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Quick Time: Barn-burning track title chases

August 31, 2011, 7:43 am
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor

Take a quick lap around the proverbial dirt track with managing editor Todd Turner for roundup of Dirt Late Model racing through the latest weekend of action. Quick Time, one of the newest features of our website, will appear every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:

Frontstretch: Down to the nitty gritty

With weekly racing winding down, several tracks had dramatic finishes in the title chase. Here are a few of the tightest:

Mount Pleasant (Mich.) Speedway: Zack Olger and Mark Andersen were tied entering the season finale, but engine woes forced Olger out and Anderson's fourth-place finish was enough to capture the track's UMP-sanctioned championship.

I-96 Speedway, Lake Odessa, Mich.: Olger's broken engine also forced him to miss the I-96 final, knocking him out of the points lead and setting up a showdown between Brandon Thirlby and Tom Sprague Jr. A fourth-place finish by Thirlby would've clinched the title by virtue of a tiebreaker, but with Sprague doing all he could by notching a victory, Thirlby was edged at the checkers by Kris Patterson Jr. for fourth, costing him the championship.

34 Raceway, West Burlington, Iowa: Denny Woodworth of Mendon, Ill., couldn't have won his first race of the season at a better time. Woodworth's victory Saturday assured him the championship on a night when he entered the points chase in a three-way tie for second. Overall six drivers were within four points entering the finale. Woodworth edged runner-up Joey Gower for the crown.

Quincy (Ill.) Raceway: Hometown Justin Reed won Sunday's finale to tie Lonnie Bailey atop the point standings. Reed also won the tiebreaker by virtue of his four victories this season, including three in the final six events.

Turn 1: Drivers of the Week

National: Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., reeled off back-to-back victories on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series for the first time in seven years, winning at Lawrenceburg, Ind., and Bardstown, Ky. The 47-year-old veteran has three victories on the tour overall.

Regional: Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., captured two of three MARS DIRTcar Series events on the weekend, winning Thursday at Highland, Ill., and Friday in Paducah, Ky.

Weekly: Bill Leighton Jr. of Omaha, Neb., who captured Saturday's NASCAR-sanctioned feature at I-80 Speedway to notch his fifth weekly victory in six starts at the Greenwood, Neb., track. He holds a 70-point lead on Todd Hipnar in the division.

Crate: Jensen Ford of Piney Flats, Tenn., who notched a victory Thursday at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., and Friday at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va. Honorable mention: Ron Parker of Belwood, N.C., whose victory Friday at Carolina Speedway near Gastonia, N.C., helped him wrap up the NDRA Heintz Performance Road Show championships.

Turn 2: Get your map and hit the road

Labor Day weekend always offers the opportunity for some wacky racing trips, such as the handful of race teams who've competed at the Prairie Dirt Classic in Fairbury, Ill., and Hillbilly 100 (then in West Virginia) over the years. Here are a few suggested racing routes (from easiest to toughest) that are based on seeing the biggest variety of drivers instead of the necessarily the biggest races:

• Friday: Unsanctioned Southern 50 at Southern Ohio Speedway; Saturday: WoO-sanctioned Black Diamond 125 at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va.; Sunday: Lucas Oil-sanctioned Hillbilly 100 at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park. Best if you live in southeast Ohio, just 330 miles among tracks and the rare chance for three consecutive races with total winning purses of $75,000 without repeating sanctioning bodies.

• Friday: UFO at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va.; Saturday: MDRL/VRS at Richmond (Ky.) Raceway; Sunday: NASRA at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway. Best for an eastern Kentuckian, it's about 400 miles among tracks and you won't get much more of a contrast in styles of dirt racing than going from Richmond to Tazewell.

• Friday: SUPR at USA Speedway in Sterlington, La.; Saturday: NeSmith Chevrolet Series at Whynot (Miss.) Motorsports Park; Sunday: NLMS at Dixieland Dirt Track in Cottonwood, Ala. Best if you live in east Mississippi, it's about 500 miles among tracks. It's virtually guaranteed you won't see a single driver twice.

• Thursday: Silver 1000 at Proctor (Minn.) Speedway; Friday: Prairie Dirt Classic prelim at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway; Saturday: Deery Brothers at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa; Sunday: Lucas Oil at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park. Best if you live in Illinois, is covers 1,200 miles among tracks. The first and last legs are doozies.

Backstretch: Weekly racing tidbits

• In a tuneup for Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway's Prairie Dirt Classic, hometown driver Scott Bull on Saturday lowered the qualifying record at the quarter-mile oval with a 12.215-second lap.

• With Jones Motor Speedway adding Late Models to virtually all of its remaining events, Ray Moore topped a 14-car field on Saturday at the Chatham, La., oval.

• Shaking down a spec-engine car with late-season specials on the horizon, Iowa's Denny Eckrich made a rare IMCA Late Model appearance Saturday at West Liberty Raceway, finishing second to younger brother Andy.

• Continuing his domination at Peoria (Ill.) Speedway, Steve Lance Jr. of Cuba, Ill., won his eighth straight feature in collecting the track championship. Lance borrowed his brother Tim's car after breaking a rear end in his own car during prelims.

Joseph Hughes, 16, of Springfield, Ill., posted his best career Late Model finish Saturday at Macon (Ill.) Speedway's Shriners 50, finishing second to Kyle Logue. Hughes announced earlier in the week he'd donate as his earnings to the Decatur Shrine Club and children's hospitals.

• Hollywood stuntwoman Kathy Jarvis edged Jason Wiley for the Late Model Rookie of the Year crown at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich.

• Trying to keep pace with NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly West Region points leader Jim McDuffie, Duke Palasini of Leland, Miss., won Saturday at Greenville (Miss.) Speedway for his 10th Crate Late Model victory of the season. McDuffie leads Palasini by four points.

Turn 3: Learning from (gasp!) an asphalt track

Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer motorsports editor Thomas Pope recently blogged about Dillon (S.C.) Motor Speedway's unusual promotions to draw new racing fans to its Sept. 5 event. Free admission and free food oughta do it.

Ron Barfield, promoter of the asphalt oval, is featuring a seven-division program and 275 laps of feature action to anyone who'd like to come through the gates, along with a free dinner (not all concession stand items are free). Pope writes that Barfield might be crazy, but "crazy like a fox" in betting that if he can show enough fans a good time that some will become repeat visitors.

"That's the old 'ya gotta spend money to make money' theory," Pope writes, "and hooray for Dillon for giving it a shot. Now, if only our dirt tracks could 'get it' like that."

Turn 4: Turning back the clock

Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:

Sept. 2, 1984: Red Farmer of Hueytown, Ala., won at Green Valley Speedway in Glencoe, Ala. for his second career victory on the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series

Sept. 1, 1990: Doug Ingalls of Longview, Texas, won at Boothill Speedway near Shreveport, La., en route to his championship on the first season on the Southern United Professional Racing tour.

Sept. 3, 1995: John Gill of Mitchell, Ind., captured the finale on the first season of the UMP Outlaw Nationals at La Salle (Ill.) Speedway.

Sept. 2, 2000: Steve Drake of San Luis Obispo, Calif., won at Bakersfield, Calif., en route to his second straight championship on the CarQuest Western Dirt Late Model Tour.

Sept. 2, 2005: Jim Zaremski of Great Falls, Mont., captured a Montana Dirt Late Model Tour victory at Gallatin Speedway in Belgrade, Mont., despite racing with a broken thumb.

Checkered flag: Five fearless Labor Day weekend predictions

• Friday's winner at Southern Ohio Speedway in Wheelersburg will win either Saturday or Sunday at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.

• Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway will see a first-time Prairie Dirt Classic winner.

• Josh Richards will get his first career Late Model victory in West Virginia at Tyler County Speedway's Black Diamond 125 weekend.

• The three-wide, 33-car starting field will roll off at Eldora Speedway's Baltes Classic with nary a caution on the first lap.

• SUPR competitors will outperform PRO competitors when the tours clash at Greenville (Miss.) Speedway.

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