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Kentucky driver chasing the Dream

Kentucky’s Steve Francis has wins at the Dirt Track World Championship, the Knoxville Nationals, the Topless 100 and even the World 100. But the Ashland, Ky., driver rolls into Eldora Speedway still chasing the Dream.

Francis — who drives the No. 15 Georgia Boot-sponsored ride for NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Clint Bowyer — has qualified for 15 of the 18 Dirt Late Model Dream features. That’s second to Scott Bloomquist’s 16. Tennessee’s Bloomquist has five Dream wins. Francis is still searching for his first victory in the $100,000-to-win event. It remains dirt late model racing’s highest payday.

“We’ve led it lap 80 before and had a flat tire,” Francis said of tough luck that always seems to find him in the 100-lap race on Eldora’s half-mile, high-banked oval. “We’ve had good runs, we just haven’t managed to win yet.”

He set quick time at the first Dream in 1994 and was making his way through the field when a mechanical failure ended his race. It’s been heartbreak and hard luck ever since. His best finish was fourth both in 2003 and 2012.

“Dumb luck. We’ve been at the front of that thing four or five times and had dumb things happen. You gotta have luck at Eldora,” he said.

Francis looks to change that starting today with a new-look Dream. The previous format included qualifying Friday (with consolation races) and racing Saturday. Now the Dream features qualifying, heat races, last chance races and twin 25-lap features on both Thursday and Friday. Saturday’s traditional schedule remains intact with heat races, consolation races and the Dream feature. Two more starting spots have also been added bringing Saturday’s starting field to 28 cars.

Francis anticipates between 100 and 110 cars this year. Last year 98 cars filled Eldora’s pits for the Dream.

“It makes you excited to be there. There’s a lot of big races in the dirt late model world, but there are really only four or five crown jewels,” Francis said. “We’ve just have yet to win the (crown jewel) we need to win, The Dream.”

So what will Francis spend that $100,000 on if he runs down his Dream win?

“I haven’t even thought about that. Probably my daughter’s education,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m not going to base my whole entire season on one weekend … just to try to get the win.”

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