Cook survives for Lucas Oil victory at Utica-Rome
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
VERNON, N.Y. (July 30) — Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., took the lead from Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., on the 19th lap and survived potential disaster late in winning the first visit of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Utica-Rome Speedway. Cook, who broke an oil pump belt at the end of the race, earned $10,000 for his second series victory of the season.
"I don't think we could've made it another lap," the 37-year-old Cook said. "We leaked oil all the way to and from the scale, so we will have a busy day tomorrow to go through to make sure it's OK."
Cook thanked car owners Danny Dishman and Ronald Ivey for helping him refocus for the remainder of 2009.
"We just decided it was time to turn around our season," Cook said. "It had been so good up until a month ago, but we changed some things on the car and it was real fast tonight. I just about slipped over the bank in turn two a couple of times."
Fast qualifier Eric Jacobsen of Seacliff Beach, Calif., was second for his best-ever series performance and John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., was third. Series points leader Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., was fourth and 12th-starting Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., rounded out the top five.
"I think (Cook) broke after taking the checkered, so one more lap we might have had it," Jacobsen said.
Dale McDowell of Rossville, Ga., and Pearson started on the front row of the 50-lapper with Pearson quickly grabbing the lead. Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., took second from McDowell before the first of five cautions on lap five and Cook was up to third by the second caution on lap 13 for Mike Knight.
On the restart, Cook took second from Owens, who began to fade from contention. Cook then set his sights on Pearson, taking the lead on the 19th lap, three laps before Steve Casebolt's caution brought out yellow No. 3.
After Freddy Smith slowed for another caution before the halfway point, Cook was steady out front while Jacobsen fought past Blankenship and Pearson to take second before a lap-31 caution for the sixth-running Austin Hubbard, who broke his car's rear end.
On the final restart, Cook edged away to lead by as much as 10 lengths in the closing stages, rim-riding the top groove en route to his third career series victory.
Notes: Cook's MasterSbilt Race Car is powered by a Race Engine Design powerplant and sponsored by Hicks and Ingle General Contracting, A+ Moving and Storage Company, Performance Rod and Custom, VP Racing Fuels, PPM Racing Products, Real Racing Wheels, K&N Filters, GW Performance and Integra Racing Shocks. ... Eighth-place finishing Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky., earned PBM/Erson Cams Hard Charger honors after starting 18th. ... The event was postponed by rain the previous night. ... The series completes a tripleheader weekend with events at Winchester (Va.) Speedway and Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway.
Lucas Oil @ Utica-Rome: (1) Ray Cook, (2) Eric Jacobsen, (3) John Blankenship, (4) Scott Bloomquist, (5) Dan Stone, (6) Don O'Neal, (7) Earl Pearson Jr., (8) Jimmy Owens, (9) Dale McDowell, (10) Brad Neat, (11) Rich Gardner, (12) Jim Bernheisel, (13) Josh Richards, (14) David Breazeale, (15) James Cornell, (16) Dave Zona, (17) Freddy Smith, (18) Aaron Jacobs, (19) Austin Hubbard, (20) Dan Schlieper, (21) Steve Casebolt, (22) Jon Rohacevich, (23) Mike Knight, (24) Dale Caswell, (25) Steve Cummings. Fast qualifier (among 26 cars): Jacobsen, 19.110 seconds. Heat race winners: McDowell, Pearson, Owens.