East Bay Raceway Park
Bloomquist tops O'Neal, gets sixth East Bay win
By Todd Turner and Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 12) — Polesitter Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., survived a green-white-checkers finish in Tuesday’s Dart Winternationals feature at East Bay Raceway Park, topping Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., for a $5,000 victory in the second round of the six-race Florida Speedweeks miniseries.
The fifth-starting O’Neal moved to second on a lap eight restart and applied constant pressure as he and Bloomquist raced through heavy traffic during the second half of the 25-lap race. A lap-23 caution gave O’Neal a final shot at the lead, but Bloomquist pulled away to his sixth-career Winternationals victory. | Complete Speedweeks coverage
O’Neal settled for the runner-up finish ahead of fourth-starting Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., in third. Monday night winner Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., advanced from the eighth starting spot to finish fourth while John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., advanced from 24th to round out the race’s top five finishers.
The victory, his tour-leading 46th on the Lucas Oil Series, followed Bloomquist’s runner-up finish in Monday’s opener-round feature, when he challenged Erb late in the race only to come up just short.
“We were pretty close last night, just needed to be a little quicker and we got it,” said Bloomquist, who moved into a tie with Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., for fourth on the Winternationals all-time wins list. “I think we can even get a little quicker, so we’ll just keep working on it.”
Bloomquist nearly allowed O’Neal to slip by him on a lap-eight restart, when he hit a rough patch entering turn one and pushed up the racetrack. O’Neal made it three wide with Bloomquist and second-running Eric Jacobsen of Seacliff Beach, Calif., to nearly grab the lead, but Bloomquist recovered and pulled back ahead while O’Neal settled into second.
“That’s where I meant to go in (the corner), but it was still rough enough to mess me up,” Bloomquist said. “I saw a nose under me and thought ‘hmm, maybe we shouldn’t do that again.’”
O’Neal, a 13-time winner at East Bay, recorded his second straight top-three finish after also finishing just behind Bloomquist in Monday’s feature. While he would have liked to have challenged Bloomquist on the final run to the finish, O’Neal felt he was lucky just to make it to the finish after picking a vibration late in the race.
“I started to get a little tire shake there before that last caution, and I was wondering if I was even gonna make it to the end,” O’Neal said. “That traffic gave us a little shot to race with him there at the end, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The race was slowed by three cautions, the first coming with one lap complete when Todd Frank of Mellen, Wis., spun in between turns one and two and collected Jason Riggs of Harrisburg, Ill. The second caution was caused by a pileup in turn four that left the car of Ronny Lee Hollingsworth of Northport, Ala., with heavy front-end damage after contact from Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark. The final caution appeared when Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., stopped on the back straightaway.
Winternationals action continues Wednesday at East Bay with another Lucas Oil non-points event that pays $7,000 to winner. East Bay will host another $7,000-to-win non-points event Thursday with $10,000-to-win points events set for Friday and Saturday.
Dart Winternationals (Feb. 12): (1) Scott Bloomquist, (2) Don O’Neal, (3) Steve Francis, (4) Dennis Erb Jr., (5) John Blankenship, (6) Mike Marlar, (7) Eric Jacobsen, (8) Mark Whitener, (9) Vic Coffey, (10) Tyler Reddick, (11) Brandon Sheppard, (12) Donnie Moran, (13) David Breazeale, (14) Austin Hubbard, (15) Jimmy Owens, (16) Eddie Carrier Jr., (17) Doug Drown, (18) Devin Moran, (19) Todd Frank, (20) Jason Riggs, (21) Billy Moyer Jr., (22) Justin Rattliff, (23) Dan Stone, (24) Bobby Pierce, (25) Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, (26) Billy Moyer. Fast qualifier (among 44 cars): Sheppard, 14.420 seconds. Heat race winners: Bloomquist, Jacobsen, Sheppard, Francis. Consolation winners: De. Moran, Hubbard. PRC Strawberry Dash winner: Coffey. Provisional starter: Moyer Jr.
Blog-style reports of Tuesday's prelims
Vic Coffey’s dash victory gave him his fifth feature start of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks, the most of any Late Model driver. ... Austin Hubbard checked the tires of Jared Landers after the dash, seeing how they were wearing. He guessed tires might not be wearing as much as last night — Steve Francis said the same thing — but didn’t expect to have much rubber left after the 25-lapper. “Pretty much whatever you put on here is going to be destroyed,” Hubbard said of the track surface that has traditionally required soft rubber, but chews it up. “That’s the nature of the beast here.” ... After a heat race wreck last night and a flat tire in time trials tonight, Doug Drown dug out of his hole by transferring to the main event through a consolation race. “We’re in the feature,” the Wooster, Ohio, driver said. “That’s a plus.” He took the blame for the flat, saying they failed to put a inner beadlock on the tire for qualifying. “We won’t make that mistake again.”
PRC Strawberry Dash
Vic Coffey rallied through the field and claimed the last-chance PRC Strawberry Dash to earn the final starting spot in tonight's main event. The feature transfer will make Coffey the first driver to record five Speedweeks feature starts so far this year. The victory wasn't easy for Coffey, who recovered from contact with Jerry Lierly while battling for second to chase down and pass race-long leader Jason McBride late in the race.
Finish: Vic Coffey, Jerry Lierly, Chad Stapleton, Jared Landers, Jason McBride, Keith Tincher, Ricky Weiss.
A hole in turn one has been getting attention from the track crew. It’s a tricky spot right at the spot in the corner where drivers “set” their cars, so it’s caused its share of headaches the last two nights. “I thougth I had rolled over,” said heat winner Steve Francis, who did his best to avoid it the rest of the prelim. “I’m scared we’re going to hurt somebody.” He hopes the track crew can shave down the highest edges around what is actually two dips so it won’t upset the cars so much. Francis said the unfortunate thing is that the track is virtually perfect otherwise. “I’m going to give credit where credit is due,” he said, specifically thanking co-owner Al Varnadore for preparing the surface. ... John Blankenship had to start on the tail of his heat after there was a dispute over the right-rear tire he’d used qualifying (a tire he was required to run in the heat race). The tire was knocked off the rim in time trials and they weren’t able to get it back on the bead correctly. Lucas Oil assistant series director Rick Schwallie patiently discussed the issue with crew chief Tom Buckingham, who was upset with a ruling that sent Blankenship to a consolation race. ... Heat runner-up Justin Rattliff is piloting a 2006 Rayburn Race Car purchased from Larry Redinius of Budda Bert Transmissions. It’s the style car crew chief Jeff Gullett wanted and it’s performing well the first two nights at East Bay. “I’m just glad to be making races again,” Gullett said.
Second-starting Austin Hubbard grabbed the lead on the start and turned back Sixth-starting Doug Drown's furious late charge to win by a slim margin. Drown, who charged to the front on the low groove, settled for second ahead of Jason Riggs in third. After a miscue shuffled him back to sixth midway through the race, John Blankenship recovered to beat Ricky Weiss in a photo finish for the fourth and final transfer spot. Polesitter Billy Moyer Jr. struggled in quickly dropping outside the top five, but he'll use the fast time provisional to make the feature lineup.
Finish: Austin Hubbard, Doug Drown, Jason Riggs, John Blankenship, Ricky Weiss, Corey Weaver, Doug Blashe, Billy Moyer Jr., Keith Tincher.
Polesitter Devin Moran got the jump on Jimmy Owens on the start of the first consy and turned back Owens' late charge for a flag-to-flag victory in the 10-lapper. Owens, who used a low-side charge to pull even with Moran on the final lap, settled for second with Mark Whitener third. Dan Stone moved by Chad Stapleton midway through the race to claim the fourth and final transfer spot.
Finish: Devin Moran, Jimmy Owens, Mark Whitener, Dan Stone, Chad Stapleton, Jerry Lierly, Vic Coffey, Braden Mitchell, Jason McBride, Jim O'Hara, Scott Phillips Jared Landers.
Second-starting Steve Francis used a turn-three slidejob to grab the lead on the opening lap and turned back repeated challenges from polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. to win the fourth and final heat race. Erb settled for a close second with Ronny Lee Hollingsworth and Donnie Moran also grabbing feature transfer finishes. The race's only caution for Chuck Julien's spin on lap four spoiled Francis and Erb's side-by-side battle that lasted from the start of the race. Erb got the jump on Francis on the start, but Francis used a turn-three slidejob on the first lap to move ahead. Erb pulled alongside Francis down the front straightaway and stayed even with Francis until the caution.
Finish: Steve Francis, Dennis Erb Jr., Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Donnie Moran, Austin Hubbard, Jason Riggs, Doug Drown, Brad Malcuit, Corey Weaver, Chuck Julien.
Fast qualifier Brandon Sheppard cruised in the third heat, winning by a comfortable advantage over third-starting Justin Rattliff. David Breazeale finished third in the caution-free race with Eddie Carrier Jr. grabbing the fourth and final transfer spot. John Blankenship was scheduled to start second but had to start from the tail after arriving late to the starting line. He finished sixth. The first attempt to start the race was waved off and Sheppard was issued a warning for jumping the start.
Finish: Brandon Sheppard, Justin Rattliff, David Breazeale, Eddie Carrier Jr., Billy Moyer Jr., John Blankenship, Ricky Weiss, Chad Hollenbeck, Doug Blache, Keith Tincher, Nick Davis.
Leading every lap unchallenged, polesitter Eric Jacobsen got the jump on Billy Moyer and pulled to nearly a straightaway advantage in beating third-starting Tyler Reddick to the finish. Todd Frank finished third in the caution-free race while Moyer claimed the final feature transfer after getting shuffled back on the start of the race.
Finish: Eric Jacobsen, Tyler Reddick, Todd Frank, Billy Moyer, Devin Moran, Jared Landers, Mark Whitener, Jerry Lierly, Stormy Scott, Braden Mitchell, Bob Geiger.
Second-starting Scott Bloomquist outdueled polesitter Don O'Neal on the opening lap of the first eight-lap heat and held O'Neal at bay for the entire caution-free prelim. O'Neal beat Bloomquist to the first corner on the start of the race, but Bloomquist powered around the top groove to pull ahead exiting turn two. O'Neal peaked under Bloomquist a couple of times, but ended up settling for second while Bobby Pierce topped a three-car battle to beat Mike Marlar and Jimmy Owens to the finish. With only the top four transfering to the main event, Owens will have to transfer through a consolation race if he's to avoid missing the feature lineup for a second consecutive night.
Finish: Scott Bloomquist, Don O'Neal, Bobby Pierce, Mike Marlar, JImmy Owens, Chad Stapleton, Dan Stone, Vic Coffey, Jason McBride, Scott Phillips, Jim O'Hara.
After skipping Monday’s Dart Winternationals action, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., got his East Bay trip started on a positive note during Tuesday’s time trials by posting the fastest lap of 44 qualifiers for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event.
Sheppard’s lap of 14.420 seconds puts him on the pole of the third of four heat races coming up at East Bay’s third-mile oval. Other heat polesitters will be Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind.; Eric Jacobsen of Seacliff Beach, Calif.; and Monday’s feature winner Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill.
Each eight-lap heat will transfer the top four finishers into tonight’s $5,000-to-win, 25-lap main event with a pair of consolation races each transfer the top three finishers. The winner of the Strawberry Dash last chance race and a fast-time provisional starter will round out the 26-car starting field.
Much like Monday night, a rough spot has began to develop at the entrance of turn one and gave some drivers trouble late in the qualifying session. Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, and Chad Hollenbeck of Kingsley, Pa., each knocked left-rear tires of the wheel when they hit the hole on their first qualifying laps. The only other qualifying incident came when Jason McBride of Carbondale, Ill., spun down the front straightaway after crossing the finish line on his second lap.
Heat race lineups
Eight laps; top four transfer
Row 1: Don O’Neal, Scott Bloomquist
Row 2: Bobby Pierce, Jimmy Owens
Row 3: Mike Marlar, Vic Coffey
Row 4: Dan Stone, Chad Stapleton
Row 5: Jason McBride, Scott Phillips
Row 6: Jim O’Hara
Row 1: Eric Jacobsen, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Tyler Reddick, Todd Frank
Row 3: Devin Moran, Braden Mitchell
Row 4: Jared Landers, Jerry Lierly
Row 5: Mark Whitener, Stormy Scott
Row 6: Bob Geiger
Row 1: Brandon Sheppard, John Blankenship
Row 2: Justin Rattliff, Eddie Carrier Jr.
Row 3: Billy Moyer Jr., David Breazeale
Row 4: Doug Blashe, Ricky Weiss
Row 5: Nick Davis, Keith Tincher
Row 6: Chad Hollenbeck
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Steve Francis
Row 2: Donnie Moran, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth
Row 3: Austin Hubbard, Brad Malcuit
Row 4: Jason Riggs, Corey Weaver
Row 5: Dwight Falcon, Chuck Julien
Row 6: Doug Drown
Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., captured Monday’s Winternationals opener, earning $5,000 for his third-career East Bay victory. The veteran Erb used a new Kuntz & Co. powerplant in the event, but said today he still has his Vic Hill Racing Engines and plans to use one in next week’s action at nearby Volusia Speedway Park. ... New drivers for Tuesday’s action: Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn.; Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.; Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.; and Keith Tincher of South Williamson, Ky., who was late signing in. ... Sheppard will pilot his older Rocket Chassis that he struggled with last week in Sylvania, Ga. ... Billy Moyer missed Monday’s action when his motorhome broke down. The crew had his equipment ready to go when they got word. ... Home-state drivers Keith Nosbisch and Christian Augspurger are the only drivers not returning from Monday's action. ... Doug Blashe of Marion, Wis., made his first-ever feature at East Bay on Monday, but he missed the call to the lineup while making repairs after his consolation race. “First feature we make and he broke the steering rack,” said crew member Mike Steinke. Blashe appeared on the track after a first-lap caution, but decided to pull to the infield and save his car for the rest of the week. ... Jason McBride of Carbdondale, Ill., swapped engines after breaking the head off a valve in Monday’s heat race. ... Five drivers using American Racer Tires made Monday’s feature, the most that tire rep Tony Rose could remember. “It’s been a good week so far — and we're only one day into it,” Rose said. American Racer got its first victory at East Bay in 23 years last season with a Ray Cook victory at the track dominated for many years by Hoosier Tire. ... Driver Todd Frank of Mellen, Wis., tries to run about 5 miles a day at home, and he maintained his habit at East Bay by jogging through the pits and out to the surrounding roads. He clocked 7-minute miles and ran about three miles Tuesday afternoon. ... Anthony Burroughs, who worked with Earl Pearson Jr.’s Bobby Labonte Racing team last season, is working with the Clint Bowyer Racing team of Jared Landers this year. ... Rookie Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M., swapped from a Pro Power Racing Engine after using a Roush Yates powerplant in the opener.
Don O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.675
Eric Jacobsen (5), Santa Cruz, Calif., 14.691
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.713
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.765
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.780
Tyler Reddick, Corning, Calif., 14.804
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.814
Todd Frank (21), Mellen, Wis., 14.912
Mike Marlar (5b), Winfield, Tenn., 14.922
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 14.935
Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 14.967
Braden Mitchell (64), Russellville, Ala., 15.031
Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 15.060
Jared Landers (5), Batesville, Ark., 15.069
Chad Stapleton (32), Edinburgh, Ind., 15.134
Jerry Lierly (7L), Camp Point, Ill., 15.185
Jason McBride (77m), Carbondale, Ill., 15.311
Mark Whitener (58), Middleburg, Fla., 15.374
Scott Phillips (50), Marlette, Mich., 15.678
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.337
Jim O’Hara (44), Moscow, Pa., 16.635
Bob Geiger (38), Laurel, Del., 17.944
Brandon Sheppard (5b), New Berlin, Ill. 14.420
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill. 14.542
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va. 14.576
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky. 14.679
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky. 14.747
Donnie Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio 14.747
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va. 14.836
Ronny Lee Hollingsworth (18), Northport, Ala. 14.837
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark. 14.842
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del. 14.871
David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss. 14.911
Brad Malcuit (79), Strasburg, Ohio 15.145
Doug Blashe (1), Marion, Wis. 15.200
Jason Riggs (81jr), Harrisburg, Ill. 15.234
Ricky Weiss (7w), St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba 15.260
Corey Weaver (10), Bedford, Pa. 15.322
Nick Davis, (92), Gumboro, Del. 15.468
Dwight Falcon (F4), Walker, La. 15.852
Keith Tincher (T23), South Williamson, Ky. 16.067
Chuck Julien (57), Apopka, Fla. 16.301
Chad Hollenbeck (4DS), Kingsley, Pa. no time
Doug Drown (63), Wooster, Ohio no time