TUCSON, Ariz. — Don O’Neal separated himself from the rest of the Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout competition in a big way at Saturday’s miniseries opener.
By virtue of his 30-lap triumph at USA Raceway, O’Neal stands alone as the only driver in contention for the Keyser Quarter-Million Bonus, which pays $250,000 to anyone who can sweep the six-race winter miniseries.
“It’s not going to be easy for sure,” O’Neal said in victory lane, “but we’ve got one down anyway.”
The fourth-starting O’Neal won a feisty mid-race duel with polesitter Shane Clanton, then pulled away after a string of lap-18 cautions for a $5,000 payday and first victory in Tucson since a 2012 triumph.
The Clint Bowyer Racing driver took the checkers nearly two seconds ahead of former teammate Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., who replaced Francis with CBR last fall, was third with Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., and 19th-starting Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., rounding out the top five.
Clanton, who led the first 14 laps including a daring move exiting turn four to regain the lead from O’Neal on the 10th lap, ended up sixth amid rugged racing conditions on a cool evening in the desert.
“I had to be up on the wheel out there,” O’Neal said. “I’ve just gotta thank everybody with with this CBR team and Club 29 Race Cars, Peak Motor Oil and just all them guys. That’s what makes it all possible. The first race out this year in this Club 29 Race Car and got the job done.
“After I got the lead there, I just tried to find me a smooth line there and got around there real good. In (turn) two I wasn’t even getting up there and hitting the moisture getting off (the corner) and still drove off real well.”
Francis went by Clanton on the final restart with 12 laps remaining, but he couldn’t keep up with O’Neal on a track, soaked by unusual amounts of rain in the previous days, that provided plenty of challenges.
“This place can make you make a mistake right now,” Francis said. “It’s high speed, and the slick is really slick, and the wet-rough (surface) is really wet-rough, so you gotta kind of make sure you’ve got your car aimed the right way when you go across it. And you’ve gotta pick your spots. You’ve gotta pick where you want to be on the racetrack at the right time.”
Lanigan, who improved five positions to finish third, hopes smoother conditions the rest of the miniseries will help allow him to match the two victories he had last season.
“Starting eighth and getting to third … it wasn’t too bad,” Lanigan said. “The track as awful rough, though. … I’m sure they’ll do a little work on the track and get it smoothed out, so hopefully we’ll be able to race all over this thing.”
The 30-lapper was slowed by four cautions, three of them with the scoreboard stuck on lap 18.
With 12 laps remaining, Tyler Erb pulled up lame in turn four and, on the restart, Kyle Beard did a 360-degree spin into turn three, with everyone remarkably avoiding him until tail-runners Scott Lewis and Morgan Bagley got tangled up.
The next restart also resulted in a mess after bumper tag exiting turn four resulted in Garrett Alberson’s relatively soft rollover into the infield; he wasn’t injured.
The race’s first caution on lap 10 ended the hopes of third-running Dustin Strand, who got into the frontstretch wall exiting turn four.
The fifth-finishing Davenport, one of the favorites to take a crack at the Keyser’s huge bonus, had to overcome a few miscues to even make the main event lineup.
He crossed the line first in the second heat race, but was disqualified when he failed to cross the scales. That put him on the tail of a consolation race, where a first-lap spin nearly ended any chances of making the main event. But he rallied through the tail and caught a break with a late caution, grabbing the second of three transfer spots.
Davenport and other drivers — besides O’Neal — still have a shot at $100,000 going to a driver winning five of six races or $50,000 for winning four.
The six-race Wild West Shootout miniseries continues Sunday with another $5,000-to-win Super Late Model event, a program mirroring Saturday’s action with modifieds and X-mods also in action.
Notes: Besides Davenport’s storyline, the prelims had some other interesting moments. … Don Shaw and Darrell Lanigan banged together down the frontstretch and into turn one while battling for the lead in the fourth heat. Shaw slowed after the contact while Lanigan went on to win. … Multitime Tucson winner Terry Phillips dominated most of the third consy but Garrett Alberson made a four-wide pass amid traffic heading into turn one on the final lap. … Arkansas driver Hunter Rasdon was the third consy’s early leader when his No. R5 went up in smoke, ending his night.
Late Model feature lineup
Row 1: Shane Clanton, Kyle Beard
Row 2: Dustin Strand, Don O'Neal
Row 3: Steve Francis, Billy Moyer
Row 4: Tyler Erb, Darrell Lanigan
Row 5: Ray Moore, Chris Simpson
Row 6: Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Jason Krohn
Row 7: Scott Lewis, Billy Moyer Jr.
Row 8: Brad Looney, Morgan Bagley
Row 9: A.J. Diemel, Garrett Alberson
Row 10: Jonathan Davenport, Jason Papich
Row 11: Terry Phillips, Rodney Sanders
Row 12: Scott Ward, Pat Doar
Late Model consolation results
(12 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Morgan Bagley, Jonathan Davenport, Rodney Sanders, Ricky Weiss, Tony Toste, Austin Siebert, Doug Blashe, Clay Daly, Terry Carter, Dave Deetz, James Laing, R.C. Whitwell.
Second consolation: A.J. Diemel, Jason Papich, Scott Ward, Jason Rauen, Don Shaw, Chase Junghans, Rob Odegard, Brad Whitfield, Junior Coover, Brandon Sheppard, Larry Childress, Jeremy Keller, Bobby Hogge IV, Sean Bray.
Third consolation: Garrett Alberson, Terry Phillips, Pat Doar, Jake O'Neil, Justin Duty, Dana Fite, Rick Ortega, Paul Guglielmoni, Bucky Andrews, Joey Moriarty, Rob Sanders, Vic Hill, Hunter Rasdon.
Late Model consolation lineups
(12 laps; top three transfer)
Row 1: Rodney Sanders, Morgan Bagley
Row 2: Jimmy Mars, Ricky Weiss
Row 3: Tony Toste, Clay Daly
Row 4: R.C. Whitwell, Austin Siebert
Row 5: Ryan Gustin, Terry Carter
Row 6: Doug Blashe, Dave Deetz
Row 7: Carlos Ahumada, James Laing
Row 8: Jonathan Davenport
Row 1: Scott Ward, A.J. Diemel
Row 2: Jason Papich, Brandon Sheppard
Row 3: Sean Bray, Bobby Hogge IV
Row 4: Rob Odegard, Larry Childress
Row 5: Jeremy Keller, Chase Junghans
Row 6: Jason Rauen, Billy Franklin
Row 7: Junior Coover, Brad Whitfield
Row 8: Don Shaw
Row 1: Terry Phillips, Hunter Rasdon
Row 2: Jake O’Neil, Justin Duty
Row 3: Garrett Alberson, Pat Doar
Row 4: Joey Moriarty, Rob Sanders
Row 5: Paul Guglielmoni, John Duty
Row 6: Bucky Andrews, Rick Ortega
Row 7: Vic Hill, Dana Fite
Row 8: Greg Jelvik
Late Model heat results
(Eight laps; passing-points format)
First heat: Chris Simpson, Ray Moore, Dustin Strand, Rodney Sanders, Bobby Hogge IV, Larry Childress, Clay Daly, Dave Deetz, Bucky Andrews, Brad Whitfield.
Second heat: Shane Clanton, Kyle Beard, Billy Moyer, Sean Bray, Rob Odegard, Jimmy Mars, John Duty, Paul Guglielmoni, Vic Hill. Disqualified: Jonathan Davenport (light at scales).
Third heat: Tyler Erb, Morgan Bagley, Brad Looney, Scott Ward, R.C. Whitwell, Jeremy Keller, Billy Franklin, Rick Ortega, Justin Duty, Greg Jelvik.
Fourth heat: Darrell Lanigan, Scott Lewis, Don O'Neal, Hunter Rasdon, Pat Doar, Jason Papich, Rob Sanders, Terry Carter, Junior Coover, Don Shaw.
Fifth heat: Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Billy Moyer Jr., A.J. Diemel, Jake O'Neil, Brandon Sheppard, Tony Toste, Joey Moriarty, Jason Rauen, James Laing, Carlos Ahumada.
Sixth heat: Jason Krohn, Terry Phillips, Steve Francis, Ricky Weiss, Garrett Alberson, Austin Siebert, Ryan Gustin, Chase Junghans, Doug Blashe, Dana Fite.
Top 10: Cade Dillard, Rodney Sanders, Darron Fuqua, Phillip Houston, Fito Gallardo, Matt Gilbertson, Jimmy Ray, Ryan Mikkelson, Shawn Fletcher, Matt Leer.
Modified consolation results
(12 laps; top four transfer)
First consolation: Ryan Mikkelson, Ryan Gustin, Matt Leer, Brad Dierks, Chad Olsen, Greg Chesley, Chad Olsen, Christy Georges-Barnett, Scott Sluka, Greg Jelvik, Tim Thomas.
Second consolation: Bobby Hogge IV, Stormy Scott, Scott Bintz, Danny Bayer, Casey Skyberg, Jake Gallardo, Stoney Kruk, Daryl Fisher, Brent Dutenhoffer.
Modified heat results
(Eight laps; passing-points format)
First heat: Darron Fuqua, Corky Thomas, Phillip Houston, Ryan Mikkelson, Scott Sluka, Kyle Beard, Greg Jelvik, Carlos Ahumuda Jr.
Second heat: Cade Dillard, Todd Shute, Shawn Fletcher, Brad Dierks, Justin Rexwinkle, Scott Bintz, Mykeo Atkinson, Chad Olsen, Bob Salmon.
Third heat: Matt Gilbertson, Fito Gallardo, Jake Hartung, Kent Arment, Brent Dutenhoffer, Stoney Kruk, Steve Streeter, Daryl Fisher, Stormy Scott.
Fourth heat: Ricky Thornton Jr., Royal Jones, Jimmy Ray, Danny Bayer, Casey Skyberg, Tim Thomas, Jake Gallardo, Greg Chesley, Chad Falco.
Fifth heat: Rodney Sanders, Blake Jegtvig, Bobby Hogge, Matt Leer, Jeff Hartley, Ryan Gustin, Dallas Cardwell, Terry Haven.
Late Model heat lineups
(Eight laps; passing points format)
Row 1: Chris Simpson, Larry Childress
Row 2: Dave Deetz, Ray Moore
Row 3: Bobby Hogge IV, Brad Whitfield
Row 4: Rodney Sanders, Dustin Strand
Row 5: Bucky Andrews, Clay Daly
Row 1: Rob Odegard, Jonathan Davenport
Row 2: Vic Hill, Sean Bray
Row 3: John Duty, Shane Clanton
Row 4: Billy Moyer, Kyle Beard
Row 5: Paul Guglielmoni, Jimmy Mars
Row 1: Morgan Bagley, Greg Jelvik
Row 2: Billy Franklin, Tyler Erb
Row 3: Brad Looney, R.C. Whitwell
Row 4: Scott Ward, Jeremy Keller
Row 5: Justin Duty, Rick Ortega
Row 1: Don Shaw, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Scott Lewis, Junior Coover
Row 3: Pat Doar, Hunter Rasdon
Row 4: Rob Sanders, Don O'Neal
Row 5: Terry Carter, Jason Papich
Row 1: Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, James Laing
Row 2: Carlos Ahumada, A.J. Diemel
Row 3: Billy Moyer Jr., Jason Rauen
Row 4: Jake O’Neil, Joey Moriarty
Row 5: Brandon Sheppard, Tony Toste
Row 1: Jason Krohn, Terry Phillips
Row 2: Austin Siebert, Dana Fite
Row 3: Ricky Weiss, Garrett Alberson
Row 4: Ryan Gustin, Steve Francis
Row 5: Chase Junghans