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East Bay Raceway Park

O'Neal races to $5,000 win in East Bay opener

February 13, 2012, 5:12 pm
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor
Don O'Neal (71) looks to take the lead from Mike Marlar (5B) at East Bay. (neilericmiller.com)
Don O'Neal (71) looks to take the lead from Mike Marlar (5B) at East Bay. (neilericmiller.com)

GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 13) — Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., slid past Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., exiting turn two on the ninth lap and led the rest of the way Monday at East Bay Raceway Park to capture the 36th annual Dart Winternationals.

Marlar, who started outside the front row and led the first eight laps, pushed high in turn two and lost momentum as O'Neal blew by amid high-flying action at the third-mile oval. | Complete Speedweeks coverage

Following a pair of mid-race cautions, O'Neal set sail, building a straightaway lead by lap 18 en route to his 12th career Winternationals victory and first since 2010. Another yellow set up a four-lap dash to the checkers, but O'Neal was unchallenged in racing to a $5,000 payday in the first of six miniseries events.

"I could cut that (second) corner off a little bit, and (Marlar) had to stay way out there and run all the way around ... and I got underneath of him a time or two, and I think he got to driving a little harder, and finally he got up over the top of it there in the fluff," O'Neal said of the winning pass.

Polesitter Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., who took the second spot on the 13th lap when Marlar got too high again exiting turn two, was second with Marlar settling for third in the 25-lapper. Eric Jacobsen of Seacliff Beach, Calif., and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., rounded out the top five finishers.

Three cautions slowed the feature, first on the 11th lap when Dillan White came to rest against the turn-one wall. Josh McGuire got squeezed on the backstretch on the lap-11 restart and slowed between turns three and four with flattened left-side tires. Duke Whiseant, who ran as high as sixth, slowed with a flat right-rear tire on lap 21.

Winternationals action continues Tuesday with another $5,000-to-win event.

Race 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. ... O'Neal has 13 career victories at East Bay overall, including in the track's lone Fall Nationals. ... His previous victory came in the 2010 Winternationals finale. ... Seventeen of 26 starters completed 25 laps. .... Eric Wells won the Optima Batteries Hard Charger award for his 22nd-to-10th run. ... Provisional starter Travis Varnadore lost a left-rear wheel during the parade laps; he was towed to the pits and returned in time to start.

Winternationals (Feb. 13): (1) Don O'Neal, (2) Shannon Babb, (3) Mike Marlar, (4) Eric Jacobsen, (5) Scott Bloomquist, (6) Terry Casey, (7) Randy Korte, (8) Dan Stone, (9) Dennis Erb Jr., (10) Eric Wells, (11) Scott Creel, (12) Ray Cook, (13) Steve Francis, (14) Tyler Reddick, (15) John Blankenship, (16) Donnie Moran, (17) Bobby Pierce, (18) Morgan Bagley, (19) Shelby Miles, (20) Duke Whiseant, (21) Josh McGuire, (22) Dillan White, (23) Justin Rattliff, (24) Chris Brown, (25) Travis Varnadore, (26) Danny Mitchell. Fast qualifier (among 41 cars): Marlar, 14.419 seconds. Heat race winners: Babb, O'Neal, Marlar, Bloomquist. Consolation winners: Creel, Cook. Strawberry Dash winner: Mitchell. Provisional starter: Varnadore.

Correction: Amends O'Neal's sponsors.

Preliminary results (unofficial):

Second consolation

Outside front-row starter John Blankenship swung around polesitter Ray Cook in turn one on the first lap, but Cook went back by on the sixth lap and raced to a 10-lap victory. Cook was in second barely hanging onto the spot as Eric Wells pressured him, but he got rolling and overtook Blankenship to take command. Cook held on the final three laps after a restart while Blankenship, Wells and Shelby Miles also transferred. Miles, the son of Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway promoter Mike Miles, made the feature in his first-ever Late Model start.. The first of two cautions appeared when Scott Phillips slammed the wall at the end of the frontstretch after a tangle with Chad Stapleton on the third lap; he was OK. A second yellow flag dropped on the seventh lap for Chad Hollenbeck's flat right-rear tire.

Finish: Ray Cook, John Blankenship, Eric Wells, Shelby Miles, Todd Frank, Danny Mitchell, Terry Naugle, Bob Geiger, Travis Varnadore, Chad Stapleton, Scott Phillips.

First consolation

Polesitter Scott Creel jumped to an early lead and cruised to victory. Dennis Erb Jr. came alive after starting seventh, rallying up to third by the halfway point and then taking the second spot from Morgan Bagley on the sixth lap of the 10-lapper. He couldn't overtake Creel on a pair of late restarts but transferred to the main event along with Bagley and Chris Brown, both Texans. Victor Lee made a high-side run on the last lap that almost carried him to the fourth spot, but he got too high in turn three. Two cautions slowed the action, both late in the race for a turn-four scramble back in the pack and then for Jack Nosbisch Jr.'s backstretch spin.

Finish: Scott Creel, Dennis Erb Jr., Morgan Bagley, Chris Brown, Jason Riggs, Shane Cottle, Victor Lee, Doug Blashe, Jim O'Hara, Mark Anderson, Jack Nosbisch Jr. Scratched: Leon Henderson, Scott James.

Consolation lineups

First consolation
Row 1: Scott Creel, Morgan Bagley
Row 2: Jason Riggs, Chris Brown
Row 3: Jack Nosbisch Jr., Shane Cottle
Row 4: Dennis Erb Jr., Mark Andersen
Row 5: Victor Lee, Doug Blashe
Row 6: Jim O'Hara, Leon Henderson
Row 7: Scott James
Second consolation
Row 1: Ray Cook, John Blankenship,
Row 2: Eric Wells, Shelby Miles
Row 3: Chad Hollenbeck, Todd Frank
Row 4: Travis Varnadore, Danny Mitchell
Row 5: Scott Phillips, Chad Stapleton
Row 6: Bob Geiger, Terry Naugle

Fourth heat

Scott Bloomquist became the first non-polesitting heat winner, getting the jump on Tyler Reddick and cruising to victory from outside the front row. Reddick nearly got into the soft stuff against the backstretch wall on the second lap and scraped it on the sixth lap, but he steadied his No. 11 and held off Steve Francis, who settled for third. Justin Rattliff was a distant fourth as the final feature transferree in the caution-free prelim. Terry Naugle spun after the checkers in turn two.

Finish: Scott Bloomquist, Tyler Reddick, Steve Francis, Justin Rattliff, John Blankenship, Shelby Miles, Todd Frank, Danny Mitchell, Chad Stapleton, Terry Naugle.

Third heat

Outside front-row starter Bobby Pierce got the edge on polesitter Mike Marlar on the first lap, but Marlar pulled a turn-four slide job on the third lap to take control and stay out front the rest of the way. Pierce was able to hang onto second, fighting off fourth-starting Josh McGuire the rest of the way while Donnie Moran was fourth, running far behind the top three most of the way. Third-starting Ray Cook got too high on the second lap and never recovered. Travis Varnadore spun in turn four to draw a lap-seven yellow, but Marlar held on in the one-lap dash to the checkers.

Finish: Mike Marlar, Bobby Pierce, Josh McGuire, Donnie Moran, Ray Cook, Eric Wells, Chad Hollenbeck, Travis Varnadore, Scott Phillips, Bob Geiger.

Second heat

Don O'Neal jumped into the lead from the pole and wasn't challenged until the final moments of the second heat. Fellow front-row starter Duke Whiseant nearly jumped the cushion exiting turn two on the third lap, but he got stronger as the race continued and pressured O'Neal exiting turn four on the final lap. Terry Casey crossed the line third ahead of Dan Stone, the final transferree. The race's lone caution appeared on the sixth lap when Doug Blashe spun in turn four.

Finish: Don O'Neal, Duke Whiseant, Terry Casey, Dan Stone, Morgan Bagley, Chris Brown, Shane Cottle, Mark Andersen, Doug Blashe.

First heat

Polesitter Shannon Babb got the jump at the outset and raced to an eight-lap victory at the third-mile oval. Babb kept third-starting Eric Jacobsen in check while Randy Korte was further back in third most of the race. Dillan White got the fourth and final transfer spot in the first prelim. Dennis Erb Jr., who started ninth after a poor qualifying time, wasn't able to make it up in his heat race.

Finish: Shannon Babb, Eric Jacobsen, Randy Korte, Dillan White, Scott Creel, Jason Riggs, Jack Nosbisch Jr., Dennis Erb Jr., Victor Lee, Jim O'Hara.

Qualifying

Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., winner of the 2010 Dart Winternationals opener, topped 41 qualifiers Monday at East Bay Raceway Park for the 36th annual miniseries that kicks off Florida Speedweeks.

Marlar, one of the evening's final qualifiers, posted a lap of 14.419 seconds at the third-mile oval and will be on the pole of the night's third heat race. Other heat race polesitters unofficially: Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif.

The night's 25-lap feature pays $5,000 to the winner in a non-points Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event that includes four heat races, two consolations and a last-chance Strawberry Dash. Twenty-six drivers start the main event.

The event is the first of six Super Late Model events this week. Tuesday's event pays $5,000-to-win, Wednesday and Thursday events pay $7,000-to-win and Friday and Saturday events pay $10,000-to-win (the first two series points races of the season).

Pre-race notes

Among previous Winternationals winners entered are Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., Terry Casey of New London, Wis., Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn., Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn. ... Scott James got into the turn-three wall during his qualifying lap; Leon Henderson pulled onto the track but shutdown and didn't take a lap. ... Both James and Henderson scratched for the night. ... The 41 entries are the fewest at East Bay since the 2010 opener drew 42 cars. ... East Bay is facing head-to-head Super Late Model competition for the first time in eight years with Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., hosting World of Outlaws Late Model Series events Feb. 16-18. ... In qualifying, drivers will be gunning for Chris Wall's track record of 14.022 seconds. .... The Harrisburg, Ill.-based team of Riggs Motorsports is fielding cars for Scott James, Jason Riggs and Randy Korte. ... USAC sprint car driver Shane Cottle of Kokomo, Ind., is back in the Late Model division for the first time in several years. He drove Late Models briefly before moving from modifieds to sprints. ... Shelby Miles of Bloomington, Ind., is making his Super Late Model debut. ... Among drivers in the pits who aren't racing are Jonathan Davenport and Austin Hubbard. ... The field is split in half for time trials with the first group making up lineups for the first and second heats; the second group makes up the lineups for the third and fourth heats. ... Texan Morgan Bagley, making his East Bay debut, couldn't get his car started for Sunday's practice and took his first lap at East Bay in Monday's time trials.

Heat race lineups

First heat
Row 1: Shannon Babb, Randy Korte
Row 2: Eric Jacobsen, Dillan White
Row 3: Jason Riggs, Scott Creel
Row 4: Jack Nosbisch Jr., Victor Lee
Row 5: Dennis Erb Jr., Jim O'Hara
Row 6: Leon Henderson
Second heat
Row 1: Don O'Neal, Duke Whiseant
Row 2: Dan Stone, Terry Casey
Row 3: Chris Brown, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Mark Andersen, Shane Cottle
Row 5: Doug Blashe, Scott James
Third heat
Row 1: Mike Marlar, Bobby Pierce
Row 2: Ray Cook, Josh McGuire
Row 3: Donnie Moran, Travis Varnadore
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Eric Wells
Row 5: Bob Geiger, Scott Phillips
Fourth heat
Row 1: Tyler Reddick, Scott Bloomquist
Row 2: Steve Francis, Justin Rattliff
Row 3: John Blankenship, Shelby Miles
Row 4: Todd Frank, Terry Naugle

Row 5: Danny Mitchell, Chad Stapleton

Time trials (unofficial)

First group
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 14.509
Don O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.607
Randy Korte (81), Highland, Ill., 14.614
Duke Whiseant (A1), Texarkana, Ark., 14.630
Eric Jacobsen (5), Seacliff Beach, Calif., 14.930
Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 15.064
Dillan White (54), Crofton, Ky., 15.071
Terry Casey (42), New London, Wis., 15.259
Jason Riggs (81jr), Harrisburg, Ill., 15.322
Chris Brown (21), Spring, Texas, 15.482
Scott Creel (31), Franklinton, La., 15.559
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 15.559
Jack Nosbisch Jr. (01), Riverview, Fla., 15.599
Mark Andersen (85), Blanchard, Mich., 15.911
Victor Lee (4), Stanford, Ky., 15.939
Shane Cottle (11c), Kokomo, Ind., 16.093
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.168
Doug Blashe (1), Marion, Wis., 16.411
Jim O’Hara (44), Daleville, Pa., 16.825
Scott James (81), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 21.394
Leon Henderson (10), Laurel, Miss., no time
Second group
Mike Marlar (5b), Winfield, Tenn., 14.419
Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 14.552
Bobby Pierce (32), Danville, Ill., 14.709
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.760
Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., 14.867
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 14.889
Josh McGuire (41), Grayson, Ky., 14.975
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 14.976
Donnie Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 14.982
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 15.124
Travis Varnadore (51), Dover, Fla., 15.194
Shelby Miles (76), Bloomington, Ind., 15.271
Chad Hollenbeck (4DS), Kingsley, Pa., 15.446
Todd Frank (21), Green Bay, Wis., 16.021
Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., 16.162
Terry Naugle (71), Port Royal, Pa., 16.489
Bob Geiger (38), Laurel, Del., 16.683
Danny Mitchell (18D), Clarksburg, W.Va., 17.025
Scott Phillips (50), Marlette, Mich., 17.071
Chad Stapleton (32), Edinburgh, Ind., 17.842

Correction: Fixes Dillan White's time

Feature lineup

Row 1: Babb, Marlar
Row 2: O'Neal, Bloomquist
Row 3: Jacobsen, Pierce
Row 4: Whiseant, Reddick
Row 5: Korte, McGuire
Row 6: Casey, Francis
Row 7: White, Moran
Row 8: Stone, Rattliff
Row 9: Creel, Cook
Row 10: Erb, Blankenship
Row 11: Bagley, Wells
Row 12: Brown, Miles
Row 13: Varnadore, Mitchell

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