BY DARREN REESE
Sun Sports Editor
BULLS GAP – Jimmy Owens vividly remembers the first time he put wheels on the high-banked dirt surface at Volunteer Speedway.
The year was 1991 and the Newport native had just won at Kingsport in a super street car the night before.
He was a little nervous about racing at what he considers his "home track" and so he asked others for some advice.
"Everybody had just told me that you've gotta run up high," Owens remembered. "Just put it up against the guard rail."
"Heck, I went out on the hot lap, hit the guard rail and cut both tires down."
That wasn't the end of Owens' crash-course initiation to Volunteer Speedway, though.
He put on a new set of tires and went back out and qualified third that night.
"Then I went out and hit the wall again," he laughed. "I had never run that close to the wall before. I knew I needed to be up there. I just got a little closer than I needed to be."
Owens has come a long way since then.
Tonight he returns to the track as part of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. He is the two-time defending champion of the national circuit and currently leads the 2013 points standings with 13 races left on the schedule.
The LOLMDS-sanctioned 10th annual "Scorcher" at Volunteer Speedway is set to begin with hotlaps at 8 p.m. this evening, followed by time trials and then the race. Grandstand admission is $25.
Owens has won the "Scorcher" three times (2008, 2010 and 2011). Billy Ogle Jr. is the defending champion.
"It's always good to come home," Owens said. "Volunteer is our home track and we have a lot of fans that always come out."
"It's always fun to race in front of the people that grew up watching me race my whole life. I don't get to see them near as often as I did about five years ago."
Owens has already raced at Bulls Gap once this season. He finished sixth in the Ray Cook Spring Nationals Series "Spring Thaw" back in March.
He qualified for the Suuthern All-Star Racing Series Scott Sexton Memorial on June 1, but rain forced the race to be stopped on lap 17 and Owens had a Lucas Oil race to run on the make-up date.
Owens has won a total of ten races this season, including six Lucas Oil events.
Still, he hasn't been particularly pleased with his 2013 performance to this point.
"We are a lot more hit and miss this season that we have been the last four or five years," Owens said. "The races we've won, we've been really good at."
"But if we've not been really good then we've been terrible."