Quick Time: Missourians reload for Show-Me 100
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.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 along with some other quirks of racing (and occasional ax-grinding). Quick Time, one of the newest features of our website, will appear every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:
Frontstretch: Drivers of the week
National: It was a long time coming, but reigning series champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., fashioned his impressive consistency into his first series victory of the season. His Bad Boy 98 triumph at Batesville (Ark.) Motor Speedway gave him $10,000 and a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro.
Regional: Joey Leavell of Waynesboro, Va., swept the Steel Block Bandits weekend in his home state, winning at Natural Bridge and Eastside Speedways to become just the second driver to win back-to-back series events. Honorable mention to Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, Mich., who won a weekly show Friday at Cherry (Mich.) Raceway before capturing the first-ever Michigan Dirt Cup event at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich.
Weekly: Mike Weeks of Friendsville, Tenn., clicked off May 18-19 Limited Late Model victories at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Ga., and Wartburg (Tenn.) Speedway. Honorable mention to several other two-time winners on the weekend including Rusty Schlenk, Randy Korte, Garrett Alberson, Joe Armistead Jr., Brandon King, Sammy Stile and Matt Taylor.
Crate: Max Blair of Centerville, Pa., repeated last year’s Fastrak Northeast victory at Humberstone Speedway in Port Colborne, Ontario. The reigning champion has three victories in five series races.
Turn 1: Home-staters at the Show-Me
If five Missouri drivers can earn spots in the starting field for Saturday’s Dart Show-Me 100, it will set a record. On three occasions, four Missouri drivers have qualified for the race — the first race in ’93, ’06 and ’08 — but eight other times, just one home-state driver has started, including when Terry Phillips of Springfield gave Missouri its only race winner in 1999.
Three states have surpassed Missouri in putting drivers in the race, with nearby Arkansas twice having eight starters and Indiana as many as seven. Tennessee had as many as five starters in ’99.
Missouri’s attempts to put home-state drivers into the field isn’t for a lack of trying. Of last year’s 81 entries, 19 were from the Show-Me State. Phillips, Jesse Stovall of Galena and Tony Jackson Jr. of Lebanon started the race last year, but none finished better than 26th.
Turn 2: Run what you brung?
Plenty of tracks throw in a “Run What You Brung” special for outlaws-rule racing late in the season, but Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., is considering a mid-season affair that might attract even national touring drivers.
If there’s enough interest, Volunteer owner Joe Loven will host a $10,000-to-win outlaw-rules race on Tuesday, Aug. 21, two nights before a visit by the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series for the Scorcher. That would be $20,000 up for grabs over a three-weeknight stretch at the high-banked oval.
Loven says he’d love to see the Run What You Brung event put cars below the 12-second mark at the 4/10-mile track.
"I believe that I can get a Super Late Model down to a 11.50,” Loven wrote on the track’s website. "Boy, if I could, it would make this racetrack worth more to me than I ever dreamed about.”
Check the track website for contact information to encourage the track to host the outlaw-rule event on Aug. 21.
Backstretch: The wrong end?
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series has started experimenting with changes to the race cars to slow speeds, something series director Ritchie Lewis believes needs to happen to assure the survival of side-by-side racing (DirtonDirt.com will publish a story detailing series plans this week).
The experiments started during last week’s Bad Boy 98 practice in Batesville, Ark., as three cars were outfitted with 6-inch spoilers, 2 inches shorter than normal. Turns out that, at least at the momentum-crucial Batesville oval, the shorter spoilers didn’t make much of a difference.
In talks with chassis manufacturers and drivers, the series has received “hundreds of ideas” about changes that would slow down the cars, but after watching last week’s test, Scott Bloomquist crew chief Tommy Hicks knows it’s not with rear spoilers.
“We’re working on the wrong end of the race car,” said the thick-bearded Hicks, saying the ever-lengthening nosepieces are key to Dirt Late Model aerodynamics.
“We used to run them wedge cars and the nose was 46 inches,” Hicks said, adding that nosepieces now stretch to 54 inches. “We’ve taken these stock-appearing noses and just keep getting longer and longer and longer — hell, it’s a wedge. We’ve went back to a wedge and we’re longer than we was since we were running the wedges.”
While it’s an easier adjustment, Hicks is skeptical that tinkering with rear spoilers will make a difference. A bigger change — requiring manufacturing modifications — would come from shortened nosepieces.
“If you want to slow ‘em down, shorten that up 6 inches,” he said pointing to the nose on Bloomquist’s car. "That’ll make a difference.”
Turn 3: Pennsylvania first-timers
Last weekend was a good time to be gunning for a first-time victory if you were from Pennsylvania. At least four Quaker State drivers recorded “firsts” during May 18-29 action.
At Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, Brett Schadel of Herndon beat another winless driver, Chad Hollenback to the punch, while at Daryl Charlier of Midway picked up his first Super Late Model victory at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway.
Cody Buterbaugh of Conestoga, Pa., notched his first Semi-Late feature victory at Bedford Speedway and Bobby Whitling of Franklin, Pa., ended five seasons of futility in Fastrak Crate action with a win at Sharon Speedway just across the Pennsylvania-Ohio state line.
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
May 26, 1980: Johnny Johnson won at his hometown 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa, for his first career victory on the National Speedway Contest Association circuit.
May 25, 1985: Don Gross of Wooster, Ohio, captured his only career Short Track Auto Racing Stars victory at Raceway 7 in Conneaut, Ohio.
May 24, 1997: Ted Martin led all 30 laps at Hub City Speedway in Lubbock, Texas, for his first career National Championship Racing Association victory. He topped Jeep Berry and Larry McDaniels to move into the series points lead.
May 22, 2001: Chuck Gear, one of the co-owners and co-promoters of Corridor H Speedway near Elkins, W.Va., died from stomach cancer. He was 29.
May 26, 2005: Joe Lee Johnson, NASCAR’s inaugural World 600 winner and long-time promoter of Cleveland (Tenn.) Speedway, died May 26 after a lengthy battle with cancer. The father of Hall of Fame dirt racer Ronnie Johnson was 75.
Checkered flag: Five fearless weekend predictions
• The Dart Show-Me 100 winner at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., will come from the top three in series points.
• Gus the Cool Mule will need a few extra breaks to avoid heat exhaustion at the Show-Me 100.
• No World of Outlaws Late Model Series driver will win any more than one of three races in Ohio and West Virginia.
• New Rocket Chassis house car driver Brandon Sheppard will notch a top-five finish in World of Outlaws action.
• Mississippi drivers will sweep Southern All Star events at Whynot and Magnolia.