Muskingum County Speedway
Pearson slips past Cook, takes Muskingum County
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
ZANESVILLE, Ohio (July 3) — Overhauling race-long leader Ray Cook with five laps remaining, Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., grabbed his fourth Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the season Saturday at Muskingum County Speedway. Pearson pocketed $10,000 for his Budweiser 50 victory as he went from third to first in the 14 laps after the race’s lone caution on the 31st lap. | Video
The polesitting Cook, of Brasstown, N.C., was going for his second straight series victory and third of the holiday weekend but settled for second at the 4/10-mile oval. Series points leader Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., who held the second spot most of the way, ended up third with 10th-starting Doug Dodd of Cambridge, Ohio, and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., rounding out the top five.
Pearson went around Bloomquist to secure second after the lap-31 restart, then outdueled Cook for the victory, leading the final six laps of the main event.
"I probably wouldn't have caught Ray without the yellow,” Pearson said. "Scott and I had a good race, but he was running my line and I couldn't get by him.
“This is a nice recovery from (Friday’s series event at) Beckley (W.Va.). That was my fault what happened when I spun out there with eight laps to go, and to come back here and run like we did it's a credit to my crew.”
Cook started on the front row with Jimmy Owens before a packed house at the Ronnie Moran-promoted facility while Bloomquist stormed toward the front from his eighth starting spot. Bloomquist was up to third after two laps and began battling for the second spot with John Blankenship as the top three pulled away from the field.
Lapped traffic slowed Cook after a dozen laps and Bloomquist took second on lap 15. Pearson dropped Blankenship to fourth on lap 18 and tracked down Cook along with Bloomquist. But Cook stretched his lead at the midway point, building nearly a straightaway advantage before the lap-31 caution for Doug Drown, the lone yellow flag of the race.
Cook led Bloomquist, Pearson, Blankenship and O’Neal back to green and Pearson grabbed the second spot while Dodd worked his way into the top five.
Pearson tried the inside line for several laps to get by Cook, but Cook thwarted Pearson every time. All the while, Dodd started to catch the frontrunners and, along with Bloomquist, made it a four-car battle up front.
Pearson finally cleared Cook on lap 45 and edged away for his 21st career series victory. Cook held on to second while Bloomquist regained the third spot from Dodd with two laps remaining.
Notes: Pearson’s Bobby Labonte Racing MasterSbilt Race Car is powered by a Larry Wallace Racing Engine and sponsored by Lucas Oil Products, Red Buck Cigars, PRC, Sunoco Race Fuels, Hoosier Racing Tires, Asi Racewear and Ohlins Shocks. ... The series completes the holiday weekend with a $10,000-to-win event on Sunday at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.
Budweiser 50: (1) Earl Pearson Jr., (2) Ray Cook, (3) Scott Bloomquist, (4) Doug Dodd, (5) Don O’Neal, (6) Bart Hartman, (7) Steve Shaver, (8) John Blankenship, (9) Jimmy Owens, (10) Steve Casebolt, (11) Chris Wall, (12) Dale McDowell, (13) Eric Wells, (14) Zack Dohm, (15) Dan Schlieper, (16) Brad Neat, (17) Cody Parker, (18) Kyle Bates, (19) Tim Isenberg, (20) Donnie Moran, (21) Tyler Reddick, (22) Devin Moran, (23) Jason Covert, (24) Shane McLoughlin, (25) Doug Drown. Fast qualifier (among 35 cars): Cook, 16.435 seconds. Heat race winners: Cook, Blankenship, Owens, Pearson. Consolation winners: Schlieper, Reddick. Provisional starter: McLoughlin.