This weekend the 12th season of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series kicks off with the Super Bowl of Racing at Golden Isles Speedway in southern Georgia. 2014 was one of the most competitive seasons with three drivers – eventual champ Don O’Neal, Jimmy Owens, and Scott Bloomquist – trading wins and swapping paint through the entire season. 2015 is shaping up to be even better, with most of the main players from 2014 returning with their same teams and the tour visiting places and regions of the country for the first time.
To help preview the 2015 season, 51’s Third Turn takes one last look back at the 2014 LOLMDS season along with looking forward at this year’s schedule to help identify some of the storylines fans of Dirt Late Model racing will see in action in the weeks to come.
0 – The number of wins record by John Blankenship in 2014, breaking a three-year streak of having at least one victory. The perennial contender has 7 wins on the tour and most figured he was about to take the next step when he won 3 races in short succession in the summer of ’13, but it’s been famine ever since. 2015 will be a huge year in determining if Blankenship will ever break the upper echelon or remain stuck in the next tier.
5 – The number of champions in the first 11 years of the tour. Based on history, once you win one title, you’re bound to win a few more after that. Earl Pearson Jr’s titles (2005-2008) were followed by Scott Bloomquist’s (2009-2010) and then Jimmy Owens’ (2011-2013). Can first-time champ Don O’Neal follow their tracks and repeat in 2015?
9 – NASCAR has 4 “crown jewel” events. So does golf. But why stop at just four? The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series featured 9 “crown jewel” events in 2014: Lucas Oil Show-Me 100, Wheatland, MO; Clash at the Mag, Columbus, MS; Silver Dollar Nationals, Greenwood, NE.; Sunoco North/South 100, Florence, KY.; COMP Cams Topless 100, Batesville, AR.; Hillbilly Hundred, Ripley, WV.; Jackson 100, Brownstown, IN.; Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals, Knoxville, IA; Dirt Track World Championship, Portsmouth, OH. All will be back on the schedule in 2015.
10 – In just ten days, LOLMDS drivers will compete nine times in February. After three straight nights of racing at Golden Isles, teams get a one-day rest break before going at it for 6 straight nights in the 39th annual running of the Winternationals from East Bay Raceway Park. It’s one of the toughest stretches of continuous racing throughout the year, second only to the Summernationals Hell Tour.
17 – The number of winners in 43 LOLMDS races last season. Owens, O’Neal, and Bloomquist combined for 22 of the 43 wins, but no one else won more than twice. Bobby Pierce and Davey Johnson were the two drivers who cracked the winner’s circle for the first time.
19 – The number of states to be visited by the tour in 2015. Racing goes as far north as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and as far west as Iowa. The Wisconsin event (its inaugural appearance at Oshkosh) will be the tour’s first foray into the state since 2006. Atomic Speedway in Ohio is back for the first time since 2011 while Pennsylvania Motor Speedway outside of Pittsburgh is back after its lone appearance in 2005.
25 – The price of a ticket to Golden Isles’ Georgia Boot Super Bowl of Racing Friday or Saturday night. The LOLMDS will be in action for 50 laps both nights while the Southern Thunder (Crate) Late Model Series will also go 25 laps. It’s a great value to start off the year. The season opening race on Thursday night will set a fan back just $20.
42.6 – The average car count for the series’ 2014 events, just about matching the record for the series set in 2013. In the LOLMDS, the B-Mains at most races are as star-studded as A-Mains at other tracks. Expect overflowing pits and packed tracks again in 2015.
46.6 – The average age of the top-five points finishers in 2015. In the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, it’s cool to kick it old school. Last year’s champ Jimmy Owens set a national record for oldest Dirt Late Model touring series champion at the ripe young age of 50.
51 – The number of races that will make up the 2015 schedule, the series’ most ambitious schedule to date. Almost all of them will be televised on MAVTV and the NBC Sports Network. See the 2015 TV Schedule here
54 – Scott Bloomquist’s career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victories. He won the first race in series history (04/10/2004 – Florence) and he’s won the most recent race in series history (10/19/2014 – Portsmouth). But that mark isn’t “safe” by any means. Jimmy Owens enters 2015 with 52. While these two will undoubtedly be competing all year to claim the championship, they will be racing each other to stand atop of the record book.
499 – The number of drivers who earned points in the LOLMDS in 2014. The tour’s rule structure and wide-ranging schedule allows hometown heroes to compete with the stars when the series comes to town. Look at someone like Jackie Boggs. The Kentucky driver didn’t stray from his region of the country too much in 2014, but still managed to pass Bloomquist with 8 laps to go to win the River Days Rumble at Portsmouth. Casey Roberts only ran four times, but defended his home turf with a win in Maryville. While the tour may have 15-20 names fans everywhere will recognize, there are still plenty of other guys ready to strike in 2015.
762,000 – The winners’ purse combined for all 51 races in 2015. The richest race of them all is the final one, the Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth worth $100,000.
— Story by Tim Quievryn // 51’s Third Turn // @thethirdturn
— Story photo provided by Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series