ROSSBURG, Ohio — official release — Jim Denhamer photo — Experience ruled the night at Eldora Speedway on Thursday with former World 100 and Dirt Late Model Dream winners Dale McDowell and Jimmy Owens both claiming preliminary feature victories during the opening night of the 44th annual World 100.
Fresh off his Dream victory in June, McDowell, 48, claimed the first of Thursday’s two 25-lap A-Mains with a flag-to-flag performance in the caution-free race. Owens, 42, charged from the 14th starting spot in the second 25-lapper and overtook Chris Madden on his way to victory.
McDowell and Owens, who both earned $5,000 paydays for their UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned victories, will look for even more Big E success as the historic track hosts another preliminary night on Friday and the $47,000-to-win World 100 finale on Saturday.
For Thursday’s action, the event’s 117 entries were split in half by time-trial results with the two groups then completing separate programs of heat races, B-Mains and A-Mains. Claiming the main event for odd-numbered qualifiers, McDowell held off a late charge by eighth-starting Randy Weaver. Polesitter Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., finished third with 12th-starting Brian Birkhofer and Jimmy Mars rounding out the top five.
McDowell will look to become just the third driver to claim both the Dream and the World 100 in the same the season by parlaying his opening night success into a crown jewel victory in Saturday’s World 100 finale.
“I think the race car’s pretty good, hopefully,” said McDowell, who claimed his first World 100 victory in 2005. “There’s a lot of good racers here. There’s a lot of ingredients that has to go into having a good night. All these guys are professionals and it could be anyone’s night (on Saturday). We just hope we put all the pieces together to make it ours.”
In the feature for even-numbered qualifiers, Owens recovered from his poor qualifying effort to score an impressive victory over Kent Robinson. Early front-runners Tim McCreadie and Madden both faded late in the race in finishing third and fourth respectively. Frank Heckenast Jr. was fifth.
Jeff Babcock led the opening five laps after starting from outside the front row, but he slipped to eighth at the finish of a race slowed by a single caution flag.
With each driver’s best qualifying lap from Thursday and Friday determine starting positions in Saturday’s World 100 heat races, Owens will not only look for another prelim victory on Friday but also a much better qualifying effort.
“We ran into some problems hot lapping and qualifying that put us behind the eight ball all night long. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get a better qualifying run in,” said Owens, whose two World 100 victories came in 2007 and 2011. “I think we’ve got the car to (win Saturday’s finale) if circumstances go our way and we get a good qualifying run in and get in through our heat.”