James outduels Miller, races to Hilltop victory
By Earl SimpsonDirtonDirt.com correspondent
MILLERSBURG, Ohio (May 30) — In an up-and-down season, Scott James had an up-and-down race at Hilltop Speedway. The Lawrenceburg, Ind., driver finished on the upside with a $7,000 victory, his second of the season on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. James won a race-long duel with fast qualifier Matt Miller as James led the first 14 laps, lost the point to Miller, then went back out front to lead laps 23-35 and complete his fifth career series victory. | Slideshow
Miller, of Whitehouse, Ohio, settled for second ahead of Dan Schlieper of Sullivan, Wis., three-time series champion Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., and Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio. Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind., who entered the race with a five-point lead over Pearson in the championship chase, was 14th and fell to second behind Pearson.
James grabbed the early lead and was in control for a dozen laps before things got a mixed up among the frontrunners. James tangled with the lapped car of John Mason — a hometown driver returning to the track where he grew up racing — on the 14th lap, triggering a skirmish that involved Miller and Schlieper. Everyone regained control, however, and the green flag stayed out as Miller took command.
A lap-15 caution slowed the action with Miller ahead, then two yellows appeared on the 17th lap, the first for a Keith Tish-Mason wreck in turn two, then for Rick Bond's spin that caused a Wayne Chinn wreck. The green flag returned and, five laps later, James went back out front for a lead he'd never give up.
Notes: James drives a Rocket Chassis powered by a Jay Dickens engine and sponsored by Powell Motorsports, Baylor Trucking, and Welsh Excavation & Development. ... James, who began the season taking several provisional starting spots, notched his first victory of the season April 4 at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga. ... Bart Hartman's 17th-to-10th run gave him the PBM/Erson Cams Hard Charger honors. ... The series was making its first-ever appearance at Hilltop. ... The series completes its weekend with a Saturday event at Florence Speedway in Union, Ky. The Ralph Latham Memorial pays $10,000 to the winner.
Lucas Oil @ Hilltop: (1) Scott James, (2) Matt Miller, (3) Dan Schlieper, (4) Earl Pearson Jr., (5) Doug Drown, (6) Terry Casey, (7) Billy Drake, (8) Freddy Smith, (9) Justin Rattliff, (10) Bart Hartman, (11) Dave Hornickel, (12) George Lee, (13) Ryan Markham, (14) Steve Casebolt, (15) Eric Myers, (16) Justin Chance, (17) Chet Alexander, (18) John Mason, (19) Keith Tish, (20) Rick Bond, (21) Wayne Chinn, (22) Doug Dodd, (23) Rocky Owens, (24) Mark Banal. Fast qualifier (among 26 cars): Miller, 14.973 seconds. Heat race winners: Miller, Lee, James. Consolation winner: Casebolt. Provisional starters: Owens, Tish.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed laps led by Scott James; he led 1-14 and 23-25.