GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 16) — Topside Timmy was out in full force Thursday night at East Bay Raceway Park.
Using the extreme outside line around the third-mile oval to his advantage, Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., blasted from third to first on a lap-23 restart and never looked back en route to capturing the 45-lap Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature in the third round of the 41st annual Wrisco Winternationals.
McCreadie, 42, completed a stirring march forward from the 18th starting spot to claim the $7,000 victory in his Sweeteners Plus-sponsored Longhorn house car. He became the first driver to win a Winternationals feature from 18th or worse since Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., on Feb. 7, 2009.
“I didn’t know at the beginning that would happen,” McCreadie of his rally to the front after failing to crack the top 10 in the week’s first two events and then transferring through a consolation race. “I’m not gonna say it’s been a struggle — we’ve had terrible draws which put us in the mud too much (for qualifying), and I can’t seem to get the car on the racetrack when it’s that wet with the grit. When (the surface) starts to clean up and slows down like that (Thursday’s icy-slick feature surface), I feel really good.”
McCreadie found himself sitting in third place behind leader Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., when caution flags flew twice on lap 23. He immediately swung to the outside on the second restart and powered by both drivers to assume command for good.
With the race running caution-free the rest of the way, McCreadie pulled away to notch his ninth career Lucas Oil Series victory but first since committing to the national tour full-time last season. It was his third career Winternationals triumph.
Making his first start of the ’17 Winternationals, O’Neal, 52, settled for a runner-up finish in Clint Bowyer’s Club 29 Race Car after racing out of the fourth starting spot to lead laps 16-23.
Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who started from the pole and led the first six laps, faded to 10th after a lap-eight restart but rallied to salvage a third-place finish in the Best Performance Motorsports XR1 Rocket.
Outside front-row starter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished fourth after fading out of the top 10 early in the distance and 19th-starting David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., was fifth after climbing as high as third.
Bronson slipped back to sixth at the finish after nearly reaching the lead midway through the race. He made a bid to overtake O’Neal for the lead on lap 23 but spun from contact in turn three; though he kept moving and retained his spot for the restart (Hudson O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., hit the rear end of Bronson’s spinning car and was left sitting on the track), he wasn’t able to mount another challenge.
McCreadie executed a celebratory donut in turn four and pounded the roof of his car in excitement in victory lane after claiming his first Lucas Oil Series checkered flag since July 25, 2012, at Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon, N.Y.
“I didn’t think we’d win, but we just kept coming up through there,” said McCreadie, who snapped a 48-race winless drought in Georgia-Florida Speedweeks competition dating back to Feb. 20, 2013, at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla. “When that yellow come out (on lap 23) I thought, Well, maybe we were in like seventh or eighth or ninth, and I looked over and I saw O’Neal on the board (leading) and I thought, What the heck? Where did everybody go that was up here?
“I just thought, I’m gonna get stuck on the outside, so my only chance is to maybe pack that cushion in a little (during the caution period) …and it stuck (on the restart). I felt better up there, so I just said, ‘Well, I’ll just stay up here unless somebody passes me.’ ”
After failing to win a Lucas Oil Series feature in 2016 despite finishing third in the points standings, McCreadie was thrilled to put a victory on his ledger so early in the new season.
“I gotta just be thankful,” McCreadie said. “It’s hard when you’re struggling. I’ve tried to keep a great attitude as best I possibly can, but I’m not young. It’s hard to not look at the sport and say, ‘Man, what’s going on here? Some of these guys are making it look easy now.’
“So just to come out and do that this early with Sweeteners (Plus) on board with a whole new deal with Longhorn Chassis, Pro Power Engines and Penske Shocks, it’s pretty neat. We still got a lot of loose ends to tie up, but for tonight we’re gonna be happy.”
O’Neal was unable to end a long series winless streak of his own — dating back to April 24, 2015, at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pa. — but his second-place performance gave him reason to smile.
“At least we led some laps,” said O’Neal, whose last Winternationals triumph came in 2013. “I think we might have a chance here the next couple nights. All the hard work everybody’s done this winter, it’s paying off.”
O’Neal felt he mistakenly left the outside wide open to McCreadie on the lap-23 restart, but he couldn’t dispute T-Mac’s speed.
“I figured the top was gonna be dominant down here (in turns one and two) and then there on that restart they (his crew) was telling me to go to the bottom,” O’Neal said. “I wasn’t wanting to, but I went ahead. After the first restart (when) I couldn’t stay down there, I should’ve known I should’ve went back to the top, but hindsight’s 50-50.
“But Timmy done a good job being on the outside and doing what he done.”
The 28-year-old Richards, meanwhile, felt fortunate to tough out a podium finish.
“We weren’t expecting the track to slow down that much and we were a ton tight getting into the corner,” said Richards, who won Tuesday’s feature. “I just could not steer at all, and if I drove hard it would just push that much harder. I just tried to get it bent and pointed the best that I could and get back up through there.”
The competitive race boasted four different leaders, including 15-year-old Michael Lake of Uniontown, Pa., who bolted forward from the third starting spot to sail around the outside of Richards for the lead top spot on lap seven. The first-time entrant in Super Late Model action at East Bay ultimately ceded the lead to O’Neal on lap 16 and then saw his upset bid end on lap 23 when he tangled and spun between turns three and four with Dennis Erb Jr. while battling for fourth.
Five caution flags slowed the event.
The first yellow flag waved on lap four when Davey Johnson of Latrobe, Pa., slowed in turn four. Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., drew a caution on the ensuing restart when he slowed in turn one and another yellow flew on lap eight when Colton Flinner of Allison Park, Pa., got turned around on the frontstretch. The final cautions, on lap 23, were triggered by the Lake-Erb incident and two stricken cars — Hudson O’Neal’s in turn three and the machine driven by Corey Conley of Wellsburg, W.Va., who was left disable in turn two while running sixth — on the ensuing restart.
Drivers who rallied from lap-23 pit stops to claim top-10 finishes were Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who finished seventh, and Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who placed ninth after moving from 21st to fourth before a flat right-front tire forced him to visit his pit crew.
Preliminary notes and results:
Strawberry Dash results
Finish: Ricky Weiss, Zack Dohm, Doug Horton, Doug Drown, Dustin Linville, Craig Wolford, Tyler Carpenter, Austin Rettig, Greg Oakes, Todd Frank
DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash lineup
Row 1: Zack Dohm, Doug Drown
Row 2: Doug Horton, Ricky Weiss
Row 3: Freddie Carpenter, Austin Rettig
Row 4: Dustin Linville, John Gardner
Row 5: Greg Oakes, Todd Frank
Zipping around the bottom of the racetrack, Tim McCreadie slipped ahead of polesitter Schoot Bloomquist to take an early lead. With McCreadie pulling away from the field, Doug Drown and Davey Johnson shot ahead of Bloomquist down the backstretch to round out the podium at the halfway point. As the race neared the checkers Bloomquist, Johnson and Drown went three-wide for the third-place spot, with Bloomquist moving in to third. McCreadie won the consolation, with Johnson and Bloomquist transferring to the main event.
Finish (top three transfer): Tim McCreadie, Davey Johnson, Scott Bloomquist, Doug Drown, Ricky Weiss, Timothy Culp, Gordy Gundaker, Earl Pearson Jr., Mason Zeigler, Austin Rettig, Craig Wolford, Nick Davis, John Gardner, Pancho Lawler
A yellow flag waved on the opening lap for a turn-two tangle that left Brian Ligon turned around in the bottom of the racetrack. Zack Dohm led the opening lap, as third-starting Dustin Linville rolled the outside to take the lead one circuit later. A second yellow flag flew on lap two when Linville got in to the turn-one wall. Inheriting the lead, Steve Francis pulled away on the restart, as Jonathan Davenport began charging around the outside to move in to a transfer spot a the halfway mark. Francis won the first consolation, David Breazeale holding off Davenport to finish second. Davenport took the third and final transfer spot.
Finish (top three transfer): Steve Francis, David Breazeale, Jonathan Davenport, Zack Dohm, Doug Horton, Gregg Satterlee, Freddie Carpenter, Chad Hollenbeck, Colton Flinner, Shan Smith, Brian Ligon, Dustin Linville, Greg Oakes, Todd Frank, Stephen Breeding
(12 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Zack Dohm, Greg Oakes
Row 2: Steve Francis, Dustin Linville
Row 3: Gregg Satterlee, Stephen Breeding
Row 4: Jonathan Davenport, Freddie Carpenter
Row 5: David Breazeale, Brian Ligon
Row 6: Doug Horton, Chad Hollenbeck
Row 7: Todd Frank, Colton Flinner
Row 8: Shan Smith
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Davey Johnson
Row 2: Tim McCreadie, Doug Drown
Row 3: Craig Wolford, Pancho Lawler
Row 4: Timothy Culp, Gordy Gundaker
Row 5: Mason Zeigler, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 6: Ricky Weiss, Nick Davis
Row 7: John Gardner, Austin Rettig
Polesitter Tim Dohm edged ahead of fellow front-row starter Don O’Neal to lead the opening lap, with a yellow flag waving when third-starting Nick Davis spun exiting turn two. O’Neal slid ahead of Dohm in turn two to take the lead on the fourth lap, as Austin Hubbard and Jared Miley battled for third. Pulling away, O’Neal won picked up the heat race win, with Dohm holding on to second. Hubbard edged out Miley to run third, with Miley taking the fourth and final transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Don O’Neal, Tim Dohm, Austin Hubbard, Jared Miley, Davey Johnson, Doug Drown, Pancho Lawler, Gordy Gundaker, Earl Pearson Jr., Nick Davis, Austin Rettig
Taking the track late, slated polesitter Scott Bloomquist was sent to the tail of the field for the start. Outside polesitter Jimmy Owens took an early lead, with a yellow flag waving on lap three when Mason Zeigler spun coming out of turn four. Owens held his lead through the restart, as seventh-starting Tim McCreadie charged in to the third-place spot. A second yellow flag flew on lap seven when Craig Wolford spun on the frontstretch. Ricky Weiss, Darrell Langian and Bob Gardner battled for a transfer spot on the ensuing restart, with Weiss slowing to draw a caution on lap nine. Owens won the third heat, with Conley and Lanigan rounding out the podium. Gardner held off Bloomquist to finish fourth and transfer to the feature.
Finish (top four transfer): Jimmy Owens, Corey Conley, Darrell Lanigan, Bob Gardner, Scott Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie, Craig Wolford, Timothy Culp, Mason Zeigler, Ricky Weiss, John Gardner
Working the high side of the racetrack, polesitter Michael Lake jumped to an early lead, as Hudson O’Neal and Dennis Erb Jr. battled for the runner-up spot. O’Neal pulled alongside Lake down the backstretch on lap five, attempting to slide ahead of the race leader out of turn four. O’Neal’s efforts were thwarted by Erb, who took the runner-up spot on lap eight. Lake picked up the heat race win, with Erb finishing runner-up. O’Neal ran third, with Kenny Pettyjohn grabbing the fourth and final transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Michael Lake, Dennis Erb Jr., Hudson O’Neal, Kenny Pettyjohn, Greg Oakes, Dustin Linville, Stephen Breeding, Freddie Carpenter, Brian Ligon, Chad Hollenbeck, Colton Flinner
Polesitter Josh Richards charged to the lead at the drop of the green flag, as Boom Briggs shot from ahead of Kyle Bronson to take the third-place spot. As the race reached the halfway mark, a close battle ensued for the final transfer spot as Bronson slipped ahead of Zack Dohm on the sixth lap. Distancing himself from the field, Richards won the first heat, with G.R. Smith holding on to his second-place starting spot. Briggs ran third, with Bronson finishing fourth to transfer to the feature.
Finish (top four transfer): Josh Richards, G.R. Smith, Boom Briggs, Kyle Bronson, Zack Dohm, Steve Francis, Gregg Satterlee, Jonathan Davenport, David Breazeale, Doug Horton, Todd Frank, Shan Smith
Heat race lineups
(10 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Josh Richards, G.R. Smith
Row 2: Kyle Bronson, Boom Briggs
Row 3: Zack Dohm, Steve Francis
Row 4: Jonathan Davenport, Gregg Satterlee
Row 5: David Breazeale, Doug Horton
Row 6: Shan Smith
Row 1: Michael Lake, Hudson O’Neal
Row 2: Dennis Erb Jr., Dustin Linville
Row 3: Kenny Pettyjohn, Greg Oakes
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Stephen Breeding
Row 5: Brian Ligon, Freddie Carpenter
Row 6: Colton Flinner
Row 1: Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens
Row 2: Corey Conley, Ricky Weiss
Row 3: Bob Gardner, Darrell Lanigan
Row 4: Tim McCreadie, Mason Zeigler
Row 5: Craig Wolford, John Gardner
Row 6: Timothy Culp
Row 1: Tim Dohm, Don O’Neal
Row 2: Nick Davis, Austin Hubbard
Row 3: Doug Drown, Jared Miley
Row 4: Davey Johnson, Gordy Gundaker
Row 5: Pancho Lawler, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 6: Austin Rettig
After a wet Wednesday, the skies over East Bay Raceway Park are sunny; temperatures, however, have dipped a bit, barely reaching 70 with lows expected to dip into the 50s or lower this evening. … A 45-car field is signed in. … With track and series officials opting to not reschedule Wednesday night’s rainout as a doubleheader, the cancelation breaks East Bay’s 16-year streak of completing all six scheduled Winternationals Dirt Late Model events dating back to 2000. … Defending Lucas Oil champion Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., was released Wednesday night from a local hospital — where he spent more than two days receiving antibiotics through an IV to combat an infection his developed in a finger — and plans to race tonight to gear up for the Lucas Oil points races on Friday and Saturday evenings. … Another high-profile addition to the pit area tonight is 2015 Lucas Oil Series champion Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who originally planned to make last weekend’s doubleheader at Georgia’s Golden Isles Speedway his only action of Georgia-Florida Speedweeks. … All of the prospective World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series regulars who competed in the first two nights of the Winternationals have departed East Bay for the national tour’s season opener this weekend at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. The group includes Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, who initially planned to stay at East Bay for Thursday’s racing but ultimately left to participate in Thursday night’s open practice at Screven. … Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa., who has chased the WoO schedule for the past three years but is contemplating following the Lucas Oil Series this season, remains at East Bay. It would appear he’s leaning toward sticking with the Lucas Oil tour, but he said he’ll make his final decision in the morning. … 2016 Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year Colton Flinner of Allison Park, Pa., will enter his first event of the week. … Another new entrant is Doug Horton of Ruskin, Fla., who will drive a second Bobby Lake Motorsports car as a teammate to Lake’s teenage grandson Michael Lake. A West Virginia native, Horton spent several years driving a Super Late Model for Bobby Lake before relocating to the Tampa area in August 2013.
With Wednesday’s Lucas Oil Series program lost to rain, East Bay Raceway Park’s 41st annual Winternationals resumes on Thursday with a $7,000-to-win show. The 45-lap main event is a non-points race.
Among drivers making their first East Bay starts of the week on Thursday are Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn. Both drivers captured victories in the 2016 edition of the Winternationals.
Thursday’s program will once again include time trials, heat races, consolations, the DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash and the main event. Provisionals (two series, one fast time and the dash winner) will set the final two rows of the 26-car feature field.
Time trial results
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.533
Michael Lake (27), Uniontown, Pa., 14.645
G.R. Smith (22), Cornelius, N.C., 14.645
Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.827
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 14.833
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.845
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 14.861
Dustin Linville (D8), Lancaster, Ky., 14.869
Zack Dohm (17), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 14.874
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 14.887
Steve Francis (15), Bowling Green, Ky., 14.901
Greg Oakes (22), Franklinville, N.Y., 14.92
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.958
Chad Hollenbeck (4-DS), Kingsley, Pa., 15.003
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.004
Stephen Breeding (5), Isom, Ky., 15.045
David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., 15.056
Brian Ligon (4), Evans, Ga., 15.143
Doug Horton (27H), Ruskin, Fla., 15.239
Freddie Carpenter (K0), Parkersburg, W.Va., 15.24
Shan Smith (17SS), Dade City, Fla., 15.502
Colton Flinner (75), Allison Park, Pa., 15.878
Todd Frank (21), Montrose, Iowa, 16.027
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.628
Tim Dohm (6), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 14.658
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.72
Corey Conley (14), Wellsburg, W.Va., 14.72
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 14.735
Nick Davis (92), Millsboro, Del., 14.804
Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 14.814
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 14.833
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 14.84
Doug Drown (240), Wooster, Ohio, 14.865
Darrell Lanigan (14), Union, Ky., 14.913
Jared Miley (H1), South Park, Pa., 14.962
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 14.991
Davey Johnson (1j), Latrobe, Pa., 15.013
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.02
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 15.023
Craig Wolford (36), Saint Louisville, Ohio, 15.202
Pancho Lawler (93v), Glenville, Pa., 15.308
John Gardner Jr. (38c), Germantown Hills, Ill., 15.313
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.353
Timothy Culp (C8), Prattsville, Ark., 15.418
Austin Rettig (94), Sikeston, Mo., 20.725