O'Neal tops Francis for 10th Lucas Oil victory
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (July 28) — Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., outdueled Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., in Saturday night’s 31st annual Conococheague 50 at Hagerstown Speedway, earning $10,000 for his 10th Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the season. | Slideshow | Video
O’Neal, who was forced into his back-up car after suffering mechanical woes in hot laps, worked his way forward from his fifth starting spot and overtook the polesitting Francis on lap six of the 50-lap race.
O'Neal pulled away from Francis through the race’s middle portions as the two drivers distanced themselves from the rest of the field. But Francis started to reel O’Neal in late in the race as he went to the topside of the track to chase down the low-running O’Neal.
The two leaders then put on a show over the race’s final 10 laps, swapping the lead multiple times before O'Neal regained the lead for good on lap 46 and pulled away from Francis en route to becoming the seventh different winner in seven Lucas Oil Series events at Hagerstown.
"I have to thank the crew, they did a tremendous job getting the back-up car ready after hot laps,” said O’Neal, who last ran his back-up mount in March at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway. “We had to change a lot on the car, and it was fast all night. We took off real good and I knew when I got past Scott (Bloomquist) there early we would have a good car. I had to move up on the track there at the end, because he (Francis) was fast on the outside.”
Francis settled for the runner-up finish while reigning series champion and current points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., advanced from his 12th starting spot to finish third. Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., charged from 18th to fourth while two-time series champion Scott Bloomquist took fifth.
Notes: O’Neal’s MasterSbilt Race Car has a Jay Dickens Engine and sponsorship from Optima Batteries, Seubert Calf Ranches, Independence Lumber, Tarpy Trucking, Superior Cleaning Services, Jones Core, Budda Bert Transmissions, Dragon Race Fuels and Ohlins. … O’Neal earned his 29th Lucas Oil Series victory. He’s third on the tour’s all-time win list behind Bloomquist ( 45) and Owens (32). … With his victory, O’Neal jumped Bloomquist for second in the series standings. … The Lucas Oil Series returns to action Aug. 10-11 with the $50,000-to-win North-South 100 at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky.
Conococheague 50: (1) Don O’Neal, (2) Steve Francis, (3) Jimmy Owens, (4) Tyler Reddick, (5) Scott Bloomquist, (6) Gary Stuhler, (7) Eric Wells, (8) John Blankenship, (9) Gregg Satterlee, (10) Jerry Bard, (11) Rick Eckert, (12) Jonathan Davenport, (13) Dan Stone, (14) Jared Landers, (15) Austin Hubbard, (16) Earl Pearson Jr, (17) Jason Covert, (18) Marvin Winters, (19) Steve Shaver, (20) Jamie Lathroum, (21) Brandon Sheppard, (22) Jeremy Miller, (23) Ronnie DeHaven Jr., (24) Alan Sagi. Fast qualifier (among 31 cars): Francis, 18.337 seconds. Heat race winners: Francis, Bloomquist, Shaver, Blankenship. Consolation race winners: Pearson, Reddick. Provisional starters: Sagi, Sheppard.