The sound of engines screaming down the front stretch. The feel of vibrations teetering throughout the grandstands. The sight of dirt flying throughout the cool, brisk autumn air as thousands of spectators flock toward the lights and hundreds of competitors prepare for the ultimate prize — it’s official — the Dirt Track World Championship (DTWC) is on the horizon and has once again made its way back to Portsmouth Raceway Park.
Along with the $100,000 grand prize, the DTWC ensures the best drivers in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will once again make their way toward PRP, all with a singular goal in mind — to cement their place in history while walking away with 100 grand.
Tennessee native Scott Bloomquist has captured the last two DTWC events at PRP and has won the race three times in his career. While nothing is a given in motor racing, Bloomquist will once again be a heavy favorite to be celebrating in victory lane.
“His performance last year was no different than any of his other performances,” Portsmouth Raceway Park Announcer Chuck Greenslate said. “He’s very smooth, and very rarely does he kick the car sideways or at least not as much as the other drivers. He’s got a very smooth entry and even a smoother exit. He’s really known for being a smooth driver. You see some drivers going very hard into the turns and they’re kicking the car sideways, not him. When he’s running his best, it almost looks like he’s on asphalt.
“I think with the reputation Bloomquist has, he’s got to be one to keep an eye on in an event of this nature. He won the last two and has won the event three times overall. He can never bee counted out.”
Lucas-Oil regulars Brandon Shepherd and Johnathan Davenport are also drivers expected to contend for the $100,000. Shepherd won the DTWC in 2013 and Davenport captured the last checkered flag at PRP, which occurred over Memorial Day weekend.
“Brandon Shepherd has had some good runs in Portsmouth. I think he could contend,” Greenslate said. “And you can never forget about Johnathan Davenport. He could be a contender.”
Aside from the series regulars, local drivers Jackie Boggs, and RJ, Delmas and Rod Conley are considered possible contenders. Boggs is a native of Grayson, Kentucky and the Conley’s reside in Wheelersburg. All three of the Conley’s have experience in the race has all three qualified for the 100-lap feature last year.
“The guys that are regulars in the Lucas-Oil series, they are professional racers,” Greenslate said. “That’s what they do for a living and obviously they have a major advantage over any local guy, but there would be nothing greater than to see a local fellow contend in this race. Just for a local to make the race is an astonishing feat. For somebody to have good finish or to win the thing, that would be miraculous.”
The format for the DTWC, which PRP has held since 2012, features time trials, qualifying heat races, B-mains, a non-qualifying race known as the “Jim Dunn Memorial” and the main event. The three-day weekend features modified cars, racing for a lower purse, and the late-mods, which compete for the grand prize.
Last year, approximately 100 cars showed up in modified event and 112 late-models show up. Greenslate recalled the most interesting aspect of last year’s event, which revolved around the ever changing racing groove that is associated with dirt racing.
“What really jumps out at me from last year’s event was the action in the B-mains,” Greenslate said. “I thought those were some of the best B-mains I had ever seen. The grove on the track during those particular races was very high. We had several racers that were flirting with the concrete. They were taking their cars about as high as you can go without hitting the wall. That was the fast way around during the B-mains.
“Bobby Pierce Jr. really put on a show. He actually got into the fence and a piece of the wire fencing got caught in the right-rear corner of his car. You could see it stuck in the car as he was going by.”
Aside from the racing, Greenslate believes the economic impact on the area is unparalleled.
“I think that it’s been monumental,” Greenslate said. “It almost rivals, on a smaller scale, to a city becoming a host site for a Super Bowl or a college football national championship football game. It brings people into our town and community who otherwise would not be here. It actually forces a lot of people to look on a map and find out where Portsmouth, Ohio is located at. We anticipate this event bringing in around 10,000 people just for the weekend of the Dirt Track World Championship.
“Last year alone, we had almost 500 RVs in the parking lot camping for the event. It’s a major, major boost to our area, and to the reputation of the track, I think it’s so big it’s hard to put into words.”
The festivities begin Thursday Oct. 13, with the modifieds time trials, heat races and B-mains. The late-model heats are Friday night. On Saturday, the late-model B races, the “Jim Dunn Memorial” and the feature event are scheduled.
Greenslate said he prefers dirt-track racing over NASCAR races because of the longevity.
“It’s different than the NASCAR races,” Greenslate said. “NASCAR races are a marathon over several hundred miles. Dirt-track races are several sprints. I think it breaks it up and keeps it more entertaining because there is constantly something going on.”
According to Greenslate, PRP has been fortunate to host the DTWC over the past five years and no one affliated with the track takes it for granted.
“This race is promoted by Carl Short. It is his race. He started it 36 years ago. It’s been a different venues. Portsmouth Raceway Park has had it the last five years, since 2012. With it being his race, he can take it anywhere he wants but we hope that it continues to remain here because of what it does for the area,” Greenslate said.
Despite whether casual residents enjoy the race festivities, the economic impact can’t be denied.
“We realize that not everybody in our area is a race fan, and we realize that not everybody understands or perhaps even cares about this event, but what I hope everyone cares about is the fact that this event brings a lot of people into our town,” Greenslate said. “It’s a fusion into our economy. It’s definitely a three-day weekend, if not an entire week, where people will be going around town and checking out the sites. They’ll be looking at the floodwall murals. They’ll be staying in the hotels and vising our shops.”
For more information on the event or start times, visit www.TheDTWC.com.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.