East Bay Raceway Park
Back-to-back for O'Neal at East Bay Winternat'ls
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 14) — Scoring a sweep of the first two Dart Winternationals events for the third time in his career, Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., led all 25 laps Tuesday at East Bay Raceway Park for his second straight $5,000 victory on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. | Complete Speedweeks coverage
O'Neal faced a few challenges from a hard-charging Austin Hubbard early in the race, but drew away to lead by a half-straightaway by the halfway point and cruised the rest of the way on a high-speed, third-mile oval that left most competitors mud-spattered.
The polesitting O'Neal, who notched his 13th career Winternationals victory, also won the first two events of the six-race miniseries in 2001 and 2002, but he wasn't in the mood to celebrate in victory lane. He tangled with fellow front-row starter Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., in turn one on the first lap, sending Babb hard into the wall and knocking him out of the race.
"The deal with me and Shannon down here just sours the whole thing," said O'Neal, who heard a few boos from the crowd and immediately took the blame for the incident. "I feel really awful about it."
Babb accepted O'Neal's apology — the winner rode his four-wheeler down to Babb's pit area following the victory lane ceremonies — and wished he would've had a chance to battle him 25 laps.
"When you put both of us together and we're both going to go into the corner as hard as we can, you're just going to have a crash, you know?" said Babb, who finished second to O'Neal on Monday night. "I've done that same thing when I was on the bottom to somebody, and felt bad about it. But it's racing."
Hubbard, the Seaford, Del., driver who started eighth in his first East Bay start for Tim Logan Racing, lost the second spot to John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., on the final lap. Blankenship, who inherited the outside front-row starting spot after Babb's departure, notched his best career East Bay finish.
Two-time Lucas Oil Series champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., making just his second start in the South Carolina-based Barry Wright Race Cars house cars, rounded out the top five finishers.
Three first-lap incidents were among four cautions. First, Babb was called for jumping a start, then the second attempted start saw O'Neal get so high in turn one that it gave Babb nowhere to go. O'Neal's car tail-whipped Babb's door and he jumped the cushion, slammed the wall and briefly went up on two wheels. He wasn't injured.
On the next starting attempted, Duke Whiseant and Terry Casey sparked a turn-four tangle that sent virtually everyone ducking for cover. Jared Landers spun after making contact with Francis, suffering front-end damage when seventh-finishing Randy Korte's car bounded of the nose of the Landers machine.
The third and final caution appeared when Eric Wells ended up facing the wrong way in turn two on the seventh lap.
The third round of the Winternationals is scheduled for Wednesday with a $7,000-to-win non-points event on the Lucas Oil Series.
Feature notes: O'Neal's Jay Dickens-powered MasterSbilt Race Cars house car is sponsored by Independence Lumber, Jones Core, Superior Cleaning Services, Optima Batteries, Seubert Calf Ranches and Tarpy Trucking. ... The checkered flag fell just after 9 p.m. ... Likely the result of being banged up in an early scramble, Terry Casey was running fifth when he had a flat tire during a lap-seven caution and had to pit to change rubber; he finished 20th after completing 17 laps. ... Seventeen of 26 starters completed 25 laps and 18 were running at the finish. ... Chad Hollenbeck was 16th in his first career feature start at East Bay. ... Duke Whiseant held the fourth spot early but slipped back on the eighth lap when Scott Bloomquist got beneath him in turn one. Whiseant dropped back several positions and ended up eighth.
Winternationals (Feb. 14): (1) Don O'Neal, (2) John Blankenship, (3) Austin Hubbard, (4) Scott Bloomquist, (5) Steve Francis, (6) Dennis Erb Jr., (7) Randy Korte, (8) Duke Whiseant, (9) Dillan White, (10) Jonathan Davenport, (11) Dan Stone, (12) Ray Cook, (13) Josh McGuire, (14) Eric Jacobsen, (15) Justin Rattliff, (16) Chad Hollenbeck, (17) Eric Wells, (18) Bobby Pierce, (19) Scott Creel, (20) Terry Casey, (21) Scott James, (22) Tyler Reddick, (23) Brandon Sheppard, (24) Jason Riggs, (25) Jared Landers, (26) Shannon Babb. Fast qualifier (among 43 cars): O'Neal, 14.402 seconds. Heat race winners: O'Neal, Casey, Babb, Blankenship. Consolation winners: Jacobsen, White. Strawberry Dash winner: Sheppard. Provisional starter: Cook.
Preliminary results (unofficial):
Dillan White won a battle of young Kentuckians starting on the front row, outrunning Justin Rattliff for the 10-lap victory. Chad Hollenbeck held third all the way to transfer to his first-ever East Bay feature while Tyler Reddick as the fourth and final transferree after squeezing through a tight spot on the second lap. Brandon Sheppard, missing the feature in his first East Bay appearance, was fifth. The first start attempt was scratched when Chad Stapleton spun high in turn one, collecting Travis Varnadore, whose car briefly climbed the wall in banging between the concrete and Stapleton's machine. Varnadore was towed off the track. Doug Blashe spun on the last lap, but it cost him a single spot.
Finish: Dillan White, Justin Rattliff, Chad Hollenbeck, Tyler Reddick, Brandon Sheppard, Victor Lee, Shelby Miles, Jim O'Hara, Doug Blashe, Chad Stapleton. Travis Varnadore. Scratched: Shane Cottle.
Eric Jacobsen zipped out to the lead on the green flag and raced to a 10-lap victory over polesitter Scott Creel, who made contact in making a lap-nine challenge. Creel finished second while teammates Scott James and Jason Riggs got the other two transfer spots in the caution-free event while former Winternationals winner Ray Cook was fifth after nearly slipping under Riggs with two laps remaining. Danny Mitchell was a distant sixth.
Finish: Eric Jacobsen, Scott Creel, Scott James, Jason Riggs, Ray Cook, Danny Mitchell, Morgan Bagley, Jack Nosbisch Jr., Leon Henderson, Chirs Brown. Scratched: Terry Naugle, Donnie Moran, Bob Geiger.
Row 7: Shane Cottle
John Blankenship used the faster outside groove to get ahead of polesitter Austin Hubbard and race to an eight-lap victory. Hubbard held second all the way with Josh McGuire and Bobby Pierce getting the other two transfer spots. Dillan White challenged Pierce but settled for fifth. Brandon Sheppard, making his East Bay debut, was sixth while scheduled polesitter Tyler Reddick was seventh. Reddick had to start on the tail after switching to a backup car because of an accident in time trials.
Finish: John Blankenship, Austin Hubbard, Josh McGuire, Bobby Pierce, Dillan White, Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Reddick, Travis Varnadore, Victor Lee, Doug Blashe.
Outside front-row starter Duke Whiseant outjumped polesitter Shannon Babb, but Babb was ready to pounce when Whiseant got too high in turn three on the first lap. Babb slid past Whiseant, then held off the runner-up's occasional challenges in grabbing the victory. Dennis Erb Jr. held the third spot all the way while fourth-finishing Dan Stone got the final transfer spot. The night's first caution appeared on the fifth lap when Shane Cottle lost power and slowed on the backstretch.
Finish: Shannon Babb, Duke Whiseant, Dennis Erb Jr., Dan Stone, Justin Rattliff, Chad Stapleton, Chad Hollenbeck, Shelby Miles, Jim O'Hara, Todd Frank, Shane Cottle.
Terry Casey won a tight, early-race duel with polesitter Randy Korte and raced to an eight-lap victory. Steve Francis got second from Korte on the third lap, but he never took a serious shot at Casey in the remaining laps. Korte ended up third, hot on the heels of Francis, while Eric Wells was a distant fourth as the last driver transferring to the feature. Wells barely held off Scott Creel while fourth-starting Jason Riggs slipped back to sixth at the finish. Donnie Moran never got up to speed and pulled to the infield without taking a lap in the caution-free prelim.
Finish: Terry Casey, Steve Francis, Randy Korte, Eric Wells Scott Creel, Jason Riggs, Jack Nosbisch Jr., Danny Mitchell, Leon Henderson, Mark Andersen, Donnie Moran
Fast qualifier and polesitter Don O'Neal jumped into the lead and cruised to victory, earning the pole for the night's main event. O'Neal was nearly a straightaway ahead at halfway in going unchallenged to the checkers. Fourth-starting Scott Bloomquist, who boldly took the inside groove from fellow second-row starter Jonathan Davenport in turn one on the first lap, finished second after taking that spot from front-row starter Jared Landers on lap two. Landers was third while Davenport, far behind the frontrunners, held on to the fourth and final transfer spot with three cars hot on his tail. Terry Naugle dropped out but there were no cautions.
Finish: Don O'Neal, Scott Bloomquist, Jared Landers, Jonathan Davenport, Eric Jacobsen, Scott James, Ray Cook, Morgan Bagley, Chris Brown, Terry Naugle. Scratched: Bob Geiger.
Fresh off a victory in last night's opener, Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., topped 43 qualifiers Tuesday evening at East Bay Raceway Park in the second round of the 36th annual Dart Winternational.
O'Neal turned a lap of 14.402 seconds at the third-mile oval in time trials preceding the night's $5,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event. O'Neal, gunning for his second straight Winternationals victory and 13th overall, starts on the pole of the first heat.
Other heat race polesitters: Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., and Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif. Reddick, however, will lose that spot if he's forced to a backup car. He got into the turn-one wall on his second qualifying lap and his damaged car was towed to the pits. Bob Geigler scratched after time trials.
The night's 25-lap feature will be preceded by two laps of time trials apiece, four heat races, two consolations and the last-chance Strawberry Dash. A warm, sunny day has turned into a beautiful evening with temperatures in the high 60s.
After wrapping up before 9:10 p.m. last night, officials are allowing two laps in time trials instead of one. ... Lap counts are eight for heats, 10 for consies and 25 for the main event. ... Among new entries: Clint Bowyer Racing teammates Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark.; Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.; and Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del. ... Davenport is making his Super Late Model debut at East Bay, although he's won in Crate Late Model action. ... Ray Cook will drive the two-seat Late Model tonight for some lucky fans. ... Among Monday's drivers who have pulled out of the pits was last night's fast qualifier and third-place finisher, Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn. ... Several drivers made their first East Bay features Monday, including Bobby Pierce, Morgan Bagley and Shelby Miles. ... Four nights of action follow with $7,000-to-win events on Wednesday and Thursday and $10,000-to-win events on Friday and Saturday; the final two events are Lucas Oil Series points races. ... Don't miss all of DirtonDirt.com's Georgia-Florida Speedweeks coverage.
Heat race lineups
Row 1: Don O'Neal, Jared Landers
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Scott Bloomquist
Row 3: Ray Cook, Eric Jacobsen
Row 4: Scott James, Morgan Bagley
Row 5: Chris Brown, Terry Naugle
Row 6: Bob Geiger
Row 1: Randy Korte, Terry Casey
Row 2: Steve Francis, Jason Riggs
Row 3: Eric Wells, Jack Nosbisch Jr.
Row 4: Donnie Moran, Scott Creel
Row 5: Danny Mitchell, Leon Henderson
Row 6: Mark Andersen
Row 1: Shannon Babb, Duke Whiseant
Row 2: Dan Stone, Dennis Erb Jr.
Row 3: Justin Rattliff, Shelby Miles
Row 4: Chad Stapleton, Chad Hollenbeck
Row 5: Jim O'Hara, Shane Cottle
Row 6: Todd Frank
Row 1: Austin Hubbard, John Blankenship
Row 2: Josh McGuire, Bobby Pierce
Row 3: Travis Varnadore, Dillan White
Row 4: Doug Blashe, Brandon Sheppard
Row 5: Tyler Reddick-x, Victor Lee
x-Lost pole after switching to backup car
Time trials (unofficial)
- Don O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.402
- Randy Korte (81), Highland, Ill., 14.466
- Jared Landers (5), Batesville, Ark., 14.482
- Terry Casey (42), New London, Wis., 14.846
- Jonathan Davenport (15), Blairsville, Ga., 14.850
- Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.862
- Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 14.865
- Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 15.012
- Jason Riggs (81jr), Harrisburg, Ill., 15.048
- Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., 15.096
- Eric Jacobsen (5), Seacliff Beach, Calif., 15.130
- Jack Nosbisch Jr. (01), Riverview, Fla., 15.165
- Donnie Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 15.172
- Scott James (81), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 15.178
- Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas., 15.318
- Scott Creel (31), Franklinton, La., 15.373
- Chris Brown (21), Spring, Texas, 15.511
- Danny Mitchell (18D), Clarksburg, W.Va., 15.583
- Terry Naugle (71), Port Royal, Pa., 16.038
- Leon Henderson (10), Laurel, Miss., 16.048
- Bob Geiger (38), Laurel, Del., 16.112
- Mark Andersen (85), Blanchard, Mich., 16.167
- Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 14.654
- Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 14.776
- John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 14.777
- Duke Whiseant (A1), Texarkana, Ark., 14.777
- Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 14.866
- Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 14.969
- Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.978
- Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.998
- Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 15.015
- Josh McGuire (41), Grayson, Ky., 15.117
- Shelby Miles (76), Bloomington, Ind., 15.131
- Dillan White (54), Crofton, Ky., 15.138
- Chad Stapleton (32), Edinburgh, Ind., 15.193
- Travis Varnadore (51), Dover, Fla., 15.223
- Chad Hollenbeck (4DS), Kingsley, Pa., 15.249
- Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.290
- Jim O’Hara (44), Daleville, Pa., 15.474
- Doug Blashe (1), Marion, Wis., 15.483
- Shane Cottle (11), Kokomo, Ind., 15.554
- Victor Lee (4), Stanford, Ky., 15.556
- Todd Frank (21), Green Bay, Wis., 15.910
Correction: Fixes second round of time trials.