McDowell hangs on, gets 2010's first Lucas victory
LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. (Aug. 27) — Dale McDowell's first victory of the season came in flag-to-flag fashion Friday at Lawrenceburg Speedway, but there was plenty of drama at the end as the Chickamauga, Ga., driver fought off two challengers for the $10,000 victory.
McDowell turned back late-race charges from Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, Iowa, and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., in front of a huge crowd at Lawrenceburg for the 50-lap triumph, his first on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in more than 13 months. McDowell swept the night's action by topping 39 drivers in time trials, capturing his heat race and starting on the pole for the main event. | Slideshow | Video
"Man, it feels good to finally make it to victory lane this year," said the 44-year-old McDowell, who drives a car owned by NASCAR standout Clint Bowyer. "(Crew members) Caleb (Baker) and Tommy (Grecco) have worked their tails off this year and they deserve much of the credit for this win."
Birkhofer, last year's series winner at Lawrenceburg, settled for second after rallying from his 10th starting spot. Owens, who rallied from 13th, was third and cut series points leader Scott Bloomquist's leading margin to 140 points with nine series events remaining. Bloomquist finished eighth.
"I was racing hard there with Jimmy at the end," said Birkhofer, who was disappointed with his performance in the final laps. "I pulled alongside of Dale, but I just couldn't get enough momentum on the bottom to pass him."
McDowell jumped into the lead at the outset with fourth-starting Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., moving quickly to the second spot. They ran one-two the first 33 laps before O'Neal brushed the turn-four wall and lost several positions, moving Birkhofer to the second spot.
With Birkhofer chasing McDowell in the race's late stages, Owens was charging to the front, taking the third spot from Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., with 11 laps remaining.
McDowell spent the rest of the race fighting off Birkhofer and Owens, taking the checkers two lengths ahead of Birkhofer at the 3/8-mile oval.
"I thought we had a shot at winning it there for a minute, but it kind of took a little white for our tires to fire off that last go-around (after a lap-31 caution)," Owens said. "It was a good race there at the end between Dale and Birkhofer, and I guess I got to watching or something, I don't know."
Pearson finished fourth while Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., was fifth and cut Chris Wall's lead in the rookie points to just 10. Tim Isenberg of Marshfield, Wis., started outside the front row but ended up 10th.
Notes: McDowell's Warrior Race Car is powered by an Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engine and sponsored by Dollar General, Cheerios, General Mills and Bugles. ... The victory gives Warrior back-to-back series victories following the Comp Cam Topless 100 victory by Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., six days earlier in Batesville. ... McDowell's last Lucas Oil Series victory came July 4, 2009, at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn. ... Two cautions slowed the Lawrenceburg feature for Scott James on the ninth lap and for Chris Wall on lap 31. ... Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., earned PBM-Erson Cams Hard Charger honors with his 20th-to-seventh run. ... Among drivers failing to make the feature: John Mason, Rick Combs, Greg Johnson, Duane Chamberlain, Wayne Chinn, Jason Jameson, Justin Rattliff and Robby Hensley. ... The Lucas Oil Series weekend concludes Saturday at Bluegrass Speedway in Bardstown, Ky., for the 10th annual Bluegrass Classic.
Lucas Oil @ Lawrenceburg: (1) Dale McDowell, (2) Brian Birkhofer, (3) Jimmy Owens, (4) Earl Pearson Jr., (5) Eric Wells, (6) Don O'Neal, (7) Shane Clanton, (8) Scott Bloomquist, (9) Ray Cook, (10) Tim Isenberg, (11) Steve Casebolt, (12) Dan Schlieper, (13) John Blankenship, (14) Tyler Reddick, (15) Brad Neat, (16) Justin Rattliff, (17) Chris Wall, (18) Zack Dohm, (19) Eddie Carrier Jr., (20) Brandon Kinzer, (21) Victor Lee, (22) Mike Marlar, (23) Matt Miller, (24) Scott James. Fast qualifier (among 39 cars): McDowell, 14.826 seconds. Heat race winners: McDowell, Reddick, Isenberg, Bloomquist. Consolation winners: Neat, Wall. Provisional starters: Marlar, James.