Hawkins County's Scott Bloomquist celebrates a victory at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap. Randall Perry photo.
BULLS GAP — While East Tennessee race fans are just now coming out of hibernation this weekend, the “Dirtrax Dominator” is in full stride, with nearly 20 feature starts and a prestigious points championship already in the record book for 2014.
Hawkins County’s Scott Bloomquist will be at the top of the marquee for the 13th annual “Spring Thaw” Friday and Saturday nights at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap as the superstars of dirt stock car racing visit East Tennessee, competing for big paydays and big prestige as “the other” major racing event going on in the region.
The Spring Thaw always attracts high car counts and a large number of NASCAR fans who make their way down I-81 to “The Gap” for action under the lights after the daytime racing ends at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Coming off of a six-race points championship at Volusia Speedway Park in Daytona, Fla., last month, Bloomquist said he hopes to carry that winning momentum to his home track in Bulls Gap.
“When you’re close to home you definitely like to perform to as expected,” Bloomquist said. “There’s a lot of good cars and good competition, and it’s tough anywhere you go. We really don’t get to race there any more than anyone else does, so it’s not like we have an edge, but I’ve always liked racing there. We’ve always performed well on the high-banked racetracks, and hopefully we will again.”
The 40-lap Friday night race pays $4,000 to win, which is generally lower than Bloomquist makes the trip for.
But he has a new race car he’s still feeling out, and he said he’ll be at The Gap Friday night, which will serve as a good test for the 60-lap $10,000-to-win finale Saturday night.
Volunteer Speedway’s season begins and ends during BMS’ NASCAR race weeks in March and August, and Bloomquist said he’s seen a lot of NASCAR fans converted to the ranks of dirt racing fans during those weekends over the years.
Dirt stock car racing and NASCAR are two completely different worlds, but where the fans find common ground is in the high speed, high intensity action that high-banked short track racing provides.
The difference is, the action is more condensed on a dirt short track.
“A lot of (dirt fans) who might not really follow the rest of the NASCAR series very much like Bristol because there’s always been a lot of action and a lot of controversy, and maybe a lot of wrecks,” Bloomquist said. “One thing they do know for sure, though, is if they come to Bulls Gap they’re going to see some good racing. Bristol, like all the NASCAR races, is a lot longer ... whereas the trend (for dirt) is shorter races. When they drop the green you better be on race mode as hard as you can go. You don’t have a lot of time to sit there and ride.”
He added, “Sometimes they talk about riding, and it doesn’t really sound appealing to fans. That’s one thing about dirt racing. There’s no time to ride. You better get with it. At Bulls Gap you’re going to see some pretty hard racing.”
Aside from bringing a new race car to Bulls Gap this weekend, Bloomquist is also bringing a new sponsor in “Ole Smoky Moonshine.”
When he thinks about which drivers he expects to give him the most trouble during the Spring Thaw, it turns out that many of them are also driving cars built at Bloomquist’s shop.
“Chris Madden has been running good,” he said. “He’s won the last two weekends, and he’s in our stuff. Jimmy Owens is always good in this area. Then you’ve got Dale McDowell who always runs good at Bulls Gap. With the bunch we race with every week, the competition is so stiff that from week to week you just never know who might come out and just be trucking that weekend. We’re just going to be ready for them all.”
Bloomquist expects to run at least 70 races in 2014, about two thirds of which will be as part of either the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the National Dirt Racing League.
The remainder of the time Bloomquist shows up for the big money races all across the country, including Eldora and Knoxville, Iowa.
At 50 years of age, he said he doesn’t feel like time is catching up with him. He said his opponents will have to contend with him for many years to come.
With more than 530 Late Model feature wins to his name, Bloomquist said retirement is coming “no time soon.”
“We’re continuing as strong as ever,” Bloomquist said. “We ended up winning the points for the week down at the Volusia Speedweek in Daytona. We won one night, second another, a fourth, a fifth and a sixth. No, I’m not going anywhere any time soon. I’ll just be working harder, working on new designs and new things and just trying to stay focused.”
He added, “I’ve still got as much passion as I’ve ever had for it. Until there’s something physical, whether it’s sight or something physically that prevents me from being able to win, people are going to have to put up with me.”