Rossburg, OH — Jimmy Owens couldn’t help getting emotional after winning Saturday night’s UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned Dirt Late Model Dream XV at Eldora Speedway.
But it wasn’t just the immense $100,000 first-place check that caused his voice to crack in Victory Lane. It was the way he earned it.
Owens, 37, of Newport, Tenn., authored one of the most memorable drives in the 100-lap race’s history. He completed a charge forward from the 19th starting spot in style, passing five-time Dream winner Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and NASCAR star Tony Stewart in a single circuit to grab the lead for good on lap 73.
“To be able to pass Scott and Stewart for the win here is really great,” Owens said while trying to catch his breath during the post-race press conference inside Eldora’s tower. “To me, it’s just a dream come true.”
Though Owens couldn’t relax until the checkered flag flew because his Team Zero by Bloomquist car trailed smoke and was losing oil pressure for most of the distance, he easily led Bloomquist’s own Team Zero mount across the finish line by more than a straightaway margin.
Defending World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., steered his Fusion Energy Rocket car from the 15th starting spot to a third-place finish, about 10 car lengths behind Bloomquist. Sixth-starter Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., and 14th-starter Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, placed fourth and fifth, respectively, both driving MB Custom Chassis machines.
Stewart, who started from the pole in a Rocket car sponsored by Old Spice, Office Depot and Bass Pro Shops, faded to a sixth-place finish over the race’s final quarter after leading laps 10-37 and 61-72. It was the first Dream start of his career at the track he owns.
A four-time UMP DIRTcar Modified national champion, Owens pocketed the biggest dirt Late Model race winner’s check of the season in his sixth career Dream A-Main start. He also book-ended his victory in the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned World 100, joining division legends Bloomquist, Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., and Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio, as the only drivers to win both crown-jewel events at the famed half-mile oval.
“It’s what I’ve strived my whole life to do,” Owens said when asked about the significance of seeing his name listed alongside Bloomquist, Moyer and Moran as a Dream and World 100 winner.
For that reason as well as his crowd-pleasing march through the pack after using a fast-time provisional to start the A-Main, Owens ranked his Dream triumph as the highlight of his career.
“I think this is gonna go on top for me,” smiled Owens, who also earned a $100,000 check for clinching the 2002 UMP DIRTcar Modified national title in a dramatic finale at Eldora.
Owens didn’t need any last-lap dramatics to pull out a win in the Dream, but he did make some unforgettable moves – especially after the race’s lone caution flag flew on lap 51 for Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who slowed after blowing a right-rear tire and slapping the turn-one wall.
Sitting sixth for the restart, Owens took off and shot through the middle of Birkhofer and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., to seize fourth on lap 52. He worked by Mars for third on lap 58 and then crashed the much-anticipated Stewart/Bloomquist showdown for the lead, surging by both motorsports titans to assume command on the 73rd lap.
Once Owens decided to disregard the blinking light on his dashboard that indicated his car was losing oil pressure, there was simply no stopping him. Stewart and Bloomquist, who led laps 38-60, could only watch Owens sail by.
“They pulled me a little bit when I got to slacking off because I was watching my oil light,” said Owens, whose car began showing smoke from its rearend around lap 15. “I was afraid the motor was gonna blow up any minute. I finally just said, ‘You know what? If it blows, it blows.’ I just started running the car harder and I ran ‘em back down.
“I was just fortunate enough that Tony moved out of his groove a little and kinda messed him and Scott both up for me to get around them.”
When Owens finally saw the checkered flag flying, he was certainly glad he hadn’t gone ahead with his thought of pulling off the track at the onset of his oil-pressure problem.
“We run Red Line Oil, and my hat’s off to them guys because there’s no way that car would’ve made it with anything else,” said Owens. “My (helmet) shield was full (of oil) when we had that caution. I couldn’t see where I was going. I was out of tearoffs and started wiping. I finally got my shield clean – and then I don’t know if (the car) ran out of oil or what, but it finally quit blowing oil.
“It made it (to the finish), so somebody’s looking out for us.”
The caution flag certainly changed the course of the race for the 45-year-old Bloomquist, who built nearly a full straightaway edge after overtaking Stewart for the lead on lap 38. He didn’t get away from Stewart on the restart, and he lost second to Owens shortly after his car’s air cleaner blew off in turn one on lap 67.
But Bloomquist rallied to regain the runner-up spot from Stewart on lap 75 and stayed there to the finish, albeit without challenging Owens. The $20,000 outing continued a remarkable run of success in the Dream for Bloomquist, who since 2002 has three wins, two seconds and a third (plus one DNQ in ’03).
Finishing in positions 7-10 was Matt Miller of Waterville, Ohio, who ran as high as fifth; 17th-starter Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who was nearly lapped early in the distance but came on after the halfway point to salvage a top-10 finish; O’Neal, who led laps 1-9 off the outside pole; and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., who started 24th after grabbing the final transfer spot in the B-Main with a last-lap pass of two-time and defending UMP DIRTcar national champion Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill.
A field of 116 cars assembled at the venerable oval for Friday night’s time-trial session.
Richards set fast time with a lap of 15.655 seconds. The 21-year-old went on to finish second in Saturday’s first heat and earn the seventh starting spot for the Dream, but a tire problem caused him to lose nearly 10 spots on the first lap and ultimately lose a lap before his night ended when he brought out the race’s lone caution flag.
Saturday’s 15-lap heat winners were Mars, Bloomquist, Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., Moyer, O’Neal and Stewart. Bart Hartman of Zanesville, Ohio, captured the 15-lap C-Main and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., won the 20-lap B-Main.
For more information on UMP DIRTcar Racing, visit www.dirtcar.com.
15h Annual Dirt Late Model Dream Official Finish (100 laps):
1. Jimmy Owens $100,000
2. Scott Bloomquist $20,000
3. Darrell Lanigan $10,000
4. Jimmy Mars $6,000
5. Brian Birkhofer $5,000
6. Tony Stewart $4,000
7. Matt Miller $3,500
8. Rick Eckert $3,000
9. Don O’Neal $2,500
10. Earl Pearson Jr. $2,200
11. Chris Madden $2,000
12. Steve Francis $1,900
13. Ray Cook $1,800
14. Billy Moyer $1,750
15. Jeep VanWormer $1,725
16. Jason Feger $1,700
17. Jonathan Davenport $1,675
18. Jared Landers $1,650
19. Chub Frank $1,625
20. Shannon Babb $1,600
21. Duane Chamberlain $1,575
22. Josh Richards $1,550
23. Dale McDowell $1,525
24. Randy Korte $1,500
Lap Leaders: O’Neal (1-9); Stewart (10-37); Bloomquist (38-60); Stewart (61-72); Owens (73-100)
Fast-Time Provisional Starters: Owens, Landers
Heat 1 Finish (15 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Jimmy Mars, Josh Richards, Ray Cook, Dale McDowell, John Blankenship, Steve Casebolt, Bart Hartman, Aaron Scott, Chris Simpson, Shawn Toczek, Ricky Arms, Shannon Thornsberry, Chuck Roelle, Casey Roberts, Tim Dohm, Tim Isenberg, Brent Kreke, Scott Orr, Wayne Maffett Jr., Patrick Ferguson
Heat 2 Finish (15 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Scott Bloomquist, Chris Madden, Brian Birkhofer, Chris Ferguson, Earl Pearson Jr., Wendell Wallace, Clint Smith, Rusty Schlenk, Doug Drown, Casey Noonan, Scott James, Brad Neat, Will Vaught, Jeff Beyers, Jerry Rice, Andrew Reaume, April Farmer, Andrew McKay, Jordan Bland (DNS) Terry Casey
Heat 3 Finish (15 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Jason Feger, Jeep VanWormer, Darrell Lanigan, Jimmy Owens, Randy Korte, Brian Ruhlman, John Mason, Tim Fuller, Tommy Kerr, Eddie Carrier Jr., Curtis Deisenroth, Tyler Ivey, Bill Lewis, Gregg Satterlee, Randle Chupp, Jon Henry, Shanon Buckingham, Rod Conley (DNS) Ryan Vanderveen
Heat 4 Finish (15 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Billy Moyer, Chub Frank, Duane Chamberlain, Jonathan Davenport, R.J. Conley, Jared Landers, Mike Marlar, Eric Wells, Curt Spalding, David Gentry, D.J. Wells, Mike Mataragas, Curtis Roberts, Jill George, Mark Douglas (DNS) Jackie Boggs, Chris Ross, Jason Jameson, Bobby Carnes
Heat 5 Finish (15 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Don O’Neal, Shannon Babb, Rick Eckert, Delmas Conley, Dan Schlieper, Jerry Bowersock, Jay Johnson, Chad Mahder, Justin McNeil, Brian Shirley, Jason Riggs, Robby Hensley, Bill Williams, Jason Keltner, Shane Clanton, Ben Adkins, Shawn Negangard, Dustin Neat, Justin Labonte
Heat 6 Finish (15 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Tony Stewart, Matt Miller, Steve Francis, Dennis Erb Jr., Wayne Chinn, Chris Wall, Donnie Moran, Vic Hill, Chad Ruhlman, Brady Smith, Tim Manville, Matt Lux, Kevin Cole, Brett Wyatt, Lee Davasier, Brandon Thirlby, Davey Johnson, Brandon Perkins (DNS) Steve Shaver
C-Main Finish (15 laps – Top 6 Transfer to B-Main): Bart Hartman, Tim Fuller, Clint Smith, Jay Johnson, Donnie Moran, Aaron Scott, Eric Wells, Brady Smith, Vic Hill, Brian Shirley, Chris Simpson, Chad Mahder, Tommy Kerr, Chad Ruhlman, Doug Drown, Justin McNeill, David Gentry, Casey Noonan, D.J. Wells, Curt Spalding, Rusty Schlenk, Eddie Carrier Jr., Shawn Toczek, Curtis Deisenroth
B-Main Finish (20 laps – Top 4 Transfer to Dream): Dale McDowell, Randy Korte, Jonathan Davenport, Earl Pearson Jr., Dennis Erb Jr., Tim Fuller, Delmas Conley, John Blankenship, Brian Ruhlman, Chris Wall, Mike Marlar, Bart Hartman, Dan Schlieper, R.J. Conley, Wayne Chinn, Aaron Scott, Jerry Bowersock, Clint Smith, Jay Johnson, Donnie Moran, John Mason, Chris Ferguson, Steve Casebolt, Wendell Wallace