Casey Roberts wasn’t running at the finish of the three dirt Late Model features that kicked off the 43rd annual DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment.
But when the checkered flag flew on the fourth race – Thursday night’s 50-lap World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main – the unheralded 36-year-old driver from Toccoa, Ga., was first across the finish line.
Roberts pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the DIRTcar Nationals by Summit, passing dirt-track legend Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., coming to the white flag to become the mid-winter motorsports meet’s third first-time dirt Late Model winner in four events.
Refusing to concede after losing the lead to Bloomquist on lap 31, Roberts patiently stuck to the bottom of the half-mile oval and slipped ahead of Wednesday night’s DIRTcar Late Model feature victor to gain command as lap 49 was scored. The Peach State racer then staved off a last-ditch bid by Bloomquist to score his first-ever WoO LMS triumph by a mere. 0.185 of a second.
Roberts’s dramatic drive to a win worth $10,550 ignited the large Volusia crowd, which gave the consummate underdog a rousing welcome when he emerged from his Cushman Motorsports Capital Race Car in Victory Lane.
“I’m pretty much a no-name or whatever,” Roberts modestly said while standing on the homestretch stage following the race. “I guess everybody thinks it’s good to see guys like me win.
“I’ll tell ‘ya, I’m just blessed to be here. It feels like it’s not even really happening.”
Bloomquist settled for runner-up money, falling short after leading laps 31-48. Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., charged forward for the second straight night, advancing from the 15th starting spot to place third. John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., and Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., finished fourth and fifth, respectively, after spending the final laps in a dogfight for position.
After winning his first career WoO LMS heat race earlier in the program, Roberts started from the pole position in the first of three scheduled 50-lappers for the national tour during the DIRTcar Nationals by Summit. But he was outgunned for the lead at the initial green flag by front-row mate Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., setting the stage for a difficult road to victory for the two-time Ultimate Super Late Model Series champion.
“We had a gameplan, me and (Capital Race Cars builder) Marshall (Green) and all the guys, and stuck to it,” said Roberts. “The 2 (Smith) got out front there and I just kept riding. I didn’t want to get my tires hot and tried to take care of my tires for the end.”
Eventually Roberts “started coming back” to Smith, and on lap 15 Roberts slid underneath Smith to take the lead. Roberts initially edged away from the pack, but after the race’s four caution flags flew in rapid-fire fashion – on laps 20, 22, 24 and 28 – he watched Bloomquist use the outside lane to sail into the top spot on lap 31.
On most occasions, a Bloomquist move into the lead during the second half of a race means the rest of the field is running for second. But this wasn’t a normal situation.
“Scott come up through there and gosh, whenever he passed us, I was like, ‘Dang, we might run second,’” said Roberts. “But I wasn’t gonna go down without a fight.”
With the A-Main running caution-free to the finish, the low-riding Roberts slowly inched toward Bloomquist’s two-race-old Sweet/Bloomquist car. He challenged Bloomquist on lap 43 only to fall several car lengths back on lap 45 while negotiating lapped traffic; moments later, Roberts broke free of slower cars and again closed in on Bloomquist.
On lap 48 Roberts surged to the inside of Bloomquist in turns one and two and stayed alongside the leader down the backstretch. After rounding turns three and four, Roberts was in the lead with the white flag flying – and less than 20 seconds later, the race was his.
“We definitely could drive and rotate around the bottom real nice,” said Roberts. “That was really the key to the win.”
Bloomquist, 50, conceded that Roberts’s mastery of the inside groove was the difference.
“I thought the racetrack would move up and you’d have to run the middle and all over it, but that bottom stayed a lot longer than I expected,” said Bloomquist, who started sixth. “He ran a great race. It looked like he just stuck to the bottom. Tonight, that’s where it was at.”
Outdueling a Hall of Famer like Bloomquist was an unforgettable accomplishment for Roberts, a low-key sort who displayed surprisingly little outward emotion after the race.
“To run with Scott like that, with as much as he’s done in our sport – it ranks definitely at the top of the wins that I have,” said Roberts, whose wife, Cathy, and children Brynn, 15, and Mason, 10, were unfortunately not in attendance at Volusia. “I can’t thank God enough for blessing me with all the fine people around me.”
Roberts’s car owner, Jimmy Cushman, was a bit more demonstrative in his post-race actions. The longtime team owner was teary-eyed in Victory Lane, overjoyed by the magnitude of his driver’s triumph.
“I’ve always dreamed of winning an Outlaw race,” said Cushman, who, along with his wife Ann, has fielded cars for Roberts for the last 10 years. “It’s come true.”
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., finished sixth and took over the WoO LMS points lead for the first time in his young career. Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., faded to seventh after briefly challenging Roberts for second early in the distance. Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., rallied to finish eighth after being forced to the rear of the field on lap 24 by contact with Smith that sent him spinning in turn four. Rick Eckert of York, Pa., and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., rounded out the top 10.
Wrapping around the lap-24 caution flag for Lanigan’s problem were slowdowns on lap 20 for third-starter Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., who stopped in turn three; lap 22 for Kyle Bronson of Tampa, Fla., who slowed after climbing the homestretch wall; and lap 28 for a turn-two spin by Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa.
With 45 cars were entered in the evening’s action, Ohlins Shocks Time Trials were split into ‘A’ and ‘B’ groups. The first half competed for starting positions in heats one and two and the second half racied against the clock to align heats three and four.
Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., turned a lap of 15.791 seconds in Group ‘A’ that was the quickest overall of the night. It was his first WoO LMS fast-time honor of 2014 and the 19thof his career.
Heat winners were won by Roberts, Satterlee, Bloomquist and Shirley. Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., and Eckert captured the B-Mains.
The DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit continue on Friday (Feb. 21) and Saturday(Feb. 22) with WoO LMS programs headlined by 50-lap, $10,000-to-win A-Mains. The Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds will also be part of both shows. Race time is7:30 both evenings.
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
Results of World of Outlaws Late Model Series ‘DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit’ Night 1 at Volusia Speedway Park (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (1) Casey Roberts/50 $10,550
2. (6) Scott Bloomquist/50 $5,100
3. (15) Dale McDowell/50 $3,000
4. (13) John Blankenship/50 $2,500
5. (5) Gregg Satterlee/50 $2,100
6. (9) Brandon Sheppard/50 $2,250
7. (4) Steve Francis/50 $1,500
8. (11) Darrell Lanigan/50 $2,000
9. (18) Rick Eckert/50 $1,950
10. (19) Shane Clanton/50 $1,650
11. (8) Billy Moyer/50 $1,250
12. (23) Tim Fuller/50 $1,550
13. (14) Don O’Neal/50 $950
14. (2) Brady Smith/50 $950
15. (17) Vic Coffey/50 $850
16. (20) Eric Wells/50 $1,350
17. (12) Mike Marlar/50 $770
18. (22) Kenny Pettyjohn/50 $750
19. (10) Ivedent Lloyd Jr./49 $780
20. (21) Chub Frank/49 $1,250
21. (16) Tim McCreadie/45 $1,350
22. (24) Morgan Bagley/42 $1,250
23. (25) Clint Smith/38 $660
24. (3) Brian Shirley/22 $700
25. (7) Kyle Bronson/22 $725
* Earnings include Winners Circle program and cash contingency award bonuses
Time of Race: 27 Mins., 22.923 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.185 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 4 (laps 20, 22, 24, 28)
Lap Leaders: B. Smith (1-14); Roberts (15-30); Bloomquist (31-48); Roberts (49-50)
Provisional Starters: Fuller, Bagley (WoO); C. Smith (WoO emergency)
WoO LMS ‘Bonus Bucks’ Winner: Roberts ($500)
Ohlins Shocks Time Trial Results (Position/No./Driver/Hometown/
1. 21-Billy Moyer/Batesville, AR 15.791
2. 40B-Kyle Bronson/Tampa, FL 15.947
3. 101-Casey Roberts/Toccoa, GA 15.962
4. 22-Gregg Satterlee/Indiana, PA 16.003
5. 1-Brandon Sheppard/New Berlin, IL 16.040
6. 21L-Ivedent Lloyd Jr./Ocala, FL 16.077
7. 25-Shane Clanton/Zebulon, GA 16.145
8. 5-Don O’Neal/Martinsville, IN 16.230
9. 23-John Blankenship/Williamson, WV 16.231
10. 20-Jimmy Owens/Newport, TN 16.233
11. 14M-Morgan Bagley/Tyler, TX 16.276
12. 28-Dennis Erb Jr./Carpentersville, IL 16.340
13. J4-John Garvin Jr./Sarver, PA 16.385
14. 32c-Vic Coffey/Caledonia, NY 16.420
15. 99Jr-Frankie Heckenast Jr./Orland Park, IL 16.426
16. 12M-Raymond Merrill/Sallisaw, OK 16.462
17. 18x-Jack Sullivan/Greenbrier, AR 16.473
18. 1*-Chub Frank/Bear Lake, PA 16.507
19. 5J-Eric Jacobsen/Sea Cliff Beach, CA 16.636
20. 32-Bobby Pierce/Oakwood, IL 16.671
21. 17J-John Winge/Sioux Falls, SD 16.942
22. 27-Jeff Beyers/Pana, IL 17.111
23. 16H-Mike Hammerle/St. Charles, MO 18.056
1. 0-Scott Bloomquist/Mooresburg, TN 15.880
2. 81-Brian Shirley/Chatham, IL 15.934
3. 29-Darrell Lanigan/Union, KY 16.093
4. 157-Mike Marlar/Winfield, TN 16.101
5. 99B-Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs/Bear Lake, PA 16.119
6. 2-Brady Smith/Solon Springs, Wi 16.134
7. 15-Steve Francis/Ashland, KY 16.167
8. 19-Tim Fuller/Watertown, NY 16.168
9. 17M-Dale McDowell/Chickamauga, GA 16.200
10. 39-Tim McCreadie/Watertown, NY 16.233
11. 24M-Kenny Moreland/Waldorf, MD 16.261
12. 7-Jason Fitzgerald/Middleburg, FL 16.266
13. 38s-Kenny Pettyjohn/Millsboro, DE 16.296
14. 18c-Chase Junghans/Manhattan, KS 16.327
15. 24-Rick Eckert/York, PA 16.373
16. 44-Clint Smith/Senoia, GA 16.373
17. 777-Jared Landers/Batesville, AR 16.375
18. 18-Eric Wells/Hazard, KY 16.428
19. 1b-Jeff Babcock/Wayne, OH 16.432
20. 4ds-Chad Hollenbeck/Kingsley, PA 16.494
21. 21d-Dan Stone/Thompson, PA 16.686
22. 57-Chuck Julien/Apopka, FL 18.509
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Roberts, Moyer, Sheppard, Blankenship, Clanton, Bagley, Garvin, Heckenast, Jacobsen, Sullivan, Winge, Hammerle
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Satterlee, Bronson, Lloyd, O’Neal, Coffey, Pierce, Frank, Merrill, Beyers, Owens, Erb
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Bloomquist, Francis, Lanigan, McDowell, Pettyjohn, Briggs, Eckert, Stone, Landers, Babcock, Moreland
Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 4 Transfer): Shirley, B. Smith, Marlar, McCreadie, Wells, Fuller, Junghans, C. Smith, Fitzgerald, Hollenbeck, Julien
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Coffey, Clanton, Frank, Bagley, Pierce, Garvin, Heckenast, Owens, Sullivan, Erb, Jacobsen, Winge, Beyers, Hammerle (DNS) Merrill
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 3 Transfer): Eckert, Wells, Pettyjohn, Fuller, Stone, Junghans, C. Smith, Babcock, Landers, Moreland, Fitzgerald, Hollenbeck, Julien, Briggs
World of Outlaws Late Model Series Contingency Award Winners (awards presented to noted finisher/qualifier or next highest displaying decal):
Ohlins Shocks ($50 cash to fast qualifier): Billy Moyer
Comp Cams ($50 certificate to A-Main winner): Casey Roberts
MSD Ignition ($50 cash to A-Main winner): Casey Roberts
Quartermaster ($100 certificate to A-Main winner): Casey Roberts
Wrisco (three sheets of aluminum/certificate to A-Main winner): Scott Bloomquist
STP ($50 cash to 2nd-place finisher in A-Main): Darrell Lanigan
Penske Racing Shocks ($50 to 3rd-place finisher in A-Main): Billy Moyer
Roush-Yates ($50 cash to 4th-place finisher in A-Main): Gregg Satterlee
JE Pistons ($50 cash to 5th-place finisher in A-Main): Gregg Satterlee
Lincoln Welders ($50 cash to 6th-place finisher in A-Main): Rick Eckert
American Racing Wheels ($50 cash to 7th-place finisher in A-Main): Rick Eckert
VP Racing Fuels ($50 cash to 8th-place finisher in A-Main): Darrell Lanigan
Edelbrock ($50 cash to 9th-place finisher in A-Main): Rick Eckert
Comp Cams ($50 cash to 10th-place finisher in A-Main): Shane Clanton
Cometic ($50 cash to 12th-place finisher in A-Main): Tim Fuller
JRI Shocks ($50 cash to 13th-place finisher in A-Main): Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Superflow Dynos ($50 cash to 14th-place finisher in A-Main): Brady Smith
Quartermaster ($25 certificate to 15th-place finisher in A-Main): Eric Wells
JE Pistons (one set of rings certificate to 16th-place finisher in A-Main): Kenny Pettyjohn
Roush-Yates ($50 certificate to 18th-place finisher in A-Main): Ivedent Lloyd Jr
Quartermaster ($50 certificate to 19th-place finisher in A-Main): Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
Arizona Sports Shirts ($100 certificate to 20th-place finisher in A-Main): Tim McCreadie
JE Pistons (one set of rings certificate to 21st-place finisher in A-Main): Tim McCreadie
Roush-Yates ($50 certificate to 22nd-place finisher in A-Main): Kyle Bronson
MSD Ignition ($25 cash to 24th-place finisher in A-Main): Kyle Bronson
Armor All (one case of product to highest-finishing non-WoO driver): Casey Roberts
Summit Racing Equipment ($50 gift card to B-Main winners): Vic Coffey/Rick Eckert
2014 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Point Standings as of Feb. 20 – 4 A-Mains completed (rank/driver/points/deficit to leader):
1. Brandon Sheppard 572
2. Darrell Lanigan 568 (-4)
3. Brady Smith 562 (-10)
4. Rick Eckert 536 (-36)
5. Tim Fuller 528 (-44)
6. Shane Clanton 522 (-50)
7. Tim McCreadie 512 (-60)
8. Ivedent Lloyd Jr. 508 (-64)
9. Morgan Bagley 494 (-78)
10. Chub Frank 482 (-90)
11. Eric Wells 480 (-92)
12. Casey Roberts 478 (-94)
13. Mike Marlar 474 (-98)
14. Frankie Heckenast Jr. 472 (-100)
15. Clint Smith 446 (-126)
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including: American Racing Custom Wheels (Official Custom Wheel), Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), KMC (Official Custom Truck Wheel), Lincoln Welder (Official Welder), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award) and McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award); in addition to contingency sponsors: Butlerbuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, MSD, Ohlins Shocks, QuarterMaster, Roush Yates Performance Parts, Superflow Dynos and Wrisco Aluminum; along with manufacturer sponsors Capital Race Cars, Integra Shocks, GRT Chassis, Jake’s Carts, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis and TNT Rescue.
by Kevin Kovac