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LASALLE, IL (July 30, 2005)-The official score sheets from the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event on Saturday Night at the LaSalle Speedway shows seven lead changes in the race, of course that is at the start-finish line but there were at least twice that many lead exchanges in the thrilling 50 lap $10,000 to win "Illinois Valley Challenge" that saw Muscatine, IA driver Brian Birkhofer park his car in victory circle for the second time this season in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series competition. 

Birkhofer led the last 16 laps of the race as he piloted his Daufeldt Transport/TB & Company/Simon Trucking/J&J Steel/McFarland Pain Clinic/Pratt Motorsports/Community Bank of Muscatine/S&S Concrete/Eastern Iowa Landscape/Executive Finish/Reed's Lawn Service/Bryant Roofing/Precision Machine/Pro Power Race Engines sponsored MasterSbilt Monte Carlo to the win in front of a packed house.   Trailing Birkhofer across the finish line was Earl Pearson, Jr of Jacksonville, FL, who came back from a flat tire to take second in the Lucas Oil Products/Larry Wallace Racing Engines/MasterSbilt Ford Taurus.  Dennis Erb, Jr. of Carpentersville, IL was third in the Petroff Towing/Malcuit Engines/C.J. Rayburn Monte Carlo with fourth going to Matt Miller of Waterville, OH in the Doug Herbert Performance Parts/Russell Baker Racing Engines/Rocket Grand Prix.  Rounding out the top five was hard charger of the race, Billy Drake of Bloomington, IL in the Steidinger Construction/Mullvain Motors/MasterSbilt Monte Carlo who came from the 19th starting spot.

Earl Pearson, Jr. and 18 year old high school junior, Travis Rokey would make up the front starting row for the 50 lap main event.  The race would go green for one lap until an accident in turn two slowed the action.  Pearson had grabbed the point from the get go with Brady Smith sliding into second followed by Don O'Neal.  Pearson would lead another circuit after the restart, but Smith would get a run on Pearson down the backstraight to take the lead.  O'Neal would then go to second by Pearson as Pearson fell to third place.  Brian Birkhofer was headed towards the front as he started in fifth and roared past O'Neal and Pearson to take second on lap five.  The tremendous racing up front continued with Darren Miller pounding the cushion and going from 10th to third in only six laps.  On lap 6 the caution would fly for flat tires for Donnie Moran and Pearson.  Both pitted and returned to racing action.  The top five now would consist of Smith in front followed by Birkhofer, Miller, O'Neal and Dennis Erb, Jr.  Erb would get by O'Neal on lap for fourth.  The race for the lead had the capacity crowd cheering loudly as Smith and Birkhofer then would get toe to toe for the lead.  Smith and Birkhofer would race side by side down the straightways with Smith holding the advantage at the scoring line.  On lap 16 Smith would get too high in turn four and Birkhofer would slip by him to take the lead for the first time in the race.

Smith would then pull even with Birkhofer again and the two went side by side for two laps until Smith was out in front again on lap 18.  But a lap later Birkhofer retook the lead as the cars were really pouding the cushion that had built up in turns three and four.  Miller was a solid third with Erb and O'Neal still in the top five. O'Neal then would pass both Miller and Erb to take over third on lap 21.  With the halfway signal given it was still Birkhofer barely in front followed by Smith, O'Neal, Erb and now Matt Miller.  Scott James would slow and bring out a caution on lap 26.  On the restart O'Neal would blast by Smith and a lap later Birkhofer to take over the lead.  At the 30 lap mark it was now O'Neal showing the way and threatening to pull away from the field.  Birkhofer was second trailed by Smith, Erb and Matt Miller.  Jason Feger started to get it cranked up as the youngest entered the top five on lap 31 by Matt Miller.  A caution on lap 33 would halt the exciting action temporarily.  At this time Darren Miller who had been really strong left the race and did not return.  On the restart O'Neal bolted out to a three car length lead over Birkhofer, but Birkhofer would catch up and slide by O'Neal coming off of turn number four on lap 35.  Smith who was fourth in the running order would catch the burm in turn four and see Feger and Steve Casebolt, Jr. who was on the move from his 15th starting spot collide with him with all three cars retired for the night.

After that there would be no more cautions as the race would go green the rest of the way.  Birkhofer would be the lead with Pearson who had pitted earlier to change a flat tire now up to second in an incredible comeback.  Pearson had passed O'Neal for second on lap 35 as the two went door to door.  Pearson then set his sights on Birkhofer in the final 10 laps of the race, but Birkhofer would not make any mistakes and smoothly drive the track taking his car all the way to the checkers for his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win of '05.  Pearson's comeback netted him a second place finish for the fifth time in series competition as Erb would take third.  Fourth place was Matt Miller with Billy Drake charging up from his 19th starting position to take fifth place as he was right on Miller's heels at the finish.

In victory circle Birkhofer thanked previous LaSalle winner, Jimmy Mars for some expert advice.  "I want to thank Jimmy Mars for telling me what to do here tonight, he won here in May coming from 14th and I trusted his advice since he couldn't be here tonight I talked to him on the phone earlier,"  "That was a really exciting race and I want to thank the fans for coming out tonight and they surely got their money's worth watching that race."

Completing the top ten were Don O'Neal, Brian Shirley, John Provenzano, Michael Glynn and Freddy Smith.

In preliminary events Earl Pearson, Jr. was the Fast Qualifier for the 28 car field at 12.685 seconds.  The Heat Race winners were Pearson, Brady Smith and Travis Rokey.  The B-Main was won by Billy Drake.

Race Summary 

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series 

Saturday Night, July 30, 2005 

LaSalle Speedway-LaSalle, Illinois

Fast Time:  Earl Pearson, Jr. 12.685 seconds

Heat #1:  Earl Pearson, Jr., Dennis Erb, Jr., Jason Feger, Darren Miller, Kevin Weaver, Jay Fiene, John Provenzano, Denny Eckrich, Frank Reaber, Edward Williams

Heat #2:  Brady Smith, Brian Birkhofer, Matt Miller, Scott James, Michael Glynn, Freddy Smith, Billy Drake, Tom Markham, Whitney McQueary

Heat #3:  Travis Rokey, Don O'Neal, Rick Aukland, Donnie Moran, Steve Casebolt, Jr., Bart Schwartz, Tim Dohm, Tony Izzo, Jr., Brian Shirley

B-Main:  Billy Drake, Brian Shirley, John Provenzano, Denny Eckrich, Whitney McQueary, Tom Markham, Frank Reaber, Tim Dohm, Edward Williams

"Illinois Valley Challenge" 50 Lap Feature:  Brian Birkhofer, Earl Pearson, Jr., Dennis Erb, Jr., Matt MIller, Billy Drake, Don O'Neal, Brian Shirley, John Provenzano, Michael Glynn, Freddy Smith, Tim Dohm, Frank Reaber, Whitney McQueary, Donnie Moran, Brady Smith, Jason Feger, Steve Casebolt, Jr., Darren Miller, Scott James, Jay Fiene, Travis Rokey, Kevin Weaver, Bart Schwartz, Rick Aukland

Race Statistics

Entries:  28

Cautions:  6

Red Flags: 0

Lap Leaders:  Earl Pearson, Jr. 1-2, Brady Smith 2-16, Brian Birkhofer 16-17, Smith 18,  Birkhofer 19-27, Don O'Neal 28-34, Birkhofer 35-50

Weld Wheels Hard Charger of the Race:  Billy Drake (started 19th and finished 5th) advanced 14 positions

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Race:  Tim Dohm

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals: Tim Dohm and Whitney McQueary

Track Provisional:  Frank Reaber

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