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Daily Dirt 03/02/2024 21:12:19

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July 8
Deer Creek Speedway,
Spring Valley, MN
Sanction: Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50) - $50,000
Information provided by: Kevin Kovac, series and track reports (last updated July 9, 4:34 pm)
Pierce nips O'Neal for $50,000 at Deer Creek
NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50
  1. Bobby Pierce
  2. Hudson O'Neal
  3. Brandon Sheppard
  4. Chris Madden
  5. Jonathan Davenport
  6. Tim McCreadie
  7. Garrett Alberson
  8. Earl Pearson Jr.
  9. Dustin Sorensen
  10. Chad Simpson
  11. Devin Moran
  12. Brandon Overton
  13. Chris Simpson
  14. Ricky Thornton Jr.
  15. Justin Duty
  16. Daulton Wilson
  17. Tyler Bruening
  18. Daniel Hilsabeck
  19. Shane Clanton
  20. Boom Briggs
  21. Dillon McCowan
  22. Tyler Erb
  23. Mike Marlar
  24. Max Blair
  25. Ross Robinson
  26. Spencer Hughes
  27. Trevor Gundaker
  28. Stormy Scott
presented by
Heath Lawson/heathlawsonphotos.com
Bobby Pierce hoists the rich winner’s check at Deer Creek.
What won the race: Diving into turns three and four with a last-lap slide job, 10th-starting Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., overtook Hudson O'Neal and narrowly held off a crossover move, edging O'Neal to win Saturday's $50,000 NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 by 0.002 seconds in a photo finish. Pierce notched his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory this year and the 14th of his career.
Key notes: O'Neal, of Martinsville, Ind., was largely unchallenged throughout the second half and led laps 37 through 74, before Pierce edged him at the line. ... It took Lucas Oil Series officials several minutes to review film and confirm transponder location on both vehicles before declaring Pierce the winner; officials utilized the last scoring loop, regardless of the flagstand view from the streaming broadcast. ... Sixth-starting Brandon Sheppard ran as high as second before giving way to Pierce on lap 56 and finished third aboard the Kevin Rumley-owned Longhorn Chassis. ... Pole-starting Chris Madden led the first 36 laps before being overtaken by O'Neal and slipped as low as ninth, before recovering to finish fourth. ... Jonathan Davenport ran as high as second in the early laps, before fading to finish fifth. ... Garrett Alberson and Earl Pearson Jr. each advanced eight positions, finishing seventh and eighth. ... Dustin Sorensen gained five spots and finished ninth. ... Devin Moran (lap 55) and Ricky Thornton Jr. (lap 65) each sustained flat right rears while running seventh; Moran recovered to finish 11th, while Thornton Jr. settled for 14th. ... After completing several pace laps, series officials allowed drivers the option to refuel before taking the initial green flag. ... It was announced that a record crowd was in attendance for Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50. ... Saturday's feature was slowed by nine cautions and lasted 53 minutes, with 18 competitors completing 75 laps.
On the move: Winner Bobby Pierce started 10th.
Winner's sponsors: Pierce’s Longhorn Chassis is sponsored by Hoker Trucking LLC, Mesilla Valley Transportation, Bloomington Normal Truck Performance, Carnaghi Towing & Repair, Floyd’s Waste Systems, Vic Hill Race Engines, Swift Springs, Bilstein Shocks, Toyota of Danville, Ted Brown’s Quality Paint and Body Shop, Extreme Electric, Inc., Performance Bodies, A Plus Vacuum, Lekg Tree Service, Bert Transmission by Budda, Velocita-USA, Robert and Sons Aluminum, VP Racing Fuels and FK Rod Ends.
Points chase: After Deer Creek: 1. Ricky Thornton Jr. (4,320); 2. Hudson O’Neal (4,145); 3. Brandon Overton (3,880); 4. Tim McCreadie (3,785); 5. Jonathan Davenport (3,700); 6. Devin Moran (3,685); 7. Daulton Wilson (3,470); 8. Max Blair (3,450) 9. Tyler Erb (3,425); 10. Earl Pearson Jr. (3,370); 11. Spencer Hughes (3,325); 12. Garrett Alberson (3,145).
Current weather: Few Clouds, 66°F
Car count: 37
Polesitter: Chris Madden
Consolation race winners: Shane Clanton, Tyler Bruening
Provisional starters: Ross Robinson, Boom Briggs, Chris Simpson, Daniel Hilsabeck, Trevor Gundaker, Justin Duty
Next series race: July 11, Davenport Speedway (Davenport, IA) $10,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
From staff reports

SPRING VALLEY, Minn. — After smashing the wall and breaking an axle in Thursday's preliminary feature at Deer Creek Speedway, Bobby Pierce was leery about attempting such a move again while chasing leader Hudson O'Neal in the final laps of Saturday's 75-lap NAPA Auto Parts Gopher 50 finale.

"I'm not gonna lie," the 26-year-old Oakwood, Ill., driver. "I was scared, very scared to send that slider in there after what happened Thursday night."

Not scared enough to give it a shot.

After stalking O'Neal in the high groove over the final 20 laps, the 10th-starting Pierce took advantage of the leader's bobble exiting turn two on the final lap and flung his No. 32 into turn three with abandon, sliding in front of O'Neal in turn four and barely — barely — held off O'Neal's crossover move at the checkers for a $50,000 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series payday.

Pierce pumped a victorious left fist on the cool-down lap, but his victory by two-thousandths of a second — matching the closest finish in series history — wasn't assured until officials examined the placement of the transponders of both cars to verify the results, announcing it 10 minutes after the drivers took the checkered flag.

"I was like, 'Well, he bobbled and I gotta go for it. It's the last lap.' People are gonna ask me why I didn't (try it). ... I'm sure I probably bottled him up in turn four and I got the cushion pretty good," Pierce said in victory lane after his second Lucas Oil Series victory of the season and 14th of his career. "I was worried about the wall because it kind of sticks out, and I got the cushion good, but the car is aimed down the hill. So I was like, 'Well, we're gonna go for it' ... I heard Hudson to my left and we were both just turning 9500 (rpms) coming to the line. It was awesome."

While Pierce was exultant, the fourth-starting O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., called it "the biggest heartbreak I've ever had in my life" and said he let down his Rocket Chassis house car team with his last-lap mistake at the top of the backstretch after leading laps 37-74 of Minnesota's richest Dirt Late Model event.

Sixth-starting Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill., who held the second spot behind O'Neal on laps 50-55 while driving a Rumley Engineering entry, ended up third. Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., started on the pole, led the first 36 laps and slipped back as far as ninth before rallying to finish fourth while outside front-row starter Jonathan Davenport settled for fifth after holding the second spot the first 17 laps.

Series points leader Ricky Thornton Jr., whose preliminaries were marked by a Thursday disqualification for retaliating against O'Neal after a 25-lap prelim, started 22nd and got up to seventh before a lap-65 flat tire dropped him to a 14th-place finish, his worst on the tour in a full-field event since May 13.

While Deer Creek's weekend, capped by a record-setting crowd on Saturday, had plenty of action and drama, it all came down to the weekend's final lap — along with the lengthy official ruling of the winner.

Pierce said he had to "have everything go my way" to pull off the victory after rebounding from the weekend's gloomy start on Thursday with a DNF.

On the last lap of the finale, Pierce said it was "just one of them deals where Hudson just pushed ... bad timing on the last lap. I've had it happen to me plenty of times. You get them last couple of lap jitters when you're leading. You just want that race to be over.

"He made a little push and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to (take advantage). Like, he was pushing but every time he pulled me (exiting turn) two and I knew (turns) three and four was gonna be the one I was gonna slide him in, because that corner is such a far away around."

O'Neal knew Pierce's last-lap move was coming after his slipup.

"I knew if I just didn't mess up that I was probably going to have it. And that's exactly what I did, I just was going down that front straightaway and thought about it too much," O'Neal said. "I don't know. That's, that's the biggest heartbreak I've ever had in my life. I don't know. I don't really have any words. I definitely gave one away and that (in) this big of a race to be leading in that position, you don't get those (opportunities) very often. I don't hate it for me. I hate it for my team."

With O'Neal and Pierce running dangerously close to the wall in the race's late stages, the tricky groove bit O'Neal at the worst of times.

"I thought I'd parked in the fence a couple of times on both ends, just where it kind of shelves off and it gets kind of flatter," O'Neal said. "It was just hard to get to the cushion early and hit it with enough speed to be able to cross him over, and I was just trying to be patient and not make a mistake to where I at least had a shot at crossing him over and getting down the front straightaway and get underneath of him. But it just didn't work that way."

"It was a close finish. You know, whenever you're in the race car, it's hard to tell, because I was underneath him couldn't see the flagstand and I didn't really know where we were on the straightaway as far as where the (start-finish) line was. But yeah, congrats to him. He had to be there in order to take advantage and he did the right thing."

Pierce called it an "awesome weekend really, for us to rebound. You know, we were saying — my crew, everyone, can't thank them enough — we we're saying it's gonna be of a somewhat fairy tale (finish) if we could rebound from Thursday and get a top-five out of this thing. To get the win, that's just amazing."

"I'm not going to lie, when you're racing for a lot of money like that, coming down to the wire, you're shaking in the car a little bit trying not to make a mistake. It just so happened I was in that catbird's seat where I could just wait for him to make a mistake. He was so perfect a lot of the race there. He was fast. It's just one of them deals."

Notes: The 0.002 of a second margin of finish matched the margin Earl Pearson Jr. beat Josh Rice by on July 10, 2020, at Florence Speedway in Union Ky. ... With the field running several pre-race laps to help work in the racing surface, teams were allowed a refuel before taking the initial green. ... Nine cautions slowed the 53-minute race, all for single car incidents. ... Stormy Scott slowed on lap 18. ... Spencer Hughes lost a driveshaft on lap 26. ... Shane Clanton slowed on lap 35 and two laps later Ross Robinson did the same. ... Max Blair retired with mechanical issues on lap 38 and Tyler Erb did the same running ninth three laps later. ... Dillon McCowan spun on lap 48. ... Devin Moran (lap 55) and Thornton (lap 65) both had late-race flat tires while running seventh. ... Deer Creek has another national touring race remaining this season with a $20,000-to-win event on the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series scheduled for Sept. 2.

Gopher 50 feature lineup

(75 laps)

Row 1: Chris Madden, Jonathan Davenport
Row 2: Devin Moran, Hudson O’Neal
Row 3: Tim McCreadie, Brandon Sheppard
Row 4: Brandon Overton, Tyler Erb
Row 5: Spencer Hughes, Bobby Pierce
Row 6: Max Blair, Chad Simpson
Row 7: Mike Marlar, Dustin Sorensen
Row 8: Garrett Alberson, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 9: Shane Clanton, Tyler Bruening
Row 10: Daulton Wilson, Dillon McCowan
Row 11: Stormy Scott, Ricky Thornton Jr.
Row 12: Ross Robinson, Boom Briggs
Row 13: Chris Simpson, Daniel Hilsabeck
Row 14: Trevor Gundaker, Justin Duty

Consolation results

(10 laps; top three transfer)

First consolation: Shane Clanton, Daulton Wilson, Stormy Scott, Chris Simpson, Johnny Scott, Jordan Yaggy, Trevor Gundaker, Lance Hofer, Nick Anvelink, Daniel Hilsabeck, Lance Matthees.

Second consolation: Tyler Bruening, Dillon McCowan, Ricky Thornton Jr., Justin Duty, Ross Robinson, Garrett Smith, Chad Mahder, Boom Briggs, Paul Parker, Jake Timm.

Consolation lineups

First consolation
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Daulton Wilson, Shane Clanton
Row 2: Chris Simpson, Stormy Scott
Row 3: Johnny Scott, Nick Anvelink
Row 4: Jordan Yaggy, Lance Hofer
Row 5: Daniel Hilsabeck, Trevor Gundaker
Row 6: Lance Matthews
Second consolation
(10 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Tyler Bruening, Jake Timm
Row 2: Dillon McCowan, Garrett Smith
Row 3: Justin Duty, Boom Briggs
Row 4: Ricky Thornton Jr., Chad Mahder
Row 5: Paul Parker, Ross Robinson

Saturday's schedule

(All times local)

8 a.m. - Breakfast in beer garden
10:30 a.m. - Dirt Racing Outreach worship
11 a.m. - Beanbag tournament
11 a.m. - Pork chop dinner for teams
2:30 p.m. - Pits open
3 p.m. - Grandstands open
4 p.m - Driver autograph session
6 p.m. - Drivers' meeting
6:30 p.m. - On-track activity
- Modified hot laps
- Late Model hot laps (consolation participants)
Opening ceremonies
- Modified heat races (8 laps)
- Late Model consolation races (10 laps)
- Late Model hot laps (locked-in feature participants)
- Modified consolations (10 laps)
Driver introductions
- Late Model feature (75 laps)
- Modified feature (35 laps)

Feature lineup

Row 1: Madden, Davenport
Row 2: Moran, O’Neal
Row 3: McCreadie, Sheppard
Row 4: Overton, T. Erb
Row 5: Hughes, Pierce
Row 6: Blair, Cha. Simpson
Row 7: Marlar, Sorensen
Row 8: Alberson, Pearson
Row 9: Clanton, Bruening
Row 10: Wilson, McCowan
Row 11: S. Scott, Thornton Jr.
Row 12: Robinson, Briggs
Row 13: Chr. Simpson, Hilsabeck
Row 14: T. Gundaker, Duty

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