Round And Around: Monday At Volusia Speedway Park

Monday we joined the 37th Annual Alltel DirtCar Nationals in progress at the revamped Volusia Speedway Park. Already finished with the first six shows of All-Star and World of Outlaw (WoO) Sprints, the UMP DirtCar Modifieds continued their run for series points by joining the UMP DirtCar Late Models for two more shows. The Big Block mods would then provide open wheel action for the remaining four nights along with WoO DirtCar Late Models on Thursday and Saturday. The place filled quickly with haulers and campers in anticipation of a really big show. It did not disappoint. We received ear plugs and a special lidded can holder upon entry, and bonuses for those with Alltel phones in the Fan Zone as well as a good supply of vendors created a somewhat carnival atmosphere. Extra bright lighting belies the old dark days here, as well as super speakers that allow us to hear driver?s names, sponsors, and home towns.

The late models were grouped together for qualifying and heat races, using the same formula that had worked well elsewhere, with each bunch of 13 or 14 sorted by time. The quickest overall was Ivedent Lloyd Jr. after 79 of the 80 entries had finished. Among the drivers we found many of those who have already been on the road for the past three weeks, and many fresh entries. Chassis builder C. J. Rayburn told your scribe he would be racing his own machine, ?If I can get into the car and back out?. NASCAR racer Clint Bowyer was returning to his roots in dirt racing, and a team car to Matt Miller was piloted by Jason Fitzgerald, former crew chief for Earl Pearson Jr. Josh Richards was aboard his own car this time, but Scott James was still in the borrowed mount from the previous week.

The mods kept their formula of racing for their feature berths, with the 85 racers vying for the top three positions in eight heats. One more chance came in the four B mains later, but only the winner would move on, leaving 57 spectators at feature time. If it sounds harsh, it is, but this is also what they are used to doing every week of the season. Among the competitors were many from the WISSOTA and IMCA ranks, and NASCAR stars Kenny Schrader and Kenny Wallace. Earlier Wallace was having fun as we were in the front parking lot, and told me he had not been running well so far. ?But I?m going to win tonight?, declared the energetic racer. Turns out he was right, taking the first B main.

Young Austin Dillon was among the mod group this year, grandson of Richard Childress, who normally comes by helicopter to watch. Among the spectators were promoters from all over, for this week their annual Race Promoter?s Monthly (RPM) Workshop was being held not far away. We found many people from our home area, missed others, and met friendly new ones right away. Sitting behind us in the bleachers was the wife of mod racer Brad Waits, parked next to us in the campground was a super stock competitor from the WISSOTA ranks. We were to meet ?Mr. ARTGO? John McKarns, but couldn?t catch his attention as he walked by. At least we were able to have a nice visit with him and wife Sue two weeks ago.

The late model B mains began with Canadian Andrew Reaume flipping through the opening along the backstretch, but thankfully he was unhurt. The Jumbotron in the infield not only showed the action, but also gave us playbacks and other features. There was a break in the action following the heats to rework the track, during which we were delighted with a fireworks display set to music. This treat was sponsored by RPM and WoO, and allowed fans a break in the action before things intensified. Even though the hour was getting late, at least it kept fans from getting impatient.

The first feature began just after midnight, the 28 mods roaring to life with Jeff Leka and Tim Hancock in the first row. But Dillon led the first few times from his second-row start before Hancock made his way back to the front. Jason Miller had an eventful time getting up to the point, then going up in a cloud of smoke just after the caution came out for Wallace?s exit. The next four circuits was all Dave Groves, telling the audience, ?We?ve been working on it all week,? explaining their frustration at finding a better setup. ?We were pretty good here last year?, claimed the winner, ?Let?s go back to that setup.? When the announcer asked if he knew how close challenging Schrader was, the winner replied, ?That?s pretty neat, really. He?s a good racer.? Updates were given through the night of the overall point tally, and the top three changed drastically. Repeat winner Jared Landers and point challenger Scott Drake both failed to transfer from their B main, falling from the top two spots in points with only one more show to go. Schrader now heads them all, and Dillon is right behind. But it?s not over yet.

The late model field began with 24 thundering mounts led by pole starter Jimmy Owens until Billy Moyer took over four laps later. The first caution was for the slowing mount of Tim McCreadie, followed by tandem tire changes for McCreadie and teammate Vic Coffey before returning to action. Justin Ratliff brought out the only other slowdown, despite some intense contact in the pack. Brady Smith?s fender was dangling precariously, but never came off, and the final four laps ended with Moyer in the winner?s circle for the fourth time in a week. ?It?s a lot of hard work?, claimed Moyer of his new design, ?It?s finally come our way. We?ll take all we can get. I could tell when we unloaded in Brunswick we just needed a little adjustment.? The new fan voting option for driver of the year offered by Alltel may find Moyer getting a lot of hits after Monday. Shortly after 12:30 we were quite chilled in the mid-50 degree night, but it still beats sub-zero temperatures at home.

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