Monday, September 12th, 2011
Owens able to hold off challengers at the end
By Mike Ernst
ROSSBURG - After taking the lead on lap 13 from Chris Madden, it appeared Newport, Tennessee native Jimmy Owens would cruise to his second career win in the World 100 on Saturday night at Eldora Speedway.
However, a bout with the Eldora cushion damaged the right side of Owens' machine and the final 10 laps went from being a ho-hum run to one of the most frantic finishes in the 41-year history of the speedway's most prestigious event that had the crowd of more than 25,000 on their feet.
"I guess when I jumped the cushion (in turn one), it knocked the bracing loose from my (right-side) door and that really slowed us down quite a bit," said Owens, the current points leader of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. "When I would get within about six cars (lengths) of a lapped car, I would start losing it. All the air getting under the car (the door was bent) was just making the car 'skatey.' We couldn't stick no more, where early in the race it didn't faze us none."
With Owens' car slowing, second-place Darrell Lanigan and third-place Don O'Neal began to close in on the race leader. On lap 93 Lanigan attempted a move low around Owens as he was racing behind the lapped machine of Brandon Sheppard.
"When I caught him, he actually caught them lapped cars at the same time and that kept me from doing a slide job," Lanigan said. "And that let O'Neal catch up too."
Lanigan's car slid up the track allowing O'Neal to power by him going down the backstretch. A lap later O'Neal took his shot at the lead, but like Lanigan, he came up short on his attempted pass and Lanigan moved back to the runner-up position.
As Lanigan and O'Neal battled back and forth, the balance of the field closed on the top three. Lanigan and O'Neal swapped positions and paint several more times but neither could make the move around Owens for the top spot.
As they battled through turn two on lap 98, Lanigan and O'Neal, the $100,000 Dream winner at Eldora in June, made contact and slowed ever so slightly allowing fourth-place Eddie Carrier, Jr. to drive by both of them going down the backstretch.
It was now Carrier's turn to take a shot at Owens. He narrowed the gap as they raced under the white flag and closed more going down the backstretch on the final lap. Carrier then attempted a desperation slide job in the final two corners that brought him right to Owens's rear deck lid, but no closer, and Owens hung on for the win by .625 seconds.
"I knew we were hurting and a sitting duck," said Owens. "But we were able to hold on and hold 'em off. I saw Eddie below me…..My hat's off to him for a good run."
Carrier's runner-up finish was the best of his career in the event, but left him wondering what might have been.
"It got pretty wild there at the end," said Carrier, who started 12th in the main event. "I seen Donnie and Lanigan start battling (for second), and then they kind of got together and lost some time over (in turn two), and I said, 'Here's my shot to get second.'
"Then Jimmy was kind of stuck behind the lapped cars and I caught him a little bit. I didn't know if I had anything for him, but going in that last corner I just took a last dive at it to see if I could clear him. But I didn't have him cleared and I wasn't gonna drive through him. It's the World 100, but it's just not my deal to race like that. I wasn't gonna run over a guy to get here."
O'Neal won the battle with Lanigan, but had to settle for third, with Lanigan fourth and John Blankenship rounding out the top five. Rounding out the top 10 were Madden, fast qualifier and three-time World 100 champion Scott Bloomquist, Jeep Van Wormer, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star Austin Dillon and Mike Marlar.
The win by Owens was his second in dirt late model racing's most prestigious race, which along with his 2009 win in The Dream gives him three wins in Eldora's two crown jewel events.
"Tonight was a whole lot more sentimental than the first (World 100 win)," said Owens, who ended a string of 10 different World 100 winners. "The first time we won we were still more of a Modified racer and when we won the Dream it just didn't hit home to what we had done.
"Now that we've been in Late Models for awhile and been competitive, you realize the prestige of these races a whole lot more. This second one is a whole lot better than the first one. When you see what it means to all the other drivers and the fans, then you realize, 'Hey, this is a pretty big deal. It's pretty cool.'"
Eldora will take this weekend off to prepare for another big event at the high-banked, half-mile with the Four Crown Weekend on Sept. 23 and 24.