Muskingum County Speedway
Francis tops Blankenship at Muskingum County
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
ZANESVILLE, Ohio (July 3) — Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., overtook home-track star Donnie Moran of Dresden, Ohio, on the 13th lap Tuesday at Muskingum County Speedway and raced to his fourth Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the season. | Video | Slideshow
Francis earned $10,000 in the Budweiser 50 while outrunning John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va. Moran finished third followed by Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn.
Moran led the first 12 circuits before Francis found a way past. Blankenship moved up to challenge the leader the rest of the race, but Francis survived the onslaught amid lapped traffic over the final five laps for his ninth career series victory.
"Donnie and I started on the front row, it was reminiscent of the old days when we ran against each other all the time,” said Francis, driver of the Barry Wright Race Cars house car. "It was a real good win for Barry and the guys, we made the right tire choice tonight. My daughter was also here tonight, she doesn't get to come very often, so it was a special night all the way around.”
The track crew watered the racing surface during a break for Independence Day fireworks, and Francis kept a close eye on the situation.
"I thought O'Neal would give us a race with his tire choice,” Francis said, "but Blankenship has been running real good here lately so I knew he would be in the hunt as well.”
The 50-lapper was slowed by caution flags on lap 18 for Shane McLoughlin and on lap 28 for Doug Dodd.
Notes: Francis drives a Clements-powered Barry Wright car sponsored by JRi Shocks, Nichols Plumbing, AES Racing, Mathis Farms and VP Fuels. ... Runner-up John Blankenship, who was gunning for his second straight series victory, celebrated his 31st birthday. ... Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., had a 16th-to-eighth run to earn Optima Batteries Hard Charger honors. ... Among drivers failing to make the feature lineup: Chad Hina, Eric Myers, Davey Johnson, Bryan Casey, Mason Zeigler, Russ Frohnapfel and Brad Malcuit. ... Lucas Oil Series competitors return to action July 6-7 for the $20,000-to-win Clash at the Mag at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss.
Budweiser 50: (1) Steve Francis, (2) John Blankenship, (3) Donnie Moran, (4) Don O’Neal, (5) Mike Marlar, (6) Jimmy Owens, (7) Josh McGuire, (8) Jared Landers, (9) Zack Dohm, (10) Eric Wells, (11) Scott Bloomquist, (12) Austin Hubbard, (13) Jonathan Davenport, (14) Tyler Reddick, (15) Eddie Carrier Jr., (16) Earl Pearson Jr., (17) Doug Drown, (18) Tim Rivers, (19) Rod Conley, (20) Jason Montgomery, (21) Doug Dodd, (22) Devin Moran, (23) John Mason, (24) Shane McLoughlin, (25) Steve Prince. Fast qualifier (among 37 cars): Francis, 15.447 seconds. Heat race winners: Francis, McGuire, Moran, Blankenship. Consolation winners: Davenport, Conley. Provisional starters: Pearson, S. Prince, Devin Moran.