East Alabama Motor Speedway
Notes: Competitors laud Owens' winning streak
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
PHENIX CITY, Ala. (Nov. 11) — Racers rarely like to admit that they were outrun. The competitive nature of the sport usually produces drivers searching for other reasons for their shortcomings other than admitting that another driver was simply faster than them that night.
But after watching Jimmy Owens dominate the second half of Sunday’s National 100 main event at East Alabama Motor Speedway for his fifth consecutive major event victory, there only seemed to be one explanation for Owens’ hot streak. | Owens wins National 100
As early contender Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., pointed out, Owens is just nearly unbeatable right now.
“He’s on another level,” Cook said of Owens, the Newport, Tenn., driver who earned $21,800 for his first victory in East Alabama’s unsanctioned special event. “I don’t think nobody’s got a shot at challenging him right now. He’s just that good.”
As competitive as he is, it’s rare to hear Scott Bloomquist admit that another driver was simply better than him. While he cited a poor tire choice for part of the reason that he dropped from second to fourth late in Sunday’s main event, the Hall of Fame driver from Mooresburg, Tenn., gave credit to his rival Owens.
“Right now, I don’t know if anybody can handle Jimmy the way it looks like,” Bloomquist said. “It just seems like he really has his stuff working good. We’ll just have to keep working to get better and catch him.”
While they may be marveling at his success, drivers like Bloomquist and Cook know from their own experiences that streaks like Owens’ current one don’t last forever. Cook’s advice for Owens: enjoy it while it lasts.
“I’m proud for him,” Cook said. “I hope he runs it as long as he can because it’ll end one of these days. They always do.”
Francis fails to capitalize
Former National 100 winner Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., well knows the vaule of a pole starting spot in a major event. That made his sixth-place finish in Sunday’s main event even more disappointing.
“It’s hard when you start on the pole and don’t run no better than we did,” said the pole-starting Francis, who was never much of a factor after losing the lead to Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., on lap two. “I don’t know, we just missed a little something.”
As he struggled to gain momentum midway through the event, Francis decided to give up a top-five position to see if some adjustments could help him make a late run in the 100-lapper.
“We were back and forth. I got to looking at it, and it’s not a point race,” Francis said. “We came to win. We’d done fell to seventh, got back to fourth, back to sixth, back to third and all like that. I just didn’t feel like we were at the point we needed to be. We came back in and changed two or three things to see if it helped.”
The disappointing finish wasn’t a complete loss. Francis and his Barry Wright Race Cars house car team used the event for testing for next season.
“We’re kinda in test mode right now for next year,” Francis said. “We kinda learned a few things here, so maybe that’ll help us down the road.”
Cook’s close call
Ray Cook’s chance at winning Sunday’s National 100 were all but dashed when the Brasstown, N.C., driver suffered a flat right-front tire at the end of the back straightaway and went flying over the turn-three banking while running third on lap 12.
While he was disappointed to give up a top-three spot, Cook, who survived the incident and advanced back into the top five before falling out late in the race, was just happy things didn’t turn out any worse.
“I think we run over somebody’s lead or something and cut the right-front tire down. Then we exited stage right,” Cook said. “All I could think about was two other guys that turned over earlier today when they went over there. I’m glad they’re OK, and I’m glad that we didn’t turn over.”
While he was glad to survive the wild ride unscathed, Cook was also disappointed when he dropped out late in the race after climbing back into the top five.
“We were up to (Dennis Erb Jr.) before we fell out and he ended up second,” Cook said. “I feel like we definitely could’ve been somewhere third through fifth, but I’m sure there’s half a dozen others here that feel the same way.”