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Daily Dirt 02/24/2024 08:06:51

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February 11
East Bay Raceway Park,
Gibsonton, FL
Sanction: Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (Winternationals) - $7,000
Information provided by: Todd Turner (last updated February 12, 10:26 am)
Richards outduels Moyer, nabs victory at East Bay
Winternationals
  1. Josh Richards
  2. Mark Whitener
  3. Steve Francis
  4. Don O'Neal
  5. Billy Moyer
  6. Brandon Sheppard
  7. Tim Dohm
  8. Devin Moran
  9. Earl Pearson Jr.
  10. Jason Papich
  11. Eddie Carrier Jr.
  12. Ricky Weeks
  13. Stormy Scott
  14. Jimmy Owens
  15. Gregg Satterlee
  16. Dan Stone
  17. Chris Brown
  18. Dennis Erb Jr.
  19. Jonathan Davenport
  20. Bobby Pierce
  21. Scott Bloomquist
  22. Mason Zeigler
  23. Billy Moyer Jr.
  24. Jared Landers
  25. Kyle Bronson
  26. Terry English
presented by
Rick Schwallie/rickschwalliephotos.com
Josh Richards celebrates his fourth career Winternationals victory.
What won the race: Josh Richards emerged from a tight battle with Billy Moyer over the first half of the race, pulling away in the final laps for his fourth career East Bay Winternationals victory.
On the move: Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., rallied from 25th to third.
Winner's sponsors: Richards drives the Rocket Chassis house car with a Durham Racing Engine and sponsorship from Valvoline, Seubert Calf Ranches, Ace Metal Works, Ernie D's Petroff Towing and Hoosier Tire.
Points chase: Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., is the early Lucas Oil Series points leader; Wednesday's race was non-points.
Car count: 43
Fast qualifier: Tim Dohm
Time: 14.663 seconds
Polesitter: Billy Moyer
Dash winner: Dan Stone
Heat race winners: Billy Moyer, Dennis Erb Jr., Devin Moran, Josh Richards
Consolation race winners: Jason Papich, Don O'Neal
Provisional starters: Steve Francis
Next series race: February 12, East Bay Raceway Park (Gibsonton, FL) $7,000
Editor's note: Results and race details are unofficial.
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor

GIBSONTON, Fla. (Feb. 11) — No matter where he started Wednesday night at East Bay Raceway Park, Josh Richards quickly found his way to the front.

The Shinnston, W.Va., driver of the Rocket Chassis house car went from fourth-to-first on the first lap of his heat race, then third-to-first at the opening of the 35-lap feature and outdueled winningest Winternationals driver Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., for a $7,000 victory and his fourth career East Bay Winternationals victory and sixth Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory.

Moyer, who made a last-ditch bid to catch the high-running Richards, lost three positions over the final two laps while surprising Mark Whitener of Middleburg, Fla., raced to a second-place finish just four days after his first career open-competition engine victory.

Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., who started 25th after engine woes in his heat race forced him to take a provisional, rallied to finish third while his Clint Bowyer Racing teammate Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., advancing 14 spots, and Moyer rounded out the top five.

“We got put behind qualifying a little bit … we won our heat race and that’s what won us the race tonight,” Richards said, thanking his crew members. “My guys are awesome. They don’t ever give up on me.”

Richards notched his first East Bay victory since his three-in-a-row streak in 2009, and the three-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion was glad to reach victory lane in just one of two starts during the week before heading back to WoO competition at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.

"I’m glad we got a win before we leave out of here tonight,” he said.

It was another night — like during Dennis Erb Jr.’s Tuesday victory — when a slippery track and the required hard-compound tires that made steering a dicey proposition.

At the outset, Moyer’s poor start helped Richards find a throttle-mashing run on the high side that carried him past Moyer and outside front-row starter Devin Moran. Moyer rebounded to slip ahead on the second lap, but Richards got rolling up high again and led Moyer, fast qualifier Tim Dohm, Moran and Eddie Carrier Jr. after the first caution on the seventh lap.

On the restart, Moyer beat Richards down the backstretch and stole his high line to take command as the frontrunners edged away from Moran, who again lost the third spot to Dohm and began fading out of contention.

While most of the field settled into the low groove — including Francis, who was up to sixth by the halfway point — Moyer and Richards stayed high in turns three and four while battling for the lead.

On the 17th lap, Moyer found trouble in the form of his son as he tried to lap Billy Moyer Jr’s No. 21jr, which had pitted under the previous caution and ran near the back of the field. The elder Moyer lost his momentum and Richards took advantage, sweeping into a lead he’d never give up with two-time series champ Scott Bloomquist going a lap down one lap later.

A restart with 15 laps remaining reset the action, but Dohm got shuffled back in turns one and two with the sixth-starting Whitener taking advantage to grab the third spot and Francis right in his tire tracks on the extreme low side.

With Richards widening his lead, Whitener got alongside Moyer heading into turn three on the 24th lap, and they nearly touched. While Moyer shot up the track, Francis made contact with Whitener, who briefly got sideways and resumed his chase despite losing ground.

Moyer’s late bid to catch Richards dropped him back to fifth at the finish as Whitener gave Florida back-to-back runner-up finishers following Tuesday’s second-place run of Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla.

Whitener, a three-time champion on the Florida-based United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series for limited-engine cars, posted his best series finish by slipping under Moyer in the final laps.

“He was trying the top, he was trying to win the race. We just lucked up and got second. I think he and a better car, but hey, I’ll take it any way I can get it. We’re happy to come home second (with) Lucas Oil,” said Whitener, whose first career Super Late Model victory came Sunday at North Florida Speedway in Lake City. “I don’t think it gets much better than this.”

Francis was fortunate to be racing at all after he was unable to start his race because of a broken rocker arm in his powerplant.

“I’ve gotta thank Bill Schlieper (of Pro Power Racing Engines). We run Clements motors, but Bill come over … he’s part of the racing family and he always helps everybody at the racetrack,” Francis said. “I want to thank him for coming over and spending the time and getting us fixed and getting us running there again.”

From there, Francis went to work, breaking into the top five just past the halfway point and pressured Whitener the rest of the way.

“I guess 25th to third ain’t bad. I was hoping Mark would slide just a little bit, because Josh was leaving that bottom open good,” Francis said. “But his car, Josh was good out there on the middle of the racetrack and catching that top edge … this is East Bay old school, probably eight or 10 years ago when it got so slick you couldn’t touch the gas. And that’s kind of the way it feels right now.”

The feature was slowed by three cautions, none for serious incidents. Moran was called for jumping the initial start, Kyle Bronson slowed for a lap-seven yellow and frontstretch debris brought out a lap-20 yellow.

Notes: Richards is the first West Virginian to win at East Bay since Eddie Carrier Jr. won 2014's opener. ... Fifteen of 26 starters completed 35 laps. ... Richards took the checkers 1.677 seconds ahead of Whitener. ... Tuesday's winner Dennis Erb Jr. finished five laps down in 18th.

Preliminary results

Strawberry Dash

Finish (winner transfers): Dan Stone, Allen Murray, Davey Johnson, Mike Benedum, Dustin Mitchell, Dan Schlieper, Doug Blashe, Dave Fieber, Jim O'Hara. Scratched: Dennis Franklin.

Second consolation

Outside front-row starter Don O'Neal, surviving an early battle with Bobby Pierce, a turn-two miscue and a challenge from fifth-starting Brandon Sheppard, won the second consy in dramatic fashion. O'Neal got into the turn-two wall briefly on the third lap, allowing Sheppard to slip by a lap later. But O'Neal got rolling again and grabbed the victory, beating Pierce to the checkers by nearly a half-straightaway. Sheppard and sixth-starting Gregg Satterlee got the final two transfer spots.

Finish (top four transfer): Don O'Neal, Bobby Pierce, Brandon Sheppard, Gregg Satterlee, Don O'Neal, Dave Fieber, Doug Blashe, Mike Benedum, Kenny Pettyjohn, Chad Hollenbeck, Gregg Hill, Gavin Landers. Scratched: Steve Francis.

First consolation

Jason Papich's persistent low groove paid off in the 12-lapper as he snuck ahead from his third starting spot on the first lap and pulled away late. Polesitter Dennis Franklin briefly went back around on the second lap, but fell back after the final caution while Stormy Scott chased Papich in the final laps, nearly catching him. Chris Brown was third while Terry English slipped under a faltering Dennis Franklin on the backstretch of the final lap. Two cautions slowed the actin. Charles LaPlant's night ended against the turn-one wall on the third lap and eighth-running Nick Davis ended up in nearly the same spot on lap seven.

Finish (top four transfer): Jason Papich, Stormy Scott, Chris Brown, Terry English, Dennis Franklin, Allen Murray, Davey Johnson, John Gardner Jr., Dan Schlieper, Dustin Mitchell, Bob Gardner, Jim O'Hara, Nick Davis, Charles LaPlant.

Consolation race lineups

(12 laps; top four transfer)
First consolation
Row 1: Dennis Franklin, Stormy Scott
Row 2: Jason Papich, Davey Johnson
Row 3: Bob Gardner, Terry English
Row 4: Chris Brown, Allen Murray
Row 5: John Gardner Jr., Charles LaPlant
Row 6: Dustin Mitchell, Nick Davis
Row 7: Dan Schlieper, Jim O'Hara
Second consolation
Row 1: Bobby Pierce, Don O'Neal
Row 2: Kenny Pettyjohn, Dan Stone
Row 3: Brandon Sheppard, Gregg Satterlee
Row 4: Chad Hollenbeck, Dave Fieber
Row 5: Doug Blashe, Mike Benedum
Row 6: Gregg Hill, Gavin Landers
Row 7: Steve Francis

Fourth heat

Exploding from his fourth starting spot, a high-flying Josh Richards raced to victory in the first heat. He cruised until halfway, when polesitter Earl Pearson Jr. began cutting into his comfortable lead. Richards held on to win by .319 seconds while fifth-starting Kyle Bronson got the third spot. Billy Moyer Jr., who ran as high as second, outdueled Don O'Neal in the final laps for the last transfer spot. The race was caution-free.

Finish (top four transfer): Josh Richards, Earl Pearson Jr., Kyle Bronson, Billy Moyer Jr., Don O'Neal, Dan Stone, Gregg Satterlee, Dave Fieber, Mike Benedum, Gavin Landers.

Third heat

Devin Moran won the third heat from outside the front row, edging away from a battle for second between Mark Whitener and Jared Landers before Whitener closed midway through the race. Moran's low groove was good enough to hang on, but Whitener and Landers were hot on his heels higher on the track. The fourth spot was tight in the late laps with Kenny Pettyjohn losing two spots on the final lap as Ricky Weiss stole the spot. Steve Francis, scheduled to start on the pole, slowed with a broken rocker arm heading to the start and was pushed off the track, handing the pole to Whitener.

Finish (top four transfer): Devin Moran, Mark Whitener, Jared Landers, Ricky Weiss, Bobby Pierce, Kenny Pettyjohn, Brandon Sheppard, Doug Blashe, Chad Hollenbeck, Gregg Hill. Scratched: Steve Francis.

Second heat

Picking up where he left off with Tuesday's feature victory, Dennis Erb Jr. won the second heat from the pole, outdistancing Jonathan Davenport and fellow No. 28 car of Eddie Carrier Jr., who started fourth. The third-starting Davenport took second from Carrier on the sixth lap while Mason Zeigler, who started outside the front row but struggled through the first lap, settled for fourth and the final transfer spot. The race was caution-free on a surface much quicker than Tuesday.

Finish (top four transfer): Dennis Erb Jr., Jonathan Davenport, Eddie Carrier Jr., Mason Zeigler, Stormy Scott, Davey Johnson, Terry English, Allen Murray, Charles LaPlant, Nick Davis, Jim O'Hara.

First heat

Billy Moyer emerged from a tight battle with polesitter Tim Dohm and captured the first heat. Moyer went ahead at the green, but Dohm slid back in front exiting turn four. The two appeared to touch when Dohm raced underneath Moyer exiting turn two on the second lap, and Moyer began to edge away while Dohm tried in vain to keep up. Scott Bloomquist ran third all the way while Jimmy Owens was a distant fourth for the final transfer spot. Dennis Franklin was far back in fifth in the caution-free heat.

Finish (top four transfer): Billy Moyer, Tim Dohm, Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens, Dennis Franklin, Jason Papich, Bob Gardner, Chris Brown, John Gardner Jr., Dustin Mitchell, Dan Schlieper.

Heat race lineups

(10 laps; top four transfer)
First heat
Row 1: Tim Dohm, Billy Moyer
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens
Row 3: Dennis Franklin, Jason Papich
Row 4: Bob Gardner, John Gardner Jr.
Row 5: Chris Brown, Dustin Mitchell
Row 6: Dan Schlieper
Second heat
Row 1: Dennis Erb Jr., Mason Zeigler
Row 2: Jonathan Davenport, Eddie Carrier Jr.
Row 3: Davey Johnson, Stormy Scott
Row 4: Allen Murray, Terry English
Row 5: Nick Davies, Charles LaPlant
Row 6: Jim O'Hara
Third heat
Row 1: Steve Francis, Devin Moran
Row 2: Mark Whitener, Kenny Pettyjohn
Row 3: Jared Landers, Bobby Pierce
Row 4: Brandon Sheppard, Ricky Weiss
Row 5: Doug Blashe, Gregg Hill
Row 6: Chad Hollenbeck
Fourth heat
Row 1: Earl Pearson Jr., Dan Stone
Row 2: Billy Moyer Jr., Josh Richards
Row 3: Kyle Bronson, Mike Benedum
Row 4: Don O’Neal, Gregg Satterlee
Row 5: Dave Fieber, Gavin Landers

Qualifying

Returning to East Bay for the first time in three years, former Winternationals winner Tim Dohm of Cross Lanes, W.Va., topped 43 qualifiers Wednesday at East Bay Raceway Park

Dohm posted a lap of 14.663 seconds at the third-mile oval to earn the pole position for the first of four heat races.

Other heat race polesitters: Tuesday’s winner Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill.; Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky.; and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla.

Pre-race setup

The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series runs the second round of the 39th annual Winternationals on Wednesday for a non-points event paying $7,000-to-win among 43 entrants.

Competitors return to action following Tuesday’s opener won by Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., who led the final 16 of 25 laps after an early duel with Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.

Wednesday’s program is made up of hot laps, time trials, heat races, consolations, the DirtonDirt.com Strawberry Dash and 35-lap main event.

Pre-race notes

Dennis Erb Jr. won his fifth race in four years at East Bay on Tuesday, the first driver with that many victories over a four-year stretch since winningest Winternationals driver Billy Moyer had six victories from 2008-11. … Drivers return to action after facing tricky track conditions Tuesday. A slick track along with rules calling for harder-than-usual tires left drivers pining for traction and struggling to steer. … Three newcoming drivers entered: Clint Bowyer Racing teammates Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky. and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., the reigning series champ, along with Charles LaPlant of East Prairie, Mo. … Two drivers who competed Tuesday aren’t entered: Russell Brown Jr. of Valdosta, Ga., and Austin Rettig of Sikeston, Mo., who plans to begin racing again Friday for the first series points race of the week. … Legendary chassis builder and former driver C.J. Rayburn, who had threatened to compete at East Bay while accepting an award at the Lucas Oil banquet in December, left the track today to head toward his Whiteland, Ind., home and be with his ailing mother.

Time trial order

First group
Driver (car no.), hometown, time

Tim Dohm (6T), Cross Lanes, W.Va., 14.663
Dennis Erb Jr. (28), Carpentersville, Ill., 14.742
Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., 14.743
Mason Zeigler (25z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 14.763
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 14.819
Jonathan Davenport (6), Blairsville, Ga., 14.893
Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., 15.033
Eddie Carrier Jr. (28), Salt Rock, W.Va., 15.053
Dennis Franklin (2), Gaffney, S.C., 15.057
Davey Johnson (1j), Latrobe, Pa., 15.125
Stormy Scott (2s), Las Cruces, N.M., 15.234
Jason Papich (91p), Nipomo, Calif., 15.253
Bob Gardner (4G), Germantown Hills, Ill., 15.352
Allen Murray (2), San Antonio, Texas, 15.379
John Gardner Jr. (38c), Creve Couer, Ill., 15.381
Terry English (96), Benton, Ky., 15.409
Chris Brown (21), Spring, Texas, 15.635
Nick Davis (92), Gumboro, Del., 15.677
Dustin Mitchell (D8), Pine Level, N.C., 15.693
Charles LaPlant (3c), East Prairie, Mo., 15.801
Dan Schlieper (s9), Oak Creek, Wis., 15.963
Jim O’Hara (44j), Moscow, Pa., 16.149
Second group
Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., 14.844
Earl Pearson Jr. (1), Jacksonville, Fla., 14.847
Devin Moran (99m), Dresden, Ohio, 15.072
Dan Stone (21D), Thompson, Pa., 15.102
Mark Whitener (58), Middleburg, Fla., 15.195
Billy Moyer Jr. (21jr), Batesville, Ark., 15.208
Kenny Pettyjohn (38), Millsboro, Del., 15.233
Josh Richards (1), Shinnston, W.Va., 15.277
Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., 15.312
Kyle Bronson (40B), Brandon, Fla., 15.325
Bobby Pierce (32), Oakwood, Ill., 15.379
Mike Benedum (25), Bristol, W.Va., 15.404
Brandon Sheppard (B5), New Berlin, Ill., 15.426
Don O’Neal (5), Martinsville, Ind., 15.447
Ricky Weiss (7), Headingly, Manitoba, 15.508
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 15.547
Doug Blashe (1), Marion, Wis., 15.761
Dave Fieber (1), Chippewa Falls, Wis., 15.838
Gregg Hill (8), Eveleth, Minn., 15.858
Gavin Landers (77), Batesville, Ark., 15.875
Chad Hollenbeck (4DS), Kingsley, Pa., 15.904

Feature lineup

Row 1: Moyer, Moran
Row 2: Erb, Richards
Row 3: Dohm, Whitener
Row 4: Davenport, Pearson
Row 5: Bloomquist, Landers
Row 6: Carrier, Bronson
Row 7: Owens, Weiss
Row 8: Zeigler, Moyer Jr.
Row 9: Papich, O'Neal
Row 10: Scott, Pierce
Row 11: Brown, Sheppard
Row 12: English, Satterlee
Row 13: Francis, Stone
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