ROSSBURG, OH – Sept. 9, 2007 – Jimmy Owens has officially arrived as a national dirt Late Model star.
The four-time UMP DIRTcar Racing open-wheel Modified champion dispelled any lingering questions on Sunday afternoon by winning the division’s toughest and most prestigious event, the 37th annual World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
“The best in the country are here, so it’s always a boost any time you win this race,” said the modest, unassuming Owens, a 35-year-old from Newport , Tenn. , who has been driving dirt Late Models fulltime for only four years. “I don’t know where it’s gonna put us, but I guess we’re gonna find out.”
Owens’s $40,000-plus triumph in the UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned event, which was postponed one day by heavy rain, came on the heels of his $50,000 score in last month’s North-South 100 at Florence Speedway in Union , Ky. He also led the recent World of Outlaws Late Model Series ‘Scorcher 100’ at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. , until the final laps, and has top-10 finishes in this year’s high-profile Show-Me 100, USA Nationals and Topless 100 events.
It’s been a true breakout season for Owens, who has won a total of 12 features in 34 starts, including six worth $10,000 or more.
None could be more important than the World 100, which he earned by combining the speed of his Reece Monuments Bloomquist Chassis No. 20 with a healthy dose of patience.
Owens, who set fast time on Friday night with a lap of 15.690 seconds around the high-banked, half-mile oval, started 13th in the A-Main but grabbed the lead from his car builder, Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., on lap 10. He surrendered the top spot to World of Outlaws Late Model Series points leader Steve Francis of Ashland , Ky. , on lap 18, but he calmly ran in second until regaining command for good from Francis on the 87th circuit.
“Francis did that little slide job on me and got the lead, and I didn’t think I had nothing for him for awhile,” said Owens. “But I just kept my head on my shoulders and kept my car smooth, and toward the end I started reeling him back in.
“From years and years of watching guys like Scott (Bloomquist) and the other professional drivers run, you just learn to use your head, show patience and let the race come to you. That’s what I did today, and it paid off.”
Francis, who won the World 100 in 1999, steadily lost ground to Owens over the final laps but held on to finish second in his Valvoline Rocket car, nearly a straightaway behind the winner at the checkered flag.
Darrell Lanigan of Union , Ky. , came from the 14th starting spot to finish third, followed by first-time World 100 qualifier Wayne Chinn of Tipp City, Ohio, and 23rd-starter Jeep VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich., who cracked the top five despite damaging his car’s spoiler when he clipped the outside wall late in the distance.
The move of the day might have been Owens’s explosion forward on the first lap, when he rocketed past eight cars to reach the top five in the blink of an eye. He carried that momentum right to the front, taking the lead from Bloomquist, who started from the outside pole and led laps 1-9.
“That was just pretty lucky,” Owens said of his opening-lap success. “Everybody went up high, and I just went down along the wall on the inside. When I looked up and realized where I was, I said, ‘Heck, I’m doing pretty good.’”
The quick glide to the front surprised Owens, who had plenty of doubts about his chances on Sunday.
“Actually, I wasn’t expecting to win because I was starting 13th,” said Owens, who salvaged the last transfer spot in his heat race despite missing the setup (he mistakenly expected the Saturday rain would create wet conditions for the first prelim). “I was really skeptical about the track. I thought it would lock-down and be one-groove because we were running in the afternoon, so I thought there was no way I was goonna make it up through (the field). It never did, though, so that was really surprising.
“My hat’s off to Eldora Speedway for getting the show in today,” he added. “It turned out we had a great track to race on all day long.
It was the best afternoon track I’ve ever been on.”
After the race’s third and final caution flag flew on lap 54 for Bloomquist, who spun on the homestretch after fading to seventh and then pitted for a tire change, Owens stayed within striking distance of Francis. He made his move on lap 87, surging by a struggling Francis.
“It looked like me and (Francis) both started getting a little push in the middle of the corners, especially down here in three and four,” said Owens. “His car was getting a little tigher, and mine was also, but we made a little bit of a change in driving style to get through the center of the corner and get off better.”
Francis, who raced on the eve of his 40th birthday, couldn’t get his machine around the track as well as he had during the race’s middle stages.
“I didn’t really need Scott to spin out on the straightaway,” Francis said of the caution flag that wiped out his three-second edge over Owens. “We had a nice little rhythm going at that time.
“But Jimmy’s car was real good anyway, so I don’t know if the caution changed the outcome or not.”
Whatever the case, something definitely went away on Francis.
“The racetrack was as slow and slick as I’ve ever, ever seen this place,” said Francis. “It was 20.50 (second) lap times, and we were just out there running half-throttle all the way around the racetrack. I never even had to change the throttle (pressure).
“Then, around lap 65 or 70, it got to where I couldn’t turn into three anymore. I had to start coming out of the gas getting into three, and that was sort of the beginning of the end at that point. I kinda knew we were in trouble.
“The track changed a little bit,” he continued. “Everybody decided to get in line on the bottom. That made the lane I was running – a lane up off the bottom – get dusty. We got real, real tight getting into three; we just couldn’t turn into three anymore.”
Francis paused, and then said, “We had a good car. We almost got it done.”
Owens did complete the job, winning in just his fourth career World 100 feature start. He finished 15th in 2004, 26th in 2005 and 24th in 2006.
“This is a dream come true,” said Owens. “We’ve been coming here to Eldora and qualifying good, and we had some decent finishes. But who would have expected this to happen?”
Owens gave the credit for his career-making victory to his car owner Mike Reece, who gave him an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make in my life – to leave the Harrod Farms team and all those guys, and come to this one,” said Owens. “You don’t know if you’re doing the right thing or not.
“(Reece) said, ‘We’re gonna do this, this, and this.’ Well, every day racers get promises, but he’s come through. There’s nothing he said that he hasn’t done.
“I’m proud to win the race for him. He’s a really great guy.”
Reece was just as proud to provide Owens his winning Bloomquist/Cornett engine combination.
“I put him in the car because everybody said he could do it,” an emotional Reece said in Victory Lane , “and he’s done it!”
Owens made his way to the top of the dirt Late Model world through the UMP DIRTcar Racing open-wheel Modified ranks, spending more than a decade racing in the division. He won UMP national championships in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2002, and he also built Modified chassis.
“To me, the (UMP) Modified deal is an awesome stepping stone,” said Owens. “It prepares you for the track conditions we got out here today. You gotta be real smooth, keep the car under you.
“I think winning this race definitely shows you can use the Modifieds as a stepping stone. It can be done.”
Of course, Owens is still trying to figure out exactly how he’s become the hottest driver in dirt Late Model racing over the past month.
“This month has been unreal,” said Owens. “I keep waiting to wake up tomorrow and get back to the shop, and the wall will be empty with no (winner’s) checks hanging on it.”
Only one of the race’s three caution flags was caused by an accident. It came on lap three, when Josh Richards of Shinnston , W.Va. , spun between turns one and two and collected Steve Shaver of Vienna , W.Va. , whose car climbed the outside wall; Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., who continued despite sustaining body damage; Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky.; and Vic Hill of Morristown, Tenn.
The second caution flag flew on lap 16 when Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine , Iowa , slowed in turn four with mechanical trouble.
Shannon Babb of Moweaqua , Ill. , who started 18th, used the extreme inside groove to climb as high as fifth before settling for a sixth-place finish. He passed Bloomquist, who rallied from the rear after pitting on lap 54, on the final lap for the position.
Bloomquist settled for seventh, followed by Wendell Wallace of Batesville , Ark. , Donnie Moran of Dresden , Ohio , and defending UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model national champion Randy Korte of Highland , Ill. , who ran in the top five for much of the distance.
Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville , Ill. , who sits second in the 2007 UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model national points standings, finished 13th.
A total of 203 cars were signed in for the event, with drivers hailing from 23 states and Canada .
Friday night’s time trials started over two hours later than scheduled after rain fell just as hot laps were beginning. All qualifying was completed at 1:45 a.m., and the three Non-Qualifiers events were checkered at 3:26 a.m.
Heavy rain struck the track on Saturday at 5:40 p.m. and literally flooded a portion of the pit area. When the precipitation refused to quit, officials were forced to postpone the entire program to Sunday afternoon.
Heat winners were Matt Miller of Whitehouse , Ohio , Korte, Randy Weaver of Crossville , Tenn. , Chinn, Bloomquist and Shannon Buckingham of Morristown, Tenn. The B-Mains were captured by Brady Smith and Neat.
For more information on UMP DIRTcar Racing, visit www.umpracing.com.
World 100 A-Main Finish (Finish/Start/Driver):
1. (13) Jimmy Owens
2. (10) Steve Francis
3. (14) Darrell Lanigan
4. (3) Wayne Chinn
5. (23) Jeep VanWormer
6. (18) Shannon Babb
7. (2) Scott Bloomquist
8. (12) Wendell Wallace
9. (8) Donnie Moran
10. (5) Randy Korte
11. (19) Chris Madden
12. (24) Billy Drake
13. (16) Dennis Erb Jr.
14. (25) Michael England
15. (21) Brady Smith
16. (1) Shannon Buckingham
17. (17) Jason Feger
18. (7) Mike Marlar
19. (27) Josh Richards
20. (26) Rick Eckert
21. (6) Matt Miller
22. (9) Dan Schlieper
23. (11) Ray Cook
24. (22) Brad Neat
25. (4) Randy Weaver
26. (15) Brian Birkhofer
27. (20) Steve Shaver
28. (28) Vic Hill
Lap Leaders: Bloomquist (1-9); Owens (10-17); Francis (18-86); Owens (87-100)
Heat 1 (15 laps): Matt Miller, Mike Marlar, Jimmy Owens, Freddy Smith, Ivedent Lloyd, Billy Moyer, Terry Phillips, Tim Dohm, Brandon Kinzer, Scott James, Rod Conley, Brian Ruhlman, Shawn Toczek, Curt Spalding, Josh Bocook, Jackie Boggs, Dustin Moore, Greg Johnson, Dave Hilliker, Ben Adkins
Heat 2 (15 laps): Randy Korte, Donnie Moran, Darrell Lanigan, Brady Smith, Jeep VanWormer, Michael, England, Jason Keltner, Jay Johnson, Chuckie May, Andrew Reaume, Casey Noonan, Bill Hahn, Chub Frank, Chris Madden, Doug Drown, Jordan Bland, David Webb, Earl Pearson, Jr., George Lee, Dustin Neat
Heat 3 (15 laps): Randy Weaver, Dan Schleiper, Brian Birkhofer, John Mason, Dale McDowell, Chris Wall, Josh Richards, Chad Simpson, Justin Ratliff, D. J. Wells, Jared Hawkins, Steve Casebolt, Bobby Kitchen, Steve Barnett, Kris Patterson, John Blankenship, Jason Dunn, G.R. Smith, Steve Shaver, Jerry Rice
Heat 4 (15 laps): Wayne Chinn, Steve Francis, Dennis Erb, Billy Drake, Rick Eckert, Bart Harman, Tim Hitt, Jerry Bowersock, Frank Heckenast, Eric Wells, Tim Manville, Josh Williams, Jared Landers, Bryan Barber, Mark Douglas, Aaron Scott, Chad Hina, Dave Davasier, Clint Smith, Ky Harper
Heat 5 (15 laps): Scott Bloomquist, Ray Cook, Jason Feger, Brad Neat, Don O’Neal, Chad Ruhlman, Steve Smith, Brian Shirley, Garrett Durrett, Anthony White, Brett Wyatt, Brian Dauber, Rick Corbin, Rusty Seaver, Booper Bare, Jeff Kohn, Tony Knowles, Terrance Nowell, Duane Chamberlin, Don Hammer
Heat 6 (15 laps): Shannon Buckingham, Wendell Wallace, Shannon Babb, Vic Hill, Eddie Carrier, Shane Clanton, Eric Smith, Matt Lux, Josh McGuire, Chris Combs, John Gill, Shannon Thornsberry, Whitney McQueary, Tyler Boggs, Eric Wells, Rick DeLong, Michael Kloos, Ray Bradford
B Main 1 (20 laps): Brady Smith, Jeff VanWormer, Michael England, Josh Richards, Scott James, Chris Wall, Billy Moyer, Terry Phillip, Tim Dohm, Ivedent Lloyd, Rod Conley, Chad Simpson, Casey Noonan, Jay Johnson, Justin Ratliff, Chuckie May, Freddie Smith, John Mason, Brandon Kinzer, Jason Keltner, Andrew Reaume, Jared Hawkins, DJ Wells, Dale McDowell
B Main 2 (20 laps): Brad Neat, Billy Drake, Rick Ecker, Vic Hill, Chad Ruhlman, Matt Lux, Bart Hartman, Brian Shirley, Eddie Carrier, John Gill, Eric Smith, Don O’Neal, Steve Smith, Josh McGuire, Eric Wells, Jerry Bowersock, Chris Combs, Garrett Durrett, Anthony White, Frank Heckenhast Jr., Shannon Thornsberry, Brett Wyatt, Tim Manville, Shane Clanton
Friday Non-Qualifier 1 (15 laps): Scott James, Jared Landers, Andrew Reaume, Rick Rickman, James Felker, Jason Dunn, David Hilliker, Joseph Pomeroy, Bill Hahn, Donnie Roberts, Randy Woodling, Dennis Potridge, Jake Henry, Adam Thrush, Steve Lance, Dennis Roberson, Scott Ford, Bryan Elder, Chris Dick, David Hatfield, Justin McCree, Nick Marolff
Friday Non-Qualifier 2 (15 laps): Jesse Lay, D.J. Wells, Jeff Beyers, Jeff Alsip, Mike Amell, Donald Beyers, Jeff Watson, Jason Jameson, Justin Shaw, Chuck Hummer, Keith Gentz, Dean Boyd, Doug Zartler, Kevin Mack, Ryan VanderVeen, Dereck Chandler, Shaun Smith, Clint Jamison
Friday Non-Qualifier 3 (15 laps): David Webb, Rohn Moon, Justin Robinson, Lee Devesier, Wayne Maffett, Dona Marcoullier, Chris Wilson, Mike Walker, John Jackson, Brad Eitinear, Bill Williams, Devin Shiels, Steve Kempt, Hillard Miller, Brian Claudnic, Mike Stacy, Larry Kingseed, Michael Stiltner