A great racing surface. Three of the best drivers in all of dirt track late model racing fighting for not only the biggest win in all of late model racing, but the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship. And, to top it all off, throwback paint schemes that honored some of the best and brightest racing talent around the world.
It was all of those factors that drew a big crowd — the largest crowd to ever attend a race in Portsmouth Raceway Park history — to PRP for the 37th Annual Rhino Ag Dirt Track World Championship on Saturday evening.
But sometimes, even those factors tend to lead to somewhat of a letdown when the racing actually plays out.
That, however, was certainly not the case on Saturday evening.
In a thrilling race that included a fierce championship points battle between Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards, and Scott Bloomquist, the trio didn’t disappoint any of the fans in attendance at the esteemed racing facility as the trio sat right smack-dab in the top-five with less than 10 laps to go as Richards, Bloomquist, and McCreadie sat first, second, and fifth at one point in time.
With eight laps to go, however, that all changed.
After a caution came out for Bloomquist — who blew a tire on the 92nd lap of the 100-lap feature — it seemed as if the championship would come down to Richards and McCreadie.
However, on the enusing restart, McCreadie, too, blew a tire for the second time during the race, and from there, Richards never looked back as Shinnston, W. Va. native — who took the lead from Brandon Sheppard on the 48th lap — led the final 52 circuits around the famed three-eights mile dirt racing facility to claim not only his first DTWC win, but his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship to cap off a wonderful weekend of racing that will certainly be remembered for a long time to come.
DTWC B-Mains, Jim Dunn Memorial Qualifier
To start off the evening, the late models took to the track for three B-Mains to see who would qualify for the Dirt Track World Championship. Tim Dohm led all 18 laps in the opening B-Main to take home a qualifying spot in his 6T, while Tyler Carpenter took advantage of a fading Devin Moran, along with Jared Miley, who blew up with three laps remaining, to take the first two advancing positions. Chris Ferguson and Dennis Erb, Jr. advanced in the the second B-Main after Ferguson maintained the point for the final four laps in the second B-Main, while Devin Gilpin and Eric Wells claimed the final two spots in the third and final B-Main, a 16-lapper.
In the Jim Dunn Memorial Qualifier (the last chance any non-qualifying late model drivers had to make their marks), Boggs, a widely-popular late model talent from Grayson, Ky., checked out from the field and opened up a full turn lead on the rest of the field en route to picking up an impressive victory. Given the decision of either collecting the $3,000 grand prize that came with winning the qualifier or competing in the DTWC — which paid $2,000 just to start the race — Boggs, unsurprisingly, took the latter choice.
“I’m going to run the 100 laps,” Boggs boasted to the PRP crowd, which was immediately followed by a roar of approval.
In the 30-lap modified A-Main, Parkersburg, W. Va.’s K.C. Burdette found a rhythm on the high side of the race track, and after battling with Nathon Loney for three laps, officially took the lead for good at the halfway point of the $4,000 to win feature en route to winning the first of two feature races on the evening.
Loney, who started from the point, took control early and initially opened up as much as an eight-car-length gap on the field en route to leading the first 15 laps.
But once Burdette found his rhythm on the high side of the race track, it proved to be game over for the rest of the field as the drive of the No. 44 machine got the Mountaineer State off to a fast start on Saturday evening. Loney, Franklin Furnace’s Tony Dehart, Brian Skaggs, and Aaron Pendleton rounded out the top-five, while PRP regular Ervin Vance (eighth) also obtained a top-10 finish in what proved to be a strong event for the regular Portsmouth Raceway Park contenders.
“I don’t really have a preferred groove,” Burdette said when asked about his success on the high line. “Whatever way I can get around the race track is the way that I do it. It’s pretty awesome. I don’t know what to think. It’s not the biggest race that I’ve ever won from a purse standpoint, but it’s definitely the most prestigious that I’ve ever won.”
Burdette, in fact, was so impressed with the race itself that he wants two DTWC events at the PRP facility.
“I’d like to see two DTWC events here next year,” Burdette said. “What do you guys say?”
DTWC, $100,000 to win Feature
The strong racing that was prevalent in the modified division set the stage for the fantastic racing seen in the Dirt Track World Championship feature as all 29 drivers involved in the main card put together an exciting race that was enjoyable to watch from one end of the race track to the other.
During the early stages of the race, McCreadie, who entered the day with a 45-point lead over Richards, encountered trouble as a flat tire on the 14th lap forced McCreadie to the pit area. Then, on the restart, the Watertown, N.Y. native was involved in a six-car pileup that took out Boggs and Devin Gilpin, among others. Somehow, McCreadie — who spun in the middle of all the carnage — emerged unscathed, and slowly, but surely, started picking cars off in his run back to the front.
While McCreadie was fighting to keep his championship lead, Jonathan Davenport was fighting to keep the field behind him after jumping out to the top spot immediately at the drop of the green flag. However, Sheppard — a two-time DTWC winner — caught Davenport after lap traffic bogged the leader down, and on lap 36, Sheppard assumed the point.
Richards, however, wanted to go out with a bang. Just 13 laps after Sheppard grabbed the lead, Richards took the former on and passed the New Berlin, Ill. native with a daring move to the outside. Bloomquist then closed in on Richards slowly, but surely, until the 83rd lap, when a caution bunched up the field once again.
However, behind an excellent restart, Richards made Bloomquist’s efforts a moot point as the former opened his lead back up. Then, with eight laps to go, a fading Bloomquist blew a tire heading into the third turn, ending his championship hopes.
With the championship down to Richards or McCreadie, the latter — who moved up to as high as fifth following the early chaos before settling in sixth place over the final 15 laps of action — needed to pick up just two more positions to clinch the championship. But on the ensuing restart, McCreadie’s left rear tire went flat, and Richards set sail on the following restart to lead the final eight circuits en route to the win and the championship.
“It’s unreal,” Richards said. “To win your first DTWC race and your first Lucas Oil Late Model Championship on the same day is incredible. I really don’t know what to say. This is a team effort. My name’s on the late model, but I couldn’t do it without the support from my team members and loved ones.”
Carl Short announced before the start of the Dirt Track World Championship feature that the DTWC will be returning to Portsmouth Raceway Park in 2018 … Hudson O’Neal edged Gregg Satterlee for the Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year crown … Over 700 campers were parked inside the PRP facility en route to the biggest crowd in the history of the 27-year facility.