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Lucas Oil drivers will clash at MAG

 

By David Miller, Special to The Dispatch

 

David Breazeale won't be intimidated by Scott Bloomquist, John Blankenship, and Don O'Neal. 

 

But he understands why his fellow area Super Late Model drivers would. 

 

He was in their shoes once: a relatively young, up-and-coming driver, pounding out wins regularly and looking for a shot at the next level. In 2009, he received that shot and raced in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, where he faced drivers who raced for a living and had full-time pit crews and big-name sponsors, like Bloomquist, Blankenship, and O'Neal. 

 

"Those guys will usually be there around the top five at the end of the night," Breazeale said. 

 

The Four Corners native and West Oktibbeha County resident expects the same this weekend, when Magnolia Motor Speedway plays host to the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau's Clash at The MAG, which will feature the Lucas Oil series racers in a $20,000-to-win, 100-lap race on Saturday night. MAVTV will film the race and air it later this summer. 

 

Drivers already push their cars to the limit, especially when state series points or big money is on the table. When an even bigger purse is up for grabs, drivers must push themselves and their cars even harder to keep up with drivers who may run more than 90 races a year. 

 

"You have more anxiety because of the big names on the track," Breazeale said. "You want to run good in front of your home crowd; I know how that is from experience. Since I ran that tour in '09, it's another night at the races for me. Before, when they'd come down, I'd be nervous as one could be. Then you throw in TV -- No one wants to mess up on TV." 

 

Breazeale is coming off a sixth-place finish at Greenville last weekend a week after winning a race there. He has won four of his last five races. 

 

While Breazeale enters qualifying in good form, so does Neil Baggett, who has won three Super Late Model races at Magnolia this year. Last week, he switched motors from a 358 SPEC motor to a 430 (7.0 L) power-plant, his first race of the year with the latter. He led the first 30 laps at Greenville before retiring due to an accumulation of mud in a wheel well that affected the balance of the vehicle. He won the Crate Late Model race at the track. 

 

Baggett, who finished second in the MSCCS points series last season, admits local drivers will feel more pressure this weekend. 

 

"Anybody can sit there and tell you they don't," Baggett. "When you know you got the best in the nation -- and that's what it will be -- it's more pressure on yourself, on your crew, to make sure you're as ready as you can be. Those guys have paid salaries and full-time crews. They've got all the resources. You have to be on your toes." 

 

For drivers like Lee Ray and Chase Washington, who won't compete in the Lucas Oil Super Late Model race, the level of competition won't be as fierce. However, they expect to face quality opponents due to the cash that's up for grabs in the weekend's other race classes, like Street Stocks, and CRATE Late Models. The total weekend purse is $85,000. 

 

"You get some of these folks who come in from Jackson or Greenville and they'll come ask us stuff about the track, looking for pointers," Ray said. "We don't get the national names, being in Street Stocks, so folks around here have a home advantage." 

 

For Washington, the weekend's races will make the one-year anniversary of his return to the track following a bout with cancer. He won a Late Model race at the same Lucas Oil event that weekend and will be eager to snap a stretch that has seen him win once and notch a string of top-five finishes between his NeSmith Late Model and CRATE Late Model races. 

 

Washington said he hasn't thought much about overcoming cancer or the anniversary of his return to the track. He's keen to get another Lucas Oil win. 

 

"Your car has to be perfect for races like this," Washington said. "And we'll keep working hard in the shop." 

 

Washington will drive his NeSmith car today and the CRATE Late Model car of friend Ryan Rigdon on Saturday. Qualifying begins at 7 tonight. 

 

Today and Saturday night Grandstand admission is $25 for adults and $5 for children between the ages of 6 and 10; Children 5 and under are admitted free. Pit admission is $35 each night with kids 6-10 years of age $25, and 5 under free. Two-day grandstand adult passes are available for $45. Two-day adult pit passes are available for $65 and are $40 for kids 6-10 years of age. 

 

n Columbus Motor Speedway will return to action June 21 with a Weekly Racing Series event. 

 

Limited Late Models, 602 Stock Late Models, Street Stocks, and Mini Stocks will be in action. 

 

The drivers' meeting will be at 7 p.m. Hot Laps will begin at 8 p.m. 

 

Grandstand admission is $10. Children 10 and under are free. Active military receive free grandstand admission with ID.  

 

Pit admission is $25.  

 

For more information, contact Joe Ables at 662-574-6808.

 

 

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