BRISTOL, Tenn. — The top Super Late Model drivers in the country are at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for the World of Outlaws Bristol Bash.
They’re set to compete in a 40-lap, $10,000-to-win feature Friday night and cap off the weekend with a 40-lap, $25,000-to-win feature Saturday night. Also on tap are a $5,000-to-win UMP Modified feature Friday and a $10,000-to-win feature Saturday.
Three-time and defending World of Outlaws champion Brandon Sheppard led the day’s first practice session with a 15.002-second lap at 119.984 mph. Sheppard’s lap was five seconds and 30 mph faster than Ryan Blaney’s fast lap during NASCAR Cup Series practice two weeks ago.
South Carolina racer Chris Madden was second fastest Friday at 15.150 seconds (118.812 mph).
Another favorite in the invitation-only field is Hawkins County’s own Scott Bloomquist, arguably the greatest dirt late model driver of all time. The Mooresburg driver is the winner of more than 600 Late Model features, including the previous time Bristol was converted to a dirt track in 2001.
Bloomquist, nicknamed “Black Sunshine,” finished third behind three-time Lucas Oil Series national champion Jonathan Davenport and Cup Series superstar Kyle Larson in the recent Karl Kustom Bristol Dirt Nationals.
Davenport and Larson ran 1-2 again last Saturday night at the Lil’ Bill Corum race at Tazewell Speedway.
Another East Tennessee racing legend, Jimmy Owens, and his familiar No. 20 car are set to compete. The “Newport Nightmare” is a four-time and defending champion in the Lucas Oil Series.
Owens, too, has more than 600 career wins, although many came in the UMP Modifieds where he is a four-time national champion. He competed in the open-wheel cars in the early 2000s.
Owens believes the track will be much better for this weekend’s events.
“It’s definitely going to be different than it was (in 2001),” Owens said. “There’s more lime in the dirt there now and it’s packed in more than it was back then.
“With the speeds you get at Bristol, it’s a lot faster than we are used to running, and the cars come up on you really quick if a car wrecks or gets out of shape. You have to really be cautious of that. For the most part, it’s going to be fun, fast, and you have to stay on your toes.”
Owens won a World of Outlaws race at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, South Carolina, on March 28 and finished sixth last weekend at Tazewell.
He’s ready to face another stellar field this weekend.
“It looks like they didn’t invite anyone but the very best cars,” Owens said. We’ve always got tough competition no matter where we race, but at an event like this with so many strong cars in the field, it makes it that much tougher. I feel like it’s going to be extremely important to get a good qualifying lap in.”
Four-time World of Outlaws champion Josh Richards and current World of Outlaws points leader Kyle Strickler are other top contenders.
Strickler, who won the Open Modified feature at the Bristol Dirt Nationals, is pulling double duty in the DIRTcar UMP Modified race.
Three-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton is also entered, along with Cup Series veterans Ken Schrader, David Stremme and David Reutimann.
Stremme led the early Modified practice at 17.183 seconds (104.755 mph).
Reserved tickets are $45 per day, $10 for kids ages 12 and younger.