Steve Francis enjoyed a solid trip to Wisconsin last week, never finishing outside the top 10 in the three events he started. But he couldn’t help thinking of what might have been if he hadn’t experienced a bout of bad luck in Saturday night’s 23rd annual USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. After finishing ninth in a World of Outlaws Late Model Series event on Aug. 4 at Shawano Speedway and fifth (from the 10th starting spot) in a 40-lap UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned feature on Aug. 5 at Cedar Lake, Francis made his presence known in Cedar Lake’s crown-jewel event. On Friday night (Aug. 6) he timed fifth-fastest out of 51 cars, won a heat and finishing fourth in the five-lap heat-winners’ dash to earn the outside second row starting spot for Saturday’s 100-lapper. Then he emerged as a contender for the $50,000 top prize when he reached third place midway through the World of Outlaws Late Model Series – until lap 59, when he brought out a caution flag after losing a right-rear wheel while running fourth.
Francis returned to the attrition-filled event one lap down and managed to salvage a sixth-place finish, but he would have loved to see the race play out without the misfortune forcing him to the pits for hasty repairs.
“I knew this was gonna be an attrition race so I just thought, ‘I’ll ride around down here (on the bottom) and then around lap 50 get going,’” said Francis. “Well, around lap 50 we got going and got to third – and then the wheel broke. Who knows what would have happened if it hadn’t?
“I went back out there because I figured there weren’t many cars left, so why not get what you can get out of it? I didn’t have any brakes and I was out there just half-throttling it, but with everybody dropping out we got a sixth.”