Turn 2 Blog: Bloomquist, Owens and other east Tennessee drivers making noise in big races

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Richard: Not that this is exactly breaking news, but east Tennessee has some pretty solid drivers that are performing quite well on the bigger stages in the dirt racing world. This region of the country has always been known for producing top tier talent in this sport and that is absolutely proving to be the case right now.

Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg looks to be off to the kind of start that will provide him with one of his best seasons in a while, and that’s saying something considering all he has accomplished over the years. To listen to him during the post-race interview after his win on Friday night at the Tri-City Speedway in Illinois was reminiscent of the Bloomquist of old, and he acknowledge that very same thing.

Just when it looks like the guy has started to slip, he steps up and proves that to be wrong.

I was a little skeptical earlier this year with all the changes he made in terms of his car building partnership with Randy Sweet and the engine and shock programs he had aligned himself with, but as he said in his recent interview with DirtonDirt.com’s Michael Rigsby, the Bloomquist everybody is used to seeing in terms of on track performance and confidence level may well be back.

Could Bloomquist potentially reign in championships in both the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the NDRL in 2014?

Michael: I learned a long time ago to never count out Scott Bloomquist in anything. But in looking at the current points and the schedules, I don’t think he will win both championships.

He’s already dug himself a pretty big hole in the Lucas standings by missing an early race and not receiving any hardship points. He had a flat tire on the last lap at Paducah that cost him several positions in the finishing order. That puts him almost 200 points behind leader Don O’Neal. While other drivers have come from that far back before, O’Neal has shown more consistency so far this season. And don’t look now, but Jimmy Owens is starting to get a handle on that Club 29 car.

I do feel Bloomquist is in a good spot to win the NDRL title. The schedule is less demanding and he runs really well at most of the tracks on that schedule. It won’t be easy with six drivers within 40 points of him right now.

Richard: I’m of the opinion that a confident and successful Scott Bloomquist is good for the sport of Dirt Late Model racing. While he’s never been short on confidence, his recent interviews suggest that the swagger that made him the lightning rod character of legend is back.

And speaking of Jimmy Owens, the Newport driver is indeed starting to step up his game of late. He is piling up the top-3 finishes and appears to me as if he’s on the verge of a breakout in that new car. After several years of piloting Bloomquist Race Cars, he made the switch to Darrel Lanigan’s Club 29 chassis earlier this year. He and crew chief Chris Fox seem to be adapting quite well.

Although Don O’Neal has the current lead in the LOLMDS season, Owens has shown over the last several seasons that the hot summer months are the time in which he excels. If he is able to find that same mid-season form, the three time and defending LOLMDS champion will be a force to be reckoned with by season’s end.

Also, another east Tennessean made national news when he won the World of Outlaws Late Models event at the Tazewell Speedway a few weeks ago. Even though he has cut back on his racing schedule to concentrate more on the family business, I often find it hard to label Winfield’s Mike Marlar as a regional or local driver because he has won so many nationally recognized events. And he showed his capabilities again when he beat top drivers like Lanigan, Tim McCreadie, Rick Eckert and Brandon Sheppard on the high banks.

Michael: Marlar is one of these guys that could be a contender on a national level if he was in one of those top rides. But he has been successful on a regional level with a number of wins in some high paying races with some lesser funded teams. He is one of those guys where a person can truly credit the driver and not say he’s winning because he’s in the best money can buy.

Seeing Randy Weaver drop off the Lucas tour was disappointing. I would have liked to see how he could have done with them for a whole season, especially with how well he ran in that series during the second half of last year. But drivers like him have a hard time with a national tour because they are used to winning a lot of smaller races in a given year and have a hard time with not winning on a regular basis. For some drivers, it’s more about the wins than making a living running across the country.

Richard: I agree. I would have liked to see Weaver stay with the tour through its next east Tennessee swing for sure. He made a smart call not to follow the LOLMDS all the way to Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago with rain in that area being so likely. And last weekend when the tour moved through Illinois and Kentucky, the illness of his father caused him to miss out.

On more regional notes, east Tennessee drivers are also having success. Chattanooga’s Riley Hickman got off to a hot start in 2014 and currently leads the Southern All Stars series standings. Gatlinburg’s Mack McCarter and Chattanooga’s Ronnie Johnson are presently 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Nesmith Dirt Late Model Touring Series standings for Crate Late Model cars as well. And, Knoxville’s Billy Ogle, Jr. goes into this final weekend of the Ray Cook promoted Spring Nationals tour with the series lead.

When you talk dirt racing on a national or regional level, east Tennessee drivers are sure to be right in the middle of the conversation.

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