Lucas Oil Speedway
With near-misses, Dickes turns heads at Show-Me
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
WHEATLAND, Mo. (May 25) — You won’t find many dirt racers interested in moral victories. Grabbing a checkered flag, collecting the winner’s purse and outrunning everyone else is mostly what satisfies racers.
But among more than 75 drivers competing at Lucas Oil Speedway over the 21st annual Show-Me 100 weekend, there’s little doubt that Travis Dickes of Madison, Neb., got the most notice among drivers who didn’t make the starting lineup for Saturday's main event.
Dickes ended his Memorial Day weekend on upbeat note Sunday by heading back to Nebraska to capture I-80 Speedway's Charlie Clark Memorial, a $2,022-to-win event on the Super Late Model Racing Series, where he’s a two-time champion.
Sunday’s victory came after a series of near-misses in Show-Me 100 prelims. With three drivers transferring from the heat races, Dickes finished fourth after losing a spot in the final laps to John Blankenship. He was third in a consolation race behind Dennis Erb Jr. and Steve Shaver. Where Dickes showed his mettle at Lucas Oil Speedway was his back-and-forth duel with Mike Marlar in the Midwest Sheet Metal-sponsored non-qualifiers’ race for the Show-Me 100.
Oftentimes at major events, a non-qualifers’ race is a forgettable affair or a good time to grab a hot dog. But the Marlar-Dickes battle, with Randy Weaver right in the mix to, provided a groove-swapping, lead-swapping battle that provided among the most exciting laps of the weekend.
Marlar was in control of the 20-lapper early, but Dickes stayed with him through the middle stages. When Marlar decided to try the high groove, Dickes slipped underneath and grabbed the lead on lap 15. But Dickes hit a hot in turn two that upset his race car, allowed Marlar to get right back underneath. Heading into turn three side-by-side, the cars made contact, and Marlar edged back ahead.
Dickes fought back on the high side and briefly took the lead again, but Marlar came out on top amid traffic. He passed on the $2,000 winner’s purse for a spot in the 100-lapper — while Dickes was one spot shy. Again.
He steered his No. 21T back to his pit area and quickly shed his driving suit. There was some grumbling in the pits about the contact with Marlar, and Dickes mentioned it before talking about his last-gasp effort on the high side when he repeatedly drove his car in as deep as possible just outside Marlar’s machine.
“I just tried it around the top and I couldn’t do nothing with it,” Dickes said. “He had to do what he had to do to get that transfer spot — and that’s what you’ve gotta do.”
Fellow Nebraska driver Al Humphrey of Giltner, who helps field MARS champion Jesse Stovall’s cars, was proud of the effort of Dickes despite missing the main event.
“He’s a helluva wheelman. He’s going toe to toe with national drivers and not giving an inch,” Humphrey said. “There’s a lot of guys with more experience than him in the bleachers.”
And Gary Winger of GW Performance, who helped Dickes with his setups, gave Dickes props, too.
“For a guy with no more experience than he’s got, he was just a spot from being in the race,” Winger said moments after the race while helping Marlar prepare for the main event. “A few things go his way and he’s in this thing.”
The 33-year-old Dickes, who finished 20th in Thursday’s preliminary feature at Wheatland, has success on Nebraska’s SLMR Series under his belt, but he’d like to broaden that success.
“We’ve been running that SLMR for a couple of years, and then we thought we’d step up and run (Missouri-based) MLRA for that rookie deal,” Dickes said. “We just came down here to see if we could get better, and we just missed it all night by one spot.
“It makes me feel good that we’re competitive, but we need to get better. Hopefully we can get our motor situation and get our motors updated and we can go on from here. We’re running 10-, 15-year-old technology under the hood. We’ve got a new one being built. It just ain’t done yet.”
While Dickes might have been down on power, his car’s handling kept him in contention all weekend.
“We struggled with this car when it gets slick, but I think Gary and everybody at GW (Performance) did some good work and I think we got it a lot better,” he said. “I just wish we could’ve made it. It would’ve been probably one of the biggest races of my career.
“It would’ve been nice to make, but we can’t hang our heads.”