ROSSBURG, Ohio – A wild three-lap trade of slide jobs, a first-time ever winner and three trucks under a blanket at the finish were the recipe of success Saturday night at Eldora Speedway as Jeff Babcock (UMP DIRTcar Modifieds), Chris Douglas (Stock Cars) and Chris Hicks (Waynesfield Tuff Trucks) shared victory lane in a fast-paced program.
For the modifieds, it was a rough first nine laps, as multiple caution periods, coupled with a pair of red flags slowed the pace. With each restart it was defending champion Jerry Bowersock holding the field at bay, with Babcock, Tom Treon, Jesse Bitterling and Brandon Vaughan rounding out the top five.
Treon was the first to be eliminated from that grouping as he looped it in turn two on lap four, which moved Casey Luedeke into the top five. Bowersock continued to have great restarts and each time would widen the gap over runner-up Babcock.
But when the field settled down and was able to put together the final ten laps under the green flag, things began to shake up. Babcock reeled in Bowersock, Luedeke got Vaughan and a quick-moving Rob Starkey was advancing from the rear of the field.
When it came down to three laps remaining about the half-mile clay oval things got interesting. Bowersock and Babcock are no stangers to Eldora and both have won and lost races via the patented Eldora ‘slide job’, so the fans knew they were in for a treat. And they weren’t let down, as no less than six times in the final three tours, the duo swapped the lead through the turns. Each time Babcock would slither past Bowersock, the favor would be returned exiting the turn.
However, going into turn three on the final lap, Babcock took advantage of a lapped car and dove low into turn three to slide up and in front of the lapped car and Bowersock to hold on to a .203 second victory. While all of that was going on, Starkey moved all the way up to third, while Bitterling dropped to fourth and Luedeke completed the top five.
For the second consecutive week, Douglas set out to prove that last year’s honor as the Eldora Stock Car Rookie of the Year honor was no fluke. Saturday evening’s line-up invert found him setting in the front row alongside Paul Pardo. Douglas was able to get the jump at the start, while Pardo remained on his rear bumper, with Dean Pitts, Jeff Koz and Adam Schaeff in pursuit.
And, for the second consecutive week, mechanical ills dropped Pardo off the pace and out of the race, allowing Pitts and Koz to be powerful contenders to knock off Douglas. Koz, last week’s feature winner, was clearly the quickest car on the track, and after getting by Pitts began his assault upon the leader.
It took five laps, but on lap eleven Koz made the move to the front stick and appeared to be heading towards back-to-back wins. The event’s lone yellow flag came out three laps from the checkered and it proved to be not good for Koz, as he abruptly dropped to the infield with an overheating power plant. That gave the lead back to Douglas who once again had visions of his first-ever feature win flashing before him. Pitts repeatedly tried to overtake Douglas throughout the remainder of the chase but couldn’t get the job done; having to settle for second, with Frank Paladino, Jordan Conover and Andy King completing the top five.
Although the Tuff Truck series that calls Waynesfield Raceway Park and Hilltop Speedway home only appears at Eldora once a year, they are quickly becoming a fan favorite. Three-wide racing has become the norm for the class and Saturday was no exception as that was the formation of choice as the field came down for the checkered.
Chris Hicks was the last truck to arrive at the speedway and nearly missed the practice session, but that didn’t seem to faze him, as he withstood race-long pressure from veterans Jerry Sawmiller and Bill Keeler to capture Saturday’s win. Both Sawmiller and Keeler played the lapped traffic game to set up Hicks for a pass, only to have Hicks prevail each time. Rolly Heyder, Jr. and Jerry Gardner completed the top five.