This is one of the biggest weeks of the year in terms of money and prestige in dirt racing. The Dirt Late Model Dream and its preliminaries will be contested from Thursday through Saturday with the winning team walking away from Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio with more than $100,000 in earnings along with one of the most coveted trophies in the sport. For all of those reasons, this is one of the most stressful weeks of the year for Dirt Late Model crew chiefs as they prepare their cars to be raced multiple times with over a relatively short period time period with so much on the line.
Shane McDowell is a crew chief(and now a team owner) who has faced those challenges numerous times in the past and has stood on the famed Eldora Speedway stage to have his photo made following wins by his driver and brother Dale McDowell.
Shane McDowell Racing unveiled a brand new car this past weekend in a World of Outlaws Late Model Series race at Tennessee’s Volunteer Speedway. Dale McDowell placed third in the car that had never turned a lap on a race track until Saturday night. That race served as somewhat of a test session for the car that will be entered in competition for the Dirt Late Model Dream.
The younger of the McDowell brothers believes his team has the right formula for success in Rossburg.
“I get excited,” McDowell proclaimed in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “It’s one of my favorite places. Dale has been really good up there. He’s a 100 lap driver and we’ve had good podium runs up there the last three or four years. Even if we’ve had to start in the back he’s been able to drive up through there. We had a brand new car tonight with not a lap on it and we may have made a few little adjustments that weren’t the right way but we’re excited to take a new car up there.”
The veteran crew chief is confident that the length of Saturday’s feature race will play into the hands of the No. 17m team. As proof, Dale McDowell has started at mid-pack multiple times this season and risen to a podium finish or even a win by the end of the night. And that’s in races of only 40 or 50 laps in distance.
“We’re always there at 100 laps, it’s just getting there,” Shane McDowell pointed out. “We’ve had to race in through the B-main a couple of times, but if we can get in the race and have the car balanced, as good as he is up there, I feel like we can be a contender.”
While some teams that might be considered top contenders to win at Eldora opted to take this past weekend off, SMR chose to race in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series events at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn. and Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. McDowell felt like racing the weekend before Eldora offered greater benefits for his team since those two events were located near his Mooresburg, Tenn. shop that sits next door to that of Scott Bloomquist.
“Now that I’m based out of Scott’s other shop we’ve only got an hour to 411 and 30 minutes to here, it was just real hard not to do it,” McDowell said in the Volunteer Speedway pit area following Saturday’s feature. “Scott chose not to race because he wanted to go test and I thought about that but we’ve run so good here. When you race against these guys, it’s a fair enough test for the car to see where you’re really at.”
The format now in place leading up to the Dirt Late Model Dream calls for racing action to take place on Thursday night with a pair of $5,000-to-win features followed by two $10,000-to-win races on Friday evening. As a crew chief McDowell realizes the importance of preparation going into such a weekend, and as a car owner, he recognizes the potential pitfalls involved in taking on the sport’s biggest events.
“It’s a lot of racing,” the Georgia native stated. “I like it that we race more and can bring in more money but you’ll put 200 laps on your motor. With that format and running places like Knoxville with their format and maybe a Florence with that type of format, you really only get your two Eldora races, Knoxville, Florence and maybe another one out of an engine cycle. It’s a lot of laps on your stuff.”
But in the end, the ultimate goal for every car owner, crew chief and driver is to stand on the stage that serves as the Eldora Speedway victory lane and have a picture made as the winner. McDowell knows that feeling having experienced it in 2014 for the Dream(Dale McDowell also has a World 100 win at Eldora to his credit).
The feeling from such an achievement is difficult to describe.
“It’s unreal, really it is. You enjoy all of them, but when you’re up there, you’ve got everybody that’s anybody. It’s not just your World of Outlaw crowd and your Lucas crowd, it’s everybody. When you get to stand on that stage, it’s almost hard to put in words.”