Portsmouth Raceway Park hosted the 36th annual RhinoAg Dirt Track World Championship presented by Optima Batteries this past weekend, marking the fifth consecutive year event promoter Carl Short has chosen Portsmouth to be the host site.
Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, IL took the checkers in the Lucas Oil Late Model, 100-lap, $100,000-to-win feature event, while Fairmont, WV’s Jacob Hawkins grabbed the victory in the Modified portion of the program.
Great crowds gathered for all three nights of this three-day event with Saturday’s show reeling in the largest crowd ever in the 26-year history of Portsmouth Raceway Park. There were 164 race teams with 79 Late Models and 85 Modifieds, over 500 RVs in the camping area, and an estimated crowd of 8,000 people in the stands on Saturday night alone.
The fans were not disappointed with a lack of action. Not including hot laps and Modified Time Trials, DTWC fans were witness to over 500 laps of racing during this three-day Fall Festival of Speed.
Thursday evening was all about the Modifieds. The night featured time trials, eight heats, four B-Mains, and a non-qualifiers race.
The Late Models took center stage on Friday with 16 total heats, which were broken into two rounds of eight with passing points being used to lock in the top 16 for Saturday’s feature as well as to line up up the B-Mains. On Saturday there were three B’s, the Modified Feature presented by www.vallerychevy.com, the Jim Dunn Memorial Late Model Non-Qualifiers Race, and the big 100 lapper.
Of the nearly 80 Late Model drivers who participated in the event, only 28 of them were lucky enough to qualify for Saturday’s feature lineup. Of those 28 drivers, 11 different states were represented with the top seven finishers hailing from seven different states.
The 100-lap Late Model A-Main had three different leaders and four lead changes. Chickamauga, GA’s Dale McDowell and 2016 Lucas Oil Late Model Champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, TN made up the front row.
Bloomquist jumped out to the early lead and appeared invincible early on leading the first 45 laps. Shinnston, WV’s Josh Richards got by on lap 46 and would lead up through the 71st circuit.
All the while Sheppard, who started 21st, would continue his march toward the front. “B-Shep” came from 21st to third in the first 30 laps. The 2013 DTWC winner eventually ran down Richards, and Sheppard took his first lead narrowly nipping Richards at the stripe on lap 72.
Sheppard’s time at the front was short lived, as Richards charged back around and retook the lead on lap 73. “The Rocket Man” Josh Richards would hold on until lap 77 when Sheppard went back to the lead to stay.
A couple of late cautions on laps 92 and 95 would make things interesting, as Jacksonville, FL’s Earl
Pearson, Jr. got up on the wheel and moved to second. He would make a couple of challenges, but nothing that put Sheppard in extreme jeopardy of relinquishing the lead.
Sheppard would hold on to take the victory with Pearson placing as the runner-up. Richards was third. Pennsylvania’s Gregg Satterlee stayed near the front the entire race and would finish fourth with Union, KY’s Darrell Lanigan rounding out the top five.
Don O’Neal, Devin Moran, Doug Drown, and Tim McCreadie were sixth through ninth respectively. Wheelersburg’s Rod Conley was the highest finishing local placing 10th.
The next 10 were Bloomquist, Tyler Carpenter, Rick Eckert, Nick Hoffman, Jonathan Davenport, Eric Wells, Dale McDowell, Steve Francis, Dustin Linville, and 2016 PRP track champ Nick Bocook rounded out the top 20.
Making up the rest of the field were Colton Flinner, Chris Ferguson, Jason Covert, Jimmy Owens, Dennis Erb, Jr., R.J. Conley, Stephen Breeding, and Jackie Boggs.
The race had a lot of passing and several big movers. Besides Sheppard charging from 21st to take the win, Don O’Neal climbed from 16th to sixth. Devin Moran won the Jim Dunn Memorial Non-Qualifiers Race, started dead last in the feature, and worked his way up to seventh. Tim McCreadie came from 23rd to ninth.
While it doesn’t necessarily show in the official stat book, Rod Conley had to work much harder for a 10th place finish that his starting spot of 11th would indicate. While he officially passed one car, the former PRP track champion had to go to the tail before the race started, so he technically had to get by 18 cars to crack the top 10. Only Sheppard and Moran passed more.
The track itself was wicked fast all weekend. During Late Model Hot Laps on Friday, Josh Richards turned a lap clocked at 14.121, which is the fastest known lap ever recorded at PRP by a Late Model averaging out to a speed of over 110 mph. That time was eight thousandths of a second quicker than the track record established by Bloomquist back on July 2nd.
As for Saturday’s Modified Feature, the 26-car field was made up of drivers representing five different states.
Jessie Wisecarver jumped out to the early lead. The Zanesville native was Thursday’s Shain Custom Graphics “Bob Whiteman Memorial” Modified Fast Time Award Winner.
Wisecarver would lead until lap five when Shon Flanary jumped out front. Flanary held on to the top spot until lap 16 when Jacob Hawkins motored to the front. Hawkins would hold on to the finish.
Wisecarver, Dave Jamison, Tanner Wilson, Jason Brookover, Taylor Cook, Kevin Morehouse, Ervin Vance, Jackie Boggs, and Jeremy Rayburn made up the rest of the top 10.
Rounding out the 26-car field were Eddie Harmon, Jimmy Robinson, Greg Oliver, Dustin Linville, Lucas Lee, Shon Flanary, K.C. Burdette, Scott LeMaster, Brian Skaggs, Nathon Loney, Jody Puckett, Josh Stumbo, Don Adams, Mike McPherson, Kenny Johnson, and Anthony Kinkade.
Kinkade took the ride of the weekend flipping on the front straightaway. The Zanesville driver walked away unscathed.
Ervin Vance’s rebound from a rough start to the weekend is certainly notable. The 2016 PRP track champ blew his engine in hot laps Thursday. He got a new one installed in 45 minutes but missed time trials. He ran decent in his heat and B-Main but not good enough to transfer into the feature.
By a random draw, he was lucky enough to run the Non-Qualifiers Race Thursday. He started 10th, busted his way up through the field to win, and was given the option to take home $800 and walk or tag the tail of Saturday’s feature. Vance chose to race on and wound up charging from 26th to eighth.
It was announced that Carl Short’s 37th annual Dirt Track World Championship will return to Portsmouth Raceway Park in 2017. Pre-sale tickets will be made available beginning December 14th. Renewals for reserved seats and camping sites must be made by February 1st. At that time, they will go on sale to the general public. Learn more online at www.portsraceway.com or www.thedtwc.com.