COLUMBUS, Miss. (June 13) — Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn., was the star of Friday night’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Clash at the Mag qualifying program at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
Debuting a new Longhorn Chassis machine, Weaver turned the overall fastest lap in the evening’s 44-car time-trial session and won the third of four 10-lap heat races to earn the outside pole starting spot in Saturday night’s $20,000-to-win, 100-lap finale.
“It couldn’t have went much better for us,” the 44-year-old Weaver said after his impressive first competitive run behind the wheel of a Longhorn car. “Hat’s off to my crew — they really busted their tails to get this thing put together in time to get here so we could practice last night and fix a couple of those (new-car) blues.
“Kevin Rumley and everybody back at Longhorn, they really helped me a lot. Earl (Pearson Jr.) just opened notebooks. It’s really sped our learning curve up, and hopefully we can make the right adjustments and go out there and just have a shot at it (Saturday).”
Weaver, who abandoned his 2014 plans to follow the entire Lucas Oil Series full-time last month after his father developed health problems that were diagnosed as pancreatic cancer, outdueled Pearson for his heat-race triumph. Pearson outgunned Weaver for the lead at the start, but Weaver fought back on the outside to pull off a late-race pass.
Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., also drove a brand-new car — a Carl Grover-owned Rocket Chassis — to a heat-race victory on Friday night, capturing the first preliminary to earn the pole position for the 100-lapper. He dominated the event, leading the entire distance without facing a serious challenge.
“We rolled out a new car this weekend, totally new from the bottom to the top,” said Carrier. “I was hoping we’d get the regular track here yesterday in practice so we could work with it and try a few things, but after tonight, we might have messed it up if we had got to test some stuff.
“We’re just happy with the car, happy with the motor — just happy with everything. We just rolled it out of the box and haven’t touched a thing on it yet. I think it still needs a little work for the hundred-lapper — we might try to tighten it up (Saturday) in the hot-lap session and see what happens — but we’re pretty happy right now.”
Veterans Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., also scored heat wins, grabbing the second and fourth prelims, respectively, to put them together in the second row for the start of the Clash at the Mag headliner. Both drivers felt confident about their chances for success in the century grind after their qualifying performances.
“The last races here we’ve just kind of been missing it just a little bit,” said Bloomquist, who finished ninth and third in his previous visit this season to Magnolia, on April 18-19 for a National Dirt Racing League doubleheader. “We tried a couple little things I thought might fix it, and it seems to be really good. I’m looking forward to the hundred laps.”
O’Neal took advantage of a quickening outside lane to win the fourth heat. He pushed his Clint Bowyer Racing Barry Wright car into the lead at the initial green flag and never looked back.
“That outside groove started coming in a little bit in that heat before me and that helped us a little on that start,” said O’Neal, who earned $12,500 for winning the April 19 NDRL finale at Magnolia. “After watching them first two heat races I thought maybe we might’ve been a little bit in trouble because that bottom line prevailed so much, but it come in there and we got a run around there pretty good. I think we got a pretty good shot for (Saturday).”
Notes: Chase Washington of Houlka, Miss., who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma two years ago at age 20 but has overcome the disease to race again, outran Lucas Oil Series regulars Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., and John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., to finish second in the first heat and make his first A-Main on the national tour. … Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., advanced from the fifth starting spot to take runner-up honors in the second heat. … Chris Wall of Springfield, La., who won the opening-night feature of April’s NDRL weekend at Magnolia, will start 10th on Saturday night after placing third in the third heat. … Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., and Shane Clanton of Zebulon, Ga., are scheduled to start from the pole position in Saturday night’s pair of 12-lap B-Mains. Both last-chance races will transfer three drivers to the 100-lapper. … Among others in the consolations: Ray Cook, David Breazeale, Dennis Erb Jr., Anthony Burroughs, Wendell Wallace, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Scott Slay, Jason Cliburn, Jimmy Cliburn, Rick Rickman, Brian Rickman and Jack Sullivan.