ROSSBURG — A pair of Club 29 Race Car (chassis) drivers showed the way Thursday, June 5 as Eldora Speedway opened a busy weekend for the 20th annual Dirt Late Model Dream presented by Ferris Mowers with a pair of fast-paced Twin 25-lap features.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, TN, led the final 10 laps of the opening feature while Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind., led all the way in the finale. The drivers earned $2,500 apiece and will be among nearly 80 drivers gunning for Saturday’s $100,000 payday. Twin 25-lappers paying $5,000-to-win are scheduled for Friday (June 6).
With the track splitting the field for two complete programs following the multi-car time trial runs, Owens came out on top in the opening feature event.
Combining patience with an impeccably handling machine, Owens ran down and passed race-long pacesetter Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., for the lead on lap 15 and then rolled to victory.
“It’s good to come up here and win and have a pretty versatile car,” said Owens, a past winner of Eldora’s Dream (2009) and World 100 (’07, ’11). “I was pretty good wherever I wanted to go actually — I could run high, through the middle and on the bottom. I was really pleased.”
Owens, 42, failed to jump out to the lead at the initial green flag from his pole position starting spot, but that was the only blemish on his run. He glided by the 17-year-old Pierce, who started second, just after the halfway mark and controlled the remainder of the distance to pocket a $2,500 check.
Pierce settled for a runner-up finish, 1.441 seconds behind Owens. Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., earned a career-best Eldora finish of third after surging past Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va., on the restart following the race’s only caution flag (and only second of the entire night), on lap 22. John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., also passed Hawkins on the final restart to place fourth, leaving Hawkins fifth at the checkered flag.
Pierce fell short of kicking off the Dream weekend with his 12th overall win of his spectacular 2014 season.
“I kind of wish some of those lapped cars would’ve gotten out of the way a little bit better” said Pierce, who drove a car that sported a retro graphics scheme resembling the Dependable Carburetors No. 32 his father Bob ran in the early ‘90s. “But you gotta race ‘em — and it’s good practice for the 100-lap race. I kind of realized how you gotta work those (lapped) guys and maybe use the right side (to pass them) if I have to.”
In the second feature, Robinson captured what he called the biggest Late Model victory of his career.
“Any time you get on the stage here, it’s a big deal,” the 27-year-old driver said. “It might not have paid the highest (purse) I’ve ever won, but it definitely means the most to me.”
The polesitter jumped into the early lead in the caution-free event and built a comfortable half-straightaway margin on second-running Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., a six-time Dream winner.
But as the frontrunners approached traffic after 10 laps, Robinson’s margin narrowed and it appeared as if Bloomquist might track him down. Instead, Robinson turned up the wick amid the slower cars, stretching his lead and giving his No. 7r a cushion of three lapped cars as Bloomquist vainly tried to keep up.
“When you get to dirty air, it really makes your car handle different. I knew I had a big lead. I was getting signs, a big enough lead, but I had to press hard enough to get around those guys to put some cars in between me and Scott,” Robinson said. “The car was really maneuverable. Once the tires fired off, it was really good — spot on. I don’t know if it could’ve gotten better, but that’s a good feeling. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Robinson ran unchallenged the rest of the way to take the checkers nearly three seconds ahead of Bloomquist, who started fourth and took the second spot from outside front-row starter Jonathan Davenport on the third lap. Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa, who started fifth, advanced two positions for his best Eldora performance while Rick Eckert of York, Pa., rallied from 11th to finish fourth in the Rocket Chassis house car.
Duane Chamberlain of Richmond, Ind., improved three positions to give the Bill Dues-owned St. Henry Nite Club team its second top five finish of the night. Davenport slipped back to seventh at the finish.
Race tickets and campsites for the remaining nights (June 6-7) of the Dirt Late Model Dream presented by Ferris Mowers, or any other exciting Eldora event, are available by going online to www.EldoraSpeedway.com. Additionally, tickets and campsites may be purchased through the Eldora offices during normal business hours by calling (937) 338-3815 or on race day.
Additionally, race fans and race teams can get behind-the-scenes access by following @EldoraSpeedway on Twitter, hitting ‘Like’ at Facebook.com/EldoraSpeedway and view video highlights at YouTube.com/EldoraSpeedwayInc. Mobile device users can access the Eldora Speedway app for the iPhone, iPad and Android which are available for download via iTunes and Google Play.