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East Bay Raceway Park

O'Neal tops Drown, gets 15th East Bay win

February 15, 2013, 4:08 pm
By Joshua Joiner
DirtonDirt.com staff writer
Don O'Neal (71) moves by Doug Drown on his way to victory. (DirtonDirt.com)
Don O'Neal (71) moves by Doug Drown on his way to victory. (DirtonDirt.com)

GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 15) — Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., topped a thrilling back-and-forth battle with Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, during the middle portions of Friday’s Dart Winternationals main event at East Bay Raceway Park and pulled away late on his way to earning $10,000 for his 15th-career victory in the third-mile oval's Speedweeks miniseries.

Drown, who led the first 38 laps of the race after starting from the outside pole, settled for second in in the 50-lapper, which served as the first points event of the season for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Polesitter Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., topped 18th-starting Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., in a photo finish for third while Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., rounded out the top five in a race slowed by four cautions. | Complete Speedweeks coverage

O’Neal’s victory didn’t come easy. The second-starting Drown made him earn every bit of it in an intense battle that saw the two drivers swap the top spot four times between laps 34 and 38, while Pierce and Pearson were both lurking within striking distance.

It was still a four-car battle for the lead at lap 40, but O’Neal handled lapped traffic the best of the four leaders and pulled away in the final 10 laps.

“The track was awesome. You could run the top, bottom, middle — all over it,” said O’Neal, who earned the 31st Lucas Oil Series victory of his career. “We had a good race. Hats off to (Drown), cause he drove a heck of a race, too.”

After powering ahead of Pierce through the first corner and turning back an early-race challenge from Erb, Drown, making his East Bay debut at this week’s Winternationals, appeared as though he may pull away for a career-best victory. But he wasn’t able to keep pace with O’Neal and faded in the closing laps.

“That was absolutely awesome,” said Drown. “I was right there, watching the laps and all of a sudden he comes O’Neal by me. I kind of used my stuff up. I should’ve slowed down and saved a bit for the end.”

At one point during the four-car lead battle, it appeared as though Pierce may race past both Drown and O’Neal and claim the lead for himself.

After making a move to the track’s high groove, Pierce turned back Pearson’s low-side challenge and ran down the two leaders. Pierce briefly pulled ahead of Drown for second, but that was as far as he got. The two leaders pulled away in the final two laps, and Pierce was forced to focus on holding off Pearson, which he did just narrowly in a final-lap battle.

“The top, it just all of a sudden came in like crazy,” said Pierce, who scored his second top five of the week. “Once I got going up there I really went for it because I knew it was probably my only chance. I definitely wanted to win, but that was some of the best fun you’ll ever have right there.”

The race’s first caution waved just as the leaders were reaching lapped traffic on lap eight when tail-running Chad Stapleton pulled low and stopped on the track.

The caution again waved a lap later when contact back in the pack initiated a six-car pileup on the front straightaway involving Donnie Moran, Justin Rattliff, Jerry Lierly, Jason McBride and Stapleton. The yellow waved again on the restart when David Breazeale slowed on the back straightaway, leading to Jared Landers, Justin Rattliff and Devin Moran piling up.

The race’s final caution came on lap 16 when Eric Jacobsen spun to avoid Steve Francis, who plowed the bottom berm and spun up the track directly in front of him.

A busy schedule on Saturday will wrap up the 37th annual Dart Winternationals. Racing is slated to begin at noon with the rescheduled $7,000-to-win Lucas Oil non-points event that was rained out on Thursday. The regularly scheduled $10,000-to-win Winternationals finale gets under way at 6 p.m.

Notes: O’Neal’s MasterSbilt Race Car is powered by a Jay Dickens Racing Engine with sponsorship from Optima Batteries, Superior Cleaning Services, Seubert Calf Ranches, O’Neal Mulch, Independence Lumber and Jones Core. ... Two-time defending Lucas Oil Series champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished ninth. ... Doug Blashe of Marion, Wis., overtook Todd Frank of Mellen, Wis., on the final lap of the non-qualifiers race to earn a $1,000 victory.

Winternationals (Feb. 15): (1) Don O’Neal, (2) Doug Drown, (3) Bobby Pierce, (4) Earl Pearson Jr., (5) Dennis Erb Jr., (6) John Blankenship, (7) Vic Coffey, (8) Steve Francis, (9) Jimmy Owens, (10) Chad Hollenbeck, (11) Jason Riggs, (12) Tyler Reddick, (13) Austin Hubbard, (14) Jerry Lierly, (15) Jared Landers, (16) Jason McBride, (17) Eddie Carrier Jr., (18) Devin Moran, (19) David Breazeale, (20) Scott Bloomquist, (21) Stormy Scott, (22) Ricky Weiss, (23) Eric Jacobsen, (24) Justin Rattliff, (25) Chad Stapleton, (26) Donnie Moran. Fast qualifier (among 36 cars): Pierce, 14.404 seconds. Heat race winners: Pierce, Erb, Drown, O’Neal. Consolation winners: Coffey, Pearson. PRC Strawberry Dash winner: Scott. Provisional starters: Landers, Lierly, McBride. Non-qualifiers' race winner: Blashe.

Blog-style reports of Friday's prelims:

PRC Strawberry Dash

Stormy Scott turned back an early challenge from Todd Frank on his way to winning the nine-lap PRC Strawberry Dash and earned the final spot in the 26-car main event starting field. Frank faded in the closing laps, settling for second just ahead of Billy Moyer Jr.

Finish: Story Scott, Todd Frank, Billy Moyer Jr., Doug Blashe, Brad Malcuit, Scott Phillips, Jim O'Hara, Nick Davis.

Mid-event notes

Scott Bloomquist was none to happy with the track conditions in the second heat race that he felt led to his car stalling on the track and receiving heavy damage from contact with Austin Hubbard. “You oughta run in the whole (expletive) place before you start racing,” said Bloomquist, who slid through mud and standing water at the bottom of turns one and two while trying to pass Dennis Erb Jr. for the lead in the second heat race. “I tried to go under Dennis and I hit nothing but muck and slime. I hit the brakes to keep from sliding into him and the damn engine stalled out.” The contact with Hubbard left Bloomquist’s car with damage to steering components on the front end, a broken driveshaft and multiple rear suspension issues. His crew thrashed to make repairs and Bloomquist made it just in time for his consolation race. ... Hubbard reported only cosmetic damage from the contact with Bloomquist. ... While the bottom of turns one and two gave Bloomquist trouble, it was the top side of the corner that led to Jared Landers’ demise in the first heat race. “I didn’t even think I was that far up there, but I guess I just hit the slime up there and slid into the wall,” said Landers, who only made slight contact with the concrete but slid back well in the field. “I wasn’t even running that high. It was just a mess up there.” ... Landers will use a series provisional to start 23rd in the feature. With no other series regulars missing the race, Jerry Lierly will get the other series provisional by virtue of being the fastest qualifier not already locked in. Lierly will start 24th while the winner of the PRC Strawberry Dash 25th. Jason McBride, the second fastest qualifier not already in the show, will use the DirtonDirt.com fast-time provisional to start 26th. ... The $1,000-to-win non-qualifiers race will run after the feature.

Second consolation

Earl Pearson Jr. drove around race-long leader Ricky Weiss on a lap-six restart and led the remainder of the second eight-lap consolation race and pulled away through the final two laps. Brad Malcuit drove from fifth to second in the final two-lap run to the finish, but he was penalized two positions for jumping the lap-six restart. Devin Moran and Weiss finished second and third respectively in a race that transferred the top three finishers to the main event. The race's only caution appeared when Braden Mitchell and Nick Davis spun in turn one.

Finish: Earl Pearson Jr., Devin Moran, Ricky Weiss, Brad Malcuit, Stormy Scott, Nick Davis, Billy Moyer Jr., Scott Phillips, Braden Mitchell.

First consolation

Vic Coffey cruised in the first of two 10-lap consolation races, winning by more than a straightaway over Scott Bloomquist. The fourth-starting Bloomquist nearly missed the call for the race, but made it just in time to keep his scheduled starting spot. He pressured Chad Stapleton for second the entire distance and swept around Stapleton for the position on the final lap. Stapleton settled for the third and final transfer spot.

Finish: Vic Coffey, Scott Bloomquist, Chad Stapleton, Jared Landers, Todd Frank, Jerry Lierly, Jason McBride, Doug Blashe, Jim O'Hara, Leon Henderson.

Fourth heat

Polesitter Don O'Neal cruised in the fourth and final heat race, taking the checkereds a half-straightaway ahead of Steve Francis. While the high-running O'Neal pulled away in the caution-free race, Francis turned back heavy pressure from Chad Hollenbeck early on. Hollenbeck looked under Francis multiple time in the first half of the race, but couldn't complete the pass. He settled for third with Eric Jacobsen claiming the fourth and final transfer spot.

Finish: Don O'Neal, Steve Francis, Chad Hollenbeck, Eric Jacobsen, Ricky Weiss, Braden Mitchell, Brad Malcuit, Nick Davis, Bob Geiger.

Third heat

Doug Drown pressured polesitter Jimmy Owens for the entire distance of the third heat and used a strong run off the high side of turn four to sweep past Owens at the white flag. Owens atempted to dive back under Drown in turn one on the final lap, but Drown pulled away to the finish. Owens settled for second with John Blankenship just behind the two leaders in third and Eddie Carrier Jr. in fourth. The race ran caution free after track officials took an extended break to remove the mud from the bottom of turns one and two.

Finish: Doug Drown, Jimmy Owens, John Blankenship, Eddie Carrier Jr., Devin Moran, Stormy Scott, Earl Pearson Jr., Billy Moyer Jr., Scott Phillips.

Second heat

Polesitter Dennis Erb Jr. got the jump on second-starting Justin Rattliff on the start of the second eight-lap heat and later survived Scott Bloomquist's ill-fated challenge on the final lap for a flag-to-flag victory. Bloomquist moved to second midway through the race and chased down Erb in the closing laps. But he got too low when he dove under Erb entering turn one on the final lap and slid through the standing water at the very bottom of the corner. Bloomquist avoided spinning, but the lost momentum caused his car to stall on the track, just ahead of third-running Austin Hubbard. The two drivers made heavy contact, allowing Rattliff to race by both cars and claim second. Hubbard continued on to finish third ahead of Jason Riggs, while Bloomquist was left sitting in turn two.

Finish: Dennis Erb Jr., Justin Rattliff, Austin Hubbard, Jason Riggs, Vic Coffey, Scott Bloomquist, Jim O'Hara, Todd Frank, Doug Blashe

First heat

Fast qualifier Bobby Pierce took advantage of his pole starting spot in the first heat, leading every lap for a convincing victory in the eight-lap prelim. Pierce crossed the finish line nearly a straightaway ahead of third-starting Tyler Reddick, who topped an intense battle with David Breazeale and Donnie Moran for the runner-up spot. Breazeale was third, just a few feet ahead of Moran in the fourth and final transfer spot. Second-starting Jared Landers was never a factor. He dropped out of the top five when he got to high in turns one and two on the second lap, then later spun in turn four to bring out the race's only caution with five laps complete.

Finish: Bobby Pierce, Tyler Reddick, David Breazeale, Donnie Moran, Chad Stapleton, Jerry Lierly, Jared Landers, Jason McBride, Leon Henderson.

Time trials

Continuing his solid week at East Bay Raceway Park, 16-year-old Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., posted a lap of 14.404 seconds during Friday’s Dart Winternationals time trials to earn fast time among 36 qualifiers for the $10,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event.

Pierce will start from the pole of the first of four 10-lap heat races coming up at East Bay’s third-mile oval with the chance to earn the pole for the night’s 50-lap main event. Other heat race polesitters: Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill.; Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn.; and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind.

The top four finishers from each heat race will transfer to the night’s main event while a pair of 12-lap consolation races will each provide three more transfers. The PRC Strawberry Dash winner and provisional starters will round out the remainder of the starting field.

Heat race lineups

10 laps; top four transfer to main event

First heat
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Jared Landers
Row 2: Tyler Reddick, Jerry Lierly
Row 3: David Breazeale, Jason McBride
Row 4: Donnie Moran, Chad Stapleton
Row 5: Leon Henderson
Second heat
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Justin Rattliff
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Vic Coffey
Row 3: Austin Hubbard, Jason Riggs
Row 4: Todd Frank, Doug Blashe
Row 5: Jim O’Hara
Third heat
Row 1: Jimmy Owens, Doug Drown
Row 2: John Blankenship, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 3: Stormy Scott, Eddie Carrier Jr.
Row 4: Devin Moran, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 5: Scott Phillips
Fourth heat
Row 1: Don O’Neal, Steve Francis
Row 2: Chad Hollenbeck, Eric Jacobsen
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Braden Mitchell
Row 4: Nick Davis, Bob Geiger
Row 5: Brad Malcuit

Pre-race notes

Rain most of the day Thursday has produced a heavy track surface for tonight’s action. The rain also washed out Thursday’s $7,000-to-win event, forcing race officials to postpone the race to Saturday as part of a doubleheader with the night’s regularly scheduled $10,000-to-win Winternationals finale. ... Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., has won two of three Winternationals events so far this week in claiming Monday night’s opener and Wednesday night’s rain-shortened event. Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., won Tuesday’s race. ... Leon Henderson of Laurel, Miss., is the only new entry for tonight’s action. Henderson’s race car has been at East Bay all week, along with his teammate David Breazeale of Four Corners, Miss., but Henderson was unable to make the trip down until Thursday. ... Among drivers not returning after Wednesday event: Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.; Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn.; Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill.; Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa.; Dwight Falcon of Walker, La.; and Corey Weaver of Bedford, Pa. ... Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., is signed in for tonight’s event at East Bay and will miss tonight’s World of Outlaws Late Model Series event at nearby Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. The missed event virturally confirms that Coffey will not follow the WoO tour this season after being a series regular over the past few seasons. “I knew if I just stayed here and broke away from (the WoO series) early, I wouldn’t end up sticking with it and doing something I’m not really prepared to do,” Coffey said of his decision to stay at East Bay. ... Justin Rattliff of Campbellsville, Ky.; is back in his Rayburn Race Car after transmission issues forced him into his backup Bloomquist Race Car during Wednesday’s event.

Qualifying (unofficial)

First group
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 14.404
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.470
Jared Landers (5), Batesville, Ark., 14.510
Justin Rattliff (16), Campbellsville, Ky., 14.516
Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., 14.538
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.543
Jerry Lierly (7L), Camp Point, Ill., 14.561
Vic Coffey (32c), Caledonia, N.Y., 14.575
David Breazeale (54), Four Corners, Miss., 14.606
Austin Hubbard (11), Seaford, Del., 14.630
Jason McBride (77m), Carbondale, Ill., 14.670
Jason Riggs (81jr), Harrisburg, Ill., 14.717
Donnie Moran (99), Dresden, Ohio, 14.781
Todd Frank (21), Mellen, Wis., 14.860
Chad Stapleton (32), Edinburgh, Ind., 14.889
Doug Blashe (1), Marion, Wis., 15.297
Leon Henderson (10), Laurel, Miss., 16.352
Second group
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.518
Don O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 14.541
Doug Drown (63), Wooster, Ohio, 14.546
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 14.646
John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., 14.700
Chad Hollenbeck (4), Kingsley, Pa., 14.747
Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., 14.763
Eric Jacobsen (5), Santa Cruz, Calif., 14.800
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.807
Ricky Weiss (7w), St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba, 15.024
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.076
Braden Mitchell (64), Russellville, Ala., 15.203
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 15.234
Nick Davis, (92), Gumboro, Del., 15.391
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.498
Bob Geiger (38), Laurel, Del., 15.900
Scott Phillips (50), Marlette, Mich., 16.126
Jim O’Hara (44), Moscow, Pa., no time
Brad Malcuit (79), Strasburg, Ohio, no time

Feature lineup

Row 1: Pierce, Drown
Row 2: Erb, O’Neal
Row 3: Reddick, Owens
Row 4: Rattliff, Francis
Row 5: Breazeale, Blankenship
Row 6: Hubbard, Hollenbeck
Row 7: Do. Moran, Carrier
Row 8: Riggs, Jacobsen
Row 9: Coffey, Pearson
Row 10: Bloomquist, De. Moran
Row 11: Stapleton, Weiss
Row 12: Landers, Lierly
Row 13: Scott, McBride

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