East Alabama Motor Speedway
Late heroics give Eckert third National 100 trophy
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
PHENIX CITY, Ala. (Nov. 3) — In a season he already labeled an “almost year,” Rick Eckert was ready to settle for yet another runner-up finish in Sunday’s National 100 main event at East Alabama Motor Speedway. That was before some late heroics turned what was shaping up to be another disappointing near-miss into Eckert’s richest victory in seven years.
After Tim McCreadie turned back each of his low-side challenges in the race’s final 10 laps, the second-starting Eckert of York, Pa., used a top-side charge to squeeze between McCreadie and the front straightaway wall as the two leaders headed for the white flag. Eckert used his high-side momentum to edge ahead at the flag stand and pulled away over the final lap en route to his third National 100 victory. | Slideshow | Video
“We’ve run second so many times this year,” said Eckert, a World of Outlaws Series regular who recorded six runner-up finishes on the national tour this season. “I thought it was gonna be the same thing. I was already kicking myself thinking we were gonna run second. Then he started getting really loose and it looked like he was just trying not to fly out of the place.
“I knew if I could just get in beside him before we got to the middle of the corner, that I could really roll some corner speed off that top. I almost didn’t get him run hard enough, but I finally got it done there right at the end.”
Eckert, who claimed back-to-back National 100 trophies in 2004 and 2005, earned $20,100 in his first race at East Alabama since 2006, when he finished second in the National 100 and claimed the track’s World of Outlaws Series event in the same season.
“This place just has some real neat characteristics that I guess fits my driving style,” said Eckert, who has never finished worse than third in his five National 100 starts. “I really like the way you can get after it and you can move around usually. I’ve never drove around anyone on the outside like that here before, but there’s a first for everything.”
McCreadie, who charged from his eighth starting spot to take the lead from polesitter and race-long leader Scott Bloomquist on lap 32, was denied what would’ve been his first National 100 victory in settling for second. Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., was just behind the two leaders in third with Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., on his heels in fourth. Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., advanced from his 18th starting spot to round out the top five in a race slowed by five cautions.
After charging into the top five early, McCreadie was the first driver to successfully navigate the track’s low groove when he moved down and continued his charge forward. He took the lead from Bloomquist on lap 32 of the 100-lapper and cruised through much of the race’s middle portions.
McCreadie appeared to be headed for his first National 100 victory until Eckert's late rally and his own fading race car led to the dramatic finish. McCreadie turned back multiple low-side challenges from Eckert after lap 90, but he didn’t react fast enough when Eckert drove high in turns three and four on lap 99.
“We were dying a little bit and I was just trying not to push,” said McCreadie, who banked the $10,000 runner-up finisher’s purse along with an extra $3,350 in lap leader bonus money for the 67 laps he spent out front. “I must’ve left too much room up there. I didn’t know he was even out there until it was too late.
“To drive from where we did and pass a lot of good cars, it’s definitely a positive. But I’m just never gonna be happy when we have a thing like that. It’s hard to stomach when it goes that way.”
After setting fast time and winning his heat race during Friday’s prelims, Bloomquist over adjusted his self-designed chassis for Saturday’s feature, leading to the 10th straight year he’s failed to win an event that he won eight times between 1990 and 2003.
“The racetrack was just definitely different tonight,” Bloomquist said. “We got really tight (in Friday’s heat race) so I freed the car up tonight for the feature and went too far.
“We were still pretty good, but we just stayed too high early and McCreadie got by us in the bottom. It rubbered up around the top there later and that’s what really took away any opportunity. Rick just made a heck of a move to get by McCreadie.”
Notes: Eckert’s Bloomquist Race Car is powered by a Jay Dickens Racing Engine with sponsorship from J&K Salvage, Eckert Trucking, Ritchey Sandblasting, Allstar performance and Sunoco Race Fuels. ... The $20,100 payday marked Eckert’s highest-paying victory since his $30,000 triumph at the ’05 National 100. ... Bloomquist avoided near disaster when a tangle left Eric Jacobsen’s car parked straight ahead of him in turn two. Bloomquist swerved around Jacobsen and quickly swung back left to avoid going off the track. ... McCreadie also avoided trouble when he drove off the turn-two banking while leading on lap 34. Steve Francis had slowed from a mid-pack position just before McCreadie’s exit, allowing him to retake the lead for the restart. ... John Blankenship and Dennis Erb Jr. both dropped out of the race after suffering mechanical woes. ... Don O’Neal finished 12th in making his first start in a Barry Wright Race Car for Clint Bowyer Racing. ... Home-track favorites Jimmy Thomas and Bobby Thomas each claimed $5,000 victories in Sunday's Crate Late Model and Limited Late Model features.
39th annual National 100: (1) Rick Eckert, (2) Tim McCreadie, (3) Scott Bloomquist, (4) Randy Weaver, (5) Chris Madden, (6) Clint Smith, (7) Ray Cook, (8) Jonathan Davenport, (9) Steve Francis, (10) Jared Landers, (11) Eric Cooley, (12) Don O'Neal, (13) Dale McDowell, (14) Jason Hiett, (15) Dennis Franklin, (16) Ivedent Lloyd Jr., (17) Jake Knowles, (18) Dennis Erb Jr., (19) William Thomas, (20) Shane Clanton, (21) John Blankenship, (22) Eric Jacobsen, (23) Dylan Ames, (24) Jordy Nipper. Fast qualifier (among 40 cars): Bloomquist, 15.39 seconds. Heat race winners: Bloomquist, Eckert, Cook, Weaver. Consolation winners: Smith, Madden.