GIBSONTON, Fla. — In a wild finish Wednesday at East Bay Raceway Park, Tyler Erb and Mason Zeigler duked it out for the lead in the waning laps, but it was Brandon Overton who slipped by to grab the victory.
Leading only the 40th lap, the Evans, Ga., driver patiently let Erb outrun him into turn three on the final lap, then drove back underneath the leader in turn four and won the drag race to the checkers for his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory in as many nights.
Overton’s second straight Geico East Bay Nationals triumph paid $7,000 and gave him a nation-leading seventh overall Super Late Model victory of the season.
“I can’t thank my crew enough, Terry (Cox) and Kent (Fegter). They’ve busted their butt all weekend,” the driver for Kentucky-based Wells Motorsports said in victory lane. “We’ve got a really good car right now. Just keep our head down and keep digging.”
Erb, the New Waverly, Texas, driver for Ohio-based Best Performance Motorsports who led all but two laps, finished 0.206 seconds behind at the checkers while looking for his first Lucas Oil victory since September. Chalk Hill, Pa.'s Zeigler, who lost the lead after contact from Erb’s slide-job pass in turn four on lap 38, settled for third while polesitter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., and Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, rounded out the top five at the third-mile oval just south of Tampa.
Three-time and reigning series champion Jonathan Davenport, Monday’s East Bay winner, saw his chances end on the second lap when his car’s nosepiece ended up underneath Kyle Bronson’s car in turn two in an incident also involving Blake Spencer.
At the race’s outset, Erb made an impressive third-to-first inside move on the first lap to take control over front-row starters Owens and Overton, who slipped back to fifth early. The fifth-starting Zeigler took advantage of a lap-five restart to briefly slip ahead of Erb on the sixth lap, but Erb quickly regained control and led comfortably until lap 25 when Zeigler closed in again.
Erb found some breathing room and rebuilt his lead with eight laps remaining, but Zeigler drew close on lap 37 and dove past to take the lead on lap 38 in turns one and two. Erb raced into into turns three and four and slid up in front of Zeigler, making contact that stymied Zeigler and put Erb back out front.
Overton quickly grabbed second from Zeigler and began tracking Erb, hot on his heels at the white flag and driving into turn one to take the point. Erb went back under Overton down the backstretch to edge back ahead, making a high-side charge in the final set of corners. Overton checked up in turn three, exited turn four in the low side and beat Erb to the checkers.
“When I got into third right there, I seen Tyler and Mason … man, they raced so hard,” Overton said. “I was just trying to bide my time and I figured, let ’em burn their stuff up and maybe I’d come back to ’em. It just worked out in our favor. I got to move around a lot (on the track) behind ’em. …
“A couple of laps before I got a run on Mason down there in (turns) three and four and I knew it was kind of latching (up with a strip of traction) right there through the middle. That’s what helped me win the race. When we went back in there, I did (send it) back into (turn) three, I went ahead and let off and turned back down under Tyler. Helluva race, man.”
Erb, who led by nearly two seconds just before halfway in the 40-lapper, said he struggled to hit his marks in turns three and four late in the race.
“When Zeigler drove across in (turns) one and two there, I just lifted and turned underneath him," Erb said, "and I did the same thing in three and four, and he didn't lift, so … that kind of got us bottled up there.
“Man, I was just trying to get my momentum built back up, and I saw Brandon go underneath me. I just made sure I got turned in one and two and beat him into three and four, but … I couldn’t slow down fast enough to leave where I needed to leave. He won. It was a great race.”
Erb, who was fifth on Monday and retired in 22nd on Tuesday, said “we either run top-five or crash or break something lately. Nothing to be ashamed of. Just take it on the chin and keep going.
“I love East Bay. This is my favorite racetrack. The track’s good every night. There’s just a lot of circumstances, you gotta be lucky, you gotta have a good car. I felt comfortable tonight out front, and it just wasn’t my night to win.”
Zeigler, who seven days earlier lost in the final laps at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga., fell short again.
“The car was good. The longer the race went on, the better I felt like we were getting. I was just waiting, watching the flags, counting laps, and just waiting for the right time,” Zeigler said. “I took the lead there and I just should’ve protected my line more. It is what it is — everyone saw what happened. But I should’ve maybe protected my (corner) entry and got down a little bit further. We’ll take a third. I’m just happy we finished. All in all, it is what it is. We’ll take a third and wipe it off and go at it next week.
“The first night, we just made a bad call on the race car. The second night, we were running second to Jimmy (Owens) in the heat race and should’ve started fifth (in the feature), I think we had a good car (but) had a driveline failure, a fairly new part, just a freak deal. Who knows how we would’ve done last night. But just to come back and get a top-three and bid for the lead. … We’ll win some races this year,” said Zeigler, whose two career Lucas Oil victories have come at East Bay, including three months ago. “We’ve just gotta be a little bit smarter. When I got the lead there it was a bonehead move. I should’ve just drove across the bottom and took the air off his nose and not given anyone the opportunity to park it on the hood. Live and learn.”
Besides the second-lap incident that left Davenport’s car with significant body damage, the race was slowed by two other early cautions.
The first start was scrapped when Shane Clanton got sideways in turn four, triggering a pileup that included series points leader Tim McCreadie, Spencer, Ross Robinson and Shanon Buckingham, among others. McCreadie and Richards had to restart on the tail after pitting for repairs. A lap-five caution flew when Brian Shirley slowed on the backstretch and the race ran caution-free thereafter.
The series takes a few weeks off before returning to its pre-coronavirus schedule with June 12-13 events at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. ($12,000-to-win) and Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn. ($15,000-to-win).
Notes: Overton has six career Lucas Oil Series victories. … Overton set fast time in two of the three nights at East Bay. … Scheduled to start 22nd, Hudson O’Neal had to start two spots back, a penalty for being late to the lineup grid; he rallied to finish 10th and earn hard charger honors. … Heat action got off to a rough start when front-row starter Shanon Buckingham got out of shape in turn four on the first lap, collecting Ken Monahan with Todd Brennan and Brian Shirley also getting into the mess. ... Shirley complained of shoulder pain and was checked out by medical personnel; he retired from the heat but took a provisional starting spot in the feature.
(12 laps; top six transfer)
Consolation: Jonathan Davenport, Ross Robinson, G.R. Smith, Shanon Buckingham, Jeff Mathews, Hudson O'Neal, Todd Brennan, Ken Monahan, Jeremy Conaway. Scratched: Larry Grube, Steven Roberts, Brian Shirley, Blake Naylor.
Heat race results
(10 laps; top four transfer)
First heat: Jimmy Owens, Mason Zeigler, Devin Moran, Billy Moyer Jr., Shanon Buckingham, Ken Monahan, Todd Brennan, Brian Shirley.
Second heat: Tyler Erb, Shane Clanton, Tanner English, Kyle Bronson, Jonathan Davenport, G.R. Smith, Jeff Mathews.
Third heat: Brandon Overton, Tim McCreadie, Blake Spencer, Tyler Bruening, Steven Roberts, Hudson O'Neal, Jeremy Conaway.
Fourth heat: Rick Eckert, Josh Richards, Stormy Scott, Earl Pearson Jr., Ross Robinson, Larry Grube. Scratched: Blake Naylor.
Time trials (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 14.541
Tanner English (81E), Benton, Ky., 14.737
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 14.793
Tyler Erb (1), New Waverly, Texas, 14.808
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 14.837
Shane Clanton (25), Zebulon, Ga., 14.870
Ken Monahan (311), Lakeland, Fla., 14.874
Jonathan Davenport (49), Blairsville, Ga., 14.888
Devin Moran (1), Dresden, Ohio, 14.981
G.R. Smith (89), Cornelius, N.C., 14.987
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.011
Brian Shirley (3S), Chatham, Ill., 15.012
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.058
Jeff Mathews (33), Brandon, Fla., 15.180
Todd Brennan (20B), Zanesville, Ohio, 15.368
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 14.265
Rick Eckert (0), York, Pa., 14.469
Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., 14.678
Stormy Scott (2), Las Cruces, N.M., 14.759
Tyler Bruening (16), Decorah, Iowa, 14.770
Josh Richards (14), Shinnston, W.Va., 14.874
Blake Spencer (6S), St. Augustine, Fla., 14.899
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 14.969
Jeremy Conaway (F15), Springfield, Ill., 15.084
Larry Grube (29), Mauldin, S.C., 15.092
Steven Roberts (111), Jesup, Ga., 15.115
Ross Robinson (7), Georgetown, Del., 15.117
Hudson O’Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., 15.130
Blake Naylor (91s), Sardinia, Ohio, no time
(On-track action begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT)
- Hot laps
- Time trials (2 laps)
- Four heat races (10 laps)
- Two consolation races (12 laps)
- Feature event (40 laps)