ROSSBURG — It may be early in the season, but already the chase for 2014 Eldora Speedway championship bragging rights shows an intense battle among the UMP DIRTcar Modifieds and Eldora Stock Cars.
That point battle, plus a rare opportunity for a track promoter to get behind the wheel continues Saturday night when the Waynesfield/Circle Track Tuff Trucks join the card for a tripleheader of action on the half-mile clay oval.
Coming off last Saturday’s convincing Modified A-Feature victory, Matt Westfall (Ludlow Falls) has some serious thinking ahead of him and Saturday’s run could influence his decision. That victory, along with a strong third place finish in the season-opening UMP DIRTcar Spring Nationals over a stellar field of entrants, has Westfall as the point leader. Sitting in second place, only two markers behind, is defending champion Jerry Bowersock (Wapakoneta), who has yet to finish ahead of Westfall this season.
As a double-duty driver wheeling a non-winged Sprint Car as well as the Modified, Westfall’s schedule forces some conflicting race dates among the two divisions. In the past, he has let the Sprint Car schedule dictate his route, but a strong yearning for an Eldora title on his resume may change that dictation this year. Another strong run Saturday could cement that decision.
While Bowersock appears to be the early-season nemesis to Westfall, another trio of drivers turned in impressive runs to exemplify their desire to capture an initial Eldora championship as well. David Smith (Richmond, Ind.) led the early stages of last week’s main event before giving way to Westfall and Bowersock but remained in contention through the checkered flag. Zach Schroeder (Findlay) turned some heads with a top 10 finish at the Nationals and then roared back to finish fourth Saturday, while Jesse Bitterling overcome first-week issues for an impressive run. Bitterling makes the long tow from Star City, Ind., for the Eldora Modified runs and has let it be known that he wants desperately to wear that Eldora crown.
Veteran Barney Craig (Lima) has pretty much owned the Stock Car division the past two seasons with convincing track championships, but Saturday night he found inimitable competition in the likes of early race leader Paul Pardo (Richmond, Ind.) and eventual winner Jeff Koz (Lima). Mechanical issues that eventually sidelined Pardo gave the top spot to Koz, who parlayed that into his first-ever Eldora victory. Koz’s Eldora plate will be kept full as he will also be wheeling a Modified.
Craig finished a disappointing 15th on the night after a brush with the outer barrier in turn one inflicted enough damage to sideline him. Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Chris Douglas (Lima) showed that title to be no fluke with a strong runner-up run to Koz, as the top five finishers finished virtually nose-to-tail to usher in the new season of Stock Car racing at Eldora.
The Tuff Trucks make only one Eldora appearance per season, but that fits right into the hands of Waynesfield Raceway Park promoter Danny Kelley (Waynesfield). With his facility not opening for 2014 competition until next week, Kelley is able to jump behind wheel of Rick Twining’s Tuff Truck and swap hats from promoter to driver. Kelley led the first eight laps of last season’s Tuff Truck showing before the right front shock mount broke and wiped out the throttle linkage.
The misfortune turned into fortune for young Logan Yelton (St. Marys) as he captured a prestigious Eldora win.
Also looking forward to Saturday run will be the Wapakoneta father-son team of Jerry and Mike Sawmiller. Son Mike captured the 2012 Blue Collar Bash ahead of his father, and last season after each of them won a heat race, Jerry finished runner-up to Yelton while Mike finished fourth.
Pay-per-view, event details and ticket information can be found on Eldora’s website www.EldoraSpeedway.com or can be obtained by calling the speedway office at 937-338-3815 during normal business hours. Additionally, race fans and race teams can get behind-the-scenes access by following @EldoraSpeedway on Twitter, hitting “Like” at Facebook.com/EldoraSpeedway and view video highlights at YouTube.com/EldoraSpeedwayInc. Mobile device users can access the Eldora Speedway app for the iPhone, iPad and Android, which is available for download via iTunes and Google Play.