ROSSBURG, Ohio - Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., co-owner and operator of the Boyd's Speedway in Chattanooga/Ringgold, completed some unfinished business on Saturday night at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway.
Nine years after inheriting a triumph in the prestigious World 100 that left him feeling less than satisfied, the 48-year-old veteran captured the famed one-half mile oval's other, richer crown-jewel event with a convincing drive to the checkered flag in the 20th
annual DIRTcar-sanctioned Dirt Late Model Dream presented by Ferris Mowers.
McDowell stormed forward from the 22nd starting spot to grab the lead from six-time Dream champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tn., on lap 79 and never looked back en route to claiming the richest pay day of the year for dirt late model racing, $100,000.
McDowell will try to overstuff his wallet even more later this month when he competes in Lernerville Speedway's $30,000-to-win Firecracker 100 on June 26-27-28 in Sarver, Pa., near Pittsburgh.
"Thanks goodness that I made it to victory lane," said the relieved McDowell, who has been pursuing a full-fledged party on Eldora's grand stage since his tempered World 100 post-race. "I won the World in 2005, but Shannon Babb actually
won it. I just was the recipient of his misfortune (Babb was disqualified for being 10 pounds light), so it feels great to be able to celebrate in victory lane."
McDowell was never challenged once in command. He steered his Team Dillon Racing Warrior car across the finish line with a half-straightaway edge over defending World 100 winner John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., who charged from the 24th starting spot to take the $20,000 runner-up payoff.
Bloomquist settled for third place after leading laps 33-78, 25th-starter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished fourth and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who started second and led laps 1-16, completed the top five.
Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., led laps 17-32 but faded to a seventh-place finish.
McDowell failed to transfer through a heat race on Saturday night, pulling back his high hopes coming off a win in one of the previous evening's 25-lap preliminary features. He came back to win a B-Main but still wasn't overly confident about his chances.
"I'm lost for words," said McDowell, whose best previous finish in 11 previous Dream feature starts was third in 2010. "We didn't do well in the heat race - I'm just no damn good up on the cushion (that was dominant during qualifying) - and we started 22nd, so I really didn't have expectations of getting to the front. Honest to God I didn't.
"But shoot, it was just our turn tonight - finally." McDowell got rolling in the fast and furious 100-lapper; however, cracking the top 10 just after the race's first caution flag flew on lap 32 for Ryan Gustin of Marshalltown, Iowa, stopping on the inside of turn one. He found himself in a battle for fifth by lap 55 and vaulted up to third on lap 60 when Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., tangled and spun between turns three and four while racing for position with McDowell.
Then, after the race restarted for the final time on the 60th circuit, McDowell took second place from Carrier and chased after Bloomquist. He made his deciding move on lap 79, working the inside lane off turn two to snatch the top spot for good.
"There late in the race I could run top and bottom and didn't know where I needed to be," McDowell said. "This racetrack was flawless. You could race all over it, but you just can't feel the speed in the seat, so my brother (and crew chief) Shane was down there giving me hand signals and I was trying to look for him and see what was going on.
"Man, them last 15 laps, I looked up on the board and I didn't think they were ever gonna click off."
McDowell held on to become the sixth driver to win both of Eldora's crown-jewel events, joining Bloomquist, Moyer, Owens, Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio, and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga.
Blankenship, 32, broke into second place with a lap-84 pass of Bloomquist. He appeared to be catching McDowell for a short time before gradually losing ground in the closing laps.
"I had a great car and I was just pushing it a little hard at the end," said Blankenship, who matched his career-best Dream finish of second in 2012. "I was hoping he'd get hung up and stuck on the track a little bit with those lapped cars, but that was really the only shot I had. I kind of ran out of race car.
"Either way, hat's off to my crew. I ran into the wall twice this week and tore it up, and they did an excellent job getting it back together."
The 50-year-old Bloomquist pushed forward from the fifth starting spot to take the lead from Carrier on lap 33, but he couldn't stay in front the whole way to become the first driver in the Dream's 20-year history to win the race in consecutive years.
"It looks like we just had some tire-size issues," said Bloomquist, who made his 18th career start in a Dream A-Main. "It's our fault. I didn't have the stagger we needed, so I had to shear the car to turn it and that caused the tires to give up on us some.
"We really felt like we had the car to beat but we just kind of beat ourselves tonight. But congratulations to Dale and all that bunch - he looked like he was pretty good there, and that's all we had at the end."
DIRTcar UMP Late Model Statistical Report; 20th Dirt Late Model Dream; Eldora Speedway; Rossburg, Ohio
100 Lap - FEATURE -
1. 17M-Dale Mcdowell ; 2. 23B-John Blankenship ; 3. 0-Scott Bloomquist ; 4. 20-Jimmy Owens ; 5. 21-Billy Moyer ; 6. 777-Jared Landers ; 7. 28C-Eddie Carrier Jr ; 8. 1E-Rick Eckert ; 9. 55-Jeep Vanwormer ; 10. 44M-Chris Madden ; 11. 3-Matt Miller [DNF]; 12. 15-Steve Francis ; 13. 157-Mike Marlar [DNF]; 14. 22S-Gregg Satterlee [DNF]; 15. 25Z-Mason Zeigler [DNF]; 16. 7R-Kent Robinson [DNF]; 17. 12-Jason Hughes [DNF]; 18. 81JR-Jason Riggs [DNF]; 19. 00K-Randy Korte [DNF]; 20. 6D-Jonathan Davenport [DNF]; 21. 5-Don Oneal [DNF]; 22. 16N-Brad Neat [DNF]; 23. 25F-Jason Feger [DNF]; 24. 32-Chris Simpson [DNF]; 25. 19R-Ryan Gustin [DNF]; 26. 18-Shannon Babb [DNF]; 27. 25C-Shane Clanton [DNF]; 28. 29-Darrell Lanigan [DNF].