Barberville, FL — The start of the UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model action during the 38th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH brought an end to Darren Miller’s early-season struggles.
Miller, 32, of Milledgeville , Ill. , was flawless on Monday night, rolling to a flag-to-flag victory in the caution-free 30-lap A-Main at Volusia Speedway Park .
Besting a field of 67 Super Late Models that assembled for the first night of the six-race Super Late Model meet, Miller held off a mid-race challenge from defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., to pocket a sorely-needed $7,000 payday.
Lanigan settled for second place, 1.780 seconds behind Miller at the checkered flag. Fourth-starter Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg , Tenn. , placed third, followed by outside-polesitter Wendell Wallace of Batesville , Ark. , and seventh-starter Steve Francis of Ashland , Ky.
“We needed this bad,” said Miller, who entered the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH following two weeks of frustrating outings in Georgia and Florida . “I think we’re just gonna start our season tonight and forget about (the previous races).”
Miller’s Victory Circle Chassis/Pro Power engine combination carried him to his second career win at the half-mile oval. He previously was victorious in a UMP DIRTcar event during the 2006 Alltel DIRTcar Nationals.
Lanigan, 38, moved up to second from the third starting spot on the opening circuit and stayed there for the entire distance. He drew close when Miller reached lapped traffic on lap 11, but he couldn’t complete a pass.
“I figured that somebody was going to be there,” said Miller, who became the first Super Late Model driver eligible for the $10,000 Alltel All-Star voting contest at www.alltelallstar.com. “I was a little nervous because my car started getting tight on entry (to the corners), so I just tried to take it in slow on the bottom and not slip up.”
Lanigan resigned himself to a runner-up finish after being unable to sneak by Miller before the halfway mark.
“I thought I was gonna go by him on the outside one time, but then he kinda moved up and crowded me,” described Lanigan, who made his first competitive start of 2009. “He did what he had to do to win.
“I would’ve liked to win, but it was a good race for us. We had a brand-new (Rocket) car, new motor (Cornett Chevy), new shock package. Anytime you come out with a brand-new package like that and run second, it’s a pretty good night.”
Francis turned the best overall lap of the evening’s group time-trial session, blistering the sweeping track in 16.060 seconds.
Other group fast-timers included Ivedent Lloyd of Ocala , Fla. (16.523), Jimmy Owens of Newport , Tenn. (16.460), John Blankenship of Williamson , W.Va. (16.559), Josh Richards of Shinnston , W.Va. (16.114) and John Anderson of Omaha , Neb. (16.488).
Heat winners were Wallace, McDowell, Rick Eckert of York , Pa. , Bloomquist, Miller and Lanigan. The B-Mains were captured by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Clint Bowyer of Welcome, N.C., Clint Smith of Senoia , Ga. , and two-time defending UMP DIRTcar national champion Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville , Ill.
Bowyer took advantage of an off-day from activity at Daytona International Speedway to enter the evening’s UMP DIRTcar action in one of his Bowyer Dirt Motorsports cars. He was never a factor in the A-Main, finishing 18th.
The 38th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH continue on Tuesday (Feb. 10) with a UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model/Modified doubleheader. Race time is 7:30 p.m.
UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model A-Main Finish (30 laps):
1. Darren Miller
2. Darrell Lanigan
3. Scott Bloomquist
4. Wendell Wallace
5. Steve Francis
6. Jimmy Owens
7. Rick Eckert
8. Josh Richards
9. Chub Frank
10. Billy Moyer
11. John Blankenship
12. Shannon Babb
13. Eddie Carrier Jr.
14. Brady Smith
15. Ivedent Lloyd
16. Dennis Erb Jr.
17. Clint Smith
18. Clint Bowyer
19. Billy Decker
20. Tyler Ivey
21. Scott James
22. Shane Clanton
23. John Anderson
24. Dale McDowell
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Wendell Wallace, 2. Steve Francis, 3. Shane Clanton, 4. Earl Pearson Jr., 5. Tyler Ivey, 6. Justin Rattliff, 7. Dan Stone, 8. Tommy Weder, 9. David Breazeale, 10. Brad Eitiniear, 11. Tommy Kerr, 12. Jill George
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Dale McDowell, 2. Scott James, 3. Ivedent Lloyd, 4. Clint Bowyer, 5. Duke Whiseant, 6. Jesse Stovall, 7. Stacy Boles, 8. Russell King, 9. Gregg Hill, 10. Mike Hammerle, 11. Michael Walker
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Rick Eckert, 2. Jimmy Owens, 3. Billy Moyer, 4. Clint Smith, 5. Billy Decker, 6. Dave Hess Jr., 7. Rick Briggs, 8. Jordan Bland, 9. Jason Fitzgerald, 10. Dustin Hapka, 11. Peter Mantha
Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Scott Bloomquist, 2. John Blankenship, 3. Brady Smith, 4. Brandon Kinzer, 5. Frank Heckenast Jr., 6. Greg Johnson, 7. Mike Collins, 8. Dillon Wood, 9. Mark Pettyjohn, 10. Chuck Hummer, 11. Chris Shannon
Heat No. 5 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Darren Miller, 2. Josh Richards, 3. Shannon Babb, 4. Dennis Erb Jr., 5. Dan Schlieper, 6. Tim Fuller, 7. Mike Marlar, 8. Jayme Zidar, 9. Tim Isenberg, 10. Chad Mahder, 11. Tyler Reddick
Heat No. 6 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Darrell Lanigan, 2. Chub Frank, 3. Eddie Carrier Jr., 4. Davey Johnson, 5. John Anderson, 6. Vic Coffey, 7. Jon Henry, 8. Jason McBride, 9. J.R. Hotovy, 10. Ronnie Rihn, 11. Jeff Phipps
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Bowyer, Pearson, Ivey, Whiseant, Stovall, Stone, King, Breazeale, Rattliff, Eitiniear, Hill, Kerr, Boles, Weder, Walker , Hammerle, George
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): C. Smith, Decker, Heckenast, Kinzer, Hess, Bland, G. Johnson, Briggs, Pettyjohn, Hummer, Wood, Collins, Hapka, Mantha, Shannon, Fitzgerald
B-Main No. 3 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Erb, Anderson , Schlieper, Fuller, D. Johnson, Marlar, Coffey, Henry, Zidar, Phipps, Reddick, Rihn, Hotovy, Mahder, Isenberg, McBride