Indeed, the 52-year-old Bloomquist seemingly has never been faster. The Hall of Famer with more than 550 career victories is leading the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series by a healthy 245 points over Jonathan Davenport after reeling off three straight wins earlier this month.
Bloomquist has eight series wins in 2016, is on track for his first Lucas championship since 2010 and ranks No. 1 in the DirtonDirt.com weekly poll. So is he driving better than ever?
“I think I am,” Bloomquist said earlier this week in a phone interview from his Mooresburg, Tenn., race shop in preparation for a two-race Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series swing this weekend.
Bloomquist and his iconic No. 0 car will be looking to bust a lengthy drought at Lucas Oil Speedway on Saturday at the 10th annual CMH Diamond Nationals. On Friday, the series stops at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois.
“I’m driving smart still,” Bloomquist said, explaining that a well-prepared race car – as his Sweet-Bloomquist machine has been much of the season – means everything to a driver’s confidence and performance.
“When your car is throwing you surprises and not quite doing things the way you want, or if you get in track conditions that are rough and the car is erratic … it makes your confidence not where you would like it to be. And for good reason,” he added. “Your comfort zone is extremely important in a race car when it comes to having confidence in your ability.”
Preparing the race car to that high level doesn’t come without a price. Asked the key to his 2016 success, Bloomquist laughed and it’s a little surprising all things considered.
He called it “the most hectic year I’ve probably ever had,” mentioning multiple events in which he’s pulled into the pits late. At times, he’s even missed time trials all together.
“We’ve missed practices and in some of them missed qualifying and found ourselves having to dig out of a hole,” Bloomquist said. “We’ve just had so much going on here in the shop. We’ve been working on things to try and get better all the time and it just takes up time. Then the next thing you know, you’re scrambling.”
Asked if his on-track success is surprising, in light of often being in scramble mode, and Bloomquist said, “to some degree.”
“But I’m not really surprised because we make sure we don’t leave until we know we’re ready. It’s not like we’re just throwing stuff in the box and heading down the road to the next race. We’re spending the amount of time that the cars need spent on them.”
Thought and preparation is more important in today’s dirt Late Model world than ever before, he said. Bloomquist admits it’s trying on his patience at times.
“The weeks are shorter,” he said. “The amount of energy it takes, for some reason, it’s taking a lot more time than it used to. I don’t think it’s anything to do with age. Maybe I’m just a little more hard-headed about the level I’ll accept.”
But if all is done correctly, the driving part seems almost easy most nights.
“Driving the race car is absolutely the most simple part,” he said. “I know what my job is to do then. I’ve done it for so long that if the car is right, that part of the job is easy.”
The cars obviously are performing. Veteran Dale McDowell won his first time out in a Sweet-Bloomquist car last Saturday at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Tennessee. The only three Sweet-Bloomquist cars in the field finished 1-2-3 with Jared Landers and Bloomquist following McDowell across the finish line.
The addition of the smooth McDowell with the aggressive Landers gives Bloomquist additional, valuable feedback.
“We had been communicating a little bit and look forward to communicating more,” Bloomquist said of McDowell. “Me and Landers have communicated well since we got together and it’s been good. He has a little different style than I do and seeing him have success with that driving style … maybe it shows I was being a little too conservative before and I maybe I needed to be driving this thing harder.”
There was no denying how hard Bloomquist was driving in his last visit to Lucas Oil Speedway. He was charging hard when a left rear wheel broke off seconds after taking the lead on lap 89 of the Show-Me 100 on May 28. Despite having to pit, Bloomquist still rallied for a close second to Jimmy Owens.
“We needed another five laps,” Bloomquist said. “I definitely was on a mission to win that race.”
As he will be Saturday in attempting to win at Lucas for the first time since capturing the 2011 Diamond Nationals.
“I feel like it’s way overdue,” Bloomquist said.
Gates open at 5 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Speedway with hot laps at 7:30 and qualifying for the Late Models to follow. The USRA Modifieds also are scheduled to run for a $750 winner’s check courtesy of Hermitage Lumber.
For complete schedule, results and standings for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt series visit LucasDirt.com. For a rundown of the MLRA schedule, results and standings go to MLRARacing.com.
Admission prices on Saturday are:
Adults (16 and up) $25
Seniors (62 and up)/Military $22
Youth (6 to 15) $10
Kids (5 and under) Free
Family Pass $50 (Click Here for more information)
Pit Pass $40
To purchase tickets or to inquire about the availability of suites for upcoming races, contact admissions director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For complete Lucas Oil Speedway event information, archived stories, ticket info and schedule information for the season, visit lucasoilspeedway.com
Lucas Oil Speedway is located at Highways 83 and 54 in Wheatland, Missouri. A campground with shower and bathroom facilities is also available. With it’s entrance located just outside the pit gate this sprawling scenic camping facility will continue to enhance the racing experience at the Diamond of Dirt Tracks.
Click www.LucasOilSpeedway.com for more information and detailed directions to the speedway or call the Track Hotline at (417) 282-5984.
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