Toward the end of the 2017 racing season, Columbus dirt late-model racer Zak Blackwood was at the crossroads of his racing career. He was frustrated enough with his race team he thought for a moment about quitting.
Then after talking with his family, those in the industry and some loyal race fans, he decided that come 2018 he was going to focus on getting back to running good again and finishing races.
“Yes, I was extremely disappointed with the way things were going with the race team,” Blackwood said. “We had some engine failures. In the times we ran well, something would go wrong. I thought about getting out of it (racing). In today’s racing especially, the dirt late-model portion of it, you must have some technology knowledge. Shocks and springs are so vital anymore. You can’t just go out and buy the best of everything and win. You must know setups, etc. The competition is so close, if you are off just a little bit, you won’t make the show. I needed some help with that, and I went out and got it.
“We have been kept up with the tech from Audie Swartz (chassis builder) helping on setup, Bullock (engine builder) on the Spread Bore tech, Dustin Linville (former driver) on setup, and Zach Dohm (a West Virginia racer) on shocks. We learned a hard lesson trying to save money last year, and it caught up with us with engine failures. Our hauler is now paid off, and we have a new motor along with a backup. We can now focus on racing this year with less stress and we have a full-time helper to help keep up on maintenance since we work throughout the days, so it’s going to be a huge jump.”
Blackwood and his father, Jeremy, have lined up some more sponsors for 2018, including Blackwood Lawn & Landscape, The Kroot Corp, The Brick, Lucas Oil Products, LS Kustoms, Yoder Farms, Budda Bert Transmissions, Poske’s Performance Parts, Bullock Race Engines, J&A Auto, IndSolTech Solutions and Vicks Liquors.
His crew this year will consist of Mike and Colton Lucas. His chassis will be a 2017 Swartz XD8 with a Bullock 441 cubic-inch powerplant under the hood.
“The changes we have made with the new motor program and gaining Mike Lucas full time that used to work for Joe Godsey, we now have the power and figured some new things out with this new car, thanks to Zack Dohm,” Blackwood said.
Bloomington driver wins Eldora title
Bloomington’s Kent Robinson won the 2017 Late Model Track Championship at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. The track conducted its annual awards banquet in January at the Eldora Ballroom.
“This is truly something special to win this championship,” Robinson proclaimed. “To win a Super Late Model championship at a place that is so prestigious and has so much history means a lot to our team. At the beginning of the year, we circled this as a goal, and to see it come to fruition is very fulfilling. I just want to thank my family, my team, my sponsors and all of my fans for their awesome support.”
Kent Robinson Racing wanted to thank all of its sponsors, including JB’s Salvage, JB’s Disposal, Jay Dickens Racing Engines, Jones Oil Company, Midwest Sheet Metal, Billy Moyer Victory Race Cars, Keyser Manufacturing, Print Worx Graphics, VP Race Fuels, Hoosier Racing Tire, Envy Suspension, All Star Performance, Schaeffer’s Racing Oil, K&N Filters, AFCO, Bell Helmets, Simpson Race Products, Wiles Drive Shafts, Weld Racing, FK Rod Ends and MSRMafia.com Marketing Services.
Robinson plans to open his 2018 racing season on March 10 with the Spring 50, paying $5,000 to win at Florence Speedway in Union, Kentucky. For more information, visit florencespeedway.com.
He will then compete in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Indiana Icebreaker paying $12,000 to win March 17 at Brownstown Speedway. For more info, visit brownstownspeedway.com.
NASCAR Hall of Famer enjoying dirt racing
NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin will be appearing at more dirt tracks across the country this season. He and his automotive dealership partner Lance Landers and driver Jonathan Davenport travel with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt series in 2018.
Martin is thoroughly enjoying his role as “cheerleader” for the team and says the best racing right now is on dirt.
“Right now, this is the best racing in motorsports, in my opinion,” Martin said. “It’s just really spectacular. The cars look awesome. The way they preform, they’re real racy, and there’s a lot of movement in the field. A lot of passing, a lot of good racing. I think it’s less to do with the cars and more to do with the track itself. The surface is always changing, and there’s so many adjustments you can make on the racecars.
“You know, some of the other forms of racing have closed to the point where you can’t work on very many areas anymore. So, the performance is relatively close between all the cars. With one of these cars, you can get hooked up and run away.”
Martin ran 882 races in the NASCAR Cup Series. Among those, he picked up 40 wins.
But NASCAR has shifted dramatically from a rules standpoint since Martin’s era between 1981 and 2013. The shift for the level playing field was just beginning toward the end of his career. But recently, NASCAR officials have taken it to an entirely new level.
“If you put 20 of the greatest racecar drivers in the world in 20 cars that are identical, you’re going to have a boring race,” Martin said. “Who’s gonna pass who? They’re good drivers, in good cars. So, nobody is going to pass nobody else.
“I’ve always thought the level playing field was the way to go. But, the more I talk to drivers, I’m changing my opinion on it a little bit. Back in the day, you’d have a guy like Dale Earnhardt leading the race. He’d have a flat tire, come into the pits, restart in the back and be leading again in two laps. People would go nuts.”
“Hudson O’Neal came from 15th at Golden Isles and nearly won the race. That’s racing. That’s what it’s all about. Then the next night, (Josh) Richards started 26th in a backup car and won the race.”
James Essex writes a motorsports notebook for The Republic. Send comments to email@example.com.