Blog-style updates Saturday at Knoxville
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
KNOXVILLE, Iowa (Oct. 1) — Blog-style reports of Saturday's action from the final night of the eighth annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway, where the evening is capped by a $40,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event (all results unofficial):
12:32 a.m. | Complete finish
Eighth annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals
Pos. Driver (car no)., hometown, chassis, earnings
1. Don O'Neal (71), Martinsville, Ind., MasterSbilt, $40,000
2. Steve Francis (15), Ashland, Ky., MasterSbilt, $20,000
3. Brian Birkhofer (15B), Muscatine, Iowa, MB Customs, $10,000
4. Tyler Reddick (11), Corning, Calif., Bloomquist, $8,750
5. Jimmy Owens (20), Newport, Tenn., Bloomquist, $7,500
6. Billy Moyer (21), Batesville, Ark., Victory Circle, $7,000
7. Austin Hubbard (19), Seaford, Del., Rocket, $6,500
8. Brady Smith (2), Solon Springs, Wis., Bloomquist, $6,000
9. Bub McCool (57j), Vicksburg, Miss., Victory Circle, $5,500
10. Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., Bloomquist, $5,000
11. Brian Shirley (3s), Chatham, Ill., Pierce, $4,500
12. Jared Landers (777), Batesville, Ark., Rocket, $4,000
13. Mike Marlar (5B), Winfield, Tenn., Rocket, $3,500
14. Jason Feger (25), Bloomington, Ill., Pierce, $3,400
15. Ray Cook (53), Brasstown, N.C., MasterSbilt, $3,300
16. John Blankenship (23), Williamson, W.Va., Bloomquist, $3,200
17. Brian Harris (27H), Davenport, Iowa, Victory Circle, $3,100
18. Frank Heckenast Jr. (99jr), Frankfort, Ill., Rocket, $3,000
19. Jimmy Mars (28), Menomonie, Wis., MB Customs, $2,900
20. Eric Wells (18), Hazard, Ky., Rocket, $2,800
21. Denny Eckrich (50), Oxford, Iowa, Barry Wright, $2,700
22. Darrell Lanigan (1), Union, Ky., Rocket, $2,600
23. Will Vaught (1), Crane, Mo., Warrior, $2,500
24. Earl Pearson Jr. (44), Jacksonville, Fla., Longhorn, $2,500
25. Tim McCreadie (39), Watertown, N.Y., Rocket, $2,500
26. Shannon Babb (18), Moweaqua, Ill., Victory Circle, $2,500
27. Jason Rauen (98), Farley, Iowa, MB2, $2,500
28. Scott James (18), Lawrenceburg, Ind., Rocket, $2,500
29. Chad Simpson (25), Mount Vernon, Iowa, MasterSbilt, $2,500
30. Chris Simpson (32), Oxford, Iowa, Longhorn, $2,500
31. Brad Neat (41), Dunnville, Ky., Longhorn, $2,500
32. Andy Eckrich (56), Iowa City, Iowa, Barry Wright, $2,500
33. Rob Moss (1m), Iowa City, Iowa, Swartz, $2,500
Semifeature winners (among 64 cars): Owens, Birkhofer.
11:16 p.m. | O'Neal wins as Owens falters
Don O'Neal took the lead out of turn four on the 96th lap when Jimmy Owens briefly got sideways, then faded badly back to fifth at the finish. O'Neal took the checkers a half-straightaway ahead of Steve Francis, Brian Birkhofer and Tyler Reddick. ... It appeared that Owens had the race in the bag, but his car twitched sideways at the turn-four exit. O'Neal swept around to take the lead and then Francis, Birkhofer and Reddick also went by. ... O'Neal said in victory lane it appeared Owens broke something when he jumped the cushion.
11:12 p.m. | Lap-93 caution for debris
A lap-93 caution for debris appeared just as O'Neal tried to get under Owens in turn three. Owens had previously rebuffed an O'Neal charge on the outside of the previous restart.
11:07 p.m. | Caution for Harris; lap 92
Seventh-running Brian Harris slowed on the backstretch to draw the ninth caution. ... Because there are fewer than 10 laps remaining, it'll be a single-file start with Owens, O'Neal, Birkhofer, Francis, Moyer, Hubbard and Reddick, the only cars on the lead lap. Hubbard got shuffled back badly on the previous restart. Harris is done for the night. ... Before the restart, John Blankenship got sideways on the backstretch, so the field took an extra lap.
11:06 p.m. | Wild restart
Jimmy Owens held the lead on the restart but Don O'Neal took a shot at him on the outside down the frontstretch. Moyer briefly moved up to fourth but lost a spot to Francis. ... While Owens appears safe out front with nine laps remaining, O'Neal and Brian Birkhofer are in a tight battle for second.
11:02 p.m. | Lap-88 rundown
Eight drivers on the lead lap: Jimmy Owens, Don O'Neal, Austin Hubbard, Steve Francis, Brian Birkhofer, Brian Harris, Billy Moyer and Tyler Reddick.
10:59 p.m. | Trouble for Hubbard, then Mars
Second-running Austin Hubbard got pinched into the backstretch wall by the lapped car of Brady Smith, and it appears he might have trouble steering with the left-front wheel. Don O'Neal took advantage to take second and Jimmy Mars is right there in fourth, but he stopped in turn two on the 88th lap to draw the eighth caution. It's not clear what happened to Mars, but he climbed from his car and will need a tow truck.
10:57 p.m. | Owens firmly in control
Jimmy Owens lapped Scott Bloomquist on the 75th lap and he's got a half-straight lead on second-running Don O'Neal (and a cushion of three lapped cars). ... O'Neal got hung up behind a lapped Brian Shirley on the 78th lap, and Austin Hubbard took advantage to get second while Mars was pressuring O'Neal, too. ... Ten cars on the lead lap with 20 laps left; Jason Feger is 10th.
10:54 p.m. | Lap-70 rundown
Still under green: Owens, O'Neal, Hubbard, Mars, Birkhofer, Francis, Harris, Moyer, Reddick, Smith, Feger, McCool, Bloomquist, Landers, Shirley ... everyone else is lap down. (Denny Eckrich retired on lap 69.) ... Owens has a half-straightaway lead and he's closing in on lapping Bloomquist. If they finished like this Owens would regain the Lucas Oil Series points lead.
10:50 p.m. | Owens leads lap 60
Charging to catch the leader, Jimmy Owens dove under Don O'Neal in turn one on the 60th lap to become the third leader. O'Neal was briefly hampered by the slower car of Frank Heckenast Jr., allowing Owens to quickly pull away. ... Will Vaught and Darrell Lanigan have retired.
10:49 p.m. | Half-straight for O'Neal
Don O'Neal has a half-straight lead entering traffic on lap 55 while Jimmy Owens is up to second, edging away from Austin Hubbard and Jimmy Mars as the frontrunners are stretching out more than at any time during the race.
10:45 p.m. | Mars slips back
Jimmy Mars slipped back to fifth on the lap-45 restart as leader Don O'Neal has stretched away from Austin Hubbard by 15 lengths. Hubbard is also comfortably ahead of Owens while Mars got back to fourth on lap 48 and Brian Birkhofer is fifth. Sixth is Steve Francis followed by Brian Harris, Billy Moyer, Brady Smith and Bub McCool as several positions are being shuffled in the top 10. ... Scott Bloomquist moved back to 15th by halfway. ... Tim McCreadie pulled out on lap 51.
10:39 p.m. | Bloomquist slows lap 45
Scott Bloomquist slows on lap 45 to draw a yellow. Bloomquist ducked to the pits and the crew members removed the hood off the Lucas Oil points leader's car. Tim McCreadie, Darrell Lanigan and Jason Rauen are among others pitting. ... Brian Harris made a strong move on the outside just before the caution, briefly taking the seventh spot before hit got into the backstretch guardrail; he survived the scrape but it cost him a few positions. ... Bloomquist returned to the track with a new right-rear tire. The driver reported he'd gotten water on his faceshield, but the crew couldn't find any loose lines. ... Just before the caution flew, second-running Austin Hubbard took a crack at leader Don O'Neal on the backstretch and appeared to make contact. Hubbard slowed to have an official check his car and he's apparently OK. ... The rundown: O'Neal, Hubbard, Mars, Birkhofer, Owens, Smith, Moyer, Harris and Francis.
10:35 p.m. | Mid-race update
Mike Marlar started 10th and ran as high as eighth but lost several spots on the lap-35 restart; it appears he got a new right-rear tire in the pits. ... The hardest chargers so far are Jimmy Mars (22nd-to-third) and Brady Smith (26th-to-eighth). ... Twenty-seven cars are still on the track. ... The lap-41 rundown: O'Neal, Hubbard, Mars, Owens, Birkhofer, Bloomquist, Moyer, Smith, Francis, McCreadie, Vaught and Feger ...
10:33 p.m. | Top-three breakaway
In the longest green-flag stretch for a while, Don O'Neal leads Austin Hubbard and Jimmy Mars on the high side as the top three have broken away with Jimmy Owens about a half-straight behind. Fifth-running Brian Birkhofer was another half-straight back when the sixth caution appeared on lap 41 for Mike Marlar, who stopped in turn four after fading badly on the previous restart. Marlar ducked into the pits along with Darrell Lanigan, Eric Wells and Jason Rauen, who has pitted several times.
10:26 p.m. | Trouble for Lanigan
On the lap-35 restart, Darrell Lanigan got over the cushion and scraped the turn-two wall. Mike Marlar wiggled past and it wasn't clear if there was contact between them. Lanigan is subbing in the Rocket Chassis house car for Josh Richards, who was racing this weekend at Kentucky Speedway on NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series, where he, too, found the wall on the fourth lap of that event. Lanigan pitted for attention and it doesn't appear like much damage, although now he's deep in the field. The lap-35 restart: O'Neal, Hubbard, Mars, Birkhofer, Owens, Bloomquist, Marlar, Francis, Moyer, Smith, McCreadie, Vaught, Reddick, Feger, McCool, Harris, Babb, Denny Eckrich, Blankenship, Heckenast, Rauen, Landers, Shirley, Cook, Lanigan, Pearson and Wells. Everyone else is out.
10:19 p.m. | Shirley slows lap 35
Brian Shirley slowed exiting turn two on the 35th lap to draw the fourth yellow. Don O'Neal is still in control on the high side with Austin Hubbard and Jimmy Mars giving chase in the same groove. The top three were edging away just a bit. Fourth-running Brian Birkhofer has been running a bit lower while Jimmy Owens is back up to fifth after taking a spot from Scott Bloomquist just before the yellow. The rundown: O'Neal, Hubbard, Mars, Birkhofer, Owens, Bloomquist, Marlar, Lanigan, Francis, Moyer and Brady Smith, who started in 26th. Brian Shirley pitted and returned; Jason Rauen pitted again as well and returned to the track. There are 24 cars still on the lead lap with 35 laps down.
10:15 p.m. | James-Landers tangle
A lap-31 caution is out after Scott James and Jared Landers tangled on the backstretch. Landers appears to have more damage as both drivers headed for the hot pit. The lap-31 rundown: O'Neal, Hubbard, Mars, Owens, Birkhofer, Lanigan, Bloomquist, Marlar, Francis and Moyer in 10th. Leader Don O'Neal stopped in turn four so an official could check his car for rubbing sheetmetal. Landers (who lost the 12th spot) is back out after pitting along with Scott James (who was running 17th). Earl Pearson Jr. and Jason Rauen also pitted during the yellow.
10:12 p.m. | Double-file restarts key
Double-file restarts always have winners and losers, with Mars taking advantage on the previous yellow. Mars will be on the low-side for this restart. ... Brady Smith started near the tail and he's up to 15th. ... Brad Neat is still in the pits with the crew working on the right-rear corner of the car with one-to-go before the lap-29 restart.
10:09 p.m. | Lap-29 caution for Chad Simpson
Chris Simpson and older brother Chad Simpson briefly got together on the backstretch with Chad Simpson getting turned around back in the pack. That brought out a lap-29 yellow flag, the second of the race. Shannon Babb, running 17th, headed for the pits. Here's the lap-29 rundown: O'Neal, Hubbard, Mars, Owens, Birkhofer, Lanigan, Bloomquist, Marlar, Francis, Moyer, Vaught, McCreadie, Landers, Reddick, Smith, James, Feger, Harris, McCool, Shirley, Blankenship, Rauen, Denny Eckrich, Pearson, Wells, Cook, Babb and Heckenast. Those last three drivers pitted.
10:06 p.m. | Mars from 22nd to third
Jimmy Mars got an excellent restart on lap 24, going from ninth to fifth, then going around Jimmy Owens and Brian Birkhofer on the 27th lap. He's tracking down leader Don O'Neal and Austin Hubbard and all three are running the high side. Bloomquist fell back to seventh.
10:04 p.m. | O'Neal leads lap 23
Just before a caution appeared for a slowing Chris Simpson, Don O'Neal's turn-one slide job on Austin Hubbard gave him the lead. O'Neal has rallied from his eighth starting spot to overtake Hubbard, who led the first 22 laps from outside the front row but is now back to third at the lap-24 caution. Here's the rundown at lap-24: O'Neal, Birkhofer, Hubbard, Bloomquist, Owens, Lanigan, Marlar, Moyer, Mars, Babb, Francis, Reddick, Vaught, Landers, McCreadie, James, Smith, Feger, Harris, McCool, Shirley, Rauen, Heckenast ...
10:02 p.m. | O'Neal challenges Hubbard
A charging Don O'Neal is tracking down race-long leader Austin Hubbard after 20 laps. The top 10: Hubbard, O'Neal, Birkhofer, Bloomquist, Lanigan, Owens, Marlar, Moyer and Mars.
10 p.m. | O'Neal to fourth, then third
With Austin Hubbard still a dozen lengths ahead of Brian Birkhofer and Scott Blomquist, Don O'Neal has swept into fourth and is stalking Bloomquist. O'Neal took third from Bloomquist on the 16th lap and is on the move in his Moring Motorsports machine.
9:59 p.m. | Near half-straight for Hubbard
The 19-year-old Austin Hubbard has nearly a half-straightaway lead after eight laps and is reaching the tail of the field. Hubbard's running high, second-running Brian Birkhofer and third-running Scott Bloomquist are running low. Here's the rundown after 10 laps: Hubbard, Birkhofer, Bloomquist, Lanigan, O'Neal, Owens, Marlar, Francis, Moyer, Babb, Vaught, Mars, Reddick, James, McCreadie and Chad Simpson ... Andy Eckrich retired on the 11th lap.
9:55 p.m. | Hubbard leads early
Outside front-row starter Austin Hubbard takes the early lead on the high side with Brian Birkhofer, Scott Bloomquist, Darrell Lanigan and eighth-starting Don O'Neal in pursuit. Will Vaught has slipped back from fifth to eighth.
9:49 p.m. | Pace laps for 100-lapper
The field is rolling for the main event. ... Runner-up Austin Hubbard is using a backup powerplant after breaking a motor last night. ... Jimmy Owens won Thursday's semifeature and Brian Birkhofer won Friday's semifeature. ... Owens is gunning for his fourth crown jewel victory of the season. ... Darrell Lanigan was runner-up in both semifeatures. ... In the B-main, the top side seemed to be favored, but runner-up Brady Smith came from the 15th starting spot mostly in the low groove. ... The final night is the only Lucas Oil Series points night of the three-race weekend.
9:38 p.m. | Driver intros under way
Lucas Oil Series announcer James Essex is introducing the field from back to front. The track isn't using the stage as in previous years and drivers are already standing near their cars.
9:28 p.m. | Field assembling on frontstretch
The modified main event is over (Jon Snyder of Ames, Iowa, won) and the 33-car field for the 100-lap eighth annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals is forming on the frontstretch. Earl Pearson Jr., Brad Neat and Ray Cook are taking provisional starting spots.
8:50 p.m. | Blankenship wins B-main
Outside front-row starter John Blankenship fought off a late charge from 15th-starting Brady Smith to capture the B-main, earning a transfer spot in the main event. Smith edged ahead out of turn four heading for the checkered flag, but Blankenship's high-groove momentum swept him back ahead before the start-finish line at the half-mile oval. Polesitter Eric Wells was third followed by ninth-starting Brian Harris, who took the fourth spot from Denny Eckrich on the final lap. Eckrich and Frank Heckenast Jr. got the final two transfer spots to the main event. Three cautions slowed the action, first for Dan Schlieper on the eighth lap and then for Jack Sullivan who stopped on the backstretch on lap 15. Nick Marolf stopped in turn four on the 17th lap for the final yellow in the 20-lapper.
B-main finish: John Blankenship, Brady Smith, Eric Wells, Brian Harris, Denny Eckrich, Frank Heckenast Jr., Kent Robinson, Ray Cook, Kevin Sather, Rich Bell, Matt Furman, Mike Fryer, Kerry Hansen, Billy Moyer Jr., Jay Johnson, Brad Neat, Nick Marolf, Jack Sullivan, John Duty, Charlie McKenna, Tim Lance, Earl Pearson Jr., Dave Eckrich, Dan Schlieper.
8:28 p.m. | B-main rolling
The Late Model B-main is on the track with the completion of the modified consies. The top six transfer to the 30-car main event.
7:56 p.m. | Sather wins C-main
Kevin Sather of Ankeny, Iowa, overtook Matt Furman midway through the 15-lap C-main and took the victory by nearly a straightaway. Furman held on for second ahead of Tim Lance while Jay Johnson got the final transfer spot to the B-main. Polesitter Tyler Bruening was fifth. Hot laps for A-main cars is coming up.
C-main finish: Kevin Sather, Matt Furman, Tim Lance, Jay Johnson, Tyler Bruening, Chris Spieker, Darrel DeFrance, Jill George, Al Humphrey, Mike Wallace, Scott Lewis, Curt Schroeder, Chad Chenoweth, Junior Coover, Alonzo Grosse.
7:45 p.m. | C-main coming up
The C-main is lining up with Tyler Bruening and Kevin Sather scheduled for the front row. The top four finishers transfer to the final two rows of the 24-car B-main.
7:10 p.m. | Hot laps complete
The track was too wet to begin on time the opening two nights, but things got rolling about 6:45 tonight with hot laps for modifieds and Late Models in the consolation races. Tonight's schedule: modified heats, Late Model C-main, hot laps for Late Model A-main cars, modified consies, Late Model B-main, modified main event and finally introductions for the 100-lap Late Model feature. It's a beautiful, clear but cool evening with temperatures expected to dip into the mid-40s.