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2024 SPRING THAW PREVIEW

By Robert Holman

When the XR Super Series returns to Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., for the second straight season, it’s a safe bet that all eyes will be squarely focused on a pair hall-of-fame drivers chasing the two-day event’s $42,000 winner’s share of the purse.

Both Scott Bloomquist and Dale McDowell are among those expected to compete in April 5-6’s Spring Thaw at the 4/10-mile, high-banked east Tennessee track. And they both could be favorites — both fan favorites and favorites to win — during the event’s 18th running. Bloomquist, of nearby Mooresburg, Tenn., and McDowell, of Chickamauga, Ga., each have four Spring Thaw victories to their credit.

McDowell pocketed last year’s $100,000-to-win XRSS-sanctioned Spring Thaw, the richest in the long-running event’s history. He also won the race in 2019 to go with back-to-back wins in 2012-’13. Because no Spring Thaw was held from 2020-’22, a McDowell win would make him the first driver to win three straight. Bloomquist picked up Spring Thaw wins in 2000, 2002 and back-to-back in ’06-’07.

Both McDowell and Bloomquist are coming off a solid weekend at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway, where McDowell won the $21,000 Lil’ Bill Corum Memorial and Bloomquist picked up a fifth-place finish in just his second race of the season. Bloomquist said he’s looking forward to keeping his comeback tour going at yet another track close to home.

“You know, that’s always been one of my favorite tracks,” said Bloomquist. “I know Vic (Hill has) been working on it and got it where it’s more raceable than ever. So now we’re definitely looking forward to it. I’m really looking forward to coming and running that race. The purse is good and it should be a ton of good cars. It’s just the way we like it.”

Among the weekend’s expected entries, none have as much experience as Bloomquist, 60, and McDowell, 57, and both have seen their fair share of changes at Volunteer Speedway, which is celebrating is 50th anniversary this season.

“There’s just been different things done with (the track),” said Bloomquist. “Sometimes, whoever gets on that grader blade and, you know, shapes the racetrack, sometimes it’s where they made it bottom dominant in (turns) three and four and I know Vic’s worked hard on getting it where you can run the top in (turns) three and four. The dirt itself, the actual surface on the racetrack has been different over the years. It used to be some really good dark red clay that would just get slicker than you could imagine.

“It made for a great race. The dirt that has been on it recently, it only slows down maybe to the 14.50-second range where it used to get down to 16 seconds. It maintains more speed. There’s more traction throughout the whole evening and it may be a little dusty, but it usually cleans up and it’s good for the fans. The main thing is the shape. Vic’s worked on it. I think he’s really improved it and the surface that’s on it now I think is a very good surface.”

Aside from Bloomquist and McDowell, only two other previous event winners — Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., and Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn. — are expected. Former winners also include Freddy Smith (1999); Scott Sexton (2001); Brian Birkhofer (2004); Owens (2008); Ray Cook (2010, 2015); and Chris Madden (2011, 2014, 2016). Owens (’14) and Marlar (’16) won $4,000 Friday night features.

Friday’s Spring Thaw Warm-Up pays $12,000-to-win and $1,200-to-start, while Saturday’s finale pays $30,000-to-win and $3,000-to-start. The Super Late Models will be supported by the ONUM Dirt Modifieds paying $2,000-to-win and $200-to-start on both Friday and Saturday.

Drivers confirming their intention to enter the weekend doubleheader include Bloomquist, McDowell, Marlar, Owens, Tyler Erb, Chris Ferguson, Devin Moran, Hudson O’Neal, Cory Hedgecock, Kaede Loudy, Rusty Ballenger and Camaron Marlar. Other drivers expected include Kyle Bronson, Todd Cooney, Ryan Gustin, Jordan Koehler, Brandon Overton, Ricky Thornton Jr., Ricky Weiss and Daulton Wilson, among others.

For more Spring Thaw info, visit xrsuperseries.com/schedule/springthaw. For more information on Volunteer Speedway, visit volunteerspeedway.com.

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