Blankenship Breaks Through With $10,000 Triumph In DIRTcar UMP Late Model Finale Of UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit

By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director/DIRTcar Racing P.R.

BARBERVILLE, FL – Feb. 24, 2012 (night) – John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., registered the biggest win of his career on Friday night, capturing the 40-lap DIRTcar UMP Late Model finale of the 41st UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park.

The 30-year-old driver was flawless in the A-Main, roaring off the pole position to lead the entire distance. He earned $10,000 for his first-ever victory at the half-mile oval, which hosted a day-night doubleheader on Friday due to a rainout of Wednesday evening’s scheduled program.

“The competition here is crazy, so to win here is kind of like winning at Eldora (Speedway),” said Blankenship, comparing Volusia’s talent-laden field with those that gather for the annual crown-jewel events at the famed ‘Big E’ in Rossburg, Ohio. “We’ve always loved this racetrack. We’ve been coming down here for awhile now and I’ve always wanted to win one down here.

“I was running out of time this week to get one in, so I’m really happy to finally win.”

Blankenship built a lead of as much as two seconds over outside-polesitter Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., during the race’s early stages, but both Lanigan and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., drew close after the halfway point. Lanigan and Owens were about to challenge Blankenship when Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., slowed on lap 26 to bring out the lone caution flag of the feature – a caution that effectively propelled Blankenship to victory.

With heavy lapped traffic no longer an issue for Blankenship and the caution period cooling his rivals’ tires, he was able to drive his Rocket Chassis car away from the pack on the restart. He wasn’t seriously challenged over the remaining circuits and beat Lanigan’s Rocket machine to the finish line by 1.153 seconds.

Owens settled for third place after starting 10th in a Team Zero by Bloomquist car. Third-starter Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., finished fourth in a Victory Circle mount and eighth-starter Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., placed fifth in a Capital Race Car.

“I think that caution probably saved us,” said Blankenship, whose equipment is owned by his father Don. “We had a heck of a car, but I was having trouble navigating around them (lapped cars). I kept having to check up and was losing my traction and my momentum. It was getting harder and harder to find ways around them.”

A clear track left Blankenship unbeatable. Neither Lanigan nor Owens could muster the threatening speed that had flashed before the caution flag.

Lanigan, 41, had to be satisfied with his second runner-up finish of the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit. He also was a bridesmaid in Tuesday night’s 30-lap DIRTcar UMP Late Model feature.

“We went a little different than everybody else on tires,” said Lanigan. “We tried something there, but I don’t know if we would’ve been any better with the other tires. We gave it everything we had.”

Owens, who turned 40 on Feb. 3, appeared to be the driver on the move until his momentum was dulled by the caution flag.

“We definitely liked the long greens,” said Owens, who has never won a Late Model A-Main at Volusia. “We didn’t need that caution at the end. I was kind of chomping at the bit when that caution came out because we were coming on.”

Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., finished sixth after being replaced in the top five by Clanton on the lap-26 restart. Opening-night DIRTcar UMP winner Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., was seventh; Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., slipped backward from the third starting spot to finish eighth; sixth-starter Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., was never a factor en route to a ninth-place finish; and Rick Eckert of York, Pa., rounded out the top 10.

Sixty-eight cars were entered in the event, which featured a group qualifying format. The four fastest drivers in each group were inverted in the lineups for their respective heat races.

Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., recorded the fastest overall lap during the group qualifying sessions with a time of 15.965 seconds. Other group fast-timers were Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. (16.474), Clanton (16.510), Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill. (16.364), Terry Casey of New London, Wis. (16.280) and Babb (16.129).

Heat winners were McCool, Blankenship, Richards, McDowell, Babb and Lanigan. The B-Mains were captured by McCreadie, Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind.

The UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit conclude on Saturday night (Feb. 25) with a pair of 50-lap feature events – a $10,000-to-win A-Main for the WoO LMS and a $5,000-to-win affair for the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds. Race time is 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, log on to www.DIRTcarNationals.com.

DIRTcar UMP Late Model 40-Lap A-Main Finish (Finish Pos./Driver):

1. John Blankenship
2. Darrell Lanigan
3. Jimmy Owens
4. Shannon Babb
5. Shane Clanton
6. Dale McDowell
7. Steve Francis
8. Bub McCool
9. Josh Richards
10. Rick Eckert
11. Jimmy Mars
12. Billy Moyer
13. Scott Bloomquist
14. Dennis Erb Jr.
15. Tim McCreadie
16. Don O’Neal
17. Vic Coffey
18. Donnie Moran
19. Frankie Heckenast Jr.
20. Billy Moyer Jr.
21. Jared Landers
22. Billy Decker
23. Brandon Sheppard
24. Morgan Bagley
25. Bobby Pierce
26. Eric Wells
27. Jason Feger
28. Chub Frank
29. Mike Marlar

Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Bub McCool, 2. Donnie Moran, 3. Frankie Heckenast Jr., 4. Tim McCreadie, 5. Brady Smith, 6. Dillon Wood, 7. Tyler Bruening, 8. Hunter Peacock, 9. Lance Matthees, 10. Charlie Sandercock (DNS) Kent Robinson, Greg Johnson

Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. John Blankenship, 2. Shane Clanton, 3. Billy Decker, 4. Jared Landers, 5. Bobby Pierce, 6. Mason Zeigler, 7. Stacy Boles, 8. Chad Hollenbeck, 9. Mike Hammerle, 10. Gregg Satterlee, 11. Jared Hawkins

Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Josh Richards, 2. Steve Francis, 3. Brandon Sheppard, 4. Brian Shirley, 5. Jason Feger, 6. Steve Isenberg, 7. Jason McBride, 8. Jill George, 9. Todd Frank, 10. Tim Fuller (DNS) Tim Lance

Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Dale McDowell, 2. Jimmy Owens, 3. Jimmy Mars, 4. Billy Moyer Jr., 5. Vic Coffey, 6. Earl Pearson Jr., 7. Jeff Beyers, 8. Austin Hubbard, 9. Terry Casey, 10. Jonathan Davenport, 11. Pat Doar

Heat No. 5 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Shannon Babb, 2. Rick Eckert, 3. Dennis Erb Jr., 4. Eric Wells, 5. Don O’Neal, 6. Billy Ogle Jr., 7. Jim Yoder, 8. Don Gordon (DNS) Mike Marlar, Michael Norris, John Lobb

Heat No. 6 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Darrell Lanigan, 2. Billy Moyer, 3. Scott Bloomquist, 4. Clint Smith, 5. Chub Frank, 6. Jack Sullivan, 7. Dennis Franklin, 8. Morgan Bagley, 9. Eric Jacobsen, 10. Dan Stone, 11. Phil Ausra

B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Tim McCreadie, 2. Jared Landers, 3. Brady Smith, 4. Bobby Pierce, 5. Mason Zeigler, 6. Tyler Bruening, 7. Charlie Sandercock, 8. Kent Robinson, 9. Chad Hollenbeck, 10. Mike Hammerle, 11. Hunter Peacock, 12. Lance Matthees

B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Vic Coffey, 2. Billy Moyer Jr., 3. Jason McBride, 4. Earl Pearson Jr., 5. Jill George, 6. Steve Isenberg, 7. Todd Frank, 8. Brian Shirley, 9. Tim Fuller, 10. Jason Feger, 11. Tim Lance, 12. Jeff Beyers (DNS) Austin Hubbard, Terry Casey, Jonathan Davenport, Pat Doar

B-Main No. 3 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Don O’Neal, 2. Eric Wells, 3. Clint Smith, 4. Jack Sullivan, 5. Morgan Bagley, 6. Billy Ogle Jr., 7. Jim Yoder, 8. Dan Stone, 9. Phil Ausra, 10. Eric Jacobsen, 11. Don Gordon, 12. Chub Frank, 13. Dennis Franklin (DNS) Mike Marlar, Michael Norris, John Lobb

Bulrush Dash (12 laps): 1. Clint Smith, 2. Kent Robinson, 3. Gregg Satterlee, 4. Charlie Sandercock, 5. Phil Ausra, 6. Todd Frank, 7. Lance Matthees, 8. Chad Hollenbeck