CHILLICOTHE, Ohio-The tradition of the “Night the Stars Come Out” lived up to its billing as a huge crowd, great racing, and high speeds helped kick off the Fourth of July weekend at Atomic Speedway Thursday night.
Claiming the big win in the 30-lap UNOH All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 sprint cars was Dale Blaney, while local star Greggie Oliver brought home the $5,000 win in the Gullion Enterprises AMRA Late Model 40-lap event. Dan Ebert claimed the 20-lap AMRA Advanced Services Octane Modified feature, his third of the year at Atomic.
Dale Blaney is on a hot-streak, winning five of his last seven races with the All-Star Circuit of Champions. For a time, it appeared Tim Shaffer would extinguish the Blaney hot streak in the 410 sprint main, but the traditional low-rider used multiple grooves to swoop past third place Travis Philo, then after a three-lap tango make Shaffer his victim.
Shaffer had started on the pole and had easy sailing until lapped traffic became a factor just past the first third of the race. Travis Philo began to reel in Shaffer and challenged for the lead on multiple occasions. Chad Kenemah had an early burst of speed on the bottom of the track, but ran out of moisture in what looked to be a charge to the front.
Outside pole-sitter Danny Holtgraver anchored down a top four, at one point dropping out of the chase before surging back at the midway mark to challenge Philo for third. After Blaney waltzed past Philo the trio passed the flagstand under a blanket in 1-2-3 fashion. Blaney dove low past Shaffer into turn one and Shaffer came back with cross-over move, only to have the speeding Blaney make his final pass on the backchute for the lead and eventual win.
In the AMRA Late Model main veteran Delmas Conley jumped into the early lead over Oliver. Conley led the next 38 laps virtually uncontested. The veteran Conley, a National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame driver, appeared to be on a rail—straight and fast. The senior speedster was the class of the field by a long shot until his mount stumbled coming out of turn four on the 38th circuit.
Initial reports were that Conley’s car suffered an ignition problem, however, at press time those reports were not confirmed.
Conley’s misfortune was Oliver’s treasure as the Jackson Ironman inherited the lead and charged on to the five-grand victory.
While Conley charged to at least a ten-car length lead much of the race and even a larger stretch of turf at the end of a 28-lap run, action became heated back in the pack.
Despite Conley’s domination, Oliver was strong as well, fending off the charges of Jackie Boggs much of the race. Oliver repelled earlier challenges from the rest of the field amid a field of ‘shooting stars’. Rod Conley settled in around 5th and 6th for the early portions of the race, before lighting a fire in his Rocket the last one-third of the race.
When Conley’s mount waivered, the rest of the field seemed to step up their pace as a hefty payday lay in wait for the winner. Oliver remained fast and smooth in stifling Boggs’ late race advances and roared on to the win.
Rounding out the top ten were Chris Garnes, Duane Chamberlain, Brandon Kinzer, Zach Dohm, Kevin Wagner, J.T. Conley, and Kenneth Howell. Ken Howell was the hard charger starting 20th and finished 10th.
In the AMRA Octane Modified/Advanced Services Modified main, Dan Ebert scored his third Atomic feature of the year. The driver of the Artic Cat No. 60 Impressive race cars made his trek look easy in picking up the $1,000 payday. Ebert got the jump on pole-sitter J.P. Roberts and began to pedal away from the pack.
On lap three Dave Fireball Pinkerton crossed up in turn two and collected several cars, all with casual contact. Pinkerton made a great recovery despite losing several positions in the mele, and all other cars continued. It wasn’t clear whether Kenny Johnson was involved in the fray, but on the same lap Johnson broke a left front tire rod and tried to manhandle his mount for the next couple laps before going pitside. Pinkerton suffered a similar fate.
Oliver quickly blitzed from 8th place to third over Tim Tribby. With another banzai move Oliver dove past Roberts in to second. Roberts and Tribby battled for the duration, then shared the firefight with an oncoming 9th place starter Shawn Holiday. Philip Bapst got into the mix with a 10th to 5th place drive before settling for sixth. The “STARS” in the star-studded field was exemplified by a 16th place start from veteran Dave McWilliams. McWilliams was the race hard charger with a drive to 7th place, an advancement of nine positions.
When the dew had settled on the victory lane signage, Ebert again brought home the big win.
Rounding out the top ten were Ebert, Oliver, Shawn Holiday, Tim Tribby, J.P. Roberts, Phillip Bapst, David McWilliams, Derrick Smith, former champs Rick Hensley, and Brian Whiteman.