La Salle Speedway
Brady Smith edges Mars, wins Lucas Oil at La Salle
LA SALLE, Ill. (May 11) — Racing for the first time since knee surgery sidelined him following February’s Florida Speedweeks, Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., outdueled fellow Wisconsin driver Jimmy Mars Saturday night at La Salle Speedway for a $10,000 victory on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
The 35-year-old Smith recorded the second Lucas Oil Series victory of his career in edging Mars of Menomonie, Wis., by just a few inches at the finish of a race that ran caution free. Lapped traffic hampered the leaders for much of the 50-lapper, and worked in Smith’s favor in allowing him to drive around Mars for the lead on lap 38 en route the victory. | Slideshow | Video
John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., followed Smith and Mars across the line in third, while Chris Simpson of Oxford, Iowa and points leader Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., rounded out the top five finishers.
“I think we were real equal. He wasn’t getting away from me, but I wasn’t all over him the whole time either,” said Smith, whose first series victory since 2008 made him the seventh different winner in eleven series events this season. Lapped traffic “forced me to change my line and I was better up the racetrack. I was able to squeeze around him coming off of two and that made the race.
“I’m just happy we won the race. First race back since Speedweeks and I’ve been recovering from knee surgery, it’s just an awesome way to come back and get the win.”
Smith started the race from the pole but slid back to second after losing a side-by-side battle with the second-starting Mars on the opening lap. Smith proceeded to stalk Mars around a rough track surface at the quarter-mile oval, taking a few looks low under the leader in the race’s early going.
It was lapped traffic midway through the event that gave Smith his best opportunity, and the slower machine of Camp Point, Ill., driver Jerry Lierly proved to be Mars’ undoing. Reaching Lierly on lap 34, Mars struggled to find a way around the slower car, allowing Smith to close the slight gap that Mars had built through the race’s middle portions.
Smith took full advantage of Mars’ struggles, moving to the high groove as Mars looked to overtake Lierly on the low side. A slight bobble by Mars in turns one and two on lap 38 allowed Smith to pull even at the exit of the corner, and he raced ahead down the back straightaway and into turn three.
“Lapped traffic made the race, but that’s not uncommon,” said Smith, who later survived scrape with the wall that left his right-side spoiler side dangling from his race car. “I was getting a little free when I knocked the piece of my spoiler off , so I kinda changed my line a little bit. I seen him under me that one time so I tried to move down and try something different. It was a helluva race.”
Mars, who was bidding for his first Lucas Oil Series victory since the 2009 North-South 100 at Florence (Ky.) Speedway, was disappointed to loose the race because of lapped traffic but was happy to score a solid runner-up finish.
“It’s a bummer, but I guess I’ll be happy with second and take that,” said Mars---. “The car felt good and everything was good. You just get up to some of the lapped traffic and it’ll just slow you right down. I think (Lierly) was concentrating just to keep it on the track than he was even racing. I guess he didn’t know he was getting lapped — didn’t know he was in the back of the pack I guess. But whatever, we’ll take second and go on to the next one.”
Looking for his first series win of the season, the third-starting Blankenship watched the lead battle for the entire distance. But he never had quite enough to make his own bid for the lead.
"I was hoping maybe they would get together and we could sneak by for the win,” said Blankenship, who sits third in the current Lucas Oil Series points standings. “We gained some points tonight. Those two had a great race for the lead. I had a good battle with (Chris) Simpson for the entire race it seemed like."
Notes: Smith’s Bloomquist Race Car is powered by a Vic Hill Racing Engine with sponsorship from Big Red Motorsports, Mid-States Equipment and Hydraulics, Michaletz Trucking, Badger Storage and Excavating, Gotta Race and Willow River Saloon. ... The caution-free race was completed in 15 minutes and 40 seconds. ... Smith’s previous Lucas Oil Series victory came at Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway in Calvert City, Ky., on May 3, 2008. ... Reigning Lucas Oil Series champion Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished sixth. ... Among drivers failing to make the feature lineup: Jason Feger, Chad Simpson, Frank Heckenast Jr., Brian Shirley, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Unzicker. ... Lucas Oil Series competitors head to Batesville (Ark.) Motor Speedway on May 17-18 for the $20,000-to-win Bad Boy 98.
Lucas Oil @ La Salle: (1) Brady Smith, (2) Jimmy Mars, (3) John Blankenship, (4) Chris Simpson, (5) Don O’Neal, (6) Jimmy Owens, (7) Eddie Carrier Jr., (8) Brian Birkhofer, (9) Steve Francis, (10) Randy Korte, (11) Scott Bloomquist, (12) Earl Pearson Jr., (13) Dennis Erb Jr., (14) Shannon Babb, (15) A.J. Diemel, (16) Billy Drake, (17) Ray Guss Jr., (18) Jared Landers, (19) Bobby Pierce, (20) Brandon Sheppard, (21) Jerry Lierly, (22) Austin Hubbard, (23) Billy Moyer Jr., (24) Jason McBride, (25) Kent Robinson. Fast qualifier (among 38 cars): Carrier, 13.679 seconds. Heat winners: Smith, Blankenship, O’Neal, Chris Simpson. Consolation winners: Robinson, Sheppard. Provisionals: Hubbard, McBride.