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TAMPA, FL (February 11, 2005)- Steve Francis of Ashland, KY become the fifth different winner in five nights as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series completed another exciting night of Dirt Late Model Racing during the 29th Annual Winternationals on Friday Night at the East Bay Raceway Park.  The 37 year old racer earned his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win and his 6th career victory at East Bay.  Francis had to fight off determined charges from Shannon Babb and Earl Pearson, Jr. to take the $10,000 triumph.  Francis drove the Valvoline, Freeport Recycling Center, Banshee Graphics, Gary Stanton Racing Engines, MOPAR Rocket Dodge Intrepid to the victory in the 50 lap feature race.  Babb gave Francis a scare in the closing laps nearly overtaking him for the win.  Babb of Moweaqua, IL finished second in the Arkansas Motors/Jay Dickens Racing Engines/C.J. Rayburn Monte Carlo.  Third place went to Pearson of Jacksonville, FL in the Carlton and Kemp Lamm owned/Lucas Oil Products/Rocket Ford Taurus.  Fourth place at the finish was Matt Miller of Waterville, OH in the Denny Thornton owned McCullough Industries/Russell Baker Racing Engines/Rocket Grand Prix and Terry English of Benton, KY took fifth in the Arizona Sport Shirts/Rayburn Automotive/C.J. Rayburn Monte Carlo.  On Friday Night there were 100 cars entered for the racing events marking the fifth straight night there have been 100 or more cars on hand for the Winternationals.

Francis would bolt to the lead right from the start of the 50 lap main event with Scott James riding in second followed by Don O’Neal, Eddie Carrier, Jr. and Jason Montgomery.  Francis and James would go side by side for the lead on a couple of occasions early on, but Francis would gain a two car length lead by the sixth circuit.  O’Neal then would challenge James for second racing side y side with his fellow Hoosier State driver.  With Francis in front and a side by side battle going on between James and O’Neal, there were several drivers making their way to the front including Earl Pearson, Jr. Shannon Babb, Dennis Erb, Jr. and Matt Miller.  Pearson had started ninth and broke into the top five early on and started to put the heat on Carrier for fourth.  With 15 laps in the books it was still Francis showing the way followed by James, O’Neal, Carrier and Pearson.  The first caution of the race came out for a stopped Davey Johnson in turn one.  Right after the restart O’Neal would pass James for second with the racing still going on at a rapid pace with two wide racing common through the field.  The next yellow would fly for O’Neal who had a flat tire on lap 28 and stopped on the race track.

After O’Neal went to the pit area Pearson would now be the new second place runner with Carrier in third followed by James and Erb.  With 20 laps remaining in the race Francis still showed the way with Pearson putting the pressure on Francis for the point.  At this point all eyes were on Babb as he would go to the top of the race track and storm to the front passing Miller and Erb to take third.  Babb and Pearson then hooked up and started to track down Francis.  The final caution came out of lap 40 for mechanical problems on James’ car ending his night.  This would set up a ten lap dash to the finish between Francis, Pearson and Babb that had the fans on their feet.  Babb would take the high line by Pearson for second on lap 42 and with eight laps to go he had his sights set on getting by Francis.  Babb would slide to the outside of Francis on a couple of occasions looking like he would take the high side past Francis, but Francis would hold his low line around the race track and despite the best efforts of Babb, Francis would be the first driver to cross the line and take the win.  Babb and Pearson’s exciting charges were noted with a standing ovation from the large crowd on hand.  “It feels good to finally win one this week,” said Francis afterwards.  “I saw the red on the nose of a car and I looked at the scoreboard and I knew it was Shannon so I just tried my hardest to keep my line and I about slipped up there once coming off of four and I thought I was in deep trouble.” Said the smiling Francis in victory lane.

Completing the top ten were Dennis Erb, Jr., Anthony Rushing, Tim Dohm, Billy Moyer and Rick Eckert.

John Mason would be the Fast Timer with a lap of 15.420 seconds.  The heat race winners were Eddie Carrier, Jr., Scott James, Babb, Jason Montgomery, Francis and Don O’Neal.  The first B-Main was won by Davey Johnson with the second B-Main taken by Butch McGill.  The other two B-Mains were captured by Tim Dohm and Brian Shirley, who both advanced to the feature event.  Steve Hillard won the Strawberry Dash.

Race Summary  Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series  Friday Night, February 11, 2005 East Bay Raceway Park

Fast Time:  John Mason  15.420

First Heat:  1) Eddie Carrier, Jr.  2) Trent Follmer  3) Terry English  4) John Mason  5) Billy Moyer  6) Butch McGill  7) Bill Cunningham  8) Pat Doar  9) Keith Nosbisch  10) Jeff Gress  11) Mike Benedum  12) Chris Conley  13) Steve Harvey  14) Brad Neat  15) Joe Morris  16) Dean Bowen  17) Ronnie DeHaven, Jr.

Second Heat:  1) Scott James  2) Darren Miller  3) Anthony Rushing  4) Brady Smith  5) Brian Birkhofer  6) Michael England  7) Terry Casey  8) Rick Aukland  9) Randy Korte  10) Johnny Chastain  11) Sonny Conley  12) John Kuchar  13) Mike Hammerle  14) Michael Jackson  15) Steve Hillard  16) John Gill  17) Wes Steidinger

Third Heat:  1) Shannon Babb  2) Earl Pearson, Jr.  3) R.J. Conley  4) Shane Clanton  5) Davey Johnson  6) Dale McDowell  7) Tim McCreadie  8) Freddy Smith  9) Rod Conley  10) Josh Richards  11) Dan Schlieper  12) Steve Lucas  13) Jayme Zidar  14) Bryan Collins  15) Jason Flory  16) Scott Riggs

Fourth Heat:  1) Jason Montgomery  2) Jimmy Mars  3) Scott Bloomquist  4) Mark Voigt  5) John VanDenBerg  6) Delmas Conley  7) Darin Meierotto  8) Roy Deese, Jr.  9) Russ Scheffler  10) Zach Carney  11) Corey Conley  12) Frank Smith  13) Eric Jacobsen  14) Ronnie Smith  15) Dennis Little

Fifth Heat:  1) Steve Francis  2) Billy Drake  3) Dennis Erb, Jr.  4) Tim Dohm  5) Rick Eckert  6) Ray Cook  7) Jason Smith  8) Greg Johnson  9) Evan Herrell  10) Bo Feathers  11) Garrett Durrett  12) Anthony White  13) Victor Lee  14) Josh Manning  15) Carl Edwards  16) Mike Mataragas

Sixth Heat:  1) Don O’Neal  2) Matt Miller  3) Donnie Moran  4) Steve Shaver  5) Rohn Moon  6) Jackie Boggs  7) Wayne Johnson  8) Brian Shirley  9) Ricky Elliott  10) Dave Hess  11) Dan Stone  12) Brent Robinson  13) Matt Hubbard  14) Kristin Flory  15) Marshall Austin  16) Greggie Oliver

Strawberry Dash:  1) Steve Hilllard  2) Evan Herrell  3) Anthony White  4) Kristin Flory

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series A-Main (30 Laps):  1)  Steve Francis  2) Shannon Babb  3) Earl Pearson, Jr.  4) Matt Miller  5) Terry English  6) Dennis Erb, Jr.  7) Anthony Rushing  8) Tim Dohm  9) Billy Moyer  10) Rick Eckert  11) Darren Miller  12) Scott Bloomquist  13) Steve Shaver  14) Dan Schlieper  15) Trent Follmer  16) Eddie Carrier, Jr.  17) Jimmy Mars  18) Donnie Moran  19) Butch McGill  20) Brian Shirley  21) Scott James  22) Billy Drake  23) Don O’Neal  24) Davey Johnson  25) R.J. Conley  26) Jason Montgomery

Race Statistics Entries:  100 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals:  Rick Eckert and Steve Shaver R.A.C.E. Provisionals: Billy Moyer and Dan Schlieper Lap Leaders:  Francis  1-50 Cautions:  3 Hard Charger of the Race:  Dennis Erb, Jr. (advanced 11 positions)

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