CONCORD, NC – April 19, 2008 – There was simply no stopping Steve Francis in Saturday night’s Circle K Colossal 100 at The Dirt Track @ Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
With a flawless performance behind the wheel of Dale Beitler’s Reliable Painting/Valvoline Rocket No. 19, Francis dominated the entire distance to score his first career win in the $200,000 World of Outlaws Late Model Series event.
“The car was just absolutely phenomenal tonight,” said Francis, who earned $50,000 for breaking Scott Bloomquist’s two-year ownership of Victory Lane in the blockbuster race. “We never even had to run a lap hard. We had a lot left if we needed to go.
“That’s just unbelievable to get a car that good against this level of competition.”
Francis, 40, of Ashland, Ky., picked the pole position in the pre-race draw among heat qualifiers and used it to his advantage, leading from flag-to-flag virtually without a challenge. He pulled away at will from such pursuers as Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., and Chris Madden of Gaffney, S.C., holding firm control of a marathon race that was slowed by 16 caution flags and one red flag.
“I was so impressed when I drove my car in the corner the first lap, I just thought, ‘Well, if we can just keep from breaking something, we can win this,’” said Francis, who beat Madden to the finish line by a comfortable 3.007 secoonds. “Actually, it’s probably the best car I’ve ever had in a 100-lap race. It just never changed a characteristic the whole race.
“I could run right around the bottom, I could go around the top, and we got to running the best when I’d just run through the middle, let the car kinda float up and not bind it up any.
“The only time I’d run into (turn) one as hard as I could was on a restart,” added Francis, “By the time I got to (turn) three I’d just start letting it float in.
“When you get a car that good, it just makes your job a lot easier.”
Madden, 32, settled for a $20,000 runner-up finish in the Colossal 100 for the second straight year in his Bloomquist ‘Team Zero’ car. He started 25th and finally gained possession of second place on lap 90, when Lanigan, who started third and never ran worse than fifth, relinquished the spot because his Rocket machine’s rearend failed, forcing him to limp into the infield.
Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., marched forward from the 13th starting spot to finish third in his father Mark’s Seubert Calf Ranches Rocket No. 1. It was a career-best finish in the Colossal 100 for Richards, who was sixth when the race restarted for the final time on lap 82.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., ended an up-and-down run with a fourth-place finish in the Reece Monuments Bloomquist car. He climbed up to fourth from the 16th starting spot early in the race, fell out of the top 10 and then rallied late to register his second consecutive top-five in the event.
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., completed the top five, finishing in the same position that he started after a steady drive in the Hamrick Racing Bloomquist Chassis No. 97.
The only anxious moments for Francis came as the race neared its conclusion. With the event’s seemingly endless series of caution periods creating dozens of extra laps around the four-tenths-mile oval, he became very concerned about his car’s fuel situation.
“It was the race that didn’t want to end,” said Francis, who scored his first career win at The Dirt Track. “I’ve led a lot of these (caution-plagued) things and usually something happens to me right at the end, so when I seen Darrell (Lanigan) coasting down through there I figured he was out of fuel and I was worried I might be next.”
Francis had his car’s fuel-pressure light blinking on down the straightaways with the checkered flag in sight.
“The last five laps were probably the scariest of the race for me because I was watching the fuel-pressure gauge rather than what I should’ve been watching at that point,” said Francis, who nearly got into some scrapes with lapped traffic during the A-Main’s longest stretch of consecutive green-flag action (laps 82-100). “The motor was running lean at the end of the straightaway. It would start to slow down, so as soon as I felt that I’d let off the gas and let it coast into the corner.”
How much gas did Francis think was left in his car’s cell? Not a whole lot.
“It would surprise me if it makes it back over to the truck (in the pits),” Francis said with a smile after donning the Colossal 100’s traditional Medieval knight’s helmet and waving a 50-inch Macleod Medieval sword during the Victory Lane ceremonies.
The defending WoO LMS champion recorded his first win of 2008 on the tour and the 15th of his career, tying him for second on the tour’s modern-era (2004-present) win list with Rick Eckert of York, Pa., who dropped out while running fourth on lap 84 due to a broken oil line.
“We have probably five marquee (dirt Late Model) events a year and this is one of them,” said Francis, who used American Racer tires on his Cornett-powered machine. “There’s about three more (races) that are a little below these, and in order to have a very successful season, you gotta win at least one of these races, a combination of ‘em, or the Outlaw championship that pays $100,000.
“We got one, and it’s just an awesome feeling. As a driver, you just want to keep winning these big ones.”
Francis’s triumph topped a program that had its start delayed more than two hours by rain that swept across the Charlotte area early in the evening. The precipitation caused the track surface to remain wet around the inside and stack up a thick cushion, which contributed to the outbreak of caution flags for flat tires and damaged race cars.
“A lot of the cautions,” analyzed Francis, “came from guys hitting the slime (along the inside), sliding across into someone and knocking the guy’s tire off, or from guys sliding up across the cushion and knocking their own left-rear tire off.
“If they had the time to run in that last six foot of (wet inside lane) before the race, we would’ve probably had a third of the cautions we had.
“You gotta give Roger (Slack, who oversees The Dirt Track) and Randy (Grove, who directs surface prep) a lot of credit,” added Francis. “It did build a cushion out high that was a little hairy, but it wasn’t rough and the middle of the racetrack was still shiny.
“Had we not got that rain today, the cushion would’ve blown out more and they would’ve had more time to work with things.”
Finishing in positions 6-10 were Babb, who grabbed second from Lanigan on the lap-82 restart but then slid high in turn two the following circuit to begin a late-race fall out of the top five; Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., who made several pit stops with Steve Francis’s Valvoline No. 15; John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., the last driver on the lead lap at the finish; outside polesitter Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., who went to the rear of the field after executing a 360-degree spin in turn four on the first lap; and Ricky Weeks of Rutherfordton, N.C.
Bloomquist’s status as the only Colossal 100 winner in history ended quietly. After nearly being knocked out of action in the first-lap scramble caused by Carrier’s spin, the race’s 17th starter failed to crack the top 10 before pitting on lap 38 to fix right-front damage on his No. 0. He pitted several more times before his hopes ended for good when he was involved in a lap-82 tangle off turn four with Doug Horton of Bruceton Mills, W.Va., Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla.
Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who entered the event with four wins in his last five WoO LMS starts, finally had his luck run out. He was running sixth on lap 64 when he stopped on the track to draw a caution flag because his car’s hood began to flap up.
The 50-year-old Moyer did not continue, but he retained the WoO LMS points lead because the event, which was not run using the regular tour format, offered only show-up points towards the championship.
The event’s most serious crash, on lap 45, involved WoO LMS star Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa. He was running in 11th place when he slid into turns three and four too hard and bicycled onto his car’s right side, sending him into a wild, gyrating series of flips that he escaped without injury.
Two B-Mains kicked off the night’s program, with Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., and Eckert taking wins.
The WoO LMS is idle until visiting the Midwest the first weekend in May for events at Lebanon I-44 Speedway (Sat., May 3) and Monett Speedway (Sun., May 4).
Results of WoO Late Model Series ‘Circle K Colossal 100’ (Finishing Position/Start/Driver/Laps Completed/Money Won):
1. (1) Steve Francis/100 $50,000
2. (25) Chris Madden/100 $20,000
3. (13) Josh Richards/100 $10,000
4. (16) Jimmy Owens/100 $7,500
5. (5) Dale McDowell/100 $6,000
6. (11) Shannon Babb/100 $5,000
7. (19) Tim McCreadie/100 $4,500
8. (29) John Blankenship/100 $4,000
9. (2) Eddie Carrier Jr./99 $3,750
10. (7) Ricky Weeks/98 $3,500
11. (9) Jeep VanWormer/97 $3,250
12. (14) Bob Gordon/95 $3,000
13. (3) Darrell Lanigan/90 $2,850
14. (28) Rick Eckert/84 $2,800
15. (31) Doug Horton/82 $2,750
16. (17) Scott Bloomquist/82 $2,700
17. (23) Earl Pearson Jr./82 $2,650
18. (6) Ray Cook/82 $2,600
19. (27) Brady Smith/79 $2,550
20. (33) Dennis Franklin/71 $2,500
21. (12) Billy Moyer/63 $2,450
22. (32) Vic Coffey/55 $2,400
23. (30) Mike Marlar/53 $2,350
24. (26) Donnie Moran/51 $2,225
25. (10) Jackie Boggs/50 $2,125
26. (24) Randel Chupp/47 $2,100
27. (18) Jeremy Miller/45 $2,090
28. (21) Chub Frank/45 $2,080
29. (34) Jeff Smith/36 $2,070
30. (15) Dan Schlieper/28 $2,060
31. (36) Clint Smith/17 $2,050
32. (22) Jimmy Mars/15 $2,040
33. (20) John Gill/15 $2,030
34. (4) Steve Shaver/13 $2,020
35. (8) Brian Birkhofer/4 $2,010
36. (35) G.R. Smith/4 $2,000
Time of Race: 1 hour, 23 Mins., 27 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 3.700 Secs.
Yellow Flags: 16 (Laps 3, 5, 6, 14, 23, 30, 36, 38, 40, 42, 49, 54, 58, 64, 80, 82)
Red Flags: 1 (Lap 45)
Lap Leaders: Francis (1-100)
Provisional Starters: Donnie Moran (Fast Time); G.R. Smith (early-entry); Clint Smith (WoO)
Chick Hawk Racing Hot Lap Award: Francis (half-off tire warmers)
Integra Shocks ‘Wrench of the Race’ ($100): Kevin Miller (Steve Francis)
B-Main No. 1 (25 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Brady Smith; 2. John Blankenship; 3. Doug Horton; 4. Dennis Franklin; 5. Steve Lucas ($500); 6. Dean Bowen ($500); 7. Al Shawver Jr. ($500); 8. Brent Robinson ($500); 9. Stacy Holmes ($500); 10. Norman Short Jr. ($500); 11. Luke Roffers ($500); 12. Tim Fuller ($400); 13. April Farmer ($400); 14. Clint Smith; 15. Cody Sommer ($400); 16. Ricky Elliott ($350); 17. Shane Clanton ($350); 18. Shannnon Babb; 19. Chuck Harper ($350)
B-Main No. 2 (25 laps – Top 4 Transfer): 1. Rick Eckert; 2. Mike Marlar; 3. Vic Coffey; 4. Jeff Smith; 5. B.J. McCammon ($500); 6. Damon Eller ($500); 7. Jordan Bland ($500); 8. Mark Pettyjohn ($500); 9. Shanon Buckingham ($500); 10. Chris Knight ($500); 11. Rob McLaughlin ($500); 12. Ed Gibbons ($400); 13. Jill George ($400); 14. Jonathan Davenport ($400); 15. Tim Allen ($400); 16. G.R. Smith ($350); 17. Eric Jacobsen ($350); 18. Brian Shirley ($350); 19. Donnie Moran
Did Not Start A B-Main: Sean Beardsley, Danny Johnson, Brad Neat, Joe Isabell, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Jason Dupont, Mike Duvall
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