The world of professional sports is filled with classic Type A personalities, the control freaks who have to have their hands in everything and can trust no one. Think Bill Parcells in the NFL and Pat Riley in the NBA. Scott Bloomquist isn't like that. Then there are the drivers and athletes who take the other tact. They prefer to concentrate solely on what they do best and allow others, the crew chief and tire specialist, for example, to handle all the other details. There are plenty of successful people who fall into this camp, too, but Bloomquist isn't one of them, either.
Somehow, the Super Dirt Late Model driver and team owner manages to be both. He is famously hands-on, to the point of building his own chassis in order to get exactly what he wants, but he's also willing to give those select few he trusts vital roles in his operation and he allows them to do their jobs. It's an odd mix of obsessive compulsive and laid-back, but Bloomquist has made it work to the point that he's arguably the most successful and popular Dirt Late Model driver working today.
It's hard to imagine that...
It's hard to imagine that at just 42 years old, Bloomquist has been racing-and winning-for 25 years.
It's hard to imagine that at just 42 years old, Bloomquist has already been racing professionally for 25 years. The Dirtrax Dominator, as Bloomquist is known, has already claimed an astounding 460-plus wins, and the majority of those were big-time, big-money events. Winning that many races, of course, requires a refined skill set.
"As a driver," he says, "when the track gets slick is where I've always shined. There are other great drivers out there that are really good when the track gets slick, but I still think that is an area where I still have an edge. Plus, I've always felt I have a good feel for the car, and what it needs. You have to be able to tune the car both to be fast and to be comfortable for you to run, and I've been lucky I've always been able to do that."
Winning is what Bloomquist does best. A few years ago, he abandoned the idea of following a single series and now cherry-picks the races he wants to run. Chasing points, he says, is overrated, and now he is free to race the tracks and events he prefers-no matter who sanctions the race-and it allows him to concentrate only on collecting wins. At press time, Bloomquist had competed in seven national events this year and won an amazing four.
"If you are trying to operate off of your race winnings," he says, "the only way to make money is to go after the really big races. Plus, I think a racer should be able to pick and choose where he wants to race. I remember winning the World 100 year before last. We were following a series at the time, and the very next week they sent us to this track that was a dump. I was coming off this high of racing at a great track and winning in front of 40,000 people against 200 other cars, and now we were at this little track with hardly any fans in the stands just because the track paid the series for a date. It was like getting pulled out of paradise and getting stuck in the gutter.
"So I decided I wasn't going to do it anymore. A racer shouldn't have to follow a series just because it pays points if he doesn't want to. You shouldn't have to tear up your equipment at a dump of a track for no money if you don't want to."
This season, Bloomquist plans to race only 16 events, but you can bet he will arrive with both guns loaded for every one of those. After winning nearly 500 races, he says he only enjoys racing when he knows he's going up against the top competition. Of course, by limiting the number of races he enters and only racing against the best competition, that only raises the stakes higher.
"That's what I live for," he says. "I think I've gotten a lot smarter about how to drive a race car, too. Now, I only drive hard when I need to. I used to run every lap like it was the last, but when you do that you will find yourself in the pits a lot more. I see a lot of drivers doing that today. What you have to learn is there is no reason to go any faster than you need to. Stay out of trouble and keep your car together so you will be around for the finish. Every part on the race car is on a clock. You can either accelerate that clock by how you drive or you can slow it down. Racing isn't just about driving fast; I've learned you also have to drive smart."
For years, Bloomquist raced cars built by the big chassis manufacturers, but they were never the same chassis that were sold to the public. Before a new chassis even made it to the track, he made numerous changes that he had developed over years of racing.
"I've always been working on ways to make a chassis work better and also to make it easier to work with," he says. "Some of the ideas I've developed have gotten out into the market, and some people still don't know about them. It finally got to the point where I decided it would be easier to just build my own chassis from scratch than it would be to continue modifying somebody else's."
Bloomquist is not a driver...
Bloomquist is not a driver who prefers to leave all the details to his crew and concentrate solely on driving. He's involved with every aspect of preparing his race cars.
That decision to increase his control over what he raced marked the beginning of Bloomquist Chassis, the business that really isn't. When Bloomquist began building chassis in his Tennessee shop a few years ago, he also put a "Bloomquist Chassis" decal on the side of his race car. Soon, he says, he began getting so many calls about selling someone a chassis he had to take it off. Bloomquist Chassis was never intended to become a high-volume factory, and Bloomquist says he has no desire to compete with the likes of GRT or MasterSbilt on the number of cars at a given track from week to week. Instead, his operation will help a select few racers with every aspect of their racing program.
"We are only going to do this with a few select teams, so we are going to be able to provide a lot more than just chassis or cars," he explains. "It's more of an exclusive, confidential-type program. If I start working with a team I know I can trust, I'll share my setups, help with their driving, everything.
"But to get a car from me is expensive," he continues. "You are going to spend quite a bit more for a car from my place. First of all, you cannot just buy a chassis. It's going to have to be a complete car-and you have to buy two to prove to me that you are serious. From that point, I'm going to work with you closely and include you in a lot of things. There are a lot of things I'm doing that I don't think a lot of other people are on top of, and I'll share all of that."
Bloomquist's reluctance to sell a bare chassis is just another sign of his desire to control every situation. One can hardly blame him. As he explains, his chassis is the result of decades of development. If he were to sell it to just anyone with a couple grand in his pocket, there is no doubt that cheaper knockoffs would be appearing everywhere. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but flattery doesn't pay the bills.
Bloomquist is easily one of...
Bloomquist is easily one of the most popular drivers anytime he pulls up at a racetrack. Critics may dismiss that to the innovative T-shirt designs he sells on his souvenir rig, but Bloomquist says it all comes back to winning.
So what's different about a Bloomquist chassis? The answer, according to Bloomquist, isn't any one thing. Instead, it's many small, detailed things that overall make the car easier to race.
"I think my cars are just well built," Bloomquist says. "For example, the car that I [used to win] the Dirt Track World Championship last year at Knoxville is 5 years old. We can add updates when we need to, and it's still capable of winning. The frames are built so well that you don't have cracking problems. A lot of other chassis that you can buy, after 8 or 10 races you have to get a welder because they are cracking out. My chassis will hold up and won't start falling apart after racing on a particularly rough track.
"The other thing we try to do is make the chassis as user-friendly as possible. I came up with a Panhard bar adjustment that you adjust along a radius. That way, when you make a height change, you don't necessarily have to change the length. When you have to make changes in a hurry, it's easier to make a mistake that can cost you. So we try to build the chassis so you can make a change without affecting anything else."
Bloomquist also requires anyone who buys into his program to purchase a complete car built to his specs because he knows what works and wants to know that any Bloomquist chassis racing out there is capable of winning. Part of the credit for his incredible winning record comes from a complete understanding of how a race car works when it is on the racetrack.
"My dad was an airline pilot, and people he worked with told me that he was one of the best. He always aced his simulator tests, and I once asked him how he did it. 'What makes you different from all the other guys?' He told me that he didn't just know when he flipped a switch that the trim tabs moved. He knew every wire, every relay, every mechanism involved from the switch to the trim tab. He knew how every part on that airplane worked, and that helped him become a better pilot.
"I've thought about that a lot, and I think it applies to racing. If I have something that's not working, I don't just take it out and send it back to the manufacturer. I want to take it down and figure out why it doesn't work. And a lot of times I've been able to figure out why it doesn't work for them. That's helped me build a pretty good relationship with a lot of parts manufacturers, and the back-and-forth flow of information has helped our racing program."
As he has matured as a driver,...
As he has matured as a driver, Bloomquist says he no longer drives every lap like it's the last. That, he says, is a good way to wear out your equipment or wind up in a wreck. "You only drive as fast as you need to win," he says.
The Most Popular Man in Dirt Racing
Before The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway's Colossal 100, it was interesting to see just how many of the fans in attendance were wearing something from his souvenir truck. His souvenirs and his cars-festooned with his trademark skull and crossbones and even a yin/yang symbol-certainly stand out from the crowd, but one has to wonder if this really is his signature style or just a clever marketing gimmick to sell more shirts.
"All that stuff has come naturally," he explains. "I've always considered myself a bit of an artist. Back when I was running the 18 with Barry Wright, I did my own flames. I designed the flames myself and then had my decal guy cut them for me. But after a while I noticed that every car started looking like mine. I saw myself all over the racetrack. It got to where I didn't stand out.
"When Barry and I split, I took all my stuff back home to work on it, and I decided it was time to regroup and start over. I knew I wanted to make a change, and that included my number and the way my car looked.
"I'll never forget. [Chassis builder] Joe Garrison came up to me somewhere and said, 'You can't change your number!' I said, 'What do you mean? I can do whatever I want.' And he said, 'But you are number 18. Everybody knows that.' I said, 'No, I'm Scott Bloomquist, and if they haven't figured that out yet, that's an even better reason to change my number.'"
So, in 1997, Bloomquist changed to his now-iconic Zero and adopted the black, green, and sometimes white color scheme he has used in different variations over the years. The "No Weak Links" motto you often see came from conversations about strengthening his team. Bloomquist remembers saying that the team was only as strong as its weakest member, and somewhere along the way he threw out the line that the team could afford no weak links. The message stuck, and it eventually became his mantra.
"I already had in my head that I wanted to use a skull," he says. "So I was already working on a skull and crossbones design. When the phrase 'No Weak Links' came up I added a chain and shackles to the bottom bones, and it all came together. It all just kind of happened that way.
After claiming the $50,000...
After claiming the $50,000 winner's share in the Colossal 100, Bloomquist was all smiles. In his world, if you aren't racing to win, there is no reason to go racing.
"It's funny," he continues. "I'll see grandmothers wearing a T-shirt with the skull and crossbones on it, and you will see a guy wearing a shirt with the yin/yang symbol. I've met a man in a biker gang who has 'No Weak Links' in a tattoo. I don't think I draw any single type of fan. They are all types. But you have to remember, you can have all that stuff with cool shirts and everything, but it doesn't do any good unless you are winning. You can't have 'No Weak Links' on your race car and be the weakest guy there."
In Bloomquist's world, winning is the bottom line. Winning is what he lives for, and it is what pays the bills. It's the reason he tries to control the track when he drives, controls how his cars are built, even controls how his customer's cars are built. He says it has taken him years, but he has a team in place that he believes is the strongest he's ever had. He has a trusted crew chief, a trusted fabricator building his chassis to his specifications, and an engine builder building engines the way he likes them (lots of power but with super-smooth delivery). At just 42 years of age, he appears set to keep winning big races for many years to come.
"That's what keeps me going, the competition at the big events," Bloomquist says. "Man, it takes everything falling into place to win [a big-money event]. The first time I went to the World 100 in 1988, I won it. I went back and won it again in 1990. But then I didn't win it again for the next 10 years. I was this close 10 times but couldn't win it. The level of competition and intensity in those races is fantastic-I'll always love that rush. When I finally won it again after missing out for 10 years, it felt just as good as the first win. You can never take winning for granted. That's what keeps me going."