latemodelamerica.com - Nov. 14 - East Alabama Motor Speedway "National 100"
LateModelAmerica.com by Sam Holbrooks

 
 

Steve Francis - Mike Marlar - East Alabama Motor Speedway

Mike Marlar chases "National 100" winner Steve Francis down the front straightaway at East Alabama Motor Speedway. (Ron Skinner)

Feature: "A Winner For the Winter", Francis Closes Frustrating Season Strong With Lucrative Victory In "National 100"

 Kevin Kovac

CONCORD, N.C. -- Nov. 15. Two weeks ago Steve Francis couldn't wait for his frustrating 2010 season to reach its end. Now he wouldn't mind seeing the campaign roll on.

After driving his one-month-old Barry Wright-built car to a victory worth nearly $25,000 in Sunday's 36th annual "National 100" at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, Ala., the World of Outlaws Late Model Series star suddenly has some true pep back in his step.

"Really, this has been one of the worst years I've had in quite awhile,"”said Francis, who managed just two A-Main wins and a fourth-place finish in the WoO LMS points standings during a 2010 season that saw him field his own equipment for the first time since capturing the national tour's title in 2007. "It's a good feeling to get a big win that shows we're headed in the right direction".”

Scott Bloomquist - Jimmy Owens - East Alabama Motor Speedway

East Tennessee teammates Scott Bloomquist and #20 Jimmy Owens raced to fifth and ninth, respectively, at EAMS. (Ron Skinner)

Good enough, of course, to allow Francis, 43, to walk off the 2010 stage with momentum he hopes to carry into next season’s dirt-track battles across the country.

"We're gonna' stop right now after we've had some success and kind of regroup,"”said Francis, speaking on Monday afternoon from Jackson (Miss.) Motor Speedway where he headed after Sunday's action with fellow WoO LMS regular Clint Smith (the 13th-place finisher in the National 100) to provide instruction for aspiring racers at track owner Don Cliburn's driving school. "We need to get started on building some new cars and get our program settled for next year. We're way ahead of where we were at this time last year - we didn't even have cars yet, or even a hauler - but there's still a lot of work to do".

Steve Francis VL East Alabama Motor Speedway

Steve Francis in Victory Lane at EAMS. (Ron Skinner)

"It's been a tough year, but this win definitely takes a lot of pressure off for the whole winter. Naturally it starts all over again in a few months, but at least we're progressing the way we want and we finished the year on a high note. We're a winner for the whole winter."”

Francis paused, and then added with a smile, "We got enough money to eat all winter now. Between this and the Outlaw (awards) banquet last weekend (he picked up a $35,000 points-fund check during the festivities), we were able to put a little money in the bank account.”

The National 100 triumph, Francis's first-ever in sporadic appearances in the long-running event, came in his seventh start behind the wheel of the red-and-yellow Barry Wright car he debuted the first weekend of October. He hasn't had a finish outside the top 10 with the mount.

"We're starting to learn this Barry Wright car",”said Francis, who decided to try a chassis from Wright's Cowpens, S.C.-based shop after exclusively running Rocket Chassis cars for more than a decade. "We're getting a little more familiar with what the changes we make are doing to it, what it likes compared to what we're doing to it. Barry and Lance Wright have been great to work with and have really opened up all their books to help us get going in the right direction".

"We had a lot of success with Rocket over the years, but we needed to do something different to kind of recharge everybody's batteries,"”he added. "After the last two weeks with this car (he also registered a third place finish on Nov. 6th in the first half of the World of Outlaws "World Finals" at The Dirt Track at Charlotte) I feel like I'm getting comfortable and consistent. I probably have quite a bit more confidence now (for 2011)".

Tyler Reddick - Jimmy Owens - Casey Roberts - EAMS

Casey Roberts (#101) and #20 Jimmy Owens look for a way around #11 Tyler Reddick at East Alabama. (Ron Skinner)

Francis was really happy with the car all weekend at East Alabama. Racing with a couple different faces on his pit crew. With his regular mechanic Derik Reese enjoying a weekend off to spend time at home, Francis's crew chief, Tim Logan, was assisted by Chris Farmer, whose wife April drives a dirt Late Model, and Shane Clanton crewman Brant Hardin. Francis won a heat race on Saturday to earn the third starting spot in the "National 100". He controlled virtually the entire distance of Sunday evening's 100-lapper, grabbing the lead from Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., on lap five and then holding off Marlar and Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., and waiting out a slight mid-race delay for rain to reach the checkered flag first.

"It was a real good test for the (Wright) car", Francis said of the grueling extra-distance event. "They race on it all day long so the racetrack rubbers up so hard. Then they go out there and water it before our race and when they drop the green flag, you're running wide open for the first 10 laps. After that, it kind of progressively slows and slows and slows, and maybe the last five or 10 laps, it starts picking up a little rubber stripe again. It kind of goes through every condition you can imagine over the course of 100 laps.”

With a satisfied grin on his face, Francis now turns his attention to 2011. The co-leader with Josh Richards on the WoO LMS win list since 2004 (with 28 victories) and one of only two drivers (Rick Eckert is the other) to start all 281 series A-Mains contested over the past seven seasons, the "Kentucky Colonel"’is eyeing a return to championship contention.

"Our intent right now is to go run with the Outlaws again",”said Francis, who has never finished worse than sixth in the WoO LMS points standings

Nov. 14 - East Alabama Motor Speedway - National 100
1) Steve Francis, 2) Mike Marlar, 3) William Thomas, 4) Steve Shaver, 5) Scott Bloomquist, 6) Chris Madden, 7) Will Vaught, 8) Brady Smith, 9) Jimmy Owens, 10) Dennis Erb, 11) Casey Roberts, 12) Ray Cook, 13) Clint Smith, 14) Tyler Reddick, 15) Rick Rogers, 16) Terrance Nowell, 17) Jack Sullivan, 18) Ivedent Lloyd, Jr., 19) Jody Knowles, 20) Brian Reese, 21) Lavon Sparks, 22) Eric Wells, 23) Mitch Fulford, 24) Ronnie Johnson 

Ron Skinner photo 

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