CEDAR LAKE, Iowa — Jimmy Owens’ quest to add another crown jewel victory to his resume got off to a great start Friday night at Cedar Lake Speedway.
Owens, the 42-year-old veteran dirt Late Model racer won the last of six 15-lap heat races during Friday’s USA Nationals preliminary action at the three-eighths-mile oval and led every lap of the dash among heat race winners to earn the pole starting spot for Saturday’s $50,000-to-win World of Outlaws Late Model Series A-Main.
“You try to win every race, but this is one we’d really like to get,” said Owens whose best USA Nationals finish is a runner-up performance in 2012. “I’d love to win in front of this crowd. These people just get so pumped up and it gets you pumped up and really makes you wanna run good.”
After qualifying seventh in the second of two qualifying groups, Owens took advantage of a nine-car invert to claim the sixth heat race from the pole. He later drew the pole for the dash and pulled away from Jason Feger and Bobby Pierce in the six-lap race. Jonathan Davenport finished fourth with defending USA Nationals winner Tim McCreadie and surprise heat winner Jordan Yaggy completing the finishing order.
Jason Feger started from the outside pole of the dash and challenged Owens through the first two laps before Owens eased away. Feger, the former DIRTcar Summer Nationals and UMP national champion, was disappointed not to win the race, but was satisfied to grab the outside pole for the start of Saturday’s 100-lapper.
“I was frustrated because I really wanted to beat Jimmy,” said Feger, whose best USA Nationals finish in five starts is an eighth-place finish in 2009. “But after I got out of the car I was like ‘Hey, maybe we’re better off starting second.’ It’s a long 100 laps; it’d be hard to go that long on the top here. But the cars working really good, so we’re gonna do our best to be there at the end.
“To win a crown jewel is what we’ve been after for a few years. This is an awesome place with awesome fans and probably the coolest trophy in my mind. That eagle would look awful nice sitting in our shop.”
Feger opened the heat race action with a convincing victory in the first of the 15-lap prelims. Starting from the outside pole, he outdueled polesitter Jimmy Mars to grab the lead early and pulled away through the remaining distance.
Mars held off Shannon Babb in a side-by-side finish for second. Babb pressured Mars for most of the distance before settling for the third and final transfer spot.
Of the six heat race winners, Davenport’s performance in the second race was perhaps the most impressive. Davenport charged from third to first on the race’s opening lap and never looked back, building a half-track advantage over Brady Smith and Brandon Sheppard.
McCreadie led all the way in the third heat but had to survive heavy pressure from five-time USA Nationals winner Billy Moyer for most of the distance. Moyer searched high and low to find a way around McCreadie before finally using a low-side run to pull even with McCreadie off the final turn. But McCreadie was up to the challenge and edged ahead to win in a side-by-side finish.
Steve Francis took advantage of Mason Zeigler’s miscue to grab the third and final transfer spot. Continuing his breakout summer, Zeigler started the night by posting fast time during Ohlins Shocks Time Trials.
Pierce used a three-wide pass to move from third to first on the opening lap of the fourth heat race and pulled away through the remaining distance. Billy Moyer Jr. charged from sixth to second, while WoO LMS points leader Darrell Lanigan recovered from a lap-one miscue to take third from Clint Smith on the final lap.
Yaggy pulled of a surprise prelim victory in the fifth heat. The 23-year-old late model newcomer started from the pole and survived heavy pressure from Brian Birkhofer to score the victory. Birkhofer settled for second with Eric Wells.
Owens led every lap of the sixth and final heat, pulling away from five-time USA Nationals winner Scott Bloomquist after an early battle. Nick Anvelink finished third to earn the final A-Main transfer.
A stellar field of 50 cars was signed in for Friday’s action. Zeigler was the overall fastest qualifier in Ohlins Shocks Time Trials, turning a lap of 14.002 seconds in Group A of the split session.