(photos by Daylon Barr)
It was a fairly standard recipe. It was one that fans in attendance at the annual Firecracker 100 had seen play out many times before. And especially, by Scott Bloomquist. The Mooresburg, TN driver etched his name on the winner’s list for the third time in the ten year history of the event on Saturday night, and did so with a strategy that normally doesn’t fail. A patient process by which he spent the first half of the race finding where his car liked to run on the surface, while picking the perfect opportunity to strike. And when that moment came just past the halfway point, the end result was virtually never in doubt.
2015 winner Rick Eckert and Tim McCreadie comprised the front row as the field took the green flag, but far behind them, prohibitive favorite Jonathan Davenport lurked starting shotgun on the field due to a mechanical failure that caused him to be late to the grid. And from the get go, McCreadie looked as if he’d not be caught as he sprinted out to the early lead as large as 15 car lengths in the early laps. Meanwhile, the chase pack behind him ramped up it’s game, consisting of Dale McDowell, Josh Richards and Bloomquist.
With most of the front runners seeking the bottom of the surface, Bloomquist was the first to try the high side as McCreadie found his first taste of lapped traffic at the lap 15 mark, and once there, it was a matter of two laps before McDowell nudged his way underneath him to take the lead. McDowell looked completely comfortable once there as well as he worked upstairs on the surface until a caution on lap 23 for a Brian Shirley spin brought the pace to a halt. On the ensuing restart, McDowell got a great jump and put some distance between himself and McCreadie who went to the top shelf himself, starting a procession of groove changes among the front runners. With McDowell in firm control, the battle for the second spot intensified as Richards started to close in on McCreadie. He would make the pass on the top side on lap 36, right about the same time as Bloomquist made a serious forward charge, passing Richards on lap 38 as he set his sights on McDowell.
Bloomquist then made a groove change that enabled him to creep to McDowell’s rear bumper, by moving to the low side. The strategy worked like a charm, but just as McDowell was getting into lapped traffic, Brian Shirley brought out the yellow flag once gain on lap 52. Once the action went green again, Bloomquist found the perfect time to hit the go button as he went to the bottom on lap 54 in turns three and four and edged past McDowell for the lead. Behind him, Jonathan Davenport made his forward charge working up the fifth position eventually, but he could get no closer.
At the lap 67 mark, Bloomquist entered his first taste of lapped traffic, and Richards made his way past McDowell for the second spot. However, he would only get small glimpses of hope the rest of the way as Bloomquist quietly put the field to bed with yet another classic performance in a crown jewel event.
“It’s always been such a special place to come from the first time,” an emotional Bloomquist said in victory lane. “We like how the track races. There’s 20 ways to drive each end of this place but it was different this weekend. The dirt they put on it made it definitely a different race. I wanted to follow whoever was leading for many laps and check out my car and and run different lines and compare when I changed lines, then I knew when I got the lead, I’d know where to go.
Final Running Order:
1. Scott Bloomquist 2. Josh Richards 3. Dale McDowell 4. Earl Pearson Jr 5. Jonathan Davenport
6. Tim McCreadie 7. Rick Eckert 8. Shane Clanton 9. Gregg Satterlee 10. Billy Moyer Jr.
11. Brandon Overton 12. Dan Stone 13. Steve Caebolt 14. Chub Frank 15. Eric Wells
16. Chase Junghans 17. Morgan Bagley 18. Russ King 19. Boom Briggs 20. Jared Miley
21. Frank Heckenast Jr. 22. Kenny Pettyjohn 23. Brian Shirley 24. Mike Benedum
25. Jason Covert 26. Mason Zeigler 27. Alex Ferree 28. Mike Pegher Jr.