Blankenship flexes muscle for Volunteer Speedway ‘Spring Thaw’ victory
Photo courtesy of Chad Wells – Wells Racing Photography.
Blankenship flexes muscle for Volunteer Speedway ‘Spring Thaw’ victory
By Robert Walden
Volunteer Speedway Media/Public Relations
BULLS GAP, Tenn. (March 16) — John Blankenship grew up in Williamson, W.Va., but has called Knoxville, Tenn., his home for the past eight years. The 31-year-old turned in a dominant performance Saturday night in winning the Ray Cook-promoted Spring Nationals Series “12th Annual Spring Thaw” at Volunteer Speedway and pocketing $10,000 for the victory.
Blankenship toured the high banks at 13.413 seconds to set fast-time during qualifying over the 31 entrants. The four heat races were won by Blankenship, Chris Madden, Scott Bloomquist and Eric Jacobsen. Mark Douglas and Jared Landers each won a B-main, with Stacy Boles winning the last chance scramble to round out the 23-car starting lineup.
With the huge crowd in attendance standing on their feet for start of the 60-lap main event, they were cheering wildly on the opening lap when Madden dove to the inside of Blankenship and Bloomquist making it a three-wide scramble for the lead between turns one and two. The trio raced down the backstretch battling for real estate before Bloomquist moved to the point between turns three and four, with Blankenship and Madden in pursuit followed by Jacobsen and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Ty Dillon.
Billy Ogle Jr. got around Dillon for fifth racing off the fourth turn just two laps into race. Steve Casebolt was working his way forward from his eighth starting position, passing Dillon for sixth on lap 8.
But out front Bloomquist had the hard-charging Blankenship breathing down his neck during the opening 10 laps. Finally, on lap 13 between turns three and four with Bloomquist working lapped traffic and in the high groove, Blankenship powered his Coal World’s Energy/Coal Save The Country/Bear Cove Village in Pigeon Forge/Todd Case Trucking/Integra Racing Shocks/Schaeffer Racing Oil/VP Race Fuels/Hoosier Racing Tires/Cornett Racing Engines/No. 23 Rocket Chassis, past Bloomquist to assume a lead he would never relinquish.
Blankenship immediately began pulling away from Bloomquist, who began feeling pressure from Madden for the runner-up position. Madden got around Bloomquist for the spot on lap 24 racing off turn two, and just behind them Casebolt was overtaking Ogle for fourth place. Casebolt kept mashing the loud pedal to get around Bloomquist for third in the running order on lap 26 as they raced between turns three and four.
With the race reaching halfway at lap 30, Blankenship was in command and had checked out on his closest challengers as he held a little over a full-straightaway advantage over Madden, Casebolt, Bloomquist and Ogle.
Ogle got around Bloomquist for fourth on lap 40 racing off the fourth corner. For the second consecutive night Casebolt and Madden were battling for position by throwing slide-jobs at each other. Casebolt finally cleared Madden and moved into second with a pass between turns three and four on lap 45. With 15 laps remaining to the checkers, Casebolt set his sights ahead and hoped to be able track down race leader Blankenship.
But there would be no denying Blankenship a trip to victory lane as he easily cruised to the $10,000 win over Casebolt, Madden, Ogle and Bloomquist.
Completing the top-10 finishers were Jimmy Owens, Dillon, Jacobsen, Dale McDowell and Mark Vineyard, with 10 cars running on the lead lap.
“I’ve won on the national tour with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and those wins are special,” said Blankenship after climbing from his car in victory lane. “But I’ll have to say that finally being able to win a big race here at Volunteer Speedway like this and over such as strong field of competitors, this victory ranks right at the top for me in my career. You take guys like Scott (Bloomquist) and Jimmy (Owens), this track is their home turf where they’ve each won many races over the years. Also, (Chris) Madden and Dale (McDowell) have each won big races here too.
“Having lived here in East Tennessee now for several years and with our race team being located in Morristown, it’s good to get this win for all the local fans. I want to thank my crew chief Tom Buckingham and all the guys (Bo Hickey, Tony Trent, Allen Champ, Trevor Crittenden, Logan Hickey and J.C. Crockett) who work on our team. We really had a great car tonight. With Bloomquist getting the lead over us there on the opening lap, I was thinking he was probably out front to stay. But we ran right with him and he wasn’t able to get away from us. I was on his rear for a few laps until I was able to overtake him once we closed to rear of the field to start lapping the slower cars. Man, once I got around him I was like ‘Yeah, I can win this race.’ This Southern Nationals Series ‘Spring Thaw’ trophy really means a lot to me.”
Teammates Jensen Ford and Tim Byrd led the stellar Fastrak Racing Series-sanctioned Pro Late Model field to the green flag from the front row. Ford grabbed the lead over Byrd between turns one and two, with Ricky Moore, John Tweed and Tim Maupin in tow.
On the move early working his way forward from his seventh starting spot was Dawsonville, Ga.’s Chase Elliott, who’s a Rick Hendrick Motorsports development driver and also the son of legendary NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott.
Elliott got around Maupin racing off the fourth turn on lap 4 to move into fifth place, and just one circuit later he passed Tweed to move into the fourth spot. The caution waved on lap 8, when Maupin spun between turns one and two while battling with Tweed for fifth in the running order.
Ford, from Piney Flats, brought the field back up to speed on the restart with Byrd glued to his rear bumper. Jumping to the high-side of turns one and two the young Elliott rode around the outside of Moore racing down the backstretch to move into the third spot. Both Tweed and Mike Smith each also got around Moore before he settled back into sixth in the running order.
But out front it was all Ford, as he drove the Charles Byrd & Son Logging/RDM Trucking of Chuckey/K&M Flooring of Johnson City/Matlock Decal Co./TNT Race Cars/Tim Byrd Motorsports/No. 24f Chevrolet Camaro SS, to a flag-to-flag victory over Byrd, Elliott, Tweed and Smith in the 25-lap feature.
Todd Brooks, Chris Chandler, Matt Long, Jerry Broyles and Brent Hensley completed the top-10 finishers.
VOLUNTEER SPEEDWAY – SOUTHERN NATIONALS SERIES – $10,000-TO-WIN “SPRING THAW 60” – MARCH 16, 2013
Showing Finish Position, Starting Position In Parentheses, Driver Name, Car Number, Hometown, Money Earned, Laps Completed
1. (1) John Blankenship #23-Knoxville, TN $10,000 (60)
2. (8) Steve Casebolt #c9-Richmond, IN $5,000 (60)
3. (3) Chris Madden #44-Gray Court, SC $2,500 (60)
4. (7) Billy Ogle, Jr. #201-Knoxville, TN $2,000 (60)
5. (2) Scott Bloomquist #0-Mooresburg, TN $1,500 (60)
6. (6) Jimmy Owens #20-Newport, TN $1,300 (60)
7. (5) Ty Dillon #41-Lewisville, NC $1,200 (60)
8. (4) Eric Jacobsen #5j-Sea Cliff Beach, CA $1,100 (60)
9. (9) Dale McDowell #17m-Chickamauga, GA $1,050 (60)
10. (14) Mark Vineyard #4-Powell, TN $1,000 (60)
11. (15) Tommy Kerr #4T-Maryville, TN $950 (59)
12. (10) Steve Francis #15-Ashland, KY $900 (59)
13. (11) Eric Wells #18-Hazard, KY $850 (59)
14. (12) Michael Chilton #97-Salvisa, KY $800 (58)
15. (16) David Payne #8-Murphy, NC $750 (58)
16. (19) Tyler Millwood #X-Kingston, GA $700 (37)
17. (18) Jared Landers #5-Batesville, AR $650 (23)
18. (22) Josh Collins #63-Knoxville, TN $600 (20)
19. (13) Vic Hill #1-Morristown, TN $600 (17)
20. (20) Casey Roberts #101-Toccoa, GA $600 (16)
21. (21) Skip Arp #31-Georgetown, TN $600 (12)
22. (17) Mark Douglas #52D-Knoxville, TN $600 (4)
23. (23) Stacy Boles #11B-Clinton, TN $600 (2)
AMERICAN RACER HEAT #1 (Top 4 Transfer): 1) John Blankenship, 2) Ty Dillon, 3) Dale McDowell, 4) Vic Hill, 5) Tyler Millwood, 6) Skip Arp, 7) Josh Henry, 8) Joey Coulter
HOOSIER RACING TIRE HEAT #2 (Top 4 Transfer): 1) Chris Madden, 2) Billy Ogle Jr., 3) Eric Wells, 4) Tommy Kerr, 5) Mark Douglas, 6) Stacy Boles, 7) Sammie Russell – Did Not Start: George Mashburn
MASTERSBILT RACE CARS HEAT #3 (Top 4 Transfer): 1) Scott Bloomquist, 2) Jimmy Owens, 3) Steve Francis, 4) Mark Vineyard, 5) Jared Landers, 6) Josh Collins, 7) Ryan King, 8) Cory Hedgecock
DELPH COMMUNICATIONS HEAT #4 (Top 4 Transfer): 1) Eric Jacobsen, 2) Steve Casebolt, 3) Michael Chilton, 4) David Payne, 5) Casey Roberts, 6) Devin Friese, 7) Victor Lee
GRAPHIC IMPRESSIONS B-MAIN #1 (Top 3 Transfer): 1) Mark Douglas, 2) Tyler Millwood, 3) Skip Arp, 4) Stacy Boles, 5) Josh Henry, 6) Joey Coulter
WHITE PERFORMANCE B-MAIN #2 (Top 3 Transfer): 1) Jared Landers, 2) Casey Roberts, 3) Josh Collins, 4) Devin Friese, 5) Victor Lee
VP RACE FUELS B-SCRAMBLE Finish (Winner Transfers): 1) Stacy Boles, 2) Josh Henry, 3) Victor Lee, 4) Joey Coulter, 5) Devin Friese
DRIVERS FAILING TO TRANSFER TO STARTING LINEUP:
Josh Henry #25-Newport, TN
Victor Lee #4-Danville, KY
Joey Coulter #2-Miami Springs, FL
Devin Friese #12-Chambersburg, PA
Ryan King #30-Seymour, TN
Sammie Russell #F4-Madisonville, TN
Cory Hedgecock #23-Lenoir City, TN
George Mashburn #13-Murphy, NC
FASTRAK RACING SERIES – PRO LATE MODEL (25 laps)
1) Jensen Ford #24f, 2) Tim Byrd #24, 3) Chase Elliott #53, 4) John Tweed #5, 5) Mike Smith #4, 6) Todd Brooks #T1, 7) Chris Chandler #8, 8) Matt Long #25, 9) Jerry Broyles #72, 10) Brent Hensley #70, 11) Travis Fultz #X, 12) Doug Price #4p, 13) Lance Reynolds #14, 14) David Duplissey #D2, 15) Tim Maupin #T2, 16) Greg Burchett #5g, 17) Heath Alvey #7, 18) Alan Poyner #2, 19) Ricky Moore #75, 20) Adam Beeler #66, 21) James Cole #5c, 22) Tyler Dixon #00, 23) Wes Johnson #57j – Did Not Start: Hugh Scalf #56, Cody Brake #586, Richard Adkins #73
Ray Cook (Spring Nationals Series Promoter): (828) 360-5353
Volunteer Speedway: (423) 235-5020
Track Office – Weekdays Only 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.: (423) 378-5942
Phyllis Loven (Track Owner): (423) 676-9081
Robert Walden – Media/Public Relations: (423) 928-9644
Robbie Williams – Race Director: (423) 483-4055