ROSSBURG, OH – June 9, 2007 – Steve Casebolt didn’t merely pull off a monumental $100,000 upset victory in Saturday night’s 100-lap Dirt Late Model Dream XIII at Eldora Speedway.
The young driver also shot down one of the sport’s titans.
To secure the biggest payoff of the season in dirt Late Model racing, Casebolt had to hold off a furious late-race charge from four-time Dream 100 winner Scott Bloomquist.
The outcome was in doubt until Casebolt outran Bloomquist on a lap-98 restart, producing an appreciative roar from the huge crowd that filled Tony Stewart’s high-banked, half-mile oval for the UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned event.
“I think a lot of people liked seeing me win,” said Casebolt, aware of his Cinderella status with the fans. “And I know a lot of people like seeing someone different win.”
Casebolt, 28, of Richmond , Ind. , led the race’s final 80 laps to register by far the most prestigious triumph of his burgeoning career. He was never headed after passing Scott James of Greendale , Ind. , for the top spot on lap 21.
Mooresburg , Tenn. ’s Bloomquist advanced from the 15th starting spot to finish second, about three car lengths behind Casebolt.
World of Outlaws Late Model Series regulars Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Darrell Lanigan of Union , Ky. , who started 16th, ran in the top five for most of the distance and finished third and fourth, respectively, and James placed fifth after leading laps 1-20 off the pole position.
Driving Dale Beitler’s Cornett-powered Rocket No. 19 that is based in West Friendship, Md. , Casebolt built a lead of well over a straightaway midway through the race. But Bloomquist slowly, steadily sliced that gap after passing James for second on lap 66, closing within two seconds of Casebolt by the time Shane Clanton of Locust Grove , Ga. , brought out a caution flag on lap 79.
Casebolt pulled away from Bloomquist on the ensuing restart, but Bloomquist drew close again as the green-flag laps mounted. When Garrett Durrett of Simsboro , La. , triggered the race’s fourth and final caution flag due to a blown engine on lap 98, Bloomquist was on Casebolt’s rear bumper and looking to pull off a dramatic pass for a six-figure win.
The caution flag was a boon to Casebolt, who took off on the restart to shock the assemblage.
“It was actually kind of exciting to get the restarts because my car felt really good with a clean racetrack ahead of me,” said Casebolt, who started fifth but took just a single lap to reach second place. “I knew I was pulling out a little on restarts and slowing on long runs, so a caution was a good thing for me.
“I was having trouble in lapped traffic. When I’d get in behind the lapped cars, they’d kick the dust up across the track. I’d hit that dust, and then my car would tail out and I’d get loose.”
After surviving a Bloomquist assault, Casebolt knew he had earned his career-making checkered flag.
“It’s better to beat Bloomquist,” Casebolt said when asked if leading the legendary 42-year-old across the finish line brought him any added satisfaction. “Last week we won (the Ralph Latham Memorial) at Florence (Ky.) and I drove by Bloomquist and beat him, but he ended up finishing fifth so it wasn’t quite as good of a feeling.
“Everybody kinda measures themselves by how good Bloomquist is that night, and I think everybody saw tonight that we had the best car.”
Bloomquist was doomed by the two late-race caution flags. His Bloomquist ‘Team Zero’ chassis was simply set up to be better on long runs rather than restarts.
“I think we made up a lot of ground on (Casebolt), and if we wouldn’t have had that (lap-79) caution…” said a wistful Bloomquist, his voice trailing off for a moment. “But even after that, after we got going again, with two (laps) to go there, I pretty much had already set up in my mind where I was going by him.
“I was sure I was going to, and then that last caution ended it.”
That was the difference for Casebolt, who bubbled over with emotion in Victory Lane . He had started a Dream 100 A-Main just once previously in his career, finishing eighth in 2000.
Despite his lack of a prior record in the Dream and a career resume that shows only a handful of special-event wins, Casebolt never doubted that he could get the job done on such a big stage.
“We haven’t really been in the spotlight that much (in 2007), but there’s been several nights that we thought if we just had done this or that different, we had a good shot at beating these guys,” said Casebolt, whose assault was headed by former Rick Eckert crew chief Robbie Allen. “I sort of felt we had arrived after winning Florence (on June 2). To win that race I beat some of the guys here tonight, so I felt, If I can win this race, I can win that Dream next weekend.’
“We did it tonight, and it’s a huge deal for us.”
Four caution flags slowed the event, including early yellows for Zanesville , Ohio , veteran Bart Hartman’s spin between turns three and four on the opening lap and the lap-28 mechanical trouble encountered by Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine , Iowa , who was running third when he was forced to retire.
Hartman restarted at the rear of the field after escaping serious damage in his spin, then made his way forward to finish sixth. Brady Smith of Solon Spring , Wis. , placed seventh in his first-ever Dream 100 start, followed by outside-polesitter Clint Smith of Senoia , Ga. , Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and 2006 World 100 winner Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., who climbed from 17th to fifth by lap 21 but faded thereafter because his tires had apparently sealed over.
McCreadie was the fastest of 146 drivers who participated in Friday night’s time trials, turning a lap of 17.575 seconds. He was the only driver to break into the 17-second bracket.
But McCreadie ran into trouble during Saturday night’s first heat race, pulling off the track with a busted oil cooler. He used his fast-time provisional to start the A-Main from the 19th spot.
Winners of Saturday’s 15-lap heats were Frank, Casebolt, Hartman, Brian Shirley of Chatham , Ill. , Clint Smith and James. Brad Neat of Dunnville , Ky. , captured the 15-lap C-Main and Steve Shaver of Vienna , W.Va. , topped the 20-lap B-Main.
Dirt Late Model Dream XIII Finish – 100 laps (Finish/Start/Driver)
1. (5) Steve Casebolt
2. (15) Scott Bloomquist
3. (6) Chub Frank
4. (16) Darrell Lanigan
5. (1) Scott James
6. (4) Bart Hartman
7. (11) Brady Smith
8. (2) Clint Smith
9. (19) Tim McCreadie
10. (17) Earl Pearson Jr.
11. (22) Jimmy Mars
12. (14) Jimmy Owens
13. (12) Jeep VanWormer
14. (13) Eddie Carrier Jr.
15. (9) Garrett Durrett
16. (6) Josh Richards
17. (24) Shane Clanton
18. (23) Chris Madden
19. (21) Steve Shaver
20. (3) Brian Shirley
21. (10) Steve Francis
22. (20) Matt Miller
23. (7) Brian Birkhofer
24. (18) Wendell Wallace
Heat 1 Finish: Chub Frank, Brian Birkhofer, Eddie Carrier Jr., Rick Eckert, R.J. Conley, Justin Ratliff, Mike Johnson, Audie McWilliams, Brent Kreke, Scott Edmisten, Mike Walker, Steve Kester, Brian Ruhlman, Michael England, Tim McCreadie, Josh McGuire, Mike Marlar, Greg Oliver, Frank Heckenhast, Jerry Bowesock
Heat 2 Finish: Steve Casebolt, Josh Richards, Jimmy Owens, Shawn Toczek, Jimmy Mars, Brandon Kinzer, Jason Keltner, Darren Miller, Jesse Lay, Freddy Smith, Dutch Davies, Casey Noonan, Michael Balzano, Ron Davies, Jon Horner, Delmas Conley, Mark Douglas, Duane Chamberlain, John Gill, Frank Ingram
Heat 3 Finish: Bart Hartman, Garrett Durrett, Scott Bloomquist, Matt Miller, Shane Clanton, Shannon Babb, Dennis Erb, Doug Drown, Donnie Moran, John Mason, Damon Eller, Aaron Scott, Robbie Hensley, Nick Marolf, Corey Conley, Shawn Holliday, Petey Ivey, Scott Fisk, Rick Aukland, Shanon Buckingham
Heat 4 Finish: Brian Shirley, Steve Francis, Darrell Lanigan, Randy Korte, Don O’Neal, Terry Phillips, Brad Neat, Jerry Rice, Jordan Bland, Chad Ruhlman, Rod Conley, Ben Adkins, Tony Knowles, Mike Mataragas, Tim Manville, Casey Vitale, Chad Hina, J. R. Hotovy, Bodine Massengill, Steve Landrum
Heat 5 Finish: Clint Smith, Brady Smith, Earl Pearson, Jr., Steve Shaver, Todd Morrow, Dale McDowell, Kellen Chadwick, Eric Jacobson, Jason Montgomery, Shannon Thornsberry, Brad Looney, Randy Woodling, John Anderson, Brian Rickman, Josh Williams, Clint Jamison, Kris Patterson, Rodney Combs, Tim Sabo, Roy Mitchell
Heat 6 Finish: Scott James, Jeep VanWormer, Wendell Wallace, Chris Madden, John Blankenship, Jackie Boggs, Bobby Kitchens, Tim Dohm, Billy Moyer, Dan Schlieper, Ashley Anderson, Jeff Beyers, Wayne Chinn, Josh Williams, Kevin Weaver, Rick Rickman, Bill Williams, Bill Hahn, Curtis Roberts
C-Main Finish: Neat, Keltner, Drown, D. Miller, Moran, Dohm, Lay, Rice, McWilliams, Mason, Moyer, Chadwick, Kreke, F. Smith, M. Johnson, Anderson, Eller, Edmisten, Montgomery, Thornsberry, Bland, C. Ruhlman, Schlieper
B-Main Finish: Shaver, Mars, Madden, Clanton, Korte, Morrow, Eckert, Babb, Erb, Boggs, R. J. Conley, D. Miller, Blankenship, Dohm, Phillips, Wyatt, Kinzer, Moran, Drown, Ratliff, McDowell, Toczek, Neat
Non-Qualifiers Race Finish (Friday): Mark Banal, Brett Wyatt, Mike Benedem, David Hilliker, Chad Hina, Scott Bell, Zack Forster, Hillard Miller, Ryan VanderVeen, Jon Horner, Michael Stiltner, Greg Ruckel, Eric Midkiff, Mike Walker, Dale Gross, Jr., Steve Kester, Ryan Mitchell, Ky Harper, Shaun Smith