Blankenship charges to Lucas Oil win at Wythe
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
RURAL RETREAT, Va. (June 23) — John Blankenship of Williamson, W.V., was the last driver to pull in the pit area Saturday afternoon at Wythe Raceway, but at the end of the night he was the first driver to cross the finish line in the half-mile oval’s Blue Ridge 50.
Blankenship charged forward from his 14th-starting spot in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event and took the lead from Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., on lap 36 of the 50-lapper. | Video | Slideshow
Blankenship later held on to the top spot through a green-white-checkers finish, topping Davenport to earn $10,000 for his second career Lucas Oil Series victory.
"We started on the outside of the seventh row and we had to get by a lot of tough drivers. The car was just awesome from the start," said Blankenship, who cracked the top five by lap 20. "Once we got to the top five, we rolled around (Chris) Madden and Dale (McDowell). Then we got to Davenport and I knew it would be a tough race with him, but we raced hard there for a while until I was finally able to clear him off of two.”
"I can't thank the crew enough. Tom Buckingham, and everybody did a great job on the car after time trials. We qualified poorly, but we passed some cars in the heat, so I knew we might have a good car for the feature.”
Davenport, who led the race’s first 35 laps from the pole, topped Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., in a close battle for the runner-up finish. Behind McDowell, Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., came from the 20th starting position to finish fourth, just ahead of Kennie Compton Jr. of Bland, Va., who was the highest finishing home-state driver in the fifth position.
Completing the top 10 were Vic Hill of Morristown, Tenn.; Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C.; Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn.; points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn.; and Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky.
Notes: Blankenship’s Rocket Chassis is powered by a Cornett Racing Engine with sponsorship from Coal America's Energy, Todd Case Trucking, Fast Lane, VP Race Fuels, Bear Cove Village, Integra Shocks. … Blankenship’s first Lucas Oil Series win came last year at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway. He charged from 17th to win that race. … Don O’Neal, the Martinsville, Ind., driver who’s won eight races on this year’s tour, finished outside the top 10 for the second consecutive race in the 13th spot. … Fourteenth-place finisher Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., won the first leg of the tour’s weekend doubleheader Friday night at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. … The tour’s next event is a $10,000-to-win race July 1 at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.
Lucas Oil @ Wythe: (1) John Blankenship, (2) Jonathan Davenport, (3) Dale McDowell, (4) Ray Cook, (5) Kennie Compton Jr., (6) Vic Hill, (7) Chris Madden, (8) Scott Bloomquist, (9) Jimmy Owens, (10) Eric Wells, (11) Ricky Weeks, (12) Tyler Reddick, (13) Don O'Neal, (14) Steve Francis, (15) Chris Ferguson, (16) Ty Dillon, (17) Austin Hubbard, (18) Donald Bradsher, (19) Justin Labonte, (20) Earl Pearson Jr., (21) Johnny Pursley, (22) Mike Marlar, (23) Brett Miller, (24) Jared Landers. Fast qualifier (among 29 cars): Reddick, 16.077 seconds. Heat race winners: Davenport, Hill, Reddick, McDowell. Consolation race winners: Landers, Bradsher. Provisional starters: O'Neal, Pearson.