GREENWOOD, Neb. — Heading to I-80 Speedway's stretch of five consecutive nights of Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., carried a record of eight victories in his previous nine feature starts.
And while the top-ranked 30-year-old driver won the week's opener, Hudson O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., at least delayed Overton's celebration by briefly slipping ahead mid-race in the 30-lap preliminary event for the Al Belt Custom Homes I-80 Nationals.
O'Neal's high-side pass on a lap-15 restart dropped Overton briefly to second, but he never let O'Neal get too far away in regaining the point on the 19th lap and winning by a 3.118-second margin at the 4/10-mile oval promoted by the Kosiski family.
O'Neal regained the second spot from third-finishing Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., on the white-flag lap while 11th-starting Kyle Bronson of Brandon, Fla., and Frank Heckenast Jr. of Frankfort, Ill. — who held the second spot from laps 10-14 — rounded out the top five.
The race's key moments came at the midway point when, starting on the high-side of a double-file restart, O'Neal squeezed between Overton and the frontstretch wall on the 15th lap to take command. Overton made sure O'Neal's time out front didn't last too long in winning his ninth race in his last 10 starts as well as his second Lucas Oil victory of the season.
"He snuck around me on the outside there and I was just trying to stay calm," Overton said. "Our car's good, it's really balanced. It ain't all the way right yet, I said I've just gotta keep working on it. But all in all, to come out here and set fast time and win the race, it's pretty cool."
O'Neal did everything he could to grab the lead, but he wasn't able to hold on to it while seeking his fourth victory of the season on the national tour.
"I rolled the top really good on that restart. I mean, I was running as hard as I could. I wasn't going to sustain up there for very long," O'Neal said. "You could tell he was going to drive back around me because I was going to get my tires pretty hot. So I tried to roll off (the top) a little bit and I didn't know if clean air maybe would help me, since I wasn't behind him. And then, obviously, it didn't.
"It's just pretty amazing what he's got going on right now. There's not a whole lot of people that can run as good as he is right now, and he's won a lot of big races. It's definitely somebody good to follow. I'm not disappointed at all. I think we were a second-place car, I think we were a little better than third, but just not quite as good as first. So we've gotta a little bit of work to do. We've got a lot of speed to find if we're going to outrun the 76 car."
With results from Tuesday and Wednesday preliminary features setting up the starting field for Thursday's $30,000-to-win I-80 Nationals — then the two-day $53,000-to-win Imperial Tile Silver Dollar Nationals coming up Friday and Saturday — Overton is licking his chops for more I-80 Speedway action.
"It's such a cool place with a helluva payout, you know, so just glad to be able to be here and support the Kosiskis and everybody at the racetrack and Lucas," he said. "It's kind of unreal for me to just keep going to these races and keep picking 'em off. I don't know what I did to deserve all this, but I don't want it to stop."
Tuesday's race was slowed by two cautions, the first for a slowing Tyler Bruening on the 15th lap (Bruening had gotten into the turn-three fence while running fourth on the sixth lap.) A lap-26 yellow appeared when Brandon Sheppard was stopped against the wall exiting turn four.
With passing points determining the 18 heat-race transfers, the red-hot Brandon Overton’s two-position gain from the sixth starting spot was good enough to earn him the pole position for the 30-lap feature. … Nebraska standout Tad Pospisil won the second heat, but his team found terminal engine trouble after the race and he scratched from the feature. … Starting spots for the other heat winners: Shane Clanton (ninth), Jonathan Davenport (10th) and Bill Leighton Jr. (18th). … Spencer Hughes, who was the fastest qualifier in the first group of time trials, had to run a B-main after he got into the wall between turns three and four early in his heat race. He won the consolation in his PCC Motorsports car to move into the headliner. ... Chris Ferguson fell one spot short of transferring in the second B-main after mechanical trouble during time trials prevented him from logging a qualifying lap and a faulty starter wire forced him out of his heat.
Row 1: Brandon Overton, Hudson O’Neal
Row 2: Ricky Thornton Jr., Tyler Bruening
Row 3: Frank Heckenast Jr., Brian Shirley
Row 4: Stormy Scott, Chad Simpson
Row 5: Shane Clanton, Jonathan Davenport
Row 6: Kyle Bronson, Tim McCreadie
Row 7: Mike Marlar, Ricky Weiss
Row 8: Chase Junghans, Josh Richards
Row 9: Tad Pospisil, Bill Leighton Jr.
Row 10: Jimmy Owens, Spencer Hughes
Row 11: Tyler Erb, Brandon Sheppard
Row 12: Chris Simpson, Scott Bloomquist
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
First consolation finish: Jimmy Owens, Tyler Erb, Chris Simpson, Jake Timm, Matt Cosner, Ben Schaller, Mike Collins, Junior Cover, Al Humphrey, Dusty Leonard.
Second consolation finish: Spencer Hughes, Brandon Sheppard, Scott Bloomquist, Chris Ferguson, Earl Pearson Jr., Corey Zeitner, Charlie McKenna, Daniel Hilsabeck, Brian Kosiski, Boom Briggs, Ross Robinson, Dan Battaglia.
Heat race results
(Eight laps; passing points determine 18 transfers)
First heat finish: Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Sheppard, Brian Shirley, Hudson O’Neal, Jimmy Owens, Earl Pearson Jr., Jake Timm, Daniel Hilsabeck, Dusty Leonard, Spencer Hughes, Dan Battaglia.
Second heat finish: Tad Pospisil, Josh Richards, Chase Junghans, Ricky Weiss, Tim McCreadie, Kyle Bronson, Ben Schaller, Corey Zeitner, Boom Briggs, Ross Robinson (DNS) Jake Neal.
Third heat finish: Shane Clanton, Matt Cosner, Frank Heckenast Jr., Brandon Overton, Mike Marlar, Chris Simpson, Tyler Erb, Mike Collins, Junior Coover, Andrew Kosiski.
Fourth heat finish: Bill Leighton Jr., Chad Simpson, Stormy Scott, Tyler Bruening, Ricky Thornton Jr., Scott Bloomquist, Charlie McKenna, Brian Kosiski, Al Humphrey, Chris Ferguson, Allan Hopp.
- Spencer Hughes (11H), Meridian, Miss., 16.669
- Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 16.791
- Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 16.831
- Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.844
- Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 16.887
- Ricky Weiss (7W), Headingley, Manitoba, 16.961
- Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 16.970
- Chase Junghans (18), Manhattan, Kan., 17.006
- Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 17.117
- Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 17.195
- Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 17.231
- Tad Pospisil (04), Norfolk, Neb., 17.282
- Jake Timm (49), Winona, Minn., 17.347
- Ross Robinson (7R), Georgetown, Del., 17.465
- Dusty Leonard (7D), Marysville, Kan., 17.576
- Ben Schaller (98), Omaha, Neb., 17.617
- Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 17.649
- Corey Zeitner (26JR), Omaha, Neb., 17.775
- Daniel Hilsabeck (22H), Adel, Iowa, 17.926
- Boom Briggs (99B), Bear Lake, Pa., 18.287
- Dan Battaglia (45), Gretna, Neb., 18.351
- Jake Neal (214), Omaha, Neb., no time
- Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 16.644
- Ricky Thornton Jr. (20rt), Chandler, Ariz., 16.854
- Mike Marlar (157), Winfield, Tenn., 16.855
- Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 16.859
- Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.880
- Stormy Scott (2), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.890
- Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 16.987
- Chad Simpson (1C), Mount Vernon, Iowa, 17.024
- Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 17.092
- Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 17.146
- Matt Cosner (66C), Ridgeley, W.Va., 17.155
- Bill Leighton Jr. (24), Omaha, Neb., 17.359
- Andrew Kosiski (53), Omaha, Neb., 17.492
- Charlie McKenna (22M), Ames, Iowa, 17.521
- Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 17.525
- Brian Kosiski (52), Papillion, Neb., 17.545
- Mike Collins (3C), New Orleans, La., 17.620
- Al Humphrey (6), Giltner, Neb., 18.511
- Junior Coover (10C), Norfolk, Neb., 18.706
- Allan Hopp (80), Harlan, Iowa, no time
- Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., no time
6:30 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
7 p.m.: On-track action begins
- Lucas Oil Series hot laps
- Bragging Rights Late Models hot laps
- Lucas Oil Series qualifying
- Lucas Oil Series heat races (8 laps)
- Bragging Rights Late Model heat races
- Lucas Oil Series B-mains (10 laps)
- Bragging Rights Late Model B-mains
- Lucas Oil Series A-main (30 laps)
- Bragging Rights Late Model A-main (22 laps)