The promotional genius of Mooney Starr was evident in May. After nearly a year of publicity, the Alltel 100-the highest paying race for dirt Modi- fieds-became reality when the 30-car field started three-wide.

This hot day in Arkansas represented only the culmination of the process. The race had been the talk of the dirt racing world since its announcement. Entries were cut off in January, capped at 400 cars. The actual number of cars that made it to the May race was 300, a far cry more than any previous Modified effort. The reduction was due in part to the commitment made by some racers who didn't know the schedule of their "home" series. When the '04 schedule was announced, point chasers were forced to withdraw.

The race fell on a weekend when the NASCAR elite were not in competition. Consequently, three top racers who have dirt racing backgrounds and seem proud of it, gathered to tag along in this event. Ken Schrader, Dave Blaney, and Bill Elliott jumped into cars for a match race and then lined up for the 100-lap main event.

They were the only racers to get a free ride. The rest of the field had to work through a process of eliminations that spanned the four previous days. Racers went through one round of time trials early, but then qualified through one of 15 heat races each night. The winners of the heats went to a qualifying feature while the runners-up went to a B main. Top finishers in the B advanced to the qualifying feature, and the top finishers of each qualifying feature made up one of three rows from the Saturday finale.

The event drew Modified racers, but the spotlight was shining on Late Model racers, some with previous Modified experience. In fact, all of the Saturday events were won by drivers currently in Late Models. Mike Marlar, a former Modified champ now racing Late Models, won the Race of the States (which featured 33 cars). Chub Frank, who has some Modified experience, won the chassis builders competition for Bob Pierce Race Cars.

The 100-lap feature was dominated by Scott Bloomquist, driving a team car with local racer Jeff Taylor. Bloomquist lapped all but four other cars to take the $100,000 check.

Promoter Mooney Starr has plans, perhaps to make the show even bigger somehow. When the time is right, the showman of the short tracks will let the world know. While we don't know what it will be, it will not be mundane. Stay tuned.

Former UMP Modified challenger Mike Marlar (blue shirt) works on his engine before the Race of the States. Marlar, a Tennessee racer who now competes in Late Models, captured the event.

Scott Bloomquist picks up a $100,000 check as the winner of the Alltel 100. Bloomquist grabbed the lead before six laps were completed. Promoter Mooney Starr (right) organized the historic event.