Dirt track racing takes the spotlight

Jeff Birchfield • Jul 23, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Dirt track racing will be in the spotlight tonight as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races the Midsummer Classic at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway.It will be the first time in nearly 43 years a NASCAR national series has raced on dirt. Fitting with the 43 number, it was Richard Petty, who won the last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on dirt. Petty beat Neil “Soapy” Castles by two laps to win the Home State 200 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on Sept. 30, 1970. Bobby Isaac, the series champion for that season, finished third, some five laps down.It was the third straight win for Petty, who had won the tour’s previous two races at Richmond and Dover. Overall, Petty won 30 races on dirt tracks. The record for most dirt-track wins in the Cup Series, coincidentally the number 43, was actually held by Richard’s father Lee Petty.Much like a race with road course ringers, some of the top dirt-track drivers across the country are entered in tonight’s race at the Tony Stewart-owned track. Most notable is Mooresburg’s Scott Bloomquist, who is a six-time winner of The Dream at Eldora, one of the country’s premier dirt late model races.Other notables in the field include Sprint Cup veterans Ryan Newman, Dave Blaney, Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace.———On the local front, a trio of Washington County racers were among the top finishers at Volunteer Speedway’s 4/10-mile dirt oval a week ago Tuesday.Jerry Broyles of Jonesborough finished third , but, his No. 72 was just a tick behind the top two cars of Chris Chandler and John Tweed.“I was a little off and wasn’t able to keep my momentum up,” Broyles said. “We had a good car, but these things are so close. We’re within a tenth (of a second) from first place to 10th place. The car started coming around if I could have just had a long green-flag run, I could have got Tweed.”Behind him, Dale Ball of Johnson City and Tim Byrd of Jonesborough staged a fierce battle for fourth-place. Byrd passed Ball with two laps to go, but Ball passed him back on the final lap, although there was some contact between the two.“When the track started drying out, it freed my car up a little,” Ball said. “It was still too tight in the center and I had to drive in so hard. If you didn’t catch a moist spot, you would almost spin out. It wouldn’t drive through there, it would push and Byrd got under me. I got back under him and we rubbed. He got mad, but no big deal.”Byrd was aggravated following the race, running his No. 24 into Ball’s No. 2 when the race ended. A few minutes later, Byrd regained his composure and explained how he was happy to finish in the top five.“I passed him two laps to go and the caution came out,” Byrd said. “Back on the restart, I got back around him. We touched a little bit in (turns) one and two, but he got me back in the end. As long as we can bring it home in the top five and put it in the trailer, I’m a happy camper.”———For the second Friday in a row, the first-place finisher wasn’t the winner at Kingsport Speedway.One week ago, Chad Finchum of Knoxville was disqualified for an illegal camshaft, taking away his Late Model Stock victory. This past Friday’s winner, Daniel Pope II of Smyrna, was also DQ’d for his car’s trailing arm not meeting the required thickness. Lee Tissot of Asheville was awarded the win, his second of the season.John Ketron of Kingsport, the NASCAR national points leader in his division, won the Pure 4 race. Other winners were Alan Rich in Street Stock, Kirby Gobble in Mod 4 and John Pittman in Rookie Pure 4.Racing is scheduled to return to Kingsport Speedway on Friday night.———This weekend will mark the 20th running of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.It now seems strange how open-wheel traditionalists openly argued that stock cars should not race on such hallowed ground. Two decades later, it’s one of the biggest races on the Sprint Cup schedule and to many current NASCAR drivers, a win at Indianapois is as big as a win at Daytona.Richard Childress is the only car owner to win at the Brickyard with three different drivers — Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard.He recalled winning the 1995 Brickyard 400 with Earnhardt, who had to hold off one of his fiercest rivals at the end of the 400-mile race.“We were getting ready to leave and to go to Ruth’s Chris (Steak House) to have dinner because we thought the race was going to be rained out,” Childress said. “But the skies opened up. We beat Rusty (Wallace) out of the pits. Track position was everything. Dale held him off for the last 20 or so laps and won the race.”Still, the victory with Menard ranks as the best according to Childress. Menard’s father, John, had entered cars in the Indianapolis 500 for nearly three decades before Paul Menard held off Jeff Gordon to win in a different kind of car at the famed speedway.“Not taking anything away from Dale or Kevin’s first win there, but that one was so special I think because of being able to win a race withPaul, being able to win at Indy where that whole family had put so much into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Childress said. “John Menard played a huge role for many years. To be able to win that race with him, have his whole family there that day, it was almost like a storybook ending to a great venture in Indy for John Menard.”

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