Columbus racer recalls Jackson 100 glory


Tonight at Brownstown Speedway will be the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned 40th Annual Jackson 100, paying $15,000 to win.

Also on the card will be a $1,000-to-win feature event for both the modifieds and super stocks.

Columbus’ Russ Petro was the first two-time winner of the race in 1982 and 1983. Petro and Scott Bloomquist are the only two drivers in the 39-year history of the Jackson 100 to win the event in back-to-back years.

Bloomquist, who like Petro is a member of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame, has done the feat three times in the history of the event winning in consecutive occasions in 1990-91, 2010-11 and 2016-17.

Petro, now 75, recalls the days of winning the most prestigious dirt late model race at Brownstown and in the state of Indiana.

“It makes me feel good because I know he (Bloomquist) is a great driver,” he said. “There are some people that don’t like him, but he’s got everybody yelling for him or against him.

“I should have won the first four (Jackson 100s),” he added. “I led a lot of the first two. Charlie (Swartz) and I had a good race in 1980. I was leading and got caught behind a lapped car, and he (Swartz) got around me. Then he put the bumper on the guy to get him out of the way, and then I got back around him. We were running good and went into a corner and hit a hole and broke an axle and we were done. The second race I can’t talk a whole lot about, but we should have won it, too.”

Swartz went on to win the first Jackson 100 ever held.

Petro started driving the famous K1NG car owned by Fred King of Indianapolis in 1980 based on a recommendation from Hall of Fame chassis builder C.J. Rayburn of Whiteland. After Petro replaced Ray Godsey in the King ride, Petro and King visited Rayburn’s race shop.

“C.J. had a car that had been wrecked, and Fred and I went up there and bought it for like $1,000, 1,500,” Petro said. “We had to reclip it.”

In 1982-83, Petro dominated the late model racing scene in Indiana and Kentucky, winning 62 feature events overall. The biggest win of this career, however, came outside of the area in Hagerstown, Maryland, that paid $12,000 to win in 1983.

“We never left the garage where we didn’t expect to win when we got to the track,” he said.

Petro was known for his mechanical ability, too. Only one time in his career he has not built his own engine.

“Back then, you could build an engine for $6,500 to 7,000,” he said. “Nowadays, you’re looking at $30,000 to 40,000. I won a lot of races with a 380-cubic-inch motor. I think the biggest one we ever ran that I built myself was a 406.”

In his record-setting run in 1982 and 1983, Petro used the same car both years.

“That was probably the best car I ever had. To be on the list of Jackson 100 winners with Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer, Jeff Purvis and everybody else who has won, it is quite an honor,” said Petro, who plans to be on hand tonight for the 40th annual race. “There will be a lot of good cars there and a big crowd. That’s the way it should be for this race.”

Defending Jackson 100 winner Bobby Pierce is expected to be on hand to battle with some of the nation’s top dirt late model drivers.

Jonathan Davenport, who won the World 100 at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on Sept. 7, currently leads the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship points standings and will be racing along with seven-time Jackson 100 winner Scott Bloomquist and four-time winner Don O’Neal of Martinsville.

Bloomquist, who missed three months earlier this season due to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident, returns to one of his favorite racetracks along with teammate Chris Madden, who had an August hot streak of winning three straight late model crown jewel events. Madden will be making his first appearance at Brownstown in 12 years.

Other Lucas Oil regulars who will be on hand include Tim McCreadie, Josh Richards, Tyler Erb, Jimmy Owens, Devin Moran, Earl Pearson Jr., Hudson O’Neal, Shanon Buckingham, Kyle Bronson, Stormy and Johnny Scott and Billy Moyer Jr.

Owens is coming off of a $40,000 victory in the Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals at Knoxville, Iowa, last weekend when he won the event for the second year in a row. Brandon Sheppard finished second to Owens, followed by Hudson O’Neal, Devin Moran and Kyle Bronson.

For information on tonight’s Jackson 100, go to

This week in racing history

From 40 years ago in 1979 at Paragon Speedway, the sprint car feature went to Frank Hollingsworth over Allen Barr, Danny Smith, Tony Solomito and Walt Catalier.

From 30 years ago in 1989 at Brownstown, Scott McKeand won the street stock special over Tom Seadler, John Abel, Tim Clark and Mike Fields. Ron Hoover took the bomber feature special over Scott Smith, Tom Allman, Clifton Barron and Bret Ezzo.

James Essex writes a motorsports notebook for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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