BRUNSWICK, Ga.— The guy who dominated the conclusion of February's Georgia-Florida Speedweeks got off to a not-so-surprising successful start in May's impromptu Speedweeks reprisal.
Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., slipped by Brandon Overton on the 32nd lap Tuesday at Golden Isles Speedway and raced to a 40-lap victory worth $7,000 as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series ended a 100-day coronavirus-forced hiatus.
While Owens notched his first Lucas Oil victory since last September, he collected his sixth victory in his last seven starts overall, including three straight Speedweeks victories in World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series action at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., three months earlier.
“It’s awesome,” said Owens, who earned two unsanctioned victories worth $10,000 the previous weekend at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss. and 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn. “The crew, everybody, we’ve been on a roll, busting our tails and just a lot of (highway) driving. To be able to be as fortunate as we are right now, you’ve gotta thank God and my family and my son and everybody. It’s pretty awesome.”
The fourth-starting Owens didn’t pass a car through the first half of the race, but he came alive in the final 10 laps, slipping under Overton and fighting off a last-ditch challenge from from the outside front-row starter in the final laps.
The winner was concerned that pre-race chassis adjustments had cost him, but he came through with his 65th career victory, second on the all-time series list.
“The car was a little bit freer than what I wanted and had a push. I had to rotate it a lot through the center (of the corner) than I wanted to,” Owens said. “We made a couple of changes right before the feature, and I felt like that really messed us up. But the car’s really, really good right now.”
Ninth-starting Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., boldly dove under Overton with two laps remaining to grab the runner-up spot while Overton, who led laps 1-8 and 10-31, settled for third. Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who started on the pole and led the ninth lap before giving the point right back to Overton on a restart, was fourth followed by eighth-starting Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio.
Tim McCreadie, February’s Lucas Oil winner at Golden Isles, ran into trouble trying for his second straight victory at the 4/10-mile oval. The Watertown, N.Y., driver was running second and pressuring Overton just past the halfway point when contact with the slower car of Steven Roberts flattened McCreadie’s right-rear tire, knocking him from contention on the 23rd lap.
Zeigler, who broke into the top five on lap 23 after starting on the fifth row, had a few scrapes with the guardrail and competitors but ended up with a runner-up finish.
“I really need the top (position) on that (lap-33) restart,” said Zeigler, who overtook Richards and Overton in the final laps. “We went a little different on tires and them guys, I wanted to slide (job) them both, and both of them went from running the middle to coming down just as I was making the commitment (to pass low). It’s all good. Rubbin’s racing sometimes. I hope that no one was upset, but I talked to Brandon and they’re all good.
“The car was good. I wish we could’ve started a little bit further up front. Bryan and Buck and my whole crew have been working their butts off and getting this thing to where it needs to be. We’ve got a little bit of tweaking. We’ve gotta get a little better early (in the race program). … if I think we can get in the top four of five in the (opener), I think we’ve got a good chance at winning.”
Overton, who controlled most of the race after jumping into the lead from his front-row starting spot, said he didn’t finish with the car he started with.
“Right there, like in the middle of the race, I got into it with a lapped car, and it never drove the same after that,” Overton said. “Like it was kind of really, really tight getting in and I had to shear it, and then I'd just slide. But all in all, it’d been so good all night, I didn’t want to (change) much anyway. It was still good, like I said, until I got into it with that lapped car.
“You know, these guys are the best, the best in the business. Jimmy’s been hot, so congratulations to him and Zeigler. … The only way you’re going to get any better is to come race with ’em. We know we’ve got a really good car. We’re going to back and patch it up and see what all we’ve got bent on the left-front there and just try again tomorrow.”
Besides the lap-23 caution for McCreadie’s flat tire, the race was also slowed by three more cautions: when Brian Shirley slowed and retired on the ninth lap; on the 28th lap for Michael Norris; and finally on lap 33 for Hudson O’Neal.
Series action continues at Golden Isles on Wednesday and Thursday with two more $7,000-to-win events on the Lucas Oil Reopening Tour.
Notes: Kyle Bronson was a scheduled front-row starter in the fourth heat but a broken driveshaft damaged his car’s rear end during pace laps, forcing him to scratch and take a provisional starting spot in the main event. He rallied to finish ninth in the feature … The most serious incident in the heats came when Shanon Buckingham spun coming to green in the second heat, piling up several cars; everyone was able to restart and Buckingham ended up transferring to the main event through a consolation race. … Pearson Lee Williams got into the wall in heat action when he broke something in the right-front corner. … Hudson O’Neal parked the car he drove in time trials pulled out his backup MasterSbilt machine for the remainder of the night. He used a provisional to start the feature but retired early with mechanical trouble.
(12 laps; top three transfer)
First consolation: Mark Whitener, Chris Ferguson, Shanon Buckingham, Earl Pearson Jr., Ross Bailes, Brian Shirley, Dennis Erb Jr., Russell Brown Jr., Ryan Scott. Scratched: Blake Spencer, Vic Hill, Pearson Lee Williams, Mike Benedum, G.R. Smith.
Second consolation: Jonathan Davenport, Michael Norris, Ryan King, John Baker, Jeremy Conaway, Blake Naylor, Ken Monahan, Stormy Scott, Kerry King. Scratched: Hudson O'Neal, Kyle Bronson, Blake Naylor.
Heat race results
(10 laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Josh Richards, Max Blair, Mason Zeigler, Rick Eckert, Chris Ferguson, Mark Whitener, Earl Pearson Jr., Ross Bailes, Vic Hill, Russell Brown Jr., Mike Benedum.
Second heat: Tim McCreadie, Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb, Billy Moyer Jr., Brian Shirley, Shanon Buckingham, Dennis Erb Jr., Blake Spencer, Pearson Lee Williams, Ryan Scott, G.R. Smith.
Third heat: Brandon Overton, Tyler Bruening, Shane Clanton, Steven Roberts, Jonathan Davenport, Michael Norris, Ryan King, Kerry King, Jeremy Conaway. Scratched: Hudson O'Neal, Blake Naylor.
Fourth heat: Jimmy Owens, Devin Moran, Jason Fitzgerald, Tanner English, Donnie Chappell, Ken Monahan, John Baker, John Tweed, Stormy Scott. Scratched: Kyle Bronson.
Time trials (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown
Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.006
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 15.154
Max Blair (111B), Centerville, Pa., 15.182
Brandon Sheppard (1), New Berlin, Ill., 15.189
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 15.202
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas,, 15.326
Chris Ferguson (22), Mount Holly, N.C., 15.339
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 15.342
Rick Eckert (0E), York, Pa., 15.348
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.364
Ross Bailes (1B), Clover, S.C., 15.393
Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., 15.394
Mark Whitener (5W), Middleburg, Fla., 15.417
Pearson Lee Williams (2W), Dublin, Ga., 15.426
Earl Pearson Jr. (1P), Jacksonville, Fla., 15.435
G.R. Smith (89), Cornelius, N.C., 15.470
Vic Hill (1V), Morristown, Tenn., 15.478
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 15.578
Mike Benedum (25B), Salem, W.Va., 15.721
Blake Spencer (6), St. Augustine, Fla., 15.886
Russell Brown Jr. (00), Valdosta, Ga., 16.051
Ryan Scott (0R), Pittsfield, Pa., 16.751
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 14.779
Devin Moran (9), Dresden, Ohio, 14.952
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 15.014
Kyle Bronson (40b), Brandon, Fla., 15.023
Steven Roberts (111), Jesup, Ga., 15.103
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.131
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 15.146
Donnie Chappell (25DC), St. Augustine, Fla., 15.146
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 15.252
Jason Fitzgerald (7F), Middleburg, Fla., 15.279
Michael Norris (72), Sarver, Pa., 15.305
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.322
Ryan King (1G), Seymour, Tenn., 15.459
Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 15.616
Kerry King (KB0), Delmar, Del., 15.869
John Tweed (5T), Greeneville, Tenn., 15.877
Jeremy Conaway (F15), Rochester, Ill., 15.909
Ken Monahan (311), Lakeland, Fla., 15.911
Hudson O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 16.004
John Baker (14B), Norman Park, Ga., 16.327
Blake Naylor (91S), Sardinia, Ohio, no time