Busy 24-Event Program Presented by Miller Lite Attracts Stellar 129-Car Field
ROSSBURG, OH (May 26) – A pair of new names were etched into the Johnny Appleseed Classic by Miller Lite record books Sunday night at Eldora Speedway, while another pair of veterans returned to familiar roots on the coveted Eldora stage. Ruling over a jammed pit area of 129 race teams were Jeff Babcock (Sunoco American Late Model Series) and Ron Blair (NRA Sprint Invaders) for their initial wins, while Brian Ruhlman (UMP DIRTcar Modifieds) and Paul Pardo (Stock Cars) added to their Eldora win totals.
The Sunoco ALMS 25-lap chase was slowed by only one caution, but for young sensation Jacob Hawkins that was one caution too many. After chasing down and reeling in early race leader, and eventual winner, Babock, Hawkins had just completed a well executed pass for the lead when defending UMP DIRTcar Late Model champion Rusty Schlenk dropped off the pass and looped it in turn three.
With scoring reverting back to the previously completed lap, Babcock re-inherited the top spot. A double-file restart line-up gave Hawkins a second chance, but with Babcock taking the more preferred high line on the .500-mile clay oval on the restart, he was able to get the jump on the reappearing green flag. He took with him Jonathan Davenport as Hawkins slipped back to third.
That set up a wild three-car battle for the victory bragging rights, as no less than six cars engaged in a similar chase behind them.
Babcock maintained a smooth line through lapped traffic as the checkered flag approached and it couldn’t come any sooner, as Hawkins finally cleared Davenport with two laps remaining and had his sights on taking back the premier position. Time ran out, allowing Babcock to get his initial ALMS win at Eldora. Hawkins registered his best-ever Eldora Late Model run for runner-up honors, followed in close pursuit by Davenport, defending Eldora Late Model champion Jeep VanWormer and Kent Robinson.
Blair has knocked on the Eldora doors of victory many times, but had never been ever to cross the threshold until Sunday evening. His preliminary entrance was nothing short of spectacular.
At the dropping of the green flag he shot as if out of cannon into the early lead to set a blistering pace around the quick oval. In doing so, he dropped Darren Long into second, with Butch Schroeder in third. Within three laps, Schroeder advanced into the runner-up slot, but the car on the move was Brandon Wimmer; coming from his seventh starting slot.
Only one caution, for a stopped Gregg Dalman, bunched up the field. When the racing action resumed, it was Blair again the class of the field. Schroeder used lapped traffic and his many years of Eldora experience to narrow the gap in the waning laps, but time was against him, as an excited Blair captured Eldora win number one. Schroeder and Wimmer followed in second and third, with Jared Horstman and Ryan Ruhl completing the top five.
Ruhlman was making his first Modified visit of the 2013 Eldora season, as was defending champion Joey Kramer; yet both looked as if they had never left. Ruhlman inherited the early lead, as Kramer tucked in behind to mount a serious challenge for the top spot. Ruhlman was not to be denied on the multi-grooved surface as he kept Kramer at bay throughout the 18-lap distance. Rounding out the top five behind them were Collin Thirlby, Jon Henry and Jacoby Hines.
Attrition played havoc in the Stock Car finale, but through it all, Paul Pardo maintained mastery out front to clinch his first 2013 Eldora triumph. Jeremy Creech remained within striking distance throughout the chase, but Pardo was not to be denied. Adam Schaeff crossed the line in third for his best-ever Eldora run, while Earnie Woodard and young charger Brad Conover completed the top five at the checkered flag, which completed a wild 24-event program.
Eldora now prepares for the $304,000 Dirt Late Model Dream by Ferris Commercial Mowers, set for June 6,7 and 8. Tickets and campsites for that event, and others on the busy Eldora slated, may be purchased online at www.EldoraSpeedway.com at any time of the day or night; or by calling the speedway office (937) 338-3815 during normal business hours.