ROSSBURG, Ohio — After Eldora’s unforgiving concrete doomed two drivers and a last-lap caution gave Earl Pearson Jr. new life, Jacksonville, Fla., driver won a two-lap shootout over Shane Clanton to end a 16-month winless streak.
Pearson’s $10,000 victory in Friday’s second preliminary feature of the 46th annual World 100 came 10 years after his victory in Dirt Late Model racing’s most prestigious event.
After starting ninth, Pearson worked his way up to third with seven laps remaining, moved up to second after fellow Floridian Kyle Bronson hit the wall for the umpteenth time, then took advantage of an inside-lane starting spot when the white flag was replaced with a caution flag with Clanton out front.
“I’m very surprised Clanton took the top on that restart, because of that moisture down the front straightaway,” said Pearson, whose previous victory came in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series action May 15, 2015 in Oshkosh, Wis. “But it definitely worked out for me. My car was pretty good right through the middle. We made a couple changes right there. We’ve been getting better and better these last couple weeks. Ten years ago, we were standing right here on this stage, so maybe we can do that again tomorrow night.”
Clanton, another former World 100 winner from Zebulon, Ga., finished 0.729 seconds behind Pearson at the finish while eighth-starting Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., was third ahead of 17th-starting Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., and Steve Francis of Bowling Green, Ky.
The race's wall-banging drivers fell from contention. Third-starting Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., last season’s World 100 winner, led the first 15 laps but faded after banging the concrete wall at the top of the backstretch. And Bronson led laps 16-21 while pushing his car to the limit, frequently scraping, slapping and sparking the concrete before falling from the lead and dropped out on lap 24.
Pearson was glad things fell his way for his first Eldora victory since July 25, 2008, on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series.
“Davenport checked out, but I guess he knocked the deck out,” Pearson said. “And (Bronson) he was running really good there. I don’t like to run that top much. Our car was good and neutral right there. These are the tires that we’ve got to run tomorrow night, so all in all, good tonight.”
Clanton officially led three laps, but he was disappointed in the race’s extension when a yellow flag appeared as the pole-starting Bronson rolled to stop after knocking the driveshaft out of his car.
“I don’t know why we throw a caution when half the field takes the white flag. It’s pretty obvious we should have won the race,” Clanton said. "We spun the tires on the start and Earl got a good run there. It was over from there.
“Our car’s been good all weekend, so hopefully we can just make the right adjustments. We know what tire we’re going to be on, so we’ll be on equal playing field.”
Lanigan was among a flurry of drivers in the mix as he bounced back from Thursday’s sub-par performance.
“We had a pretty good car there in the feature. We were glad to rebound a little bit from our struggles last night. Like I said, we’ve got a pretty good piece,” Lanigan said. “I knew I wanted that outside on that restart and I got shuffled to the bottom there. I think if we could have got out there sooner I might have had something for them.”
The quick-starting Davenport dove under the front-row starters Bronson and Tyler Erb in turn one at the outset and dominated the first five laps before Bronson reeled him in. Bronson made a few challenges, but Davenport edged away to get a cushion of two lapped cars before halfway. But Davenport crunched the right-rear corner of his corner when he hit the wall on lap 15, and Bronson took advantage to go ahead a lap later.
Bronson stayed in control but proceeded to hit the wall in virtually every corner of the track over a five-lap stretch, allowing Clanton, Pearson, Lanigan and other pursuers to catch him.
Clanton edged ahead on lap 22 to lead Bronson and Pearson, and Pearson was up to second when Bronson’s demise set up the two-lap dash to the checkers.
Drivers points accrued in Thursday and Friday’s prelims will be added and used to set six heat race lineups in Saturday’s program. Saturday’s 100-lapper pays $49,000-to-win.
Preliminary notes and results:
First consolation (top two transfer): Hudson O’Neal, Matt Miller, Chad Simpson, Mason Zeigler, Doug Drown, Delmas Conley, Joey Moriarty, Ryan King, Bob Gardner, Dustin Nobbe, Tom Krankel, Josh Rice, Jonny Huck, Bryant Dickinson, Jeff Robertson
Second consolation (top two transfer): Morgan Bagley, Shanon Buckingham, Mark Whitener, Casey Roberts, Tim Lance, Jake O’Neil, Casey Noonan, Kevin Reeve, Joey Coulter, Andrew Reaume, Donald Bradsher, Brian Gray, Chase Porter, Devin Gilpin, Jesse Lay
Even heat race notes
There was no smile on Chris Ferguson’s face after he won the first heat. “I don’t know if the fans saw it, but that was not a pretty heat race,” he said. “The car was driving pretty terrible, but if we can win a heat race with a terrible car, maybe we’ll be OK in the feature.” … Earl Pearson Jr.’s victory in the second heat gave him a prelim triumph for the second straight night, but he wasn’t bursting with confidence. “We’ve got some work to do on our feature setup,” he said. “We were a little bit too loose.” … What a difference a day made for Darrell Lanigan, who rebounded from a blown head gasket that forced him to scratch from Thursday’s action with a 3.163-second victory over Jonathan Davenport in the third heat. “We’re a little bit top-dominant,” he said. “We gotta get better on the bottom.” … Steve Francis came alive in the fourth heat, steering his Chad Stapleton-owned Tony Stewart tribute car to a victory one day after struggling immensely. “We were just absolutely horrible last night,” said Francis, who credited his crew’s engine change on Friday afternoon for turning around his fortunes. … Shane Clanton didn’t apologize for winning the fifth heat. “I’m here to win everything we can,” he said. “I know we’re gonna get inverted back (with the win), but we’ve got a good car and hopefully we can keep passing cars.” … Devin Friese’s World 100 weekend appeared to come to an end with a terminal engine malfunction on lap nine of the third heat. His crew chief, Mike Price, said the team’s new powerplant broke in catastrophic fashion. … Ricky Weiss limped across the finish line in the fourth heat with a broken rear end, but he finished fourth and is working to swap rears for the feature.
(12 laps; top two transfer)
Row 1: Hudson O’Neal, Joey Moriarty
Row 2: Josh Rice, Matt Miller
Row 3: Chad Simpson, Mason Zeigler
Row 4: Doug Drown, Ryan King
Row 5: Delmas Conley, Bob Gardner
Row 6: Tom Krankel, Dustin Nobbe
Row 7: Jonny Huck, Bryant Dickinson
Row 8: Kyle Pierce, Jeff Robertson
Row 9: Devin Friese
Row 1: Casey Roberts, Mark Whitener
Row 2: Devin Gilpin, Morgan Bagley
Row 3: Tim Lance, Andrew Reaume
Row 4: Shanon Buckingham, Jake O’Neil
Row 5: Jesse Lay, Casey Noonan
Row 6: Kevin Reeve, Joey Coulter
Row 7: Donald Bradsher, Brian Gray
Row 8: Chase Porter, Jerry Bowersock
Side-by-side coming out of turn four, Shane Clanton pulled ahead of Kyle Bronson to lead the first lap. Clanton began stretching his lead, as Austin Smith and Josh Rice battled for the fourth and final transfer spot. Clanton won the fifth heat race, with Bronson holding off Shannon Babb to finish second. Babb finished third, with Smith pulling away from Rice to take transfer to the feature.
Finish (top four transfer): Shane Clanton, Kyle Bronson, Shannon Babb, Austin Smith, Josh Riche, Tim Lance, Ryan King, Casey Noonan, Jonny Huck, Chase Porter
Third-starting Ricky Weiss edged ahead of polesitter Nick Hoffman at the line to take the lead at the drop of the green flag. Advancing from the fifth starting spot, Tyer Erb pulled ahead the race leader on lap five, with fourth-starting Steve Francis in tow. Working around the top of the racetrack, Francis shot past Erb to take the lead at the white flag. Francis won the fourth heat, with Erb running second. Hoffman finished fourth, with Weiss slipping to grab the fourth and final transfer spot.
Finish (top four transfer): Steve Francis, Tyler Erb, Nick Hoffman, Ricky Weiss, Mark Whitener, Chad Simpson, Shanon Buckingham, Bob Gardner, Joey Coulter, Kyle Pierce
Charging around the top of the racetrack, outside polesitter Darrell Lanigan pulled ahead of polesitter Jonathan Davenport to lead the opening lap. As the top-two distanced themselves from the field, a battle ensued between Steve Casebolt and Joey Moriarty for the final transfer spot. Dominating past the halfway point, Lanigan picked up the heat race win, with Davenport finishing runner-up. Chris Madden finished third, with Casebolt pulling away from Moriarty to run fourth and transfer to the feature.
Finish (top four transfer): Darrell Lanigan, Jonathan Davenport, Chris Madden, Steve Casebolt, Joey Moriarty, Morgan Bagley, Doug Drown, Jesse Lay, Dustin Nobbe, Brian Gray, Devin Friese
With the frontrunners going three-wide as they exited turn four, outside polesitter Earl Pearson Jr. pulled ahead to take the race lead. Working around the low-side, Casey Roberts kept Pearson in his sights, crossing the line nearly side-by-side at the halfway mark. But Roberts’s charge was short-lived as Dennis Erb Jr. pulled ahead to grab the second spot with just two laps remaining. Pearson held off Erb to win the heat race, with Jeep Van Wormer running third. R.J. Conley edged ahead of Roberts to cross the line fourth. Erb was penalized for jumping the start, putting him back two positions at the finish.
Finish (top four transfer): Earl Pearson Jr., Jeep Van Wormer, R.J. Conley, Dennis Erb Jr., Casey Roberts, Matt Miller, Andrew Reaume, Delmas Conley, Kevin Reeve, Bryant Dickinson
Shooting to the high-side, polesitter Chris Ferguson took an early lead, as Nick Latham improved from the sixth starting spot to the third position. Ferguson led all 10 laps unchallenged, with fellow front row starter Dustin Linville holding off Latham to finish second. Latham ran third, with Kent Robinson fighting off a slide job challenge from Hudson O’Neal to finish fourth and transfer to the feature.
Finish (top four transfer): Chris Ferguson, Dustin Linville, Nick Latham, Kent Robinson, Hudson O’Neal, Devin Gilpin, Mason Zeigler, Jake O’Neil, Tom Krankel, Donald Bradsher, Jeff Robertson
Even qualifying notes
Hudson O’Neal was almost speechless after timing second-fastest in qualifying in what was his third career Super Late Model start. “Oh, man, it’s crazy,” the 16-year-old said while standing on the stage. He admitted that he would have liked to set set fast time, but his dear old dad, Don, overtook him in the final moments of time trials to take top honors. “I’m glad dad beat me,” he said. “I wouldn’t want anybody else but him to beat me. It’s a little heartbreaking, but I’m exceeding so many of my expectations.” … Doug Drown and his crew were hard at work repairing virtually the entire right side of his car after he slammed the outside hard during qualifying. … Dennis Erb Jr., who finished third in a preliminary feature on Thursday, managed only the 64th-fastest qualifying lap. … Word began circulating through the pit area that Brandon Sheppard, who is not competing in the World 100 activities because he’s suspended (along with four other drivers) from WoO and UMP DIRTcar competition until Sunday due to his failed tire-test after June’s Dream, has taken himself out of the lawsuit that the penalized drivers recently filed against the World Racing Group and Eldora Speedway in protest of the Dream infractions.
Even heat lineups
(10 laps; top four transfer)
Row 1: Chris Ferguson, Dustin Linville
Row 2: Jake O’Neil, Hudson O’Neal
Row 3: Devin Gilpin, Nick Latham
Row 4: Mason Zeigler, Kent Robinson
Row 5: Donald Bradsher, Tom Krankel
Row 6: Jeff Robertson
Row 1: Jeep Van Wormer, Earl Pearson Jr.
Row 2: Casey Roberts, Matt Miller
Row 3: Andrew Reaume, R.J. Conley
Row 4: Dennis Erb Jr., Delmas Conley
Row 5: Jerry Bowersock, Kevin Reeve
Row 6: Bryant Dickinson
Row 1: Jonathan Davenport, Darrell Lanigan
Row 2: Steve Casebolt, Chris Madden
Row 3: Joey Moriarty, Morgan Bagley
Row 4: Devin Friese, Dustin Nobbe
Row 5: Jesse Lay, Brian Gray
Row 6: Doug Drown
Row 1: Nick Hoffman, Chad Simpson
Row 2: Ricky Weiss, Steve Francis
Row 3: Tyler Erb, Shanon Buckingham
Row 4: Bob Gardner, Joey Coulter
Row 5: Mark Whitener, Kyle Pierce
Row 1: Kyle Bronson, Shane Clanon
Row 2: Shannon Babb, Austin Smith
Row 3: Josh Rice, Casey Noonan
Row 4: Ryan King, Tim Lance
Row 5: Jonny Huck, Chase Porter
Edging his son for fast time, Thursday preliminary winner Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., was quickest in Friday’s preliminary qualifying over more than 100 qualifiers at Eldora’s half-mile oval.
The 52-year-old O’Neal tripped the clock at 15.727 seconds to knock his 16-year-old son Hudson O’Neal off the top spot he held most of the qualifying session.
The younger O’Neal posted a 15.779-second lap with Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., at 15.852 seconds as only three drivers cracked the 16-second mark in dry-slick conditions.
All three will be among drivers starting outside the second row in heat races after a four-car inversion as the field will be split into odd-even groups for two complete racing programs.
World 100 attendees took notice Thursday of the new black-colored catch fence that was installed around the outside and inside of the speedway since the Dream. A longer stretch of chain-link fence was also installed along the inside of turn four to create a lane for cars to file through the scales. … Also new are the pair of orange cones stuck in the catch fence on the outside of turn four to mark off the restart box in which the leader must step on the gas when the green flag flies. … Following Thursday night’s action teams reported no problems with the new World 100 tire rule, which bans bans all grooving, siping, pinning or needling of tires and requires teams to use Hoosier LM-20s on three corners with the option of an LM-20 or LM-40 on the right-rear wheel. The softer LM-20s were the overwhelming tire of choice for the right-rear on Thursday night and by all accounts tire wear was almost non-existent. … The only driver who opted to try a harder LM-40 tire on the right-rear in one of Thursday night’s features was teenager Josh Rice of Verona, Ky., who quickly realized that the decision was a mistake. He spun in turn four on the first lap and was involved in a tangle with Joey Coulter of Charlotte, N.C., on the second circuit. … Steve Francis of Bowling Green, Ky., will head out for Friday night’s action following an afternoon engine change in his Chad Stapleton-owned machine.
The second day of Eldora’s 46th annual World 100 weekend includes split-field programs with $10,000 going to the night’s feature winners.
Each of more than 100 entrants get two time trial laps before odd-even heat races, consolation races and 25-lap main events.
Thursday and Friday’s qualifying, heat, consolation and feature performances accrue points for drivers set up Saturday’s heat race lineups. Matt Miller of Whitehouse, Ohio, and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., won Thursday’s 25-lap prelims.
Weather forecasts are somewhat more promising for the weekend racing schedule after a delay of more than three hours in Thursday’s programs pushed feature action past 2 a.m. … Eldora rookie Michael Norris of Sarver, Pa., was Thursday’s fastest qualifier. … Paul Stubber of Bunbury, Australia, had mechanical problems Thursday that forced him to scratch for the weekend.
Time trials (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.727
Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 15.779
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.852
Matt Miller (3), Whitehouse, Ohio, 16.033
Wendell Wallace (6m), Batesville, Ark., 16.072
Chris Madden (44), Gray Court, S.C., 16.073
Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, 16.075
Steve Francis (14), Bowling Green, Ky., 16.088
Jason Hiett (1), Oxford, Ala., 16.093
Austin Smith (11), Cedartown, Ga., 16.095
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 16.114
Jake O’Neil (0), Tucson, Ariz., 16.131
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 16.138
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 16.172
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., 16.178
Steve Casebolt (c9), Richmond, Ind., 16.183
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 16.194
Ricky Weiss (7w), Headingley, Manitoba, 16.202
Robby Hensley (21H), Walton, Ky., 16.216
Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., 16.220
Riley Hickman (R1), Ooltewah, Tenn., 16.232
Dustin Linville (D8), Bryantsville, Ky., 16.236
Cody Mahoney (4), Madison, Ind., 16.249
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 16.254
Duane Chamberlain (20c), Richmond, Ind., 16.260
Darrell Lanigan (29), Union, Ky., 16.264
Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., 16.265
Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, 16.275
Jon Henry (15), Ada, Ohio, 16.284
Tyler Carpenter (28), Parkersburg, W.Va., 16.312
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 16.321
Dylan Ames (77), Harvest, Ala., 16.324
Jeep Van Wormer (55), Pinconning, Mich., 16.332
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 16.332
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 16.341
Garrett Alberson (F5), Las Cruces, N.M., 16.342
Nick Hoffman (2), Mooresville, N.C., 16.358
Scott James (15), Bright, Ind., 16.380
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 16.385
Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., 16.389
Devin Gilpin (1G), Columbus, Ind., 16.404
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 16.431
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 16.446
Andrew Reaume (88), Blenheim, Ontario, 16.464
Timothy Culp (c8), Prattsville, Ark., 16.492
Joey Moriarty (51), Phoenix, Ariz., 16.494
Jackie Boggs (4B), Grayson, Ky., 16.502
Tyler Erb (91), New Waverly, Texas, 16.502
Mike Spatola (89), Manhattan, Ill., 16.520
Josh Rice (11), Verona, Ky., 16.530
Gavin Landers (77), Batesville, Ark., 16.533
Nick Latham (31), Winchester, Ohio, 16.545
Jason Jameson (16), Lawrenceburg, Ind., 16.583
R.J. Conley (71), Wheelersburg, Ohio, 16.597
Zack Dohm (17), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 16.600
Morgan Bagley (14m), Longview, Texas, 16.601
Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., 16.601
Shanon Buckingham (20), Morristown, Tenn., 16.635
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 16.660
Casey Noonan (1N), Sylvania, Ohio, 16.669
Gordy Gundaker (11), St. Charles, Mo., 16.672
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 16.681
Alex Ferree (10), Saxonburg, Pa., 16.725
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 16.768
Josh Putnam (212), Florence, Ala., 16.800
Devin Friese (12), Chambersburg, Pa., 16.806
Rusty Schlenk (91), McClure, Ohio, 16.835
Bob Gardner (4G), East Peoria, Ill., 16.838
Brian Ruhlman (49), Clarklake, Mich., 16.838
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 16.861
Craig Vosbergen (8), Perth, Australia, 16.872
Kent Robinson (7R), Bloomington, Ind., 16.874
Jared Hawkins (1), Fairmont, W.Va., 16.883
Delmas Conley (71), Wheelersburg, Ohio, 16.912
Jay Johnson (93), West Burlington, Iowa, 16.917
Dustin Nobbe (5N), Batesville, Ind., 16.943
Brad Wade (23w), Dundee, Mich., 16.962
Joey Coulter (2), Miami Springs, Fla., 16.978
Michael Page (18x), Douglasville, Ga., 17.028
Tim Lance (48), Brimfield, Ill., 17.033
Rob Toland (39), Hinsdale, Ill., 17.169
Donald Bradsher (93), Burlington, N.C., 17.234
Zach McMillan (14z), Gladewater, Texas, 17.255
Jerry Bowersock (95j), Wapakoneta, Ohio, 17.260
Lamar Haygood (17), Douglasville, Ga., 17.285
Vic Hill (1), Mosheim, Tenn., 17.391
Mark Whitener (6w), Middleburg, Fla., 17.427
Adam Bowman (77), Seymour, Ind., 17.432
Jon Hodgkiss (69), Kennedy Township, Pa., 17.470
Jesse Lay (33), Walton, Ky., 17.498
Tanner Kellick (3K), Mer Rouge, La., 17.502
Tom Krankel (TK0), St. Louis, Mo., 17.510
Kody Evans (4G), Camden, Ohio, 17.540
Kevin Reeve (4x), Hanover, Mich., 17.639
Mike Mataragas (1m), DeKalb, Ill., 17.669
Brian Gray (3G), Hamilton, Ohio, 17.932
Samuel Tolley (8jr), Butler, Ind., 17.936
Kyle Pierce (281), Statesville, N.C., 17.988
Shane Unger (79), Rossburg, Ohio, 18.004
Chase Porter (34), DuQuoin, Ill., 18.034
Rob Anderzack (8a), Swanton, Ohio, 18.116
Jeff Robertson (P3), Defiance, Ohio, 18.198
Larry Greer (9G), Bowling Green, Ky., 18.203
Bryant Dickinson (5*), Ionia, Mich., 18.328
Blake Spencer (6s), St. Augustine, Fla., 18.350
Doug Drown (240), Wooster, Ohio, no time
Curtis Roberts (9R), Coleman, Mich., no time
Friday’s racing schedule
5 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m.: Hot laps
7 p.m. Time trials (two laps each three cars at a time)
8 p.m.: Racing begins
- Alternating odd-even heat races (10 laps; top four transfer)
- Odd consolation races (12 laps; top two transfer)
- Even consolation races (12 laps; top two transfer)
- Odd feature race (10-car inversion; 25 laps)
- Even feature race (10-car inversion; 25 laps)
Friday’s facility schedule
6 a.m.: Showers open (close 6 p.m.)
7 a.m.: Breakfast at turn four concessions (closes 11 a.m.)
10 a.m.: Turn three race registration opens (pit passes and media credential sign-in)
10 a.m.: Main gate ticket office opens (tickets, pit passes and will call)
10 a.m.: Turn four ticket office opens (tickets and pit passes)
11 a.m.: All ADA Parking opens (permit required)
11 a.m.: Grandstand cleared and secured for grand opening
Noon: Turn three pit gate opens
Noon: All admission gates (including suites) open
Noon: All concessions open
Noon: Technical inspection for Late Models (closes 4:30 p.m.)
12:15 p.m.: Cornhole tournament registration at Fan Zone barn (begins 1 p.m.)
5 p.m.: Drivers’ meeting
6 p.m.: Hot laps
8 p.m.: Heat races