KANKAKEE, IL (August 17, 2007)-The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series made their first ever visit to the Kankakee Motor Speedway on Friday Night and it will turn out to be a night that the race fans will not soon forget as some of the best racing seen anywhere this year took place as two-time and defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Champion, Earl Pearson, Jr. of Jacksonville, FL used the bottom line to come from the 13th starting spot to win his fifth series event of the season. Pearson took the lead with 15 laps to go as he had to withstand a three wide battle for the lead. Scott James, who is second in points finished in the runner-up spot followed by Mike Marlar, Dan Schlieper and Billy Drake.
Jason Feger competing in his first Lucas Oil event of the season roared to the lead from his outside pole starting spot with James, Marlar, Frank Heckenast, Jr. and LifeLong Locks Fast Timer, Terry Casey in hot pursuit. By the second time around Marlar had raced past James to grab the second slot with three and sometimes four wide racing standard in the early going.
The first caution would come out on lap five when Richie Hedrick and Russ Scheffler would get together in turn number four putting the race under a red flag to clean up the wreckage as both cars were severely damaged and were done for the night. Both drivers checked out o.k. after the incident. During this time Heckenast who was running in fourth went to the pits and gave up his spot when he returned to the race track.
On the restart Feger was looking strong with Marlar, James and Casey putting on a show for second. Casey climbed to third on lap six and went door to door with James until James got back by him on the tenth lap. It was truly an exciting first ten laps of the race as drivers were jockeying for position lap after lap, but all were seeing the back of Feger’s car as he looked to be the prime contender for the race win.
With a fast and furious 15 laps in the books veteran Kevin Weaver would spin in turn one with a flat tire forcing him pit side after he had a top ten run going. On the restart Feger would be out in front, but for the first time in the race there would be a new leader when lap 16 was scored and it was a fast moving Marlar. Marlar overhauled Feger going down the backstretch putting his #34 in front by a car length.
Casey then put the pedal to the metal hugging the bottom side of the racy track as he moved up to second on lap 17 as Feger slipped back to third. Pearson, who started on the inside of row number seven then quietly worked the bottom shelf entering the top five for the first time on lap 17.
With 20 laps in the books Marlar was still showing the way with Casey in second. Pearson had moved up to third by Feger by then and was setting his sights on the two frontrunners. But Pearson had to contend with Casey who was running his same preferred line on the track. The two were nip and tuck in the race for second while all along not letting Marlar get away from them. At the halfway mark Marlar was flying on the outside lane of the track with Casey and Pearson duking it out for second with Feger in fourth followed closely by James.
Just after the 25th lap was scored Steve Casebolt spun to a stop on the front stretch bringing out the third and what would be the final caution of the race. Casebolt would pit and re-enter the race on the tail. On the last Delaware double file restart of the race Marlar still had the point with Pearson finally getting by Casey for second on the restart.
With 30 laps in the books it still a hotly contested race for the lead with Marlar in front as Pearson and now James who was back in the hunt going three wide for the lead on several occasions coming off of turn four. The wide and ultra fast surface was giving the large grandstand crowd on hand quite a performance as Marlar would see James come from third to lead lap 34, but a lap later Pearson would power into the lead taking over the point for the first time on lap 35.
Pearson would stay glued to the bottom of the track as James and Marlar were throwing slide jobs at each other seemingly every lap until the finish. With no caution flags and very little lapped traffic in front of him Pearson kept the hammer down as he pulled away in the final ten laps to open up enough breathing room between himself and the torrid battle for second.
James and Marlar would go back and forth much to the delight of the crowd as Marlar looked like he was going to finish second, but James was able to clear him on the final lap to nail the second place finish. With Pearson winning it would open up a 130 point lead for Pearson over James with eight point’s races left in the season.
Dan Schlieper, who started eighth and Billy Drake, who started 11th made their bid for a top five finish in the last 15 laps of the race as they joined in on the excitement as they made their way to fourth and fifth at the pay window.
In the Lucas Oil Victory Lane Pearson climbed on the door of his Bobby Labonte owned #44 to the cheers of the crowd. “Right before the feature we talked about and decided to change to a softer tire and I want to thank my crew for this win, because it was their call and worked out great, my car was set up to run the inside of the track and really had to work for that one, the people in the stands surely had to like that, that was a great race,” said the 35 year old racer looking for a record fourth consecutive national championship. “I got up to third there and was watching the race between Scott James and Marlar as they were using the middle and top side, so I just kept it down low where the car seemed to work the best and it paid off. I want to thank Bobby Labonte, my crew chief Jason Fitzgerald and Matt Langston and everybody with the team it was a team victory and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Second place finisher Scott James also felt like he had a car to win. “That was one heck of race, Earl was good on the bottom and my car was super up top, that’s where I like to run here, I just got caught up there in the race with Marlar and it cost me a shot at the win, because Earl just went by both of us, I thought we had a great chance for the win where we were starting at (on the pole), but we’ll take second, we were hoping to gain some more points on Earl, but we’ll be right there at the end I feel.”
Marlar in his best finish with the Lucas Oil Series this season was extremely happy with the performance of his car. “We were right there for the win,” said Marlar who led 18 laps in the feature. “Scott and I were going back and forth and we didn’t even touch, I felt I raced him clean, but Earl just snuck in there and passed both of us.”
Pearson and Labonte’s winning MasterSbilt Dodge Charger is powered by a Larry Wallace Racing Engine and sponsored by LifeLong Locks, MOPAR, Lucas Oil Products, Sunoco Race Fuels, Allstar Performance and Dunn Benson Motorsports. It was Pearson’s tenth career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory which moved him into second place all-time in series career wins.
James behind the wheel of his familiar Powell Motorsports/Jay Dickens Racing Engines/Rocket GTO finished second for the fifth time this season in series competition. Marlar took third in the Stephens Motorsports/Estes Racing Engines/C.J. Rayburn GTO. Schlieper came home fourth in his Miller Brothers Coal/Pro Power Engines/C.J. Rayburn Ford Fusion with Drake picking up fifth in the Creative Kitchens and Baths/Mullvain Motorsports/MasterSbilt GTO.
Completing the top ten were Jason Feger, Steve Francis, Donnie Moran, Terry Casey and Terry English.
Terry Casey took the LifeLong Locks Fast Time Award with a quick lap of 13.772 second among the 36 entries on hand. John Provenzano, Scott James, Jason Feger and Mike Marlar won the Hawk Brake and Quarter Master sponsored heat races. The Mason Racin’ Rebel Shock Dyno and Penske Shocks B-Mains were won by Scott Schmitt and Richie Hedrick. Earl Pearson, Jr. took the Edelbrock Hard Charger of the Race passing twelve cars on his way to his win.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Kankakee Motor Speedway-Kankakee, Illinois
Friday Night, August 17, 2007
LifeLong Locks Fast Qualifier: Terry Casey 13.772 seconds
Hawk Brake First Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): John Provenzano, Terry Casey, Kevin Weaver, Earl Pearson, Jr., George Scheffler, Scott Schmitt, Ted Loomis, Eric Kwasigroh, Don Hilleary
Quarter Master Second Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Jason Feger, Terry English, Billy Drake, Damon Eller, Richie Hedrick, Mike Mataragas, Kerry Mathew, Steve Dimmick
Hawk Brake Third Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Scott James, Frank Heckenast, Jr., Steve Francis, Steve Casebolt, Russ Scheffler, Justin Rattliff, Tony Izzo, Jr., Rusty Pleasant
Quarter Master Fourth Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Mike Marlar, Dan Schlieper, Donnie Moran, Ryan Dauber, Mike Provenzano, Ryan Unzicker, Garrett Slager, Matt Schultz, Shawn Toczek
Mason Racin’ Rebel Shock Dyno First B-Main (12 Laps-Top 3 Advance): Scott Schmitt, Russ Scheffler, George Scheffler, Tony Izzo, Jr., Eric Kwasigroh, Ted Loomis, Don Hilleary, Justin Rattliff, Steve Thorsten
Penske Shocks Second B-Main (12 Laps-Top 3 Advance): Richie Hedrick, Shawn Toczek, Mike Mataragas, Kerry Mathew, Ryan Unzicker, Mike Provenzano, Garrett Slager, Matt Schultz, Freddy Smith, Steve Dimmick
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Steel Mart Feature Finish (50 Laps): Earl Pearson, Jr., Scott James, Mike Marlar, Dan Schlieper, Billy Drake, Jason Feger, Steve Francis, Donnie Moran, Terry Casey, Terry English, Justin Rattliff, Steve Casebolt, Shawn Toczek, Damon Eller, George Scheffler, Mike Provenzano, Ryan Dauber, Frank Heckenast, Jr., John Provenzano, Kevin Weaver, Freddy Smith, Mike Mataragas, Scott Schmitt, Russ Scheffler, Richie Hedrick
Yellow Flags: 3
Lap Leaders: Jason Feger 1-15, Mike Marlar 16-33, Scott James 34, Earl Pearson, Jr. 35-50
Edelbrock Hard Charger of the Race: Earl Pearson, Jr. (Started 13th and Finished 1st-Advanced 12 Positions)
K&N Clean Pass of the Race: Earl Pearson, Jr.
Allstar Performance Performer of the Race: Scott James
COMP Cams Rookie of the Race: Justin Rattliff
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals: Justin Rattliff and Freddy Smith
Track Provisional: Mike Provenzano
Time of Race: 23