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Volusia Speedway Park

The Real Steal: O'Neal robs Mars on final lap

February 15, 2011, 5:32 pm
From series and staff reports
Runner-up Jimmy Mars visits Don O'Neal in victory lane. (thesportswire.net)
Runner-up Jimmy Mars visits Don O'Neal in victory lane. (thesportswire.net)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 15) – Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., turned back the clock with a vintage performance Tuesday night at Volusia Speedway Park.

Flashing the form that made him a perennial star of the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH from 2002-2004, O’Neal passed Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., on the final circuit to win the 30-lap DIRTcar UMP Late Model feature. | Complete Speedweeks coverage

The $7,000 triumph was the eighth of O’Neal’s career in DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH action – tops among all drivers since 1998. But it was his first win at the sweeping half-mile oval since the 2004 edition of the mid-winter racing classic.

“I don’t know if I can ever recapture that again,” O’Neal said of the Volusia magic that carried him to two wins in 2002, three in 2003 and two in 2004. “That was just one of them deals where you can do nothing wrong. But we have won two already this year (in Florida after also capturing Sunday night’s UMP-sanctioned event at Ocala Speedway), so maybe we can get another one this week and leave here feeling like we did back then.”

O’Neal, 46, returned to Volusia’s spotlight in dramatic fashion. He appeared headed to a third-place finish until a lap-27 caution flag appeared for the stopped car driven by John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va.

The caution allowed O’Neal to vault past Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., and Mars with a memorable outside charge behind the wheel of Larry Moring’s MasterSbilt machine.

Mars, who started second and led all but the final lap, fell to O’Neal’s top-side assault rounding turns three and four for the last time. O’Neal surged ahead off the fourth corner to narrowly edge Mars at the finish line.

Smith, who won the World of Outlaws Late Model Series event that closed last year’s DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, moved forward from the sixth starting spot to place third. Two-time defending WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who started 14th, picked up two spots following the race’s final restart to finish fourth and opening-night DIRTcar UMP winner Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., settled for a quiet fifth-place finish after starting 10th. Polesitter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., slipped backward throughout the distance and finished sixth.

O’Neal, who started fifth, climbed up to second by lap 12 before ceding the position to Smith nine circuits later. He was resigned to finishing third until the race’s second and final caution flag was needed on lap 27.

After immediately shooting to the outside of turns one and two on the restart to overtake Smith for second, O’Neal drew close to Mars. Mars slid up to repel O’Neal’s initial challenge off turn two on lap 28, but O’Neal made the outside work the next lap.

“That yellow flag sort of gave me a new life,” said O’Neal, who did not enter the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH for the last two years. “I had never been on that top there (of turns one and two) the whole race, but I thought, ‘Man, I got nothing to lose running third here,’ so I hauled her off in there and that top was pretty good down there in one and two.”

Mars, who turns 39 on Feb. 28, fell short of reaching Victory Lane at Volusia for the first time since the 2000 DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH.

“A late-race caution kind of sucks, but it is what it is,” said Mars, who is competing in the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH this season after a three-year absence. “Don did a helluva job out there. I came off the corner and I heard him out there, so I did all I could do to get to the top, but it just wasn’t there. I just had to let him go.” – Kevin Kovac

Notes: O'Neal's Moring Motorsports MasterSbilt Race Car is sponsored by Freeport Recycling Center and MDI Environmental Systems. ... The race was slowed by two cautions. Other than the late caution for Blankenship, the race was also slowed on lap six when Chub Frank came to a stop with a flat tire. ... The DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH continues Wednesday night with another 30-lap feature that pays $7,000 to the winner. Thursday night features the $10,000-to-win season opener for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Finish: (1) Don O'Neal, (2) Jimmy Mars (3) Brady Smith, (4) Josh Richards, (5) Billy Moyer, (6) Jimmy Owens, (7) Dale McDowell, (8) Dan Schlieper, (9) Jonathan Davenport, (10) Scott Bloomquist, (11) Tyler Reddick, (12) Pat Doar, (13) Kent Robinson, (14) Jack Sullivan, (15) John Mason, (16) Jason Feger, (17) Dennis Erb Jr., (18) Tommy Kerr, (19) John Blankenship, (20) Earl Pearson Jr., (21) Chub Frank, (22) Tim McCreadie, (23) Casey Roberts, (24) Rick Eckert, (25) Tim Fuller. Fast qualifier (among 74 cars): Madden, 16.117 seconds. Heat race winners: Davenport, O’Neal, Owens, Mars, B. Smith, K. Robinson. Consolation winners: Reddick, Feger, Sullivan. Provisional starter: Erb, Non-qualifiers’ race winner: Brent Robinson.

Blog-style reports of Tuesday's prelminaries:

Third consolation race

Jack Sullivan led every lap to win the third consolation race. Tim Fuller and Will Vaught battled hard for the second position for much of the race, with Fuller taking the spot and transferring to the feature. The race's first caution came on lap two when Danny Mitchell and Lee Thomason got together in turn four. The second caution appeared for a slowing Jill George on lap five.

Finish: Jack Sullivan, Tim Fuller, Will Vaught, Larry Wight, Brandon Sheppard, Roger Brickler, Mason Zeigler, Lee Thomason, Joel Callahan, Jared Landers, Clint Smith, Ryan Unzicker, John Lobb, Jill George, Danny Mitchell.

Second consolation race

Jason Feger led every lap for the victory in the caution-free second consolation race. Earl Pearson Jr. finished a distant second to also transfer to the feature.

Finish: Jason Feger, Earl Pearson Jr., Dan Stone, Tyler Ivey, Brandon Thirlsby, Eric Jacobsen, Boom Briggs, Lee DeVasier, Rickey Weiss, Dillan White, Chad Hollenbeck, Donald Beyers, Brian Reese, Jeff Beyers, Billy Moyer Jr., Frank Heckenast Jr.

First consolation race

Tyler Reddick dominated the first consolation race, leading every lap for the victory. Tommy Kerr survived an early challenge from Shane Clanton and held off a late charge by Steve Francis to claim second and transfer to the feature. The race's only caution appeared on lap 6 when Dennis Erb Jr. and Jon Henry tangled in turn two.

Finish: Tyler Reddick, Tommy Kerr, Steve Francis, Brent Robinson, Aaron Ridley, Stacy Boles, Jason McBride, Freddie Carpenter, Jerry Perine, Tyler Bruening, Eddie Carrier Jr., Dennis Erb Jr., Jon Henry, Rick Eckert, Wendell Wallace.

Mid-race notes

Chris Madden posted the fastest lap in time trials, but he had to give up his pole starting position for the sixth heat race due to a blown an engine. ... Austin Hubbard also suffered from engine woes. His came in hot laps, forcing him to scratch for the night.

Sixth heat race

Fast qualifier Chris Madden was a scratch for the sixth heat race and Kent Robinson, who inherited the pole, capitalized for the victory. John Mason ran second in a race that was slowed by one caution when Ricky Weiss spun while running third on lap five. That gave the final transfer position to Casey Roberts, who held off Ryan Unzicker at the finish.

Finish: Kent Robinson, John Mason, Casey Roberts, Ryan Unzicker, Joel Callahan, Mason Zeigler, Ricky Weiss, Jill George, Lee Thomason, Brandon Sheppard. Scratched: Chris Madden, Austin Hubbard.

Fifth heat race

Brady Smith led a top three that were all Bloomquist Race Cars for the win in the fifth heat race. Smith pulled to the lead over Scott Bloomquist on the start of the race, then pulled to comfortable lead early. But Bloomquist chased him down in the second half of the caution-free race and pulled to Smith's back bumper on the final lap. He couldn't make the pass and settled for second with Dan Schlieper taking the third and final transfer position. Schlieper's race car was trailing heavy smoke at the finish.

Finish: Brady Smith, Scott Bloomquist, Dan Schlieper, Jack Sullivan, Will Vaught, Tim Fuller, Clint Smith, Larry Wight, John Lobb, Roger Brickler, Danny Mithcell, Jared Landers.

Fourth heat race

Jimmy Mars led every lap for the victory in the fourth heat race. After moving from fifth to second on lap one, Monday night's feature winner Billy Moyer chased Mars the entire distance, but had to settle for the runner-up finish. Tim McCreadie passed Jason Feger for third on lap two and finished in the final transfer position. The race was slowed by one caution when Dillan White spun with one lap complete.

Finish: Jimmy Mars, Billy Moyer, Tim McCreadie, Jason Feger, Tyler Ivey, Dan Stone, Brandon Thirlsby, John Garvin Jr., Billy Moyer Jr., Frank Heckenast Jr., Brian Reese, Dillan White.

Third heat race

Jimmy Owens led every lap after starting from the pole in the third heat race to the take the victory. Chub Frank ran a distant second with John Blankenship beating out Earl Pearson Jr. in a race-long battled for the third and final transfer position. A caution appeared on the race's first attempted start when Vic Coffey and Lee Davisier got together in turn two, sending Coffey to the pits.

Finish: Jimmy Owens, Chub Frank, John Blankenship Earl Pearson Jr., Eric Jacobsen, Lee DeVasier, Boom Briggs, Jeff Beyers, Chad Hollenbeck, Donlad Beyers, Mike Hammerle, Vic Coffey.

Second heat race

Polesitter Don O'Neal moved to the lead on the start of the second heat race and pulled away to a convincing victory. Dale McDowell ran second after passing Brad Neat on the second lap. Josh Richards finished third after also passing Neat for the transfer position midway through the caution-free race.

Finish: Don O'Neal, Dale McDowell, Josh Richards, Brad Neat, Tyler Reddick, Jon Henry, Dennis Erb Jr., Aaron Ridley, Brent Robinson, Tyler Bruening, Chuck Julien, Freddie Carpenter. Scratch: Wendell Wallace.

First heat race

Jonathan Davenport led every lap of the first heat race after starting from the pole. Pat Doar ran second in the caution-free race with Rick Eckert taking the third and final transfer position. Ron Davies chased Eckert for the transfer spot for most of the race, but came up short at the finish.

Finish: Jonathan Davenport, Pat Doar, Rick Eckert, Ron Davies, Tommy Kerr, Shane Clanton, Eddie Carrier Jr., Steve Francis, Stacy Boles, Jason McBride, Jerry Perine. Scrathced: Billy Ogle Jr.

Group time trials (unofficial)

First group
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 17.916
Ron Davies (71D), Warren, Pa., 18.234
Pat Doar (11D), New Richmond, Wis., 18.251
Shane Clanton (25), Fayetteville, Ga., 18.297
Rick Eckert (24), York, Pa., 18.395
Russ King (56), Bristolville, Ohio, 18.672
Tommy Kerr (4t), Maryville, Tenn., 18.792
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 18.819
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 19.008
Stacy Boles (11B), Clinton, Tenn., 19.901
Jason McBride (77), Carbondale, Ill., 20.365
Jerry Perine (91), Cowell, Ohio, 21.346
Billy Ogle Jr. (201), Knoxville, Tenn., no time
Second group
Don O'Neal (1), Martinsville, Ind., 17.470
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 17.718
Brad Neat (41), Hazard, Ky., 18
Aaron Ridley (16), Chatsworth, Ga., 18.019
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 18.342
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 18.435
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 18.619
Brent Robinson (3), Smithfield, Va., 18.686
Wendell Wallace (88), Batesville, Ark., 18.942
Jon Henry (15h), Ada, Ohio, 19.044
Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 19.678
Freddie Carpenter (c4), Parkersburg, W.Va., 20.302
Chuck Julien (57x), Apaka, Fla., 21.314
Third group
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 17.240
Chub Frank (1*), Bear Lake, Pa., 17.512
Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 17.63
Eric Jacobsen (5), Seacliff Beach, Calif., 17.66
Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., 17.748
Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 18.498
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 18.507
Lee DeVasier (5), Midway, Ky., 19.047
Donald Beyers (27D), Pana, Ill., 19.577
Chad Hollenbeck (4DS), Kingsley, Pa., 19.58
Jeff Beyers (27), Pana, Ill., 20.254
Mike Hammerle (16), St Charles, Mo., 21.264
Fourth group

Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 16.798
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.828
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 16.868
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.910
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 17.02
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 17.124
Dillan White (54), Crofton, Ky., 17.242
Brian Reese (33), Sharpsburg, Ga., 17.249
Tyler Ivey (47), Tallahassee, Fla., 17.446
Dan Stone (21d), Thompson, Pa., 17.458
Brandon Thirlby (m14), Traverse City, Mich., 17.481
John Garvin Jr. (4), Sarver, Pa., 17.647
Fifth group
Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., 16.562
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 16.807
Jack Sullivan (1s), Greenbrier, Ark., 16.845
Dan Schlieper (s9), Oak Creek, Wis., 17.031
Will Vaught (1), Crane, Mo., 17.032
Clint Smith (44), Senoia, Ga., 17.095
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 17.129
Larry Wight (99L), Phoenix, N.Y., 17.196
Tim Fuller (19), Watertown, N.Y., 17.449
John Lobb (1), Frewsburg, N.Y., 17.708
Danny Mitchell (18D), Clarksburg, W.Va., 18.020
Roger Brickler (82), Pana, Ill., 18.568
Sixth group
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.117
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 16.483
Kent Robinson (7r), Bloomington, Ill., 16.738
John Mason (72), Millersburg, Ohio, 16.771
Ryan Unzicker (24), El Paso, Ill., 16.823
Ricky Weiss (7), St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba, 16.826
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., 17.166
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalkhill, Pa., 17.399
Jill George (22), Cedar Falls, Iowa, 17.625
Lee Thomason (53), Marion, Ill., 18.072
Joel Callahan (40), Dubuque, Iowa, 18.634
Austin Hubbard (19), Seaford, Del., no time

Feature lineup

Row 1: Owens, Mars
Row 2: Davenport, Robinson
Row 3: O'Neal, B. Smith
Row 4: Doar, McDowell
Row 5: Frank, Moyer
Row 6: Bloomquist, Mason
Row 7: Eckert, Richards
Row 8: Blankenship, McCreadie
Row 9: Schlieper, Roberts
Row 10: Reddick, Feger
Row 11: Sullivan, Kerr
Row 12: Pearson, Fuller
Row 13: Erb

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