Handicapping the 32nd Sunoco North-South 100
By Andy SavaryDirtonDirt.com staff writer
Handicapping the field for the 32nd annual Sunoco Race Fuels North-South 100, the $50,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event slated for Aug. 8-9 at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky. (complete North-South coverage):
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn.
Florence history: Owens, a multi-time winner of both the North-South 100 and Ralph Latham Memorial, has already visited victory lane once at Florence this season.
Recent performance: Since July 1st, the three-time and defending Lucas Oil Series champion has five victories and has finished no worse than third in 11 starts.
North-South 100 outlook: Fresh off a $50,000 victory in Cedar Lake Speedway’s USA Nationals, Owens will look to match the payday and become the first four-time winner of Florence’s crown jewel.
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind.
Florence history: The two-time and defending North-South winner has found as much success at the half-mile oval as any other driver.
Recent performance: O’Neal has raced through a strong summer for the most part, but enters on a bit of a low note after finishing 19th in the USA Nationals.
North-South 100 outlook: O’Neal, who enters the North-South for the first time in a Barry Wright Race Car, could become the first driver to ever win three-straight North-South 100s.
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn.
Florence history: The 1988 and 2000 North-South 100 winner has also found victory lane in Ralph Latham Memorial and UMP DIRTcar Summernationals action at Florence.
Recent performance: The zero car is just a few weeks removed from $30,000 and a dominant Silver Dollar Nationals victory at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. — an event which uses a very similar format to the North-South 100.
North-South 100 outlook: Arguably the most dangerous driver in crown jewel events, Bloomquist will gun for his first North-South title in 14 years.
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky.
Florence history: The hometown driver makes limited visits to the track just down the road from his shop but did notch a thrilling victory over Owens in the Old Man’s Garage Spring Nationals-sanctioned Spring 50 on April 19, 2014.
Recent performance: Lanigan has piled up 13 victories on the 2014 season, including four across four different Midwestern states during the month of July.
North-South 100 outlook: After a busy stretch on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series circuit, the tour’s points leader plans to skip the event in favor of a family vacation, but should he change is mind at the last minute, he’ll surely be a threat.
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga.
Florence history: The 2014 Dirt Late Model Dream winner posted a career-best third-place finish in last year’s North-South 100.
Recent performance: The friendly Georgia veteran will enter his first race since Lernerville Speedway’s Firecracker 100 at the end of June, where he finished fourth.
North-South 100 outlook: A big winner already in 2014 and one of the sport’s best in 100-lap events, McDowell has a nice chance to add another major victory to his increasingly-decorated resume.
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y.
Florence history: The 40-year-old has only made a handful of appearances at Florence but has shown flashes that include a runner-up finish in last year’s North-South 100.
Recent performance: McCreadie’s season hit its high-water mark in July 25-26’s Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway, where he bagged $25,000 in a thriller.
North-South 100 outlook: A new Friday format with two rounds of heat races should play to his style and put him in a good position for Saturday’s 100-lapper.
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky.
Florence history: Francis is a two-time Ralph Latham Memorial winner and has recorded top-seven finishes in the last four North-South 100s.
Recent performance: Winless since April 10, the 2014 Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame inductee has struggled to regain his early-season form.
North-South 100 outlook: Much like he did in 2012, there’s still time to salvage the season with winning performances in major events down the stretch and Florence is as good a place as any to start.
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn.
Florence history: Marlar's last North-South 100 appearance in a Rocket Chassis came in 2011, when he ended the weekend with a fifth-place finish.
Recent performance: After a quiet July while making limited starts, Marlar closed out the month as winner in Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals Series action at Duck River.
North-South 100 outlook: Marlar has a knack for popping up at big events and is another driver who is likely to entertain in Friday’s double heat races at one of his favorite tracks.
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind.
Florence history: Casebolt has found victory lane in the track’s Ralph Latham Memorial, Spring 50 and Fall 50, but never the North-South 100.
Recent performance: Turned around his season with a July switch to Club 29 Race Cars and has not finished worst than second in his last four starts.
North-South 100 outlook: After scoring two July victories at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio — a track where success has historically correlated well with Florence — Casebolt looks to knock off the lone Florence biggie that has eluded him and the race he lists as his favorite.
Randy Weaver (116), Crossville, Tenn.
Florence history: Weaver’s North-South 100 performance is trending upward with a 10th-place finish in 2012 and an eighth-place finish in 2013.
Recent performance: No driver is hotter, with Weaver scoring victories in six of his last seven starts.
North-South 100 outlook: His game has been elevated to new heights since making the midseason switch to Longhorn Chassis and few would be surprised to find Weaver in victory lane on Saturday night.
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis.
Florence history: Mars was the victor of one of the most memorable North-South 100s in 2009 when he blew past O’Neal on the final lap, but he has not frequented at the King-family oval since.
Recent performance: Nearly swept Cedar Lake’s USA Nationals weekend, where he scored three victories and a third-place finish in Saturday’s $50,000-to-win finale.
North-South 100 outlook: Until recently, Mars had not traveled much this season due to the death of a close friend, but while branching out in the past month, he has looked as dangerous as ever at times.
Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla.
Florence history: Pearson won the track’s Ralph Latham Memorial in 2010 but has experienced a mixed bag of results ever since.
Recent performance: Opened July with a Lucas Oil victory at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pa., but cooled with inconsistency from there.
North-South 100 outlook: With the extensive success of Longhorn Chassis in 2014, Pearson should have his best shot at a North-South victory since his Longhorn debut, which came at Florence in 2010 when he was passed for victory by Owens on the final lap.
Jason Jameson (12), Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Florence history: The former track champion outdueled Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., for a UMP DIRTcar Summernationals victory at Florence on July 8.
Recent performance: Serving as crew chief for Lanigan has left him only spot starts in 2014, but when he has hit the track, he’s been highly competitive.
North-South 100 outlook: Though he has made only one North-South 100, finishing 21st in 2012, his July victory, Florence experience and general fearlessness make him one to watch.
Other drivers expected to enter this weekend’s action include Michael Asberry, John Blankenship, Stephen Breeding, Eddie Carrier Jr., Duane Chamberlain, Michael Chilton, Wayne Chinn, Gary Christian, Chris Combs, Delmas Conley, Rod Conley, R.J. Conley, Ray Cook, Dennis Erb Jr., Tripp Gerrald, John Gill, Robby Hensley, Jason Hughes, Jared Landers, Steve Landrum, Nick Latham, Jesse Lay, Victor Lee, Dustin Linville, Cody Mahoney, Matt Miller, Brad Neat, Dustin Neat, Scott James, Davey Johnson, Greg Johnson, Brandon Overton, Jason Papich, Tim Prince, James Rice, Gregg Satterlee, Dan Schlieper, Steve Shaver, Chad Smith, Tim Tungate, Eric Wells and more.