Turn 2 Blog: Talking about The Dream and picking the winner

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Richard: This is one of the most highly anticipated weeks of the year in the Dirt Late Model world as the biggest names in the sport will converge on Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio to compete for a first place prize of $100,000 in the race simply known as ‘The Dream’. And it looks as if the list of potential winners is as long as ever going into this 20th annual version of the sport’s highest paying event.

As is always the case, east Tennessee will be well represented at Eldora.

Jimmy Owens seems to be peaking at just the right time as the Newport driver and 2009 winner of The Dream has won three of the last four Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series races, including two in a row this past weekend at Tazewell and Florence. He and crew chief Chris Fox seem to be getting the handle on their new Club 29 car and certainly seem to have everything pointed in the right direction.

And, of course, you can’t talk about big Dirt Late Model races without bringing up the name of Scott Bloomquist. The Mooresburg Hall of Fame driver has won The Dream six times and will enter this weekend as the defending champion of the race. Few drivers in the history of the sport have had the knack for putting themselves in contention for major payouts as this man, and he has run well enough this season to put his name squarely in the middle of the conversation for potential winners.

Winfield’s Mike Marlar also plans to make a run at Dream glory. He has shown numerous times throughout his career that he is more than capable of beating the national touring series guys, as he did earlier this year in the World of Outlaws Late Models race in Tazewell.

Who are you looking at as potential winners this weekend?

Michael: Aside from those you mentioned, there are a few other drivers with good shots. Even though he hasn’t been racing as much this year, Brian Birkhofer runs really well at Eldora. And a driver I continue to expect to pull one out at Eldora is Eddie Carrier Jr. He has an excellent overall finish record there over the last several years. Don O’Neal is on a pretty good roll himself. And even Bobby Pierce has been on a tear this season with already a win at Eldora several weeks ago.

There have been a number of surprise winners in The Dream. Look back at when Steve Casebolt and Matt Miller each won. Is this the year for another surprise? Or this the year a driver who has been so close the last few years finally breaks through like a Chris Madden or a Terry Phillips? Or will a wily veteran like Billy Moyer or Dale McDowell show they can still pull off the huge wins.

Richard: You beat me to the punch in that two names from outside our area I was planning to mention were those of Bobby Pierce and Dale McDowell. Both have been exceptionally hot in recent weeks and will be looking to continue their winning ways this Saturday night. Also, you are right to mention the surprise winners. Few would have predicted the wins by Miller and Casebolt you referred to earlier.

Of course, Darrell Lanigan figures to be in the mix at some point as well. He has been strong everywhere he has raced this season and would no doubt love to get his new Club 29 brand of chassis into the winner’s circle of such a high profile race in the same way Shane Clanton rolled his Capital Race Car into Victory Lane a couple of years ago.

Another topic that often comes up around this race is that of car count. The Dream has drawn cars numbering well over 100 in its history, but those numbers have dropped off from the all time highs.

Some believe that car counts for this and various other ‘crown jewel’ races serve as an indication of the health of the sport. But I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. It used to be that other tracks and various regional series’ would not schedule up against this race for fear that no cars would show up at their own events. However, that seems to have changed in recent years as more races are scheduled up against The Dream and more teams have decided that the cost of fuel and all else involved aren’t worth the gamble of striking it rich in this one race.

What are your thoughts on car counts for this race? Is that statistic meaningful?

Michael: I think the bigger issue with car counts comes up for the World 100. Every dirt late model driver wants take a crack at that race at least once. While The Dream pays $100,000 to the winner, it doesn’t have the same historical significance as the World 100.

I think it’s a good idea to have other races on the same weekend as The Dream for those that don’t want to make the attempt. Logistics have to be considered as well. There have been a few of those races in this area for a couple of years and the crowd and car counts were just so-so. Eldora is about 6 hours from here. I think races in Georgia, Alabama, or even in the northeast would fair better going against The Dream than a race in east Tennessee. Most tracks in Kentucky don’t race at all on Eldora weekends.

Car counts are just down in general. I’d be willing to bet if Eldora held another $1 million-to-win race, the car count would be considerably down compared to the 2001 race.

Richard: I agree that the days of super high car counts will be few and far between for the foreseeable future. However, the folks at Eldora have, in my opinion, improved the overall Dream weekend by including full race programs on Thursday and Friday nights rather than have drivers sit there for two days of doing nothing but running a few hot laps and qualifying.

Considering that the race pays $100,000-to-win, the payout throughout the field has been criticized by some racers. I’ve had one local driver to say that he had no plans to return for this race for that very reason. Under the old setup, it seemed as if the top-5 or so left with money in their pockets while everyone else showed a loss.

With the new format, more drivers have a chance to earn more money, and that’s a good thing.

Michael: Racers who race for a living have to look at their bottom lines. While the purse for The Dream is just so-so outside of the top 5 or so, adding these extra events has helped. Now, racers can make a weekend of it by having a better shot at collecting money they normally wouldn’t get unless they finish in one of those top spots.

Richard: Alright, the time has come to make our picks to win the 20th Dream at Eldora. I would love to take one of our local guys, and I think they will all be in the mix. However, I’m picking Darrell Lanigan to win. I will take Marlar as a dark horse, if a dark horse can be counted as a driver who does not follow one of the national tours. I also like Shannon Babb as a guy who hasn’t been talked about a lot going into the weekend as someone who could win it.

Michael: I will go with Jimmy Owens because I think he’s about to get another one of his big winning streaks. For a dark horse, I’ll go with the same guy I’ve been picking the last couple of years at Eldora, Eddie Carrier Jr.

 

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