ROSSBURG — 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 10 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 11 Koz made the move to the front stick and appeared to be heading toward 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.
Eldora returns to action Friday and Saturday for a World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series doubleheader. Ticket and event 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.
HEAT 1 - 1. 60-Jerry Sawmiller ; 2. 20K-Bill Keeler ; 3. C01-Logan Yelton ; 4. 1S-Mike Sawmiller ; 5. 1J-Jj Butler ; 6. 77-Tom Garklick ;7. 69-Ron Tousley ; 8. 28-Kevin Knittle [DNF]; 9. 33-Michael Hicks [DNS]
HEAT 2 - 1. 71H-Chris Hicks ; 2. 10-Rolly Heyder Jr ; 3. 58-Jerry Gardner ; 4. 1K-Danny Kelly ; 5. 210-Joey Heyder ; 6. 21-Dwayne Powell ; 7. 37-Roy Miller [DNF]; 8. 23-Kenneth Osborne Jr [DNF]; 9. 70-Terry Klopfenstein [DNS]
A FEATURE - 1. 71H-Chris Hicks ; 2. 60-Jerry Sawmiller ; 3. 20K-Bill Keeler ; 4. 10-Rolly Heyder Jr ; 5. 58-Jerry Gardner ; 6. 37-Roy Miller ; 7. C01-Logan Yelton ; 8. 1J-Jj Butler ; 9. 210-Joey Heyder ; 10. 77-Tom Garklick ; 11. 69-Ron Tousley ; 12. 21-Dwayne Powell [DNF]; 13. 1K-Danny Kelly [DNF]; 14. 1S-Mike Sawmiller [DNF]; 15. 23-Kenneth Osborne Jr [DNF]; 16. 28-Kevin Knittle [DNS]; 17. 33-Michael Hicks [DNS]; 18. 70-Terry Klopfenstein [DNS]
UMP DIRTcar MODIFIED
HEAT 1 - 1. 7B-Jeff Babcock ; 2. 21T-Tom Treon ; 3. 1SW-Scott Williams ; 4. 28R-Chad Rosenbeck ; 5. 26L-Casey Luedeke ; 6. 11MH-Mike Hohlbein ; 7. 51-Cody Timmerman ; 8. 52-John Phlipot, Jr [DNF]; 9. 79-Shane Unger [DNF]
HEAT 2 - 1. 05-David Smith ; 2. 36-Brandon Vaughan ; 3. 20-Josh Morton ; 4. 555-Justin Coulter ; 5. 23J-Jeff Koz ; 6. 18-Ryan Sutter ; 7. 4J-David Treon, Jr ; 8. 55-Clayton Smith 
HEAT 3 - 1. 5XB-Jerry Bowersock ; 2. 225-Jesse Bitterling ; 3. 10-Scott Bowersock ; 4. 54-Matt Westfall ; 5. 55S-Zach Schroeder ; 6. 4S-Rob Starkey ; 7. 5X-Tim Richardson ; 8. 0A-Derrick Austin 
A FEATURE - 1. 7B-Jeff Babcock ; 2. 5XB-Jerry Bowersock ; 3. 4S-Rob Starkey ; 4. 225-Jesse Bitterling ; 5. 26L-Casey Luedeke ; 6. 36-Brandon Vaughan ; 7. 5X-Tim Richardson ; 8. 4J-David Treon, Jr ; 9. 18-Ryan Sutter ; 10. 11MH-Mike Hohlbein ; 11. 55-Clayton Smith ; 12. 0A-Derrick Austin ; 13. 79-Shane Unger ; 14. 55S-Zach Schroeder ; 15. 05-David Smith [DNF]; 16. 23J-Jeff Koz [DNF]; 17. 52-John Phlipot, Jr [DNF]; 18. 10-Scott Bowersock [DNF]; 19. 51-Cody Timmerman [DNF]; 20. 21T-Tom Treon [DNF]; 21. 555-Justin Coulter [DNF]; 22. 1SW-Scott Williams [DNF]; 23. 28R-Chad Rosenbeck [DNF]; 24. 54-Matt Westfall [DNF]; 25. 20-Josh Morton [DNS]
HEAT 1 - 1. 410-Paul Pardo ; 2. 71C-Barney Craig ; 3. 16-Jeff Koz ; 4. 19-Wayne Williams ; 5. 7-Jordan Conover ; 6. 01-Earnie Woodard ; 7. 55A-Brandon Archey ; 8. 20P-Robbie Phlipot ; 9. 51H-Jay Huber ; 10. 58-Alex Peace 
HEAT 2 - 1. 82-Chris Douglas ; 2. 00-Dean Pitts ; 3. 36-Adam Schaeff ; 4. 27-Frank Paladino ; 5. 99-Andy King ; 6. 501-Emily Gade ;7. 49-Eric Sandlin ; 8. 23-Casey Barr [DNF]; 9. 1B-Kenny Brady Jr. [DNF]; 10. 7D-Dan Wooten [DNS]
A FEATURE - 1. 82-Chris Douglas ; 2. 00-Dean Pitts ; 3. 27-Frank Paladino ; 4. 7-Jordan Conover ; 5. 99-Andy King ; 6. 36-Adam Schaeff ; 7. 501-Emily Gade ; 8. 01-Earnie Woodard ; 9. 19-Wayne Williams ; 10. 55A-Brandon Archey ; 11. 51H-Jay Huber ; 12. 49-Eric Sandlin ; 13. 1B-Kenny Brady Jr. ; 14. 58-Alex Peace ; 15. 16-Jeff Koz ; 16. 410-Paul Pardo ; 17. 20P-Robbie Phlipot ; 18. 23-Casey Barr ; 19. 7D-Dan Wooten ; 20. 71C-Barney Craig