Turn 2 Blog: Owens/Bloomquist, Day Racing, and the End of 2014


*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.

Richard: Between Scott Bloomquist and Jimmy Owens, east Tennessee has dominated the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series as those two drivers have won that title for the past five consecutive years. But after a weekend in which he lost ground to Don O’Neal in the standings, it seems unlikely that Owens will win his fourth consecutive championship for that national touring series.

That said, both of these drivers have had remarkable seasons in 2014. Owens has finished first a total of 14 times so far, including the $50,000-to-win USA Nationals at the Cedar Lake Speedway in Wisconsin and the $40,000-to-win Topless 100 at the Batesville Motor Speedway in Arkansas. Bloomquist has won no fewer than 8 features, including the $30,000-to-win Silver Dollar Nationals at the I-80 Speedway in Nebraska and the prestigious World 100 at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.

The LOLMDS championship run is in serious jeopardy of being over, but there’s no doubt that east Tennessee has two of the top national Dirt Late Model drivers in the sport.

Michael: It is remarkable what those two drivers have done over the last 5 years in that series and in other major events. Those two are always at the top of the list of the two drivers to beat any time one or both show up at any racetrack.

While Owens’ title runs seems to be coming to an end, one has to wonder how the title chase would have played out had it not been for two poor finishes right here in east Tennessee. Owens finished 14th while O’Neal finished 4th at Smoky Mountain Speedway. Owens finished 15th and O’Neal finished 6th at Volunteer Speedway. Hard to imagine losing a possible championship on tracks in your own back yard. Maybe he needs to run on these tracks more often in 2015.

Bloomquist could be in this conversation had it not been for missing a race at Golden Isles (truck problems caused that) and just some strange luck that was bad. Bloomquist probably lost as many races as he won whether it be from flats, lapped cars, or other issues.

Richard: Bloomquist, in particular, has had some strange things happen this season. On numerous occasions he has posted the fastest time in qualifying, won a heat race and run out front early only to have the things you mentioned ruin his night.

Something that adds to the success story for each of them this season is that both have made significant changes this year.

Owens switched from the Bloomquist Race Cars chassis that he had enjoyed so much success with in recent years to the relatively unproven(at the time he made the move) Club 29 chassis being built by Darrell Lanigan. Also, longtime crew chief Chris Fox has not been with the Mike Reece owned team throughout most of the season’s second half.

While Bloomquist still drives a chassis that bears his name, there have been changes there as well. A partnership with Randy Sweet has given rise to the Sweet-Bloomquist Chassis, which is not manufactured out of the driver’s Mooresburg, Tenn. shop. And like Owens, he has separated from a longtime crew chief. Tommy Hicks actually departed Bloomquist’s team last year to join another organization.

But despite the changes, both keep winning big races and running up front.

Michael: There are still several big paying races up for grabs this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both take home a win in any of those races.

What I will be looking for is how both of these drivers do in the 2015 season. Both started out a little slow this season (slow for their standards). I would think both will be the two favorites for the 2015 Lucas title if they choose to run that series next year.

Richard: Another topic that crossed my mind this weekend was that of day racing. Because Mother Nature didn’t want 411 Motor Speedway to host its portion of the Fall Brawl on Friday night, that track decided to run their races on Sunday afternoon.

While I know there are many out there who are flat out against racing on dirt when the sun is shining, I enjoyed the experience. The slick conditions tested drivers in a way in which they are seldom tested considering that the vast majority of events in out area take place at night. Granted, there was some bent up sheet metal on Sunday at 411, but given more opportunities to race in the sunlight, drivers would likely adopt the skill set required for the task.

I know that the Atomic Speedway used to run some day races back when it was going strong. Could day racing in the spring and fall work in this area for a few special events?

Michael: Count me as one of those that does not care for day racing on dirt tracks. I saw too many races at Atomic during my time there where they were nothing but high speed parades. Having said that, it looks like 411 is one of the few tracks that is not susceptible to a locked down track. I don’t know if it’s the kind of dirt they have, they have a secret, or something else.

It is a shame that day racing in this area isn’t any better than what it is. It would certainly help out fans and competitors by not having to deal with those very cool, nighttime temps this time of the year.

Richard: If any tracks were to adopt daytime racing, I would be in favor of occasional special events rather than full scale points paying races.

On still another note, the dirt racing season is just about to wind down in this area. Tazewell’s portion of the Fall Brawl is coming up on Friday night, Volunteer is hosting one of Vic Hill’s Steelhead shows on Saturday, 411 has its Steelhead Championship and The Gobbler doubleheader is coming up at Cleveland and Boyd’s in November.

Even though the temperatures will probably be cool, we’re lucky in this area to have one of the longer racing season’s in the country. Which of those events gets your attention?

Michael: The steelhead race at Volunteer is likely to draw a good car count. The big question for that race is what kind of shape the track will be in. I like seeing the steelhead drivers racing for some big money.

I’m interested to see how The Gobbler events at Cleveland and Boyd’s work out. I haven’t seen any details yet, but the number of classes and start times will be interesting. My one complaint about the Gobbler in recent years at Cleveland is they ran every class and you were looking at a program that easily went 6-7 hours. Will Cleveland do the same this year? Boyd’s has a curfew. Does that mean they will start earlier or will they cut down the number of classes? I guess we’ll get our answers very soon.


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