dream will be less than two weeks after he failed to crack the starting lineup for the Show-Me 100. And this weekend, he was testing the new car he plans to bring to Eldora, and he was great the first two nights at Highland (first) and Paducah (second), but at I-55 — arguably the most Eldora-like of the three tracks, although smaller — I have a hard time getting out of my mind that picture of Brandon Sheppard nearly putting a lap on Moyer at the end of 40 caution-free laps.
So what are his chances at the Dream?
MR: To me, he's still one of the three favorites. And I'd go in this order: Owens, Bloomquist, Moyer.When Moyer qualifies well at Eldora, he runs well there. We'll know Friday about his weekend.
TT: That's a good point about Moyer. Bloomquist is always in the mix, with the exception of oddities like scale fiascos and missing his heat race call. But Moyer sometimes just doesn't hit it. You're right, by his first qualifying lap on Friday, we'll know if he'll have a shot or not.
JJ: Moyer's definitely been hot and cold recently, but you it's hard to even consider betting against him this weekend. Like Michael said, he's definitely still one of the favorites, and like Bloomquist, he now has a little extra motivation after missing the Show-Me feature. I look for him to be more hot than cold at the Dream.
TT: Michael and I talked the other day about Steve Shaver coming to the Dream, and with his impressive success in selective outings this season, he's an intriguing pick. But maybe more as a darkhorse. I just looked up his big-race performances at Eldora and he's got a single top-five finish. Whatever magic is cooking between Shaver and that solid Rumley Enterprises team, they're going to really have to have it going on to make us forget that that record.
MR: That's the thing about Eldora, typically when a guy is bad there, he's not gonna turn it around in one weekend. It takes time. But I think this is a different time and era now than it used to be. Are we really going to be shocked if Shaver wins this weekend? I would be surprised, but not shocked. That car and team are flat out good.
TT: OK, so beyond your first three, give us a few more names. And maybe even a name of someone who would shock you — or at least someone — if they won?
MR: It might sound crazy because of how good he's been the past few years, but if Jonathan Davenport could lead the final lap at Eldora, and win the Dream, I think I might be shocked. It's just not a track that he's been great on, but it sort of feels like it should be his kind of place. So there's a shocking pick for me. Also, I think just because of all the close misses, I'd be shocked to finally see Jeep Van Wormer win it. He's been so close, that I think it would officially catch me off guard to see him finally do it.
JJ: Everyone likes to talk about momentum going into Eldora, and how important it is to running well there. While Shaver has definitely won some races this year, it's hard to say that you have momentum when you're racing as little as he is. I wouldn't be shocked to see him win either, but I have to favor the guys with more recent momentum, like Owens.