The 27th edition of the crown jewel was held on August 15-17, 2019 at the 3/8-mile, clay oval located in Locust Grove, Arkansas. Taking center stage was a co-sanctioned program between the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the COMP Cams Super Dirt Series. With over $180,000 in prize money on the line, 46 of the top competitors in Dirt Late Model racing locked horns throughout the three-day affair.
New Year, New Format
For the 2018 edition of the Topless 100, the promoters replaced the traditional format. Previously, the format consisted of a practice night on Thursday night, followed by time trials and heat races on Friday, and ultimately consolation events and the 100-lap finale on Saturday night. Unfortunately, Mother Nature intervened and forced the entire weekend to be canceled last August. As a result, the “new-look” COMP Cams Topless 100 made its debut over the weekend.
The new schedule of events included a $5,000-to-win program on both Thursday and Friday night with a $40,000-to-win finale on Saturday. The goal was to keep up with the times by giving racers more chances to make money and fans more chances to see racing action.
There was a great deal of positive feedback from fans and racers alike, so the new format is here to stay.
Madden Is Back
Chris Madden only scored one victory during the first-half of the 2019 season. Looking to change his luck, the South Carolina driver departed his ride with Greg Bruening’s Skyline Motorsports following the annual Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway in early June.
By mid-July, Madden resurfaced with his new ride, which came in the form of a team car to Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer, Scott Bloomquist. After a five-year hiatus, Madden once again found himself in the driver’s seat of a Bloomquist Race Car, and the results were nearly instantaneous. A runner-up finish in the annual Silver Dollar Nationals at Nebraska’s I-80 Speedway was followed by a pair of $50,000 crown jewel victories in both the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, Wisconsin) and the North/South 100 at Kentucky’s Florence Speedway.
Heading into the opener for the COMP Cams Topless 100, he had never won at the Arkansas speedplant. He changed all of that with a $5,000 victory in Thursday’s opener. He then backed it up with a runner-up finish to his teammate in Friday’s prelim before ultimately racing to his first-career COMP Cams Topless 100 crown on Saturday night.
Madden banked a cool $40,000 for his winning performance.
“It feels great to be performing at such a high level right now. These Bloomquist Race Cars are just incredible, and they respond incredibly well to the smallest of changes,” Madden said. “Right now, I just wish that I could have two races every day. The car is that good.”
No Notes, No Problem
Georgia’s Brandon Overton had only raced at Batesville Motor Speedway on one occasion before this year’s event. Back in 2016, he entered the Topless 100, but struggles on Friday night found Overton seeking another place to race on Saturday.
Despite having limited laps on the track, he raced to a runner-up finish in the weekend opener.
“Everybody always talks about how slick this place is, but tonight it was cowboy up and I loved it,” Overton noted after finishing Second to Chris Madden on Thursday night. “I was at Billy Moyer’s shop yesterday, and he told me with it being so hot and dry to put the slickest setup I had on the car because I’d need it. After the track was so choppy and fast tonight, Moyer walked by me and said, “I’d lost $10,000 if I had bet on the way the track conditions would be.”
“So honestly, I think not having any notes for this place actually helped me. It allowed me to adapt much quicker than the guys who have run here dozens of times on a slick surface.”
Unfortunately for the personable, young driver, a J-bar failure bit him while running Second in his heat race on Friday night, which forced him pitside. Despite his struggles on Friday night, he still accumulated enough event points to lock into the 10th-starting spot for Saturday night’s 100-lap finale.
The talented, young racer challenged for the lead late in the crown-jewel affair before settling for a runner-up finish.
Loving the LS
In an effort to get an edge on the competition, racers are always looking to implement new technology. During the past year, a few engine builders in the dirt market have started experimenting with the LS package that is so popular in other forms of racing.
Missouri’s Austin Rettig began running one earlier this season from Show-Me state builder, Baldwyn Racing Engines. Despite experiencing an associated part’s failure with the new engine, Rettig spoke highly of his experiences with the powerplant.
“We only got to run the engine four times before we cracked the heads. Really, it wasn’t anybody’s fault that the heads cracked because the head manufacturer didn’t realize that this LS deal would produce over 1,000 horsepower, so he didn’t design the heads accordingly,” Rettig shared. “A new prototype head is supposed to be ready soon for the engine, and I hope to have it back in the car within the next week or two.
“I know most people don’t believe it when I say these LS engines produce 1,000 horsepower, but the dyno data is there to back it up. I think these engines could become really popular in the next few years once the technology is fine-tuned.”
Brewster Baker Style
Jack Sullivan spent the first-half of the 2019 season operating the COMP Cams Super Dirt Series with his brother, Chris. However, over the weekend, he was finally able to debut his brand-new Rocket XR1 Race Car. While he had a new ride ready to go, his new hauler was still being completed. As a result, he rolled into Batesville with an open trailer with no tire rack.
“Everybody has been joking that we look like Brewster Baker from the movie Six Pack down here, but hell we made the feature the first night out so that shut some of them up,” laughed the personable Sullivan. “I’m pretty rusty from not racing any since last September, but it felt good to be back in the car. One thing for sure is that it’s a whole lot less stressful driving a car than it is operating a racing series.”
In his season debut, Sullivan qualified for the 100-lap finale and was ultimately credited with a 17th-place finish.
Family Is The Best
Columbus, Mississippi’s Brian Rickman is no stranger to racing. He’s been around it his whole life. However, what is new to him this season is competing in the CCSDS ranks. His first year on the tour has regularly found him a long way from home, competing at several tracks he’s never seen.
The pilot of his familiar #90 said he’s had a blast on the road this year going to new places, but what he’s enjoyed most is the time that he’s got to spend with his dad, Eddie.
“We’ve had a lot of fun this year and gone to a lot of new places, and met some really good folks,” Brian Rickman commented. “I’ve probably learned more as a driver in the first-half of this year than I have in the rest of my career combined. Just racing at new places with new people teaches you so much. Out of everything though, being out here with my dad and experiencing these things together has been just awesome. It’s really meant a lot to me.”
Rickman fell short of racing his way into the finale but received a CCSDS provisional. After starting 26th on the grid, he was the first retiree from the feature.
Close But No Cigar
Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Scott Bloomquist came into the weekend as the defending COMP Cams Topless 100 champion. Additionally, he’s the only driver to ever win the race five times.
The Tennessee racer stormed to the lead on lap 34 and looked to be a contender for win number 6. However, teammate Chris Madden scooted past for the top spot on the 75th circuit. Bloomquist ultimately slipped one more spot to finish Third.
Despite not winning in the finale, he did pick up his first win of the season and the 604th of his career on Friday night during preliminary action. The triumph rewarded him with a $5,000 top prize.
600 Is The Number
Friday night’s program marked the 600th race for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, which started back in 2004. Four-time series champion Earl Pearson Jr. is the only driver to enter all 600 events.
When asked about the impressive feat, the Florida native quickly joked, “Man, you know you are old when you’ve entered 600 races with one series. Hard to believe it’s been that many. Time definitely flies by.”
Mark Your Calendars
Series and track officials announced on Saturday evening that the 28th Annual COMP Cams Topless 100 will be held on August 20-22, 2020.