Quick Time: Examining all things Dreamy
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 (along with 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: Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., dominated the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Ralph Latham Memorial on June 2 at Florence (Ky.) Speedway, then posted a runner-up finish the following night at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway to shave some points off the series lead of Jimmy Owens.
Regional: Tim Isenberg of Marshfield, Wis., broke through on the Corn Belt Clash circuit for a June 1 victory at Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wis., then added a $1,250 payday in a special at Lafayette County Speedway in Darlington, Wis.
Weekly: Jackie Boggs of Grayson, Ky., extended his personal winning streak to six races with June 2’s victory at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.
Crate: Justin Hudspeth swept a pair of features at Friendship Motor Speedway in Elkin, N.C., to draw a $200 bounty for the coming weekend.
Turn 1: Seat time at Eldora
For the longest time, inexperienced drivers at Eldora Speedway have bemoaned that they can’t get enough laps at Eldora Speedway to get better. And they weren’t wrong. At major Eldora events when the car count has far exceeded the 120-car cutoff for heat races, it wasn’t uncommon for a driver to get fewer than 20 laps — two hot laps, two qualifying laps and, if they weren’t demoralized, 15 laps in a non-qualifers’ race — at speed on the historic half-mile oval.
That all changes this weekend for the $100,000-to-win Dream XVIII with the track instituting a new format with Friday night qualifying races and Saturday night “scrambles” that give drivers even more laps following consolation races.
Along with car counts dropping below 120 at the Dream in recent years, guaranteeing drivers a chance in a heat race, that means even drivers who don’t make the 100-lap feature can rack up quite a few laps — as many as 74 — at Eldora, far more laps than they’d get at their home tracks at a weekly show.
For instance, one driver could potentially get two hot laps (2), two time trial laps (4), 20 laps in a qualifying feature (24), 15 laps in a heat race (39), 15 in a C-Main (54), 15 in a B-Main (69) and five more in the B-Main scramble (74).
Likely? Perhaps not, but surely plenty of non-qualifying drivers will get at least 50 laps as they try to improve at one of the nation’s toughest tracks.
Turn 2: Dream teen beat
In a Dirt Late Model season when the best drivers, for the most part, could be considered middle-aged, can a few precocious teen-agers change that trend for one night at Eldora?
The daunting Big E with its seemingly magnetic walls isn’t typically a place where teens thrive. In fact, only two drivers have made starting fields for the $100,000-to-win Dream, with Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., making the starting field as a 17-year-old (2005) and 19-year-old (’07) while Adam Stevens of Portsmouth, Ohio, was 19 when he made the field in ’99. (Both are now focused on NASCAR with Richards trying to carve out a career on the Nationwide Series and Stevens serving as a Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief for Joey Logano Nationwide efforts.)
But this year’s likely teen crop has some promise (and pedigree) in Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio (16); Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., (16), Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. (19); and James Rice of Verona, Ky. (19).
Moran is the son of Hall of Famer Donnie Moran, whose Eldora record includes four World 100 victories, the Eldora Million and the ’96 Dream. Devin’s success this season includes a victory on his Australian tour, two at Ohio’s Hilltop Speedway and a $3,000 victory at his hometown Muskingum County Speedway.
Reddick is in his third season on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, where he’s ninth in points. His biggest career victory came at 2011 Florida Speedweeks when he held off chassis builder Scott Bloomquist at East Bay Raceway Park.
Sheppard comes to Eldora as the new driver of the Mark Richards Racing Rocket Chassis house car that Josh Richards founds so much success in the past eight seasons. Sheppard, last year’s Northern Allstars champion, made last year’s World 100 starting field and will have the younger Richards on hand — driving the Ernie Davis-owned No. 25 — as a de facto teammate.
Rice hasn’t built up dazzling credentials early in his career, but his Eldora lineage is strong. His father Jerry has five career Sunoco American Late Model Series victory at Eldora and three-time Dream starter.
Those four teens, and perhaps others, are expected to try and mark the first year when more than one teenager cracks the starting field for Dirt Late Model racing’s richest payday.
If it doesn’t pan out, there’s always next year when Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill. — ineligible to run this year as a 15-year-old — will likely join Reddick and Moran to carry on the teen beat.
Backstretch: Lap sponsorships
Commonly, lap sponsorships for Eldora’s big races are simply listed under company names. One “sponsor” at last year’s World 100 poked a little fun at the reigning UMP champion’s absence with a lap sponsorship title “Where are you Rusty Schlenk?” In the same vein, here are some lap “sponsorships” that might make for a few double-takes:
Lap 11: Austin Hubbard's and Tyler Reddick’s cars look the same
Lap 21: Billy Moyer’s Soul Patch
Lap 37: "No, that wasn’t me at the bar Thursday night"
Lap 42: @RogerSlack
Lap 60: “Why are no entries numbered 60-69?"
Turn 3: Checking the pursestrings
With Eldora boosting the Dream purse to more than $200,000, starting money in the main event is up to $1,750 from $1,500. Clearly the Dream is the biggest single payday for any Dirt Late Model event — the $100,000 doubles the next richest — but some other events focus on the lower end with more starting pay. Here’s a look at winning and starting purses for a handful of the sport’s richest events (purses taken from most recently held event):
• Dart Show-Me 100, Lucas Oil Speedway, Wheatland, Mo. — ($30,000; $1,200)
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
June 9, 1979: H.E. Vineyard of Knoxville, Tenn., won at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., for his lone career victory on the National Dirt Racing Association.
June 11, 1980: Delmas Conley of Wheelersburg, Ohio, won the second-ever Midwest Outlaw Super Series event ever at Jackson County Speedway in Ripley, W.Va. (now I-77 Raceway Park).
June 10, 1984: Gordon Fortenberry of Columbus, Miss., won at Ponderosa Speedway in Junction City, Ky., for his only career Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series victory. Fortenberry finished fourth in series points in ’84.
June 1, 1985: Ned Lucas of Beaver Dam, Ky., won his only career All Star Circuit of Champions race at Muskingum County Speedway near Zanesville, Ohio.
June 9, 1987: Iowa native Billy Moyer won at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids for the first of three career victories on the NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour.
Checkered flag: Five fearless Dream predictions
• Only one driver forced to run a Friday qualifying race will make the Dream starting field.
• Dale McDowell will finish no worse than fifth.
• At least 10 drivers will finish on the lead lap.
• A single home-state driver will crack the 26-car starting field.
• One driver will collect two checkered flags — winning a qualifying race and a post-consolation race “scramble” — but fail to make the 100-lapper.