Fast Talk: Dream wrapup and Hell Tour preview
Here’s the latest edition of Fast Talk, a DirtonDirt.com feature appearing each Monday and sponsored by Out-Pace Racing Products. Staffers Michael Rigsby, Todd Turner and Joshua Joiner gather weekly for a roundtable discussion about who’s hot, who’s not and other issues regarding Dirt Late Model racing (edited for clarity and length):
Joshua Joiner: Eldora Speedway’s expanded Dream XIX presented by Ferris Commercial Mowers has provided plenty for us to discuss so let’s jump right in. | Complete Dream XIX coverage
We’ll start with race winner Scott Bloomquist, who led the final 36 laps of Saturday’s 100-lap main event for to earn $100,000 for his sixth Dream victory. Bloomquist is one of the most successful drivers at Eldora, with nine major event victories there, but I don’t think very many people were picking him to win this weekend.
He was middling through the weekend’s preliminary action and his 2013 season has been well below his usual standards coming into the Dream. Did either of you see his Saturday night performance coming?
Todd Turner: You're right, he didn't give much hint he'd be a factor the first two nights, but Bloomquist is one of a handful of guys who are superior when it comes to consistently having a car at its best late in a 100-lapper. So it was classic Bloomquist in that way.
I did notice the three guys closest to Bloomquist at the end — Matt Miller (before breaking a driveshaft on lap 91), runner-up Dennis Erb Jr. and Josh Richards (third before he was disqualified at the scales) — were winners during Thursday's and Friday's preliminaries. So he definitely appeared to outrun the best drivers of the weekend.
Michael Rigsby: I didn't see that level of dominance coming. If you were paying attention to the lap times, he was WILDLY faster than anyone on the racetrack ... by over a second during some stretches of the race. So no, I didn't see exactly that coming. And how about his excitement/relief level afterwards? This one was big for Scott, and let's not forget he Babe-Ruthe'd it ... told a lot of us before the weekend "I'm going to win that race."
JJ: Aside from Bloomquist’s performance, there were plenty of other interesting storylines that played out in the main event. Polesitter Tyler Reddick sees another front-row start at Eldora lead to disappointment, Jimmy Mars fades after leading and Matt Miller, who won a pair of preliminary features Thursday and Friday under Eldora’s new expanded format, puts himself in position for a weekend sweep only to fall out while running second late in the race.
Which of those, or any other storylines from Saturday stick out the most to you guys?
TT: Matt Miller was the story of the weekend. While he won the Dream in 2005, his Rick Delong Racing team is, for all intents and purposes, a local race team with solid equipment and tons of experience. With the exception of Bloomquist in the second half of the 100-lapper, Miller had the fastest car all weekend. It's a shame he couldn't have finished it off with a second-place finish in the finale. A Bloomquist-Miller battle would've been intriguing, had it come to pass.
MR: I think Matt Miller proved Saturday night that Thursday and Friday was no fluke. He was fast from unload to pack-up, and I think all of us would have liked to seen that caution not be for him with nine to go, and we have a restart with Miller up front alongside Bloomquist (side note: I love doublefile restarts ... like ... truly love them).
Aside from the storylines you mentioned, I think there were more than a few guys who had "really fast race cars" ... like Jonathan Davenport, Scott James, etc. ... that just couldn't put it all together or had bad luck, and it cost them a chance to shine.
JJ: Let’s take a second to review Eldora’s new format. We saw more racing than ever at an Eldora major event with the addition of twin 25-lap features on both Thursday and Friday. The fields were split after qualifying both nights into odd and even groups with heat races, consolation races and features ($2,500-to-win on Thursday and $5,000-to-win on Friday) for both groups.
Now that we’ve had some time to process the weekend, what did you guys think of the new format?
TT: Overall I give it a big thumbs up. The all-out, throttle-mashing in the 25-lap prelims were exciting, and those seven lead changes in the first one on Thursday night make that one of the best races most of us have seen at Eldora in a race of any length.
MR: This is one of those times where I'm just going to say what I think, and don't really care what anyone else's opinion is. Love, Love, Love the new format. More racing, more chances for the drivers to make money, and more entertainment value. That Thursday night race (which was ridiculously good by the way) was $18 to see as a fan. How could you not have gotten your moneys worth?
I think maybe we'll see some small tweaks like possibly locking in those Thursday-Friday feature winners into the show, but overall, it was awesome. More 25-lappers at Eldora please!
TT: If they leave it like this, I'd have few complaints. But if tweaks are considered, I'd ditch the consolation races on Thursday and Friday, and perhaps consider a provisional for the preliminary feature winners (instead of the two additional going to fast qualifiers).
Guys skipping racing on preliminary nights might be solved by the fact that pretty much all the guys that skipped races didn't exactly shine on Saturday either.
MR: I thought the same thing Todd ... the guys who skipped, didn't exactly perform well on Saturday (of course the 6-invert was a factor also) ... but that might take care of itself.
JJ: I like how the new format gives more drivers a chance to have a good weekend. For instance, Doug Drown didn't make the Dream lineup, but he can at least leave with some positives after finishing fifth in a preliminary feature Friday night.
TT: One more thing: If there's a fear some teams skipped the weekend because they couldn't make it Thursday, what about a draw-for-lineups show on Thursday, with time trials on Friday transferring to Saturday's show?
JJ: I think that's a good point, Todd. Basically requiring teams to be at the track to qualify on Thursday probably prevented a few cars from coming, and that's one way to solve that issue.
MR: The old nightmare format. I'd say there's a slim chance of that happening, but I like the idea.
TT: With this format, 80 or so cars was just right ... in a way, the format becomes the focus of the show, instead of the way the car count was the story when you had a qualifying-only night.
MR: TOTALLY agree on that ... 80-90 is perfect for this format. Really no more needed than that. It was just a ton of racing as it is.
TT: Yes, not trying to rob fans a bang for their buck, but shorter nights Thursday and Friday would've made it a little more enjoyable, hence my suggestion to ditch the consies.
JJ: Let’s also touch on the track surface. We saw arguably some of the best racing in quite a while at Eldora on Thursday and Friday thanks to a multi-groove surface, and the 100-lap feature was far from a snoozer with multiple lead changes and plenty of action through the field.
A rugged surface for Saturday’s heat forced some much-needed reworking, but things improved for the consolations and feature. What did you guys think of the track?
TT: If you break the weekend into six parts: prelims each night and feature each night, the track was acceptable to excellent for five of the six stretches. The Saturday heats were the only clunker.
That said, Thursday's surface was fast and exciting, while Friday's was slick and exciting. Neat to see the track different on back-to-back nights (and Matt Miller handling both with aplomb).
MR: I don't remember Eldora offering that many kind of surfaces over the course of a weekend, but of course we don't see it race in 3 nights very often.
JJ: With the Dream behind us, we turn our attention to the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals. There was some tweaking to the schedule this year with the traditional month-long slate being expanded to six weeks to allow for a few more races and a few more off days.
In all, the series will run 31 races in 39 days. Do you guys think the extra off days will make things any easier for drivers, teams and the rest of us who’ll follow the tour as it zig zags through the Midwest, or will it still be as grueling as ever?
MR: How is it possibly time already?? I know our own Derek Kessinger (the self-proclaimed UMP correspondent) is licking his chops to get out on the road and get going, but it seems like it creeps up sooner every year for a tour that used to start AFTER July 4th. I think the days off will be a welcome sight. Some of these drivers complain that they'd rather race every day, only until they get to racing every day and then say, "I'd like a day off" ... so in my opinion, and for my sanity, I think it's just right!
TT: I'll register my protest now: I'd prefer a day-after-day schedule of 22 races rather than 31 with more days off ... four weeks seems about right to me, and stretching it makes it more like all the other series we already have. I know I've been outvoted, but if the Summernationals isn't racing every night, then it's not the Summernationals.
That said, I hope it's a big success and that Bobby Pierce, Tyler Reddick, Walker Arthur and others help inject some new blood into a tour that always has some wacky events, on and off the track, usually.
MR: I agree with Todd on some level, and have always said 4-5 weeks is the number that it needs to be, but if they insist on racing this much, then I'll take a day or two off now and again!
JJ: As usual, the series should attract some solid competitors in former champions Brian Shirley and Shannon Babb along with Brandon Sheppard and others. There should be a few new faces, too, with Tyler Reddick among the most notable.
Who are some of the drivers you guys are looking for to contend for this year’s Summernationals title?
MR: I actually don't think Brian Shirley will run the entire tour from the sounds of things, but having the young triumvirate of Pierce, Reddick, and Sheppard will make things really fun. It'll be those three against Babb much of the tour, and will give us a good storyline.
TT: It does appear Babb will be the veteran ... wasn't it just a few years ago he was the young guy? Sheppard, Pierce and Reddick should have the opportunity to grab some checkered flags for the young guys, for sure.