Barberville, FL — Clint Smith picked a perfect time to hit his stride in the 37th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals.
The veteran from Senoia , Ga. , was the star of Friday night’s show, powering forward from the 15th starting spot to win the week’s 50-lap UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model finale at Volusia Speedway Park .
Smith, a 42-year-old World of Outlaws Late Model Series regular, drove around the outside of Newport , Tenn. ’s Jimmy Owens to assume command on lap 39 and never looked back. He pocketed $10,000 for what was not only his first career win at the half-mile oval, but also his initial triumph in the state of Florida .
“My dad (former Southeast star Roscoe Smith) won here and at Lake City ( Fla. ),” said Smith, who finished third in Wednesday night’s UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model feature. “Back in 1977 he won the Florida State Championship – he won here on Friday night, and then he went up and won at Lake City on Saturday night.
“I’m glad to win down here where he’s won at. It means a lot – and now I’d like to win a World of Outlaws race in Florida .”
Smith will get his chance for that on Saturday night (Feb. 16), when the 2008 Alltel DIRTcar Nationals close out with a 50-lap WoO LMS event.
If Smith is able to bottle the speed he flashed with his J.P. Drilling/Cliburn Tank Lines/J&J Steel GRT car, he’ll have a great shot at winning 10-grand two nights in a row.
“I couldn’t ask for a car to be no better than that,” Smith said of his No. 44, a four-bar mount he put back in action on Thursday night after repairing the bent rear clip it sustained in a hard crash the previous week at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. “It just rotated and would leave the corners. I could run full throttle all the way down the front straightaway and about half-throttle down the back.”
In an ultra-competitive race that featured six lead changes among five drivers, Smith cracked the top five within 10 laps and reached second place with a lap-29 pass of Carpentersville , Ill. ’s Dennis Erb Jr. He was closing in on Owens, who had controlled the lead since overtaking Erb on lap 23, when the fourth and final caution flag flew on lap 36.
Shortly thereafter, on lap 39, Smith steered to the outside of Owens through turns one and two and grabbed the lead for good. He crossed the finish line 0.775 of a second in front of Batesville , Ark. ’s Billy Moyer, who won the two UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model A-Mains contested earlier in the week.
The victory was extra special for Smith because it came on his daughter Jenna’s 15th birthday. “And I came from the 15th starting spot to win it, so that’s pretty cool,” he said.
Smith also dedicated the victory to his late step-father, Clint Roberts, who passed away on Sunday – and he hailed the night’s racing surface.
“This is what you call a racetrack tonight,” emphasized Smith. “There were a couple holes here and there, but when you start 15th and drive up to the lead in actually 39 laps, it’s an excellent racetrack.”
Moyer, who started 14th in his Victory Circle M1 Chassis, maintained his Alltel DIRTcar Nationals points lead with the runner-up placing. He secured second with a lap-42 pass of Owens but never got close enough to challenge Smith.
Owens settled for third place after starting 11th in Mike Reece’s Bloomquist chassis. He led on three different occasions – laps 9-18, 20-21 and 23-38.
Defending WoO LMS champion Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., advanced from the 23rd starting spot to finish fourth in Dale Beitler’s Rocket car, and the fifth-starting Erb placed fifth in his Rayburn mount after fading slightly from his single lap (22) spent in the lead.
Rounding out the top 10 was Tim Fuller of Watertown , N.Y. , who started 19th; Darrell Lanigan of Union , Ky. , who won last year’s Alltel DIRTcar Nationals UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model finale; Josh Richards of Shinnston , W.Va. , who used an Alltel DIRTcar Nationals points provisional to start 25th; Steve Shaver of Vienna , W.Va. ; and Ricky Elliott of Seaford , Del.
Terry Casey of New London , Wis. , started second and led laps 1-8, but he wasn’t around at the finish. He was bidding for a top-five finish when he retired on lap 43.
Shannon Babb of Moweaqua , Ill. , meanwhile, appeared primed to run off with his first victory as the hired-gun driver of NASCAR Sprint Cup star Clint Bowyer’s dirt Late Model team. The race’s ninth starter, he exploded from fifth to second on lap 14 with a breathtaking outside run around Casey, Erb and Smith, then nosed ahead of Owens to lead lap 19.
But smoke wafted from Babb’s car as he was making his move by Owens. Two turns after he was scored the leader, Babb’s Rayburn mount fell off the pace and rolled to a stop in turn four.
Shortly before Babb had taken the lead, he hit a hole in turn one that bent his car’s rack and cut a power-steering line. Trying to press on without power steering, he swept into the lead but then caught a rut again – and this time, it poked a race-ending hole in his radiator.
Sixty-seven cars entered the night’s action.
Heat winners were Erb, Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich. , Tim McCreadie of Watertown , N.Y. , Casey, Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va. , and Lanigan. The B-Mains were captured by Fuller, Brady Smith of Solon Springs , Wis. , and Shane Clanton of Locust Grove , Ga.
NASCAR Sprint Car stars Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer competed in Friday’s program.
Newman, who was on hand representing Alltel, drove a Steve Francis-prepared car to a 16th-place finish (three laps down) in the feature. He was added to the event as a promoter’s option.
Bowyer, who piloted Babb’s backup car, was also granted a promoter’s option starting spot for the A-Main but scratched from the event. His car sustained damage when he clipped a spinning machine in turn one during the second B-Main.
The 2008 Alltel DIRTcar Nationals comes to an end on Saturday night (Feb. 16) with a doubleheader featuring the WoO LMS and the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for big-block Modifieds.
Heat 1 Finish: (1) Dennis Erb Jr. (2) Jackie Boggs, (3) Dan Schlieper, (4) Tim Fuller, (5) Vic Coffey, (6) Patrick Sheltra, (7) Jared Hawkins, (8) George Scheffler, (9) Dillon Wood, (10) John Garvin, (11) Reid Millard, (12) Peter Mantha.
Heat 2 Finish: (1) Jeep Van Wormer, (2) Justin Rattliff, (3) Billy Moyer, (4) Darren Miller, (5) Frank Heckenast Jr., (6) Wayne Chinn, (7) John Blankenship, (8) Jason Fitzgerald, (9) Mike Knight, (10) Chris Hackett, (11) Matt Santel, (12) Mike Hammerle.
Heat 3 Finish: (1) Tim McCreadie, (2) Shannon Babb, (3) Clint Smith, (4) Brady Smith, (5) Steve Francis, (6) Brandon Kinzer, (7) Scott James, (8) Austin Dillon, (9) Andrew McKay, (10) Joe Isabell, (11) Clint Bowyer.
Heat 4 Finish: (1) Terry Casey, (2) Michael England, (3) Jason McBride, (4) Rick Briggs, (5) Matt Miller, (6) Brian Dively, (7) Duke Whiseant, (8) Audie Swartz, (9) Michael Walker, (10) Jeff Alsip, (11) Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Heat 5 Finish: (1) Eddie Carrier Jr. (2) Jimmy Owens, (3) Don O’Neal, (4) Shane Clanton, (5) Ricky Elliott, (6) Dan Stone, (7) Brian Shirley, (8) Danny Johnson, (9) Jake Redetzke, (10) Josh McGuire, (11) Al Purkey.
Heat 6 Finish: (1) Darrell Lanigan, (2) Earl Pearson Jr. (3) Steve Shaver, (4) Rick Eckert, (5) Billy Decker, (6) Chub Frank, (7) Ryan Newman, (8) D.Jay. Miller, (9) Lance Matthees, (10) Bart Hartman, (11) Josh Richards
Semi 1 Finish: (1) Tim Fuller, (2) Wayne Chinn, (3) Vic Coffey, (4) Darren Miller, (5) Jared Hawkins, (6) John Blankenship (7) Chris Hackett, (8) Patrick Sheltra, (9) Mike Knight, (10) Jason Fitzgerald, (11) Dillon Wood, (12) Matt Santel, (13) George Scheffler, (14) Peter Mantha, (15) Reid Millard, (16) Mike Hammerle, (17) John Garvin, (18) Frank Heckenast Jr.
Semi 2 Finish: (1) Brady Smith, (2) Steve Francis, (3) Matt Miller, (4) Brandon Kinzer, (5) Ivedend Lloyd, (6) Rick Briggs, (7) Scott James (8) Austin Dillon, (9) Brian Diveley, (10) Joe Isabell, (11) Jeff Alsip, (12) Michael Walker, (13) Andrew McKay, (14) Clint Bowyer.
Semi 3 Finish: (1) Shane Clanton, (2) Ricky Elliott, (3) Brian Shirley, (4) Chub Frank, (5) Rick Eckert, (6) Al Purkey, (7) Dan Stone, (8) Billy Decker, (9) Josh Richards, (10) Jake Redetzke, (11) Ryan Newman, (12) D.Jay Miller, (13) Danny Johnson.
UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model Feature Finish (40 laps):
1. Clint Smith
2. Billy Moyer
3. Jimmy Owens
4. Steve Francis
5. Dennis Erb Jr.
6. Tim Fuller
7. Darrell Lanigan
8. Josh Richards
9. Steve Shaver
10. Ricky Elliott
11. Shane Clanton
12. Earl Pearson Jr.
13. Dan Schlieper
14. Eddie Carrier Jr.
15. Jeep VanWormer
16. Ryan Newman
17. Terry Casey
18. Brady Smith
19. Tim McCreadie
20. Jason McBride
21. Jackie Boggs
22. Justin Rattliff
23. Michael England
24. Shannon Babb
25. Wayne Chinn
26. Brian Diveley
27. Chub Frank
28. Don O’Neal
DNS – Clint Bowyer
Lap Leaders: Casey (1-8); Owens (9-18); Babb (19); Owens (20-21); Erb (22); Owens (23-38); C. Smith (39-50)
DNQ: Dillon Wood, Vic Coffey, Jared Hawkins, George Scheffler, John Garvin, Peter Mantha, Reid Millard, Patrick Sheltra, Frank Heckenast Jr., Darren Miller, John Blankenship, Chris Hackett, Mike Knight, Jason Fitzgerald, Matt Santel, Mike Hammerle, Brandon Kinzer, Scott James, Austin Dillon, Joe Isabell, Andrew McKay, Ivedent Lloyd, Duke Whiseant, Matt Miller, Audie Swartz, Rick Briggs, Jeff Alsip, Michael Walker, Brian Shirley, Jake Redetzke, Danny Johnson, Dan Stone, Al Purkey, Josh McGuire, Billy Decker, Rick Eckert, Bart Hartman, Lance Mathees, D.J. Miller