WHEATLAND, MO (July 21, 2007)-Two-time and defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Champion, Earl Pearson, Jr. of Jacksonville, FL continues his assault on his third straight title as he won his fourth series event of the year on Saturday Night at Lucas Oil Speedway powering away from Brian Birkhofer to capture the $10,000 to win CMH Citizens Memorial Healthcare sponsored event. Pearson led the first 18 laps of the race until Birkhofer swept past him to take the lead, but Pearson fought back regaining the lead on lap 30 and then pulled away for his ninth career series victory. Birkhofer finished second followed by Donnie Moran, Billy Drake and Billy Moyer. The event was co-sanctioned by the O’Reilly MLRA Late Model Series.
With a standing room only crowd on hand Brad Neat and Dan Schlieper made up the front row for the start of the race, but Pearson, who started third quickly made his way to the front of the pack as he darted into the lead heading out of turn number two on the opening circuit. Moyer who started alongside Pearson in the second row moved into second place by the second lap with Neat, Moran and Schlieper trailing.
Moran, who started seventh on the grid was on the move again as he went by Neat for third on lap six after a two lap side by side duel. Pearson, in the Bobby Labonte owned #44 started to pull away from Moyer as he completed the first ten laps. But Pearson was about to enter lapped traffic and that was allowing both Moyer and Moran to close in on him.
Just as Pearson was about to put a couple of cars a lap down a caution for debris on the race track came out on lap 12. On the Delaware double file restart Pearson was out in front by himself with Moyer and Moran lined up side by side for the restart.
When the race resumed Moran went for second with Moyer falling to third. Birkhofer was coming on strong before the yellow flag but was now back in the thick of things as he was mounting a challenge for the top spots as he was up to the fourth place running spot by lap 13 after slipping back to ninth in the early going.
Moyer stormed by Moran on the outside to regain the second spot on lap 14 but exactly one lap later Birkhofer swept by both of them on lap 15 to take over second place. Birkhofer quickly made up the distance he had between himself and the leader as he closed rapidly on Pearson.
The second caution, for debris and a stopped Gary Stolba, slowed the field on lap 17. It was at this point that business was picking up in the race for the lead as the new third place runner, Billy Drake, still on the point for the restart with Birkhofer running second followed Pearson. With Birkhofer and Drake lined up side by side for the restart behind him Pearson lost the lead for the first time in the race three laps into the green flag run as Birkhofer made it stick on the top shelf and went into the lead.
With Pearson maintaining the low side of the track Birkhofer looked like he was going to pull away and build a good lead up, but as the two entered lapped traffic just past the halfway mark (25 laps) Birkhofer and Pearson went at it in a very competitive nettle for the lead as the duo split a lapped car on lap 28. Pearson never got away from running the low groove as Birkhofer gave the lead back to Pearson on lap 30.
Behind those two there was some terrific two and three wide racing going on with Moyer and Drake racing hard for third with Shannon Babb now looking like a late race contender as he was up to fifth around Moran on lap 31.
But Moran returned the favor passing Babb on lap 34 to regain fifth and a lap later a brilliant move allowed Moran to pass both Moyer and Drake and jump into the third spot. Moran had one of the fastest cars on the track in the last ten circuits, but without any caution flags to bring Pearson and Birkhofer back to the pack Moran had to survive through traffic to maintain the third spot as Moyer and Drake were trying to stay within eyesight of him.
With five laps to go Pearson built a good lead over Birkhofer, as there were as many as four lapped cars between the two in the closing laps. With this cushion that Pearson had built up it was going to be very difficult for Birkhofer to make a late race challenge as he was trying to win his third straight Lucas Oil Series win at Lucas Oil Speedway.
But on this night Pearson was too good and too strong for anyone to take the win away from him as he took the checkers holding a comfortable margin at the end. To show how much Pearson kicked things up a notch and passing Birkhofer for the lead he lapped everyone up to the ninth place finisher.
In the Lucas Oil victory lane Pearson was joined by his crew, track owner Forrest Lucas and his former car owner Carlton Lamm. “I’ll tell you what the car has been good all night from the time we unloaded it. The track was terrific tonight, you could run anywhere on it and I want to thank all of these fans for coming out here tonight, they got their money’s worth,” said the 35 year old driver.
“Once Birkhofer got by me I thought I was in trouble, because he went with a little harder tires on than we did. We just took our time and stayed on the bottom of the race track, it was just our turn here tonight, to beat a guy like Birky is always tough, but to do it here where he has won two in a row, he’s a great competitor and he’ll race you clean.”
“This place is unreal to look at, the track as I said was racy and thanks to Forrest Lucas and everyone for giving us a great place to race at,” commented Pearson as he stretched his series points lead to a 145 points over Steve Casebolt and 160 points over Scott James.
Pearson behind the wheel of 2000 NASCAR Cup Champion Bobby Labonte’s MasterSbilt Dodge Charger with horsepower from Larry Wallace Racing Engines and sponsored by LifeLong Locks, MOPAR, Lucas Oil Products, Sunoco Race Fuels, Allstar Performance and Dunn Benson Motorsports now moves into second place in all-time series victories with his ninth career win.
Birkhofer in the Simon Trucking/Pro Power Engines/Rocket Monte Carlo was second breaking his two win streak at the track as Moran in the Custom Cutters/Vic Hill Racing Engines/MasterSbilt Impala SS finished third. Drake in the Steve Drake/Creative Kitchens and Baths/MasterSbilt GTO was fourth and Moyer claimed fifth in the Car City/Pro Power Engines/MasterSbilt Monte Carlo.
Completing the top ten were Shannon Babb, Steve Casebolt, Scott James, Will Vaught and Jimmy Mars.
Preliminary action saw Brian Birkhofer take the LifeLong Locks Fast Time Award over the 42 entrants with a lap of 15.189 seconds. Dan Schlieper, Brad Neat, Earl Pearson, Jr. and Billy Moyer were victorious in the Hawk Brake and Quarter Master sponsored heat races. The Mason Racin’ Rebel Shock Dyno and Penske Shocks B-mains went to Al Purkey and Alan Vaughn. Will Vaught, in his first career Lucas Oil Series start earned the Edelbrock Hard Charger of the Race after starting 19th and racing his way through the field to finish ninth, advancing ten positions. Earl Pearson, Jr. would take the K&N Clean Pass of the Race with the pass that proved to be the winning one on lap 30 as he retook the lead from Brian Birkhofer. Billy Drake took the Allstar Performance Performer of the Race Award.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will be off for the next two weekends as the 2007 racing schedule resumes with a Monday Night, August 6th appearance at LaSalle Speedway in LaSalle, IL for the “Illinois Valley Challenge” and on Tuesday Night, August 7 at the Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway in Dubuque, IA. Both events will pay $10,000 to win. Upcoming details on these events will be online at www.lucasdirt.com.
Lucas Oil Late Model Series/O’Reilly MLRA Late Model Series
Saturday Night, July 21, 2007
Lucas Oil Speedway-Wheatland, MO
LifeLong Locks Fast Qualifier: Brian Birkhofer 15.189 seconds
Hawk Brake First Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Dan Schlieper, Brian Birkhofer, Justin Rattliff, Justin Wells, Al Purkey, Terry Phillips, John Mason, Larry Clawson, Billy Peden, Reid Millard, P.J. Haskins
Quarter Master Second Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Brad Neat, Terry English, Eric Turner, Shannon Babb, Brandon McCormick, Jeremy Payne, Scott Drake, Will Vaught, David Barker
Hawk Brake Third Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Earl Pearson, Jr., Donnie Moran, Jimmy Mars, Scott James, Alan Vaughn, Jamie Elam, Chris Smyser, Gary Stolba, Adam Crippen, Rickey Frankel
Quarter Master Fourth Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Billy Moyer, Steve Casebolt, Billy Drake, Damon Eller, Freddy Smith, Denny Woodworth, David Turner, Stacy Taylor, Eric Anderson, Sonny Findling
Mason Racin’ Rebel Shock Dyno First B-Main (12 Laps-Top 3 Advance): Al Purkey, Will Vaught, John Mason, David Barker, P.J. Haskins, Jeremy Payne, Brandon McCormick, Billy Peden, Terry Phillips, Scott Drake, Larry Clawson, Reid Millard
Penske Shocks Second B-Main (12 Laps-Top 3 Advance): Alan Vaughn, Freddy Smith, Denny Woodworth, Chris Smyser, Stacy Taylor, Adam Crippen, Rickey Frankel, David Turner, Jamie Elam, Gary Stolba
CMH Citizens Memorial Healthcare Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature Finish (50 Laps): Earl Pearson, Jr., Brian Birkhofer, Donnie Moran, Billy Drake, Billy Moyer, Shannon Babb, Steve Casebolt, Scott James, Will Vaught, Jimmy Mars, terry English, Dan Schlieper, Al Purkey, Brad Neat, Justin Rattliff, Terry Phillips, Freddy Smith, Alan Vaughn, Eric Turner, Justin Wells, Damon Eller, Adam Crippen, Gary Stolba, Jeremy Payne, Denny Woodworth
Yellow Flags: 2
Lap Leaders: Earl Pearson, Jr. 1-14, Brian Birkhofer 15-29, Pearson 30-50
Edelbrock Hard Charger of the Race: Will Vaught (Started 19th and Finished 9th-Advanced 10 Positions)
K&N Clean Pass of the Race: Earl Pearson, Jr.
Allstar Performance Performer of the Race: Billy Drake
COMP Cams Rookie of the Race: Brad Neat
Fast Time Provisionals: Adam Crippen and Terry Phillips
O’Reilly MLRA Provisionals: Jeremy Payne and Gary Stolba
Time of Race: 21 Minutes
Current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship Points Standings
1) Earl Pearson, Jr. (Jacksonville, FL)-4085
2) Steve Casebolt (Richmond, IN)-3940
3) Scott James (Lawrenceburg, IN)-3925
4) Terry English (Benton, KY)-3550
5) Donnie Moran (Dresden, OH)-3485
6) Justin Rattliff (Campbellsville, KY)-3390
7) Billy Drake (Bloomington, IL)-3265
8) Dan Schlieper (Sullivan, WI)-3170
9) Damon Eller (Crumpler, NC)-2860
10) Brad Neat (Dunnville, KY)-2655
Current COMP Cams Rookie of the Year Points Standings
1) Justin Rattliff (Campbellsville, KY)-3390
2) Damon Eller (Crumpler, NC)-2860
3) Brad Neat (Dunnville, KY)-2655