Steve Francis Puts Valvoline/MOPAR Dodge Intrepid on the Pole at UDTRA Opener "Rocket House Car Scorches Field in Qualifying at Golden Isles Speedway" (Ashland, Kentucky -- February 5, 2002) Steve Francis picked up where he left in the 2001...
Steve Francis Puts Valvoline/MOPAR Dodge Intrepid on the Pole at UDTRA Opener
"Rocket House Car Scorches Field in Qualifying at Golden Isles Speedway"
(Ashland, Kentucky -- February 5, 2002) Steve Francis picked up where he left in the 2001 season in United Dirt Track Racing Association (UDTRA) action by opening the new year scoring the Pole Award at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, GA. When Francis, known as the Kentucky Colonel, roared around the five-eighths mile speedway in qualifying with a lap of 17.014 seconds everyone knew that the 'Dodge Boys' were back in town. The lap at Golden Isles Speedway, which is by far the fastest speedway visited by the UDTRA dirt late model drivers, equated to an average speed of 132.244 mph (See www.udtra.com for event results). The fast qualifier honors put Francis in position to capture the season opening win before a crash between a pair of lapped cars collected Steve's ride and ended his bid for victory. Francis won three major events in 2001 and just missed claiming the 2001 UDTRA national title while notching 11 pole awards en route to an impressive 55 top-ten finishes in 63 overall events. Steve now takes the Valvoline/MOPAR Parts backed Rocket Chassis house car on to East Bay Raceway in Tampa, FL in the 2002 WinterNationals sanctioned by the Renegade DirtCar Racing Series and UDTRA (See www.renegadedirtcar.com)
"The pole award at Brunswick is the way we wanted to open the season and it says a lot about the preparation put into our cars by the people behind the scenes," Francis pointed out. "And then we actually put the car into the lead, well at least for about half a lap. Everyone involved in this program has the same priorities, that is wins."
Francis made a bold early-race pass for the lead on eventual winner Freddy Smith on the back straightaway, but before the leaders made it back to the start-finish line Francis was caught up in the middle of the altercation between the pair of back markers in turn four. Steve's Dodge Intrepid went into an airborne spin briefly before landing on its tires as all the while Francis was attempting to rev his machine back into action, but a broken radiator and damaged suspension pieces essentially ended the night for the champion driver from Ashland, KY with an eventual 20th place finish. He now heads to Tampa, Florida's East Bay Raceway for a full week of WinterNational action on both the UDTRA and Renegade DirtCar Racing Series sanctioned tours.
"It happened to quick to tell exactly what happened except that a pair of cars got together as we exited turn four, there was nothing to do to miss it, it's too bad because I had taken the lead and was ready to go. The car was going to be the one to beat I believe and at least we know how fast they are. We should be good in Tampa, I like the track at East Bay and there's a lot of money on the line down there this week. It's a fickle little track, but I don't think that the fans will find very many better places to watch a race than," Francis added.
Francis now heads to Tampa, Florida's East Bay Raceway for a full week of WinterNational action on both the UDTRA and Renegade DirtCar Racing Series sanctioned tours. With 750 horsepowered dirt late models scrambling three and four wide around the flat one-third mile oval at East Bay, the scene is no less than spectacular from the start of the heat races until the drop of the checkered flag on the feature event. The racing at East Bay begins Monday night and continues throughout the week with the Renegade DirtCar Racing Series finale on Friday night earning the winner a cool $30,000 prize while the Saturday night UDTRA affair will put $25,000 in the winner's pocket. The 2002 WinterNational championship event information and results can be found at www.eastbayraceway.com. Francis is a former winner at East Bay Raceway and is the only driver in history to have won the Renegade DirtCar Racing Series, formerly known as STARS, in three consecutive seasons (1996-98). During the past two seasons Francis has posted back-to-back runner up standings in the UDTRA national championship chase (2000-01).
Steve, who came within one single point of claiming the 2001 UDTRA title while overcoming the sudden shock of the death of his brother/crew chief Chris Francis August 2001. Francis persevered to record another stellar season with his determined charge at season's end and has now surrounded himself with a title contending team in 2002.
Francis and the Rocket Chassis team plan to again compete for the UDTRA championship while also appearing at numerous other major dirt late model events throughout this year's crusade across America's dirt tracks. Following this week's action in Tampa, Steve will head to Daytona Beach, FL and the SpeedWeeks portion of dirt late model action at Volusia County Speedway.
"We know that if we run up front and win races that championships will take care of themselves. Rocket Chassis, MOPAR Parts and Gary Stanton Engines have given us the equipment to get the job done and our goal is to take 'em to the winners circle. I know that everyone at Valvoline, MOPAR and Rocket are proud to see us take the first pole of the season, but now it's time to go after some wins this week in Tampa."