Francis settled for a runner-up finish after swapping the lead five times with Jonathan Davenport. Davenport passed Darrell Lanigan for the lead on lap three and appeared primed for a breakthrough Eldora victory until Francis, who started seventh in NASCAR star Clint Bowyer’s Barry Wright car, moved in to start a dogfight for the top spot.
Francis gained control on lap 10, but Davenport returned the favor with an outside charge to move back ahead on lap 16. It was Francis on top on lap 18, Davenport on lap 19 and Francis again on lap 20.
Lanigan, who led laps 1-2, finished third. Brian Shirley broke into the top five following the final restart to place fourth and Davenport slipped back to fifth in the official rundown.
Miller flexed some serious muscle in the second 25-lapper, steering Rick Delong’s Rocket No. 3 around the extreme outside of the ‘Big E’ to take the lead from race-long pacesetter Jimmy Owens on lap 11. The 2005 Dream winner never looked back en route to a 2.163-second victory over Owens, who outdueled Bub McCool for second-place money.
“This is one of those places where if you slow yourself down you lose your rhythm,” said Miller, who wasn’t seriously challenged once he took control of a race slowed by only a single caution flag on lap 20. “So I felt better just attacking. If I’m racing, I’m not thinking about laps.”
The $2,500 score put Miller in the right frame of mind for the remainder of the Dream XIX by Ferris weekend.
“That was fantastic,” said Miller, who since 2005 has won six American Late Model Series A-Mains at Eldora. “We came here a couple weeks (earlier this year) and struggled. There were some late nights sitting there sleepless trying to figure out how we could fix this thing, and the guys and I came together with Mark Richards and those guys (at Rocket Chassis) and that thing was on rails tonight.”
Owens, who started from the outside pole, exchanged the runner-up spot several times with McCool late in the distance before securing the second-place finish. Owens is one of only five drivers to win both of Eldora’s marquee dirt Late Model events, the Dream and World 100.
McCool’s third-place finish in Chad Stapleton’s car was an Eldora career-best, while Scott Bloomquist started and finished fourth and polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. completed the top five.
Defending Dream champion Shane Clanton was the fastest qualifier in Thursday night’s multi-car time trials with a lap of 15.387 seconds, but after he spun a ‘4’ for the heat-race inversion he opted to park his Kennedy Motorsports Capital Race Car for the remainder of the night.
Odd-Number Feature: Josh Richards, Steve Francis, Darrell Lanigan, Brian Shirley, Jonathan Davenport, Jeep VanWormer, Brian Birkhofer, Chris Simpson, Eric Wells, Duane Chamberlain, Frankie Heckenast Jr., Mike Spatola, Jason Montgomery, Nick Latham, Tim Lance, Jacob Hawkins, R.J. Conley, Jimmy Mars, Dustin Neat, Dale McDowell, Terry Phillips, Shannon Thornsberry, John Blankenship, Jeff Provinzino
Even-Number Feature: Matt Miller, Jimmy Owens, Bub McCool, Scott Bloomquist, Dennis Erb Jr., Chad Simpson, Billy Moyer, Jeff Babcock, Tyler Reddick, Scott James, Brandon Sheppard, Jerry Bowersock, Doug Drown, Billy Moyer Jr., Jared Landers, Dusty Moore, Morgan Bagley, Wayne Chinn, Chad Stapleton, Mason Zeigler, Jeremy Payne, Kent Robinson, Donnie Moran, Tim McCreadie