Notebook: Dream wrapup (June 11)

DirtNews Digest Your Online News Source for Late Model Dirt Track Racing "Get Some Dirt On Your Computer!" Todd Turner, editor Email address: Web site: ...

DirtNews Digest Your Online News Source for Late Model Dirt Track Racing "Get Some Dirt On Your Computer!" Todd Turner, editor

Email address: Web site: =================================== CONTENTS: DirtNews Digest notebook (published June 11) THE OTHER BATTLE: Mars, Barnett raced each other clean BIRKHOFER: Iowa driver makes decent splash into big time AROUND THE TRACK: Frye suspended, Dream notes, schedule changes, etc. =================================== DREAM'S "OTHER" BATTLE WAS SHORT ON CONTACT

Of the two most dramatic battles for the lead Saturday at the Dirt Late Model Dream IV, the controversial altercation between Scott Bloomquist and Bill Frye will likely be talked about it for years to come. But the Jimmy Mars-Steve Barnett fight for first place over the final 30 laps that ended with Mars capturing the $100,000 winner's purse was nearly as notable for its lack of contact. That fact wasn't lost on Mars after the race.

"I'm just happy (Barnett) ran me clean. There's other drivers out here who would've took you out," Mars said. "But that didn't happen with us. I just congratulate him, too."

Barnett -- "I really feel like I was the fastest car" -- was right on Mars' bumper for nearly 60 laps, and even ran side-by-side with him for several laps midway through the race before Bloomquist eventually retired with ignition failure.

After Bloomquist's exit on lap 69, Barnett turned up the heat on Mars, but because both were running a similar low line, he could never make the pass. Frequently Barnett tried to slip under entering Turn 3, but he just didn't have the room or the traction to pull it off. The pair never appeared to make contact, and Barnett abruptly bailed out of his groove coming out of Turn 2 on the 79th lap when he thought he might hit Mars.

Barnett, who took a backwards lap around the track to wave to the fans after the race, wanted to avoid contact at all costs. "You can't run into a guy like that," he said. "It costs you a lot of money not to run into him, but you just can't do that."

"I think he ran his car as hard as he could and I ran my car as hard as I could." ------------------------------------------------------------- YOUNG IOWAN GIVES COUNTRY PEEK OF FUTURE

Brian Birkhofer has definitely made a name for himself in Iowa, and over the past three weekends he gave fans in other parts of the country a chance to become familiar with the 25-year-old driver of the No. 15b.

The Muscatine, Iowa, driver who began his career at West Liberty Speedway has mostly raced within the confines of the Hawkeye State and NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour in recent years. But Birkhofer got a taste of racing elsewhere with a three-weekend journey from the Show-Me 100 at West Plains, Mo., to the St. Croix Casino 100 at Wisconsin's Cedar Lake to the Dirt Late Model Dream IV at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

His finishes weren't stellar, but they were more than promising for a driver who was accustomed to racing under a vastly different tire rule. Birkhofer failed to make the rain-delayed Show-Me 100 after finishing midpack in his heat race and skipping his consolation to head to Nebraska for a NASCAR race that itself would be rained out.

The next weekend in his first STARS-sanctioned event, Birkhofer was impressive in starting 17th and finishing fifth at Cedar Lake. He followed that by being one of just 24 of 178 entrants to carve a spot in the field for the $100,000-to-win Dream, finishing 19th as an early dropout.

When Birkhofer gets more experience on the softer tires, look out. NASCAR events and other events in Iowa typically require drivers to race with an economical McCreary tire that is much harder than rubber used in open-tire events. Birkhofer's first-ever experience on Hoosier Tires came at West Plains.

"You bolt these tires on and it's a lot different game," said Birkhofer, who scrambled among C.J. Rayburn, Bill Frye and Hoosier tire officials for help with understanding the tires at the Show-Me. It appears his adjustment the the softer tires is coming along just fine.

There's no doubt he's mastered racing around his home. Birkhofer won more than $60,000 last year in a state that doesn't offer a lot of big-purse late model racing. His biggest victory was the $9,000-to-win USA Late Model Nationals at Burlington, Iowa, and he also picked up four NASCAR Busch All-Star Tour victories and an IMCA-sanctioned win. He won three of the last four Busch events, including a pair of 100-lappers..

"I race aggressive back there, and you gotta race aggressive here," Birkhofer said at the Show-Me. "It's just that I gotta get everything in line."

"Really this year I'm looking to spread out and get some experience racing against these guys," he continued. "If anybody is going to teach me to be faster, if I'm going to learn to get faster and drive better, I'm going to race this stuff here." ------------------------------------------------------------- AROUND THE TRACK ....

FRYE SUSPENDED FOR ACTIONS AT DREAM IV: It appears promoter Earl Baltes wasn't any too happy with Bill Frye's retaliation against Scott Bloomquist at Saturday's Dream IV. According to an Eldora Speedway release, a "postrace decision was made to suspend (Frye) from racing action at Eldora Speedway until further notice." Frye rammed Bloomquist's car three times under caution after the race-leading Frye spun following contact with Bloomquist in Turn 1 on the 29th lap.

NON-DREAM RESULTS: Greg Kastli nipped Gary Webb on Tuesday night in an IMCA-sanctioned Deery Brothers Series victory at Tipton (Iowa) Speedway as Kastli became the first driver with a spec motor to capture a feature. It was Kastli's first IMCA victory in three years .... Joel Cryderman won Tuesday night's WISSOTA-sanctioned race at Rice Lake (Wis.) Speedway .... SUPR points leader Doug Ingalls led all 40 laps at Columbus (Miss.) Speedway on Saturday for his first series victory of the season .... the two-day National Championship Racing Association (NCRA) event at Rocky Mountain Speedway in Denver was rained out .... hometown favorite Tracy Mimbs won the twice rain-delayed National Late Model Sportsman Series event Saturday at 441 Speedway in Dublin, Ga.

DREAM BEATS WEATHER JINX (AGAIN): For the second year in a row, the Dream at Eldora was run despite forecasts for rainy weather the entire weekend. Last year's race ended with a rain shower after 89 laps, while all 100 laps were completed this year just before a drizzle began that probably would have been hard enough to disrupt Jimmy Mars' exciting victory had it started a few minutes earlier.

CONSERVATIVE YET AGGRESSIVE: With Friday's qualifying rained out, Eldora officials decided cars would get a single time trial Saturday rather than the normal two laps because of time constraints. The lap was do-or-die as 174 qualifiers fought for the coveted top 36 spots. "You just got one lap and you can't mess up," said Wendell Wallace, "because if you mess up it's a difference of making the show or loading up and going home. So you kinda gotta be conservative but then again, you get in your mind, 'We're racing for $100,000,' so you gotta let it hang out, too." Wallace ended up with the fast time at Eldora (15.901 seconds). Wallace added the Dream fast time to his quick qualifying time two weeks previously at the Show-Me 100 in West Plains, Mo., making him the fastest qualifier among a total of 281 cars for the two prestigious events.

SCHEDULE CHANGES AND ADDITIONS: Hav-A-Tampa has moved its $15,000-to-win event on July 25-26 from Smoky Mountain Raceway in Maryville, Tenn., to Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway .... STARS has picked up sanctioning of the $10,000-to-win USA 100 at Beckley (W.Va.) Motor Speedway on June 26-27, a Thursday and Friday leading into a Saturday race at West Virginia Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells. Davey Johnson won the last STARS race at Beckley in 1994 and Henry Hornsby Jr. won last year's 17th annual USA 100 .... two UMP Summernationals tracks flip-flopped dates, with Tennessee Motor Speedway in Baxter running June 26 and Central Park Raceway in McHenry, Ky., running July 4 .... the seventh annual Bama 100 will pay $5,000 to win on June 21 at Moulton (Ala.) Speedway, where Mark Mears won the Dixie 30 this past weekend .... the next Rick's Late Model Series weekend has a pair of $3,000-to-win races at Thunderhill Speedway in Summertown, Tenn. (June 27) and Duck River Speedway in Wheel, Tenn. (June 28).

MILLION-DOLLAR RACE ON HORIZON?: Don't count on a $1 million-to-win late model race next year, but Eldora promoter Earl Baltes says the much-rumored race will become reality within the next few years. "It sure as hell ain't dead," Baltes said Saturday before the Dream IV. "It's gonna happen, it's a matter of when." Baltes says he's putting together the purse money and looking for sponsors who would help put on a megarace that would certainly create a shuffle among even NASCAR Winston Cup drivers to secure a dirt late model ride. Baltes said he'd expect second place would pay $100,000, which is the winning purse for the Dream. "Wouldn't be a wonder if some little bitty guy won it?" Baltes asked with a smile. "He'd never forget it, would he?"

A HAIRCUT ABOVE THE REST: Three Newark, Ohio, boys sitting in Turn 4 at Eldora during the Dream touted their favorite drivers with special haircuts that featured car numbers on the back of their heads. Randy Gwynn, 16, had a half-inch of Donnie Moran's No. 99 sprouting off his otherwise buzzed head; cousin Brian Gwynn, 15, showed his dedication to Freddy Smith with No. 00; and Shane Wilson, 16, had the (former) No. 18 of Scott Bloomquist for everyone to see. What about strange looks from others in the crowd? "We're dedicated fans," Wilson said. "We don't care."

MORE DREAM NOTES: UMP points leader Randy Korte failed to be among the top 120 qualifiers .... Korte and Mark Voigt were the only two drivers among the top 10 in points to show up at Eldora, with Voigt nearly getting a spot in the 24-car field before getting out of the groove and damaging his car late in his heat race while running second .... "I've won many races, but this second place is more than any of the rest of them," said Dream runner-up Steve Barnett .... Wendell Wallace's fast time at Eldora came in a brand-new GRT race car .... Brian Birkhofer, the 43rd-fastest qualifier, had the slowest time trial of drivers in the 24-car feature.

STARNES SWITCHING RIDES: Robbie Starnes, who drove a Larry Shaw chassis as a teammate to Jason Smith this season, is leaving that team to drive for Larry Brown of Coffeyville, Kan. Starnes, of Houston, Texas, said he'll be driving an American Made chassis and will likely run mostly Hav-A-Tampa and MLRA events. Brown owns the No. 64 American Made car driven by Terry Muskrat of Stillwell, Okla., who stands third in MLRA points.

DREAM CAR COUNT GROWING AND GROWING: Although the Dream hasn't cracked the 200-car count regularly drawn by September's World 100, the $100,000-to-win race is drawing a bigger field each year. The inaugural Dream drew 99 cars, while 134 crowded the pits the next year. In 1996, 147 late models were on hand while this year's version of the race drew an all-time high of 178 cars.

BIG MACS WEEKEND COMING UP: The Mid-Atlantic Championship Series will run a three-race Northeast Challenge this weekend, with $57,000 in purses up for grab. The $4,000-to-win, $300-to-start races are at Ace High Speedway in Conneaut, Ohio (Friday), Stateline Speedway in Busti, N.Y. (Saturday) and Eriez Speedway in Erie, Pa. (Sunday).

PLANNING A VACATION?: If vacation time is coming up and you want to check out a dirt late model race, make sure and check the master schedule on the DirtNews Digest web site. The schedule is frequently updated with additions, subtractions, raindates and other changes. Point your browser at <> and click on the 1997 schedule.

ED DIXON ONE VICTORY AWAY FROM 400: Former UMP champion Ed Dixon of Washington, Mo., notched his 399th victory Wednesday night at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., and he'll be gunning for No. 400 on Saturday at the quarter-mile track just south of St. Louis. Finishing behind Dixon on Wednesday was Randy Korte and Shannon Babb, with Winston Cup driver and track co-promoter Ken Schrader finishing seventh. Kevin Weaver set fast time and led the first 10 laps of the feature before spinning.

SHOW-ME 100 ON THE TUBE: A one-hour broadcast of Rick Aukland's victory in the fifth annual Show-Me 100 will appear on satellite networks soon. Speedvision will air the West Plains (Mo.) Motor Speedway's biggest race on Friday at 10 p.m., Saturday at 1 a.m., Monday at 1 p.m. and June 22 at 3 p.m. (all times EDT).

OTHER ODDS AND ENDS: Joe Izzo has won consecutive features at LaSalle (Ill.) Speedway .... Mike Gibbs of Bloomington, Ind., is the new driver for the western Kentucky race team of Willie and Della Sellars .... Granger Howell won Sunday's race at Rome (Ga.) Speedway by a hair over Jody Summerville, then said: "I think we're ready for those Hav-A-Tampa guys to come in a couple of weeks." .... the new NCRA web site has schedules and results for its late model and sprint events at <> .... look for a Hav-A-Tampa web site soon .... the 1997 version of the incredibly helpful National Speedway Directory can be ordered by sending $11 to National Speedway Directory, P.O. Box 448, Comstock Park, MI 49321-0448 .... look for the Jefferson Pilot Network's broadcast of "Champions of Speed: Freddy Smith," which features the 1996 Hav-A-Tampa champion. It will air on many satellite networks .... STARS champion Steve Francis will face off against sprint-car driver Dale Blaney in a match race July 26 at Buckeye Raceway with Blaney racing nine laps and Francis eight .... Terry English fans who would like to send the injured driver a recovery note can write him at 598 Scale Road, Benton KY 42025. ------------------------------------------------------------- CORRECTIONS: ***Kris Patterson's chassis was incorrect in Dream IV results. He was driving a Rayburn-built car. ***The number of cars to qualify before Friday's rainout was incorrectly reported. It was 44. ***Eldora Speedway's location was incorrectly reported. It is in westcentral Ohio. ------------------------------------------------------------- CREDIT: Todd Turner <> of DirtNews Digest.. -------------------------------------------------------------

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Series Stock car
Drivers Ken Schrader , Scott Bloomquist , Bill Frye , Freddy Smith , Donnie Moran , Jimmy Mars , Jason Smith , Brian Birkhofer , Steve Francis