By T.J. Buffenbarger
(July 15, 2022) — The Eldora Speedway format used for major events is starting to become popular among smaller teams in the sport. Thursday night at Eldora saw several smaller teams take advantage of the opportunity given to them by the format to make their first crown jewel event.
Eldora’s six heat race format uses either a set inversion or Eldora’s now famous “wheel of misfortune” to invert cars based on their qualifying time. As incentive not to sandbag and try to qualify purposely towards the front of the inversion the first two qualifiers that don’t make the feature through the heat race are assured the 19th and 20th starting positions, essentially guaranteeing the fastest two qualifiers making the show. Heat race finishes determine starting position in the feature with sixth heat race having the most to gain and lose with the winner starting on the pole position while second place starts 12th.
Even with that incentive drivers still try at times to pace their qualifying laps to put themselves in front of the inversion. This can create opportunities for smaller teams that may not have the caliber of equipment to qualify at the front of a field.
Two up and coming drivers on different ends of the spectrum, defending Australian Sprint Car Title winner Marcus Dumesny and, Zach Hampton were able to capitalize on that opportunity and make their first Eldora crown jewel main events.
Dumesny achieves goal of making one of sprint car racings major event main events
Marcus Dumesny has been a regular on the United States sprint car scene for the past several seasons. After spending time on the west coast, Dumesny, from Nelson, New South Wales, has branched his American program out running across the country over the past three seasons. Marcus, the son of legendary Australian sprint car driver Max Dumesny, has a last name that even carries notoriety in sprint car circles.
Marcus has managed to carve out his own legacy in Australia as he comes stateside this year as the defending Australian Sprint Car title winner, carrying the #1AU for the first time during a visit to the United States. Dumesny has shown steady improvement and achieved one of his goals Thursday by making a feature event at one of the biggest sprint car races in American.
Dumesny appreciated accomplishing that goal on Thursday but was already looking forward to the next goal to accomplish.
“It’s pretty good but I want you to chase that down, but then you always want more,” said Dumesny after the main event. “It’s good to take that off the bucket list and now we just need to keep chipping away set new goals and achieve them too”
Dumesny was content with his mid-pack qualifying effort as a steady improvement of his performance at Eldora, but when the wheel of misfortune came up with the number five it put Dumesny on the pole position and in position to capitalize on making the feature.
“I was pretty happy with the car,” Dumesny said about his qualifying effort. “Then the inversion happened and that made everything a little easier. It was good to get through the heat rice and finish second. It would have cool to win it, but it’s all good. I’ll take that result at the end of the day, and come back tomorrow night and Saturday night so we can do it again.”
Dumesny was excited as he crossed the finish line knowing he made the Historical Big One feature but was already focused on trying to make a run towards the front in the feature. Dumesny at one point was inside the top-10 in the feature, but eventually dropped back to 17th. The 40-lap feature served as a great learning opportunity.
“It’s definitely a bit different doing a 40-lap race on a half mile and race against these guys,” said Dumesny. “I wasn’t exactly putting the where car we need to put it but wasn’t in position to be making those restarts, so I definitely did learn a lot about restarts and things like that. I’m pretty keen to come back and try again to get some more knowledge”
Dumesny plans on remaining in America through July and into August to complete at the Knoxville Nationals. The American stay for Dumesny will end after the Jackson Nationals when he will return to Australian for the start of their sprint car season.
Hampton defies critics by making the Historical Big One
Hampton has had a lot of attention this year in sprint car racing for the wrong reasons. The young driver from Plainfield, Indiana most notable was involved in a skirmish with Sean Rayhall, a former sports car driver who is also trying to blaze a trail in sprint car racing as well, and created a memorable sound bite that went viral, which has amplified some of Hampton’s mistakes during the learning process early in his career.
Thursday night Hampton capitalized on a front row starting position in a heat race to make his first A-Main start in one of the sprint car majors. Making that feature event was much needed for Hampton who had issues Tuesday during the Brad Doty Classic at Attica Raceway Park in Attica, Ohio and the first night of racing at Eldora.
“It’s really good, especially the last couple nights we’ve had,” said Hampton. “We had a tough go out at Attica and at Eldora. A rock took out the radiator and right front tire and then last night we broke a motor, so to qualify just good enough start on the front row and run well enough by that we still made the feature was good for us and my confidence”
Hampton had to endure some pressure in his heat race after a caution flag setup a green/white/checkered finish. With some of the best sprint car talent on his bumper Hampton managed to do what was needed to maintain his transfer position.
“I was a little bit worried,” admitted Hampton. “I knew if I got a good start, and the top was the place to be if I hit my marks, I didn’t think anyone would be able to get a run on me and you know, everyone’s racing each other, so as long as they’re going after each other, they can’t go after me.”
Unfortunately for Hampton he had a tire delaminate in the feature that took out the wing slider in the process, which resulted in a 18th place finish.
Hampton has stepped up his program considerably from his first appearance at Eldora Speedway at the 4-Crown Nationals where he towed a car owned by his crew chief at the time on an open trailer with no tire rack and only a handful of spare parts. For 2022 Hampton enlisted the services of veteran crew chief and former sprint car driver Rob Hart.
“I met (Rob) a couple years ago. We had a motor we needed dynoed, and the place we were going to run it at fell through, so my crew chief at the time called Rob and he mentioned that he had a engine dyno, so we went over there. Then this past winter everything kind of shook up and I didn’t have a crew chief. I was talking to Rob and a couple days later we met up at PRI. Rob had had just left the deal he was working on, and it all came together quickly.”
Making one of the majors was a huge step forward for Hampton and his small operation.
“We’ve upgraded everything, I’ve been working on building this more and more each year little by little. To finally make one of these big features is huge.”