Story and photo by Patrick Reynolds
Rossburg, OH- Dale McDowell and Brandon Sheppard won the Twin 25-lap A-Mains on Thursdayâ€™s preliminary night for the 45th running of the World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
RJ Conley charged from the second starting position to lead at the drop of the green flag in the first A-Main. He was challenged in the opening circuits by four-time World 100 winner Scott Bloomquist. Fourth starting McDowell went by Bloomquist first, and then Conley to take the lead on lap five.
McDowell held the top spot through the raceâ€™s only caution flag on lap seven, and on to the checkered. Eighth-starting Darrell Lanigan flexed his muscles late and came home second. Mike Marlar, Chris Madden and Shane Clanton completed the top-five.
McDowell spoke of the changing dirt surface and his teamâ€™s preparation for the World 100.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of guys thatâ€™s capable of winning here. Itâ€™s all about guessing the track conditions,â€ said McDowell.
â€œWeâ€™ve tested a little bit a couple of weeks ago,â€ McDowell said. â€œ(We) found little things. I donâ€™t know if we found exactly what it takes to run with those guys (2015 big winners Bloomquist and Jonathon Davenport) week in and week out, but thereâ€™s something we can apply here a little bit.â€
â€œDuring the race you are hunting the track in spots. This racetrack is very, very, unique,â€ said McDowell. â€œRealistically you are chasing the racetrack and track conditions.â€
In the second A-Main, Jeep VanWormer led from the pole position but Sheppard immediately looked for the lead from his front row starting spot. Sheppard took control on lap seven following their duel and led to the checkered in the caution-free 25 lapper.
VanWormer lost second late to Jimmy Owens. Dennis Erb Jr and Davenport rounded out the top-five.
Sheppard and his team faced a last minute scramble in getting their car read for Eldora.
â€œWe were sitting at Rocket Chassis on Tuesday with basically a bare frame,â€ Sheppard said in the media center following his win. â€œMe and two of my crew guys got the car ready. (We) left at Midnight from there (Rocketâ€™s shop in West Virginia) and got here at seven in the morning on Wednesday.â€
Twelve heats were contested with odd numbered races qualifying cars for the first A-Main and even numbered heats being used for the second A-Main.
The dozen eight-lappers were won by, in order, Bloomquist, Davenport, Clanton, Frank Heckeneast Jr., McDowell, Brian Shirley, Conley, VanWormer, Don Oâ€™Neal, Sheppard, Nick Latham, and Owens.
Four B-Mains mirroring the same format were won by Tim McCreadie, Steve Casebolt, Chris Brown, and Doug Drown.
World 100 preliminary night two is set to be staged at Eldora Speedway Friday, September 11th at 8pm.
Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR mechanic who hosts Motor Week LIVE! Mondays 7pm ET/ 4pm PT onÂ www.racersreunionradio.com