Two of the elite members of the Xtreme 2003 wars go side-by-side at the Shootout. Series r
Mother Nature could have been a little more cooperative. After all, nearly 100 cars had gathered in the pit area at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia, for the annual Hardee's Xtreme Shootout. The overcast skies and slightly below normal temperatures were not exactly conducive to the best racing conditions for fans and competitors. In this game, though, you have to work with what you have. Everyone there made the best of the situation.
The race is usually an "invitation only" affair for which drivers qualify based on their finishes in the regular season. Now under the auspices of the Xtreme Dirt Car series, officials decided late in the game to open the show to anyone. About a dozen previously unqualified teams took advantage of their chance to get track time at Dixie.
The series championship had already been claimed when Scott Bloomquist logged his 100th series win and scored the '03 crown. The $55,000 paycheck awaiting the shootout winner was enough incentive in this case.
After the Friday night preliminaries, the place was buzzing about one of the hottest hands in the game. Dan Schlieper, winner of the World 100 the previous month, spun early in his heat race, went to the tail, and charged back to the front, using the outside line. It was something practically unheard of at Dixie.
Don O'Neal (right) celebrates his 2003 Hardee's Xtreme Shootout victory with track owner M
Schlieper's eventual heat race win moved him to the front row for the start of the 100-lap feature on Saturday. The field, set mostly by Friday heats, needed some additional cars, and those spots were open to top finishers in Saturday B mains. The racing for position was frantic in these events. A scary moment occurred when Darren Miller's mount flipped in the fourth turn for a red flag stoppage.
The field for the 100-lap main formed behind the Late Model of Duayne Hommel, which served as the event's pace car. Hommel was seriously injured in a roadway accident heading home from his shop a few weeks before the event.
With Steve Francis and Dan Schlieper on the front row, some were expecting a Dan Schlieper rout similar to the World 100. It appeared to be headed in that direction when Schlieper took the lead and appeared in command. Periodic cautions slowed the field, including one when Francis and Don O'Neal tangled in a battle for a top 3 spot. O'Neal continued after Francis stopped, and the pair made contact again on the caution lap.
While Schlieper was in charge, there were others trying to assert themselves. O'Neal moved from 16th to 2nd. Matt Miller was in the top 10 after starting 15th, and Brian Birkhofer, a transfer from the B main, eased into the elite as well.
Schlieper continued to lead until O'Neal was able to run him down after a late race caution. O'Neal powered around a surprised Schlieper with three laps remaining and ended up in Victory Lane. It gave Pro Power engines and C.J. Rayburn chassis a one-two finish.
Darren Miller went for a wild ride during consolation action. The Illinois racer walked aw
The Late Model of Duayne Hommel served as the feature pace car. Hommel was severely injure
The weather was a bit brisk for a night of racing. Early fans prepared for the temperature
Friday night's dirt is washed away in preparation for Saturday's racing action.
Georgia racer Pete Cochran had some young helpers in the pit area, helping him prepare for
Mike Gault's car is re-scaled after the addition of the in-car camera. Gault joined the fe