Pearson's late heroics pay $10,000 at Wythe
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
RURAL RETREAT, Va. (June 22) — Four-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Champion Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., overtook John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va., on the white flag lap of Saturday night’s Blue Ridge 50 at Wythe Raceway for a $10,000 victory at the half-mile oval. | Slideshow | Video
Pearson pulled away on the final lap en route to his second Lucas Oil Series victory of the season. Blankenship settled for the runner-up finish after leading 28 of the race’s 50 laps. Steve Shaver of Williamson, W.Va., was third with Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., and Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., rounding out the top five in a race slowed by five cautions.
“I had a second-place car,” said Pearson, who drove a Bobby Labonte Racing Longhorn Chassis to his 26th-career Lucas Oil Series victory. “I didn't think I could pass John (Blankenship). I just took a different line after the caution and found enough moisture, and I just went for it.
"My crew has worked their butts off ... It's been an up-and-down roller-coaster ride this year, but we may finally be on the right track.”
A frantic final eight-lap run was set-up when sixth-running Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., slowed with a flat tire. On the restart, Blankenship was able to pull away from Pearson as the latter took a few laps to rebuild his momentum.
But Pearson did get rolling, and closed the gap to Blankenship in the final laps before sneaking by for the lead just before taking the white flag.
"I didn't even know he (Pearson) was there,” said Blankenship, who was looking to win Wythe’s Lucas Oil Series race for the second straight year. “He came out of nowhere. The car took off really well after that last caution and I just tried to hit my marks lap-after-lap, but obviously it wasn't good enough.”
Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., held the lead for the race’s first 19 laps. But he suddenly slowed coming off turn two on lap 20. His car came to a stop in turn four and had to be pushed back to the pit area.
Notes: Pearson's Longhorn Chassis is powered by a Rumley Racing Engine with sponsorship from Lucas Oil Products, ASI Racewear and SHY Racing Suspension. ... Pearson’s previous Lucas Oil Series victory came Feb. 16 during Speedweeks action at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. ... Cautions were for Daniel Baggerly (Lap 15), Dale McDowell (Lap 16), Jonathan Davenport (Lap 20) and Don O'Neal (Lap 41). ... Series points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., finished eighth. ... Lucas Oil Series competitors return to action with a doubleheader around the Fourth of July with trips to Muskingum County Speedway in Zanesville, Ohio, on July 3 and Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park on July 4.
Blue Ridge 50: (1) Earl Pearson Jr., (2) John Blankenship, (3) Steve Shaver, (4) Jared Landers, (5) Steve Francis, (6) Eddie Carrier Jr., (7) Chris Ferguson, (8) Jimmy Owens, (9) Dennis Erb Jr., (10) Ty Dillon, (11) Ricky Weeks, (12) Jerry Lierly, (13) Don O’Neal, (14) Billy Moyer Jr., (15) Craig Vosbergen, (16) Casey Roberts, (17) Kennie Compton, (18) Jonathan Davenport, (19) Dale McDowell, (20) Daniel Baggerly, (21) Justin Labonte. Fast qualifier (among 21 cars): Davenport, 16.207 seconds. Heat winners: Davenport, McDowell, Pearson.