Blankenship gets boost from Volunteer victory
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
BULLS GAP, Tenn. (March 16) — He doesn’t win all the time, but when he does, John Blankenship likes to do it in dominating fashion.
Saturday’s Spring Thaw finale at Volunteer Speedway served as a perfect example of just that. Claiming his first victory of the season, Blankenship, the Williamson, W.Va., driver who has fewer than 10 total victories in his career, routed the field at the Spring Nationals-sanctioned event, building nearly a half-track advantage on his way to claiming a $10,000 victory in the caution-free 60-lapper. | Blankenship wins $10,000
The runaway performance was similar to many of Blankenship’s past victories when he’s unexpectedly won going away, including two of his Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victories last season when Blankenship came seemingly from no where to dominate the national tour’s events at Wythe Raceway and Rome Speedway.
In the past, competitors have been quick to attribute Blankeship’s surprise dominations to his tires, saying that certain track conditions gave Blankenship’s American Racer brand tires an advantage over the Hoosiers tires used by most of the field.
Nobody could say that following Saturday’s victory at Volunteer.
After the Lucas Oil Series informed drivers they would likely initiate a Hoosier-only tire rule for the 2013 season, Blankenship, a regular on the series since 2009, switched to Hoosier in order to remain on the series. He’s continued to run Hoosiers in non-Lucas events this season, including his cakewalk victory Saturday night.
“I think all that stuff’s bogus,” said Blankenship, who overtook Scott Bloomquist on lap 13 of Saturday’s race before crossing the finish line nearly five seconds ahead of Steve Casebolt. “I think it’s foolish for anyone to say they got beat because of the tire brand, and I always said if that’s the case, they’re out there for everybody to buy. But yeah, I guess this kind of proves we can do it either way.”
The switch to Hoosiers hasn’t been a completely smooth one. Having only run the tire brand in a handful of events over each of the past few seasons, Blankenship and his crew have had to work to adjust to the new rubber.
“They’re different than what we’re used to, so it definitely takes some time to adjust back to them,” Blankenship said. “We’ve had a lot of help from Hoosier South and they’ve got us back up to speed pretty good.”
The decision to switch to Hoosiers was a reluctant one for Blankenship, who would’ve preferred to continue his relationship with American Racer. But he does see some possible benefits from running Hoosiers tires for when he goes to events that use a Hoosier-only tire rule.
“We’ve been happy with American Racer and would’ve stuck with them, but we plan on running Lucas Oil again this year, so we really didn’t have a choice,” Blankenship said. “At the end of the day it’ll probably help us at the bigger shows that have (Hoosier-only) tire rules anyway at like Eldora. When we’ve gone up there before, we’re getting on (Hoosiers) coming from the American Racers. Now we’ll already be used to the Hoosier tires, so maybe that’ll help us.”
Whatever tire brand he’s running, Blankenship is excited about the prospects for his 2013 season. After a up-and-down Speedweeks trip during Lucas Oil’s Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., the victory at Volunteer helps to boost his confidence as just before the Lucas Series returns to action next weekend at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway.
“We suffered through East Bay, so it’s good to come here and get a win before the Lucas Series gets going,” Blankenship said. “We’ve got some momentum, so I’m looking forward to getting back and racing with those guys. I think we’re going to be really competitive all year.”