Thursday, June 6th, 2013
Top contenders set to compete for $100,000
By Mike Ernst
When Shane Clanton took the checkered flag after dominating last year's running of the $100,000 to-win Dirt Late Model Dream, he became the seventh different winner in the racing circuit's richest event.
Clanton also placed his name in exclusive company as he joined Billy Moyer (six World 100 and two Dream wins), Scott Bloomquist (five Dream and three World 100 wins), Jimmy Owens (one win in each race) and Donnie Moran (one Dream and four World 100 wins) as the only drivers to win the sport's richest race as well as its most prestigious; September's World 100, also held at Eldora.
"After last year's Dream, it sunk in about a month later that it's only me and four other guys who have done that (won the Dream and the World 100)," said Clanton. "To accomplish that is pretty special and it just makes you want to go back to try and win those big races multiple times.
"Yeah, I won the World and I won the Dream, but now I want to go back and win multiple Dreams and multiple Worlds. I'd like to be like Scott (Bloomquist) and Billy Moyer. I'd like to one day be in their shoes with multiple wins in both races and I'd like to win them both in the same season like Moyer did a couple years ago."
With a new format in place which features twin 25-lap feature events on both Thursday and Friday night, as well as the traditional six heat races, consolation events and the 100-lap main race on Saturday night, drivers will have ample opportunities to get more laps on the track and to make more money. Clanton is one of those looking forward to the extra racing but his main focus is still on qualifying for Saturday's 100-lap main event.
"I can't wait to get back there," said Clanton, who has been making annual treks to Eldora for a decade. "I'd race at Eldora every week if we could. I love that place. I like the atmosphere and I like the racing. It's fun, it's fast and it's intense. I'm always on the edge of my seat driving there. Every lap there you don't know if you're gonna hit the fence or spin out. It's definitely a challenging place and some guys might not like it, but I've always had a good car there for some reason. It fits the way I drive I guess. It's just one of those tracks that we run good at that suits me."
A year ago at this time Clanton came to Eldora struggling. He had just joined a new team put together by owner John Kennedy and was helping develop a new chassis being built by long-time late model driver Marshall Green. A year later with many of the bugs of a new team and car worked out, Clanton enters the Dream weekend with four wins on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series tour and is currently second in a tight point's chase with leader Josh Richards and defending series champion Darrell Lanigan.
Lanigan won the 2003 Dream and has been in contention on several other occasions for another major win at Eldora while Richards is generally regarded as the best driver who has never won a major event at Eldora. Richards, who has split time the past couple of seasons between his late model and part-time rides in the NASCAR Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series, is a full-time driver in late models this year and looking for his first "crown jewel" win at Eldora.
John Blankenship surprised many with a strong second-place finish in the Dream a year ago. He picked up a $20,000 win in Batesville, Ark., in mid-May and comes to Eldora fresh off a Lucas Oil Late Model Series win a week ago at Tazewell Speedway in Tennessee.
Owens, the two-time defending Lucas Oil Late Model Series champion and 2009 Dream winner, again sits on top of the Lucas Oil point standings and is two weeks removed from a $30,000 win in the Show Me 100 at Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri.
Bloomquist is currently fifth in the Lucas Oil standings, but is always a top contender in the major events at Eldora.
Other top contenders include former Dream winners Jimmy Mars, Matt Miller, Don O'Neal and Steve Casebolt, while former World 100 winners looking for their first win in the Dream include Steve Francis, Earl Pearson, Jr., Chub Frank, Dale McDowell and two-time and defending World 100 winner Brian Birkhofer.
The weekend's action at Eldora begins with preliminaries on tonight and Friday with warm ups at 5:30 p.m. Pre-race activities begin on Saturday at 6 p.m. with the first of six heat races followed by the 100-lap, $100,000 to-win main event at 7 p.m.