Portsmouth Raceway Park
Handicapping the 34th DTWC at Portsmouth
By Andy SavaryDirtonDirt.com staff writer
Handicapping the 34th annual Optima Batteries Dirt Track World Championship presented by NAPA Auto Parts, the $50,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event Oct. 16-18 at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park (complete DTWC coverage):
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn.
History: The 2005 Dirt Track World Champion won the Lucas Oil tour’s July 4 event at Portsmouth and was headed for another victory on Aug. 30 when fuel pressure issues hampered him late.
Recent performance: Since winning the World 100 in early September, Bloomquist has been dominant nearly everywhere he has stopped, including Magnolia last weekend.
Weekend outlook: The Hall of Famer never lacks confidence and surely expects to leave Portsmouth Saturday with a second DTWC title next to his name.
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn.
History: Owens won the 2012 Dirt Track World Championship in its inaugural running at PRP and has finished in the top five in each of the past four seasons.
Recent performance: After turning in an unprecedented summer of success, Owens has had some uncharacteristically bad luck and cooled off considerably to start the fall.
Weekend outlook: If the defending Lucas Oil champion is going to add a fourth crown to his resume, he’ll almost surely need a victory on Saturday night to do it.
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind.
History: O'Neal won the 2011 DTWC at Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe, Ohio, and recorded third-place and sixth-place finishes the two seasons at PRP.
Recent performance: It hasn’t been his winningest stretch, but O’Neal’s consistency over the past two months helped him catch and pass Owens atop the Lucas Oil standings
Weekend outlook: Needing only an eighth-place finish to guarantee his first Lucas Oil title, it should be interesting to see how careful O’Neal is in pursuing a second DTWC victory.
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga.
History: McDowell won a Lucas Oil event at Portsmouth in 2010 and posted his best DTWC showing of third place in 2002 at Bluegrass Speedway in Bardstown, Ky.
Recent performance: The 2014 Dirt Late Model Dream winner finished second in Lucas Oil action at Dixie on Oct. 4 before breaking an oil line the following night at Rome.
Weekend outlook: With a solid record of performance at PRP and in long-distance races, McDowell has a prime opportunity to add another crown jewel to his resume.
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky.
History: The Clint Bowyer Racing-driver won the 1999 DTWC, was runner-up in the 2013 race and has recorded top-seven finishes in the event every year since 2005.
Recent performance: It has been six months since Francis last visited victory lane, but he has been back in contention over the past couple of months.
Weekend outlook: Francis has a steady record of success in the event and it won’t take much improvement on past performances to end his extended drought.
Jackie Boggs (4B), Grayson, Ky.
History: Boggs triumphed during the Lucas Oil tour’s Aug. 30 stop at PRP and finished third in last year's DTWC, an event his Hall of Fame father Jack won three times.
Recent performance: In a battle of Kentuckians, Boggs topped Dustin Linville for a $3,000 victory in 201 Speedway’s Halloween 50 on Oct. 4.
Weekend outlook: The driver who is perhaps associated with Portsmouth more than any other surely has the driving ability to get the job done, but can he last the entire 100-lap distance?
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark.
History: Moyer’s DTWC triumphs came in 1986 and 1996 at Pennsboro (W.Va) Speedway, and he finished seventh in last year’s race at PRP, where he has won a Lucas Oil event.
Recent performance: His 14 victories flex plenty of muscle, but he never threatened in Knoxville’s finale or at Magnolia’s Cotton Pickin’ 100, two events where he’s typically strong.
Weekend outlook: It’s been 18 years since Moyer’s last DTWC victory, and with a win this weekend, he'd break his own event record for the longest gap between victories of 10 years.
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis.
History: The 2009 Dirt Track World Champion was victorious in the crown jewel’s lone running at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.
Recent performance: Mars has been one of the nation’s top drivers over the past few months with multiple wins and strong showings in nearly all of the major events he has entered.
Weekend outlook: The DTWC will likely bring the northerner's 2014 season to close. What better way is there to go out than on top?
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga.
History: Davenport has made three DTWC starts but had little success at Portsmouth with 12th-place and 21st-place finishes in 2012 and 2013.
Recent performance: His September victories came in a World 100 preliminary feature and a Knoxville Late Model Nationals preliminary feature.
Weekend outlook: It has been a successful 2014 for Davenport with a doubt, but he is still missing the signature victory that has eluded him multiple times.
Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn.
History: Though he has made infrequent appearances at Portsmouth, Marlar has seven DTWC starts with a pair of sixth-place finishes standing as his best efforts.
Recent performance: Marlar rallied to score third-place finishes in both Knoxville’s Late Model Nationals and Magnolia’s Cotton Pickin’ 100.
Weekend outlook: Like Davenport, Marlar has had plenty of moments in major events this season. Will this be the weekend he puts it all together with a victory?
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va.
History: He skipped the 2013 race in favor of a vacation, but Richards has notched three top-five finishes in eight career DTWC starts across multiple venues.
Recent performance: Nerve damage to his hands kept Richards out of the car up until Eldora’s UMP Fall Nationals on Oct. 4, when a heat race accident spoiled his night.
Weekend outlook: With few competitive laps thus far in 2014, Richards is throwing himself into the fire at Portsmouth, but he and his team are capable of great things.
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill.
History: While subbing for Richards in the Rocket house car last season, Sheppard became the youngest Dirt Track World Champion at 20.
Recent performance: B-Shepp has collected some nice victories over the past two months, including a $5,000 Illinois State Championship triumph in Peoria, Ill., on Oct. 4.
Weekend outlook: Sheppard will be back in a Rocket house car this weekend (as teammate to Richards) and should have every opportunity to duplicate his victory.
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va.
History: Most famously, Carrier finished 10th in the 1998 DTWC at Thunder Ridge Raceway near Prestonsburg, Ky., three spots behind his father Eddie Carrier Sr.
Recent performance: Since winning the North-South 100 at Florence Speedway on Aug. 9, Carrier has posted modest results and struggled to consistently stay up to speed.
Weekend outlook: After spending the previous two Lucas Oil weekends at tracks where he has a limited notebook, Carrier will be happy to return to a familiar track.
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill.
History: Feger clicked with a fourth-place run during the 2013 event while making just his second Dirt Track World Championship start.
Recent performance: Success has tapered off considerably for Feger since his fourth-place finish in Eldora’s World 100 on Sept. 6.
Weekend outlook: Feger has made significant progress in crown jewel races in recent seasons and it seems increasingly likely that he could one day win one.
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill.
History: The 17-year-old UMP weekly national champion has never made a start in the Dirt Track World Championship and got caught up in a heat-race accident last season at Portsmouth.
Recent performance: Pierce capped off his UMP championship run with a dominant $5,000 win in Eldora’s UMP Fall Nationals on Oct. 4.
Weekend outlook: With a lack of Portsmouth experience, the weekend will be a challenge for Pierce, but he could find that the track suits his driving style and make some noise.
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa.
History: Satterlee is another competitor that lacks experience at Portsmouth. He's never started a Dirt Track World Championship main event.
Recent performance: The Pennsylvanian has branched out to visit new tracks in recent weeks and has produced a mixed bag of results.
Weekend outlook: Satterlee is getting closer and closer to a breakthrough victory, and his approach of attending far-flung major events should eventually pay off.
Ben Adkins (B7), West Portsmouth, Ohio
History: The hometown driver has three career Dirt Track World Championship starts on his resume with a best career finish of fifth-place at PRP in 2012.
Recent performance: Adkins locked up another Portsmouth track championship in September, recording three victories.
Weekend outlook The newly-crowned track champion has endless laps at PRP and proved in 2012 that he can hang with the best competition on the big stage.
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio
History: The young gun has never started a Dirt Track World Championship, but his father is a race veteran who was victorious in the 1988 edition.
Recent performance: Adding to an already stellar 2014, Moran collected $5,000 and his 18th overall win of the season in Skyline Speedway’s Harvest 50 on Sept. 27.
Weekend outlook: The race is in his home state, but the Ohio standout doesn't have a lot of laps at Portsmouth. It will be a tall order for the youngster to score an upset.
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa.
History: Zeigler made his first Dirt Track World Championship start in 2013 and finished 14th in Saturday’s main event.
Recent performance: Since Aug. 1, his schedule has included the USA Nationals, North-South 100, World 100, Hillbilly 100 and Knoxville Nationals, where he recorded a DNS or DNF in all events.
Weekend outlook: Can he finish? Zeigler’s performance in the races listed above has been notably better than his results suggest, as it’s often a matter of avoiding trouble than a lack of speed.
The field: 15-1
Others drivers expected: John Blankenship, Stephen Breeding, Steve Casebolt, Duane Chamberlain, Michael Chilton, Wayne Chinn, Chris Combs, Delmas Conley, J.T. Conley, Rod Conley, R.J. Conley, Tim Dohm, Zack Dohm, Doug Drown, Dennis Erb Jr., Tim Fuller, Chris Garnes, Jared Hawkins, Kenneth Howell, Davey Johnson, Greg Johnson, Jared Landers, Brandon Overton, Jason Papich, Earl Pearson Jr., Joe Ramey, Jeep Van Wormer, Eric Wells and more.