SALUDA, VA (June 23, 2007)-Early on in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at Bill Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway it looked like COMP Cams “Rookie of the Year” points leader Justin Rattliff was going to steal the spotlight from some of the best in dirt late model racing as the 20 year old driver led the first 12 laps of the “All-American 50” Presented by Thurston’s Spring Service, but eventually the veterans would take over as two-time and defending Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Champion, Earl Pearson, Jr. of Jacksonville, FL would survive a three wide two lap battle for the lead taking over the point on lap 14 and then holding off several repeated challenges from Donnie Moran to take the $10,000 victory on Saturday Night. Pearson’s third series win of the season also vaulted him into the points lead for the first time in ’07. Moran would finish second followed by Jeremy Miller, Scott Bloomquist and Terry English.
With the youngster Rattliff setting the pace early on grabbing the lead on the opening lap and with the cameras of SPEED Channel taping the event Rattliff would set a blistering pace around the fast half-mile track with Pearson, Miller, Dan Schlieper and English holding the top five spots with four laps in the books.
Rattliff would have a six car length lead over the field by the fifth circuit with the first change inside the top five occurring when English went by Schlieper for fourth on lap five. The top three of Rattliff, Pearson and Miller would start to pull away from the fourth place battle as the trio would start to pick up the tail end of the lineup by lap 12. Rattliff’s lead would dissipate with Pearson and Miller closing the gap quickly as Rattliff was starting to deal with slower traffic.
Pearson and Miller would catch Rattliff and an amazing two laps would ensue with a three wide race for two consecutive circuits with room to spare around the racy surface. This was happening even whIle they had to contend with lapped traffic. Pearson would nose ahead on lap 13 to take over the lead with Rattliff and Miller staying right there in the hunt.
The hotly contested battle for the lead would have the fans cheering each pass in front of the main grandstand. The excitement of the race would be tempered on lap 14 when the first caution of the race would slow the racing action as Scott James would come to a halt in turn number four.
On the restart Pearson would be out in front with Rattliff and Miller lined up side by side.
Pearson would refire coming off of turn four with Miller going in front of Rattliff to take over second as the due would have a new contender for the lead as two-time Virginia Motor Speedway Super Late Model champion Booper Bare was hugging the bottom side of the race and was quickly making up time on Pearson and Miller.
Bare would challenge Miller for the runner-up slot and would rocket by him on lap 20 after a two straight cautions have been displayed on the track. Bare strong effort was going well as he was about to pass Pearson for the lead coming off of turn number two on lap 22 mechanical issues would force his car to slow as he made a sharp left turn into the infield ending his night.
Pearson thought he was breathing a little bit easier now with Bare out of the race but veteran Donnie Moran would start to pick up the challenge now. Moran, who started ninth on the grid would bolt into the top five by the 21st lap, to third a lap later and then when Bare went out he would take over the second spot.
With the halfway signal given Moran was all over Pearson in the race for the top spot. Miller was still holding third with Rattliff and Scott Bloomquist battling it out for fourth. The top five would remain the same until Bloomquist found the outside groove to his liking passing Rattliff on lap 30 to go to fourth.
It looked like a patented late race run by Bloomquist as there were still 20 laps remaining and plenty of time to catch up to the frontrunners. Pearson and Moran would encounter some heavy traffic with 33 laps scored. This would enable Moran to pull to the inside of Pearson on a couple of occasions and just when it looked like Moran was going to grab the lead from Pearson, Pearson would split two cars that had been running side by side in front of him for two laps.
This would put the two lapped cars between Pearson and Moran and allow some breathing room for reigning “World 100” Champion. English would then start to mount a charge coming to fifth with 15 to go as he was knocking on the door for fourth.
With ten laps to go Pearson would hold a two car length lead over Moran with Miller, Bloomquist and English trying to run them down. The fourth caution of the race would come out for Jeff Pilkerton on lap 41 and a lap later Deane Guy would bring out the fifth and final caution when he slowed on the race track.
With 42 laps completed an eight lap shootout would be set up as a host of drivers would take one last shot at Pearson. English would fire the first shot coming from fifth to third after the green waved for the restart. Bloomquist would come right back however passing both English and Miller with five to go to come up to third.
Now with five laps to go Pearson would again take Moran’s best efforts as the veteran would slingshot off of turn two with the momentum closing right on the rear on Pearson’s car heading into the third turn, but each time Pearson would fend off Moran as the race behind them was just as close. Miller would return to the third spot passing both Bloomquist and English with four to go.
As the frontrunners took the white flag Moran would try once more to diamond off the corner and try and gain the momentum off of turn on Pearson. But on the final lap Pearson would get off of the second turn very well and that would be enough to take his car around the remaining two corners and the main straightaway to pick up his third series win of 2007. Pearson was behind the wheel of the Bobby Labonte Racing/LifeLong Locks/Lucas Oil Products/MOPAR/Sunoco Race Fuels/All-Star Performance/Dunn Benson Motorsports/Larry Wallace Racing Engines/MasterSbilt Dodge Charger. Pearson’s eighth career series win came in a brand new race car prepared by crew chief Jason Fitzgerald.
In victory lane the 35 year old Pearson was very pleased with the performance of his new racer. “I’ll tell you what my crew did a heck of a job, this is a brand new race car, first time on the race track and we gambled on tires before we started the race and changed to the soft stuff, the track was in excellent condition all night,” said Pearson. “The car worked up top there early and that’s how we were able to get by Rattliff and then we had the three wide race up front for a couple of laps.”
“I want to thank Bobby Labonte for all of help and support, he never lets us get down and the crew works their tails off and does a great job, I also want to say thanks to Carlton and Kemp Lamm my former car owners they are here tonight as well to watch.”
Moran’s second place finish was his best of the season in the Custom Cutters/PBM Performance Products/MasterSbilt Impala SS. Miller from Littlestown, PA had his best career Lucas Oil finish placing third in the Buckler Motorsports/Complete Flooring/Rocket GTO. Bloomquist from Mooresburg, TN took fourth in his Miller Brothers Coal/Vic Hill Racing Engines/Bloomquist Chevrolet with English of Benton, KY having a strong run to take fifth at the pay window after he brought out a back up car after time trials.
Completing the top ten were Billy Drake, Jimmy Owens, Jason Covert, Justin Rattliff and Steve Casebolt.
In preliminary events Earl Pearson, Jr. was the LifeLong Locks Fast Qualifier for the 29 entrants with a lap of 17.677 seconds. The Hawk Brake and Quarter Master Heat Races were won by Dan Schlieper, Jeremy Miller and Justin Rattliff. The Mason Racin’ Rebel Shock Dyno B-Main went to Brad Neat. The Edelbrock Hard Charger of the Race was Steve Casebolt who had to use a provisional to get into the race. Casebolt would start 23rd in the lineup and finish tenth advancing an impressive 13 spots. The K&N Clean Pass of the Race went to Donnie Moran.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series now heads to the Buckeye State if Ohio for two major events. On Sunday Night, July 1st the series makes its first ever visit to Portsmouth Raceway Park in Portsmouth, OH and on Tuesday Night, July 3rd it will be the third appearance for the premier touring dirt late model series at Ronnie Moran’s Muskingum County Speedway in Zanesville, OH. Both shows will pay $10,000 to win. For more information you can log on to www.lucasdirt.com.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Saturday Night, June 23, 2007
Virginia Motor Speedway-Saluda, VA
LifeLong Locks Fast Qualifier: Earl Pearson, Jr. 17.677 seconds
Hawk Brake First Heat (10 Laps-Top 6 Advance): Dan Schlieper, Earl Pearson, Jr., Scott Bloomquist, Jamie Lathroum, Jimmy Owens, Darryl Hills, Brad Neat, Brandon Galloway
Quarter Master Second Heat (10 Laps-Top 6 Advance): Jeremy Miller, Damon Eller, Terry English, Scott James, Sean Cosgrove, Jeff Pilkerton, Austin Hubbard, Louis Littlepage
Hawk Brake Third Heat (10 Laps-Top 6 Advance): Justin Rattliff, Billy Drake, Donnie Moran, Roland Mann, Booper Bare, David Williams, Jason Covert, Steve Casebolt, Deane Guy
Mason Racin’ Rebel Shock Dyno First B-Main (12 Laps-Top 5 Advance): Brad Neat, Jason Covert, Austin Hubbard, Walker Arthur, Deane Guy, Louis Littlepage, Brandon Galloway, Steve Casebolt
All-American 50 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Feature Finish (50 Laps): Earl Pearson, Jr., Donnie Moran, Jeremy Miller, Scott Bloomquist, Terry English, Billy Drake, Jimmy Owens, Jason Covert, Justin Rattliff, Steve Casebolt, Jamie Lathroum, Sean Cosgrove, Damon Eller, Darryl Hills, Dan Schlieper, Scott James, Jeff Pilkerton, Walker Arthur, Austin Hubbard, Deane Guy, Rolland Mann, Brad Neat, Booper Bare, David Williams
Yellow Flags: 5
Lap Leaders: Justin Rattliff 1-12, Earl Pearson, Jr. 13-50
Edelbrock Hard Charger Award: Steve Casebolt (Started 23rd and Finished 10th-Advanced 13 Positions)
All-Star Performance Performer of the Race: Terry English
K&N Clean Pass Award: Donnie Moran
COMP Cams Rookie of the Race: Justin Rattliff
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisional: Steve Casebolt
Current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship Points Standings (After June 23, 2007)
1) Earl Pearson, Jr. (Jacksonville, FL)-2480
2) Steve Casebolt (Richmond, IN)-2380
3) Scott James (Lawrenceburg, IN)-2375
4) Terry English (Benton, KY)-2255
5) Dan Schlieper (Sullivan, WI)-2095
6) Donnie Moran (Dresden, OH)-2015
7) Justin Rattliff (Campbellsville, KY)-1940
8) Billy Drake (Bloomington, IL)-1855
9) Damon Eller (Crumpler, NC)-1795
10) Brad Neat (Dunnville, KY)-1725
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series COMP Cams Rookie of the Year Points Standings (After June 23, 2007)