La SALLE, IL (May 19, 2007) - Making his first ever appearance at La Salle Speedway and in front of a jammed packed grandstand 20 year old Justin Rattliff of Campbellsville, KY passed race leader Don O'Neal on the 28 th lap of the 50 lap "Spring Shootout" and then went on to hold off O'Neal by just one car length to capture the $10,000 to win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event on Saturday Night. For Rattliff who is competing in just his second full year of late model racing it marked the biggest win of his brief career as he became the 10 th different winner in 12 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series events in 2007 and he took over the lead in the COMP Cams "Rookie of the Year:" chase as well. Trailing Rattliff and O'Neal to the finish line was Rick Eckert, Jimmy Mars and Brian Birkhofer.
O'Neal and Rattliff who were among the four heat race winners drew the front row for the main event. Right from the start O'Neal looked like he was going to dominate the race as he sprinted to a five car length lead by the second lap. Rattliff was running in second with Eckert, series points leader, Billy Moyer and Mars in the top five after two laps were in the books.
Mars would make the first pass inside the top five as he got by Moyer for fourth on the third circuit. Meanwhile up front O'Neal had increased his lead to eight car lengths now as he was showing what a perfectly set up race car could do. O'Neal's big lead would go away because of the only caution flag of the race coming out on lap six as Steve Casebolt and Donnie Moran came to a halt on the main straightaway.
When the race resumed with the Delaware double file restart O'Neal with a clear track in front of him would start to pull away from Rattliff and the other cars as the top five in the running order would remain the same with O'Neal, Rattliff, Eckert, Mars and Moyer holding their spots. By the 15 lap mark O'Neal was up to a ten car length lead as the rest of the top five were bumper to bumper.
By lap 21 O'Neal had started to catch the tail end of the field as the tight battle for second was still going on. Rattliff then broke loose from the fierce race for second on back as he was alone in second for the time being. O'Neal would then start to loose his lead as Rattliff would start to close on him just past the halfway point of the race.
So in a race where O'Neal had gone unchallenged from the start Rattliff was making a bid to for the lead with 27 laps in the books as he had closed right behind O'Neal. Not only did Rattliff close rapidly on O'Neal but the rest of the top five were closing as well.
Rattliff was able to make the pass on O'Neal as O'Neal left the door open on the inside as Rattliff went by coming off of turn number two on the 28 th lap. Rattliff then would pull slightly ahead of O'Neal by two car lengths but there would be more traffic ahead for the youngster and the race would be determined how well he handled himself in lapped traffic. Rattliff would close on two cars with one moving up the track and out of his way as he made the pass to keep O'Neal at bay.
Rattliff would then tuck in behind Kerry Hansen who was the last car on the lead lap as the top five were all on the same straightaway with less than 10 laps to go. Rattliff would have O'Neal get right on his left rear quarter panel as O'Neal was hoping that Rattliff would slip up out of the groove if he was going to have a chance to pass him in the waning laps.
O'Neal stayed right on Rattliff with less than five laps to go and there was a couple of times where it looked like Rattliff was going to slid up just enough to let the door open for O'Neal to regain the lead. But Rattliff was able to control his car and drive with a calm that enabled him to keep O'Neal behind him on a track that had become one lane and that enough for him to cross the finish in first for the biggest win of his racing career.
Rattliff who turned 20 exactly one month ago on April 19 would take his James Rattliff owned, Jeff Gullett crew chiefed #16 to victory lane one night after recording his best ever series finish with a 10 th place at Farley, IA. The C.J. Rayburn Monte Carlo with a Pro Power Engine is sponsored by Rattliff Motors, Inc. /Save a Lot/Dr. Ewing Ear, Nose and Throat/Medicine Centre/Tobacco Shed/Cox Wrecker Service/Wavelength Hair Salon/Gowens Auto Glass/Kirby Auctions/Grant Lee Farms/Williams and Tucker Auto Parts/B&W Auto Salvage/Freiji Auctioneers/Mill/s Real Estate and Auction, Co and Jet Pressure Washing.
Rattliff's story is even more interesting because he won with a car that they had not even planned on racing with at La Salle. The night before at Farley the fan blade broke in his new style Rayburn so the team unloaded the back up older style car and finished 10 th. At La Salle an expected parts replacement failed to come to fruition as the parts did not fit in the proper spot in the engine compartment. So the team was left with no other option but to run the backup car.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to win one of these Lucas Oil races," said the former open wheel modified driver who started his late model career in the late 2004 season and who's biggest win was a $2,000 victory before his win at La Salle. "I just want to thank my dad (James) and Jeff Gullett; he is one of the best in the business and all of my great sponsors we couldn't be here without them."
After the race Rattliff received congratulations from several drivers and team members in the pit area as he talked about the race he just won beating some of the best that dirt late model racing has to offer. "The track took rubber on the low side and I saw Donnie (O'Neal) was still trying to run the middle groove so I just stuck to the bottom and we caught him pretty quick there and I was able to pass him, he gave me plenty of room there and didn't crowd me at all." Once in front Rattliff kept his cool and that was one thing he was concerned about. "Once I got the lead I started to get excited so I just told myself to settle down and drive the same lap after lap, I knew with the track the way it was, it was going to be tough for anybody to get back around me, I thought a couple of times about bumping the 25 car but I didn't and I was able to hang on for the win."
O'Neal who led 27 laps in the race finished second, but he felt good about his effort in the Jerry Jones/Jones Core/Jay Dickens Racing Engines/C.J. Rayburn Monte Carlo. Afterwards O'Neal said "It started to take rubber around the bottom and I stayed up in the middle of the race track a little too long and I let him get around him, the boy (Rattliff) did a heck of a job out there and I want to congratulate him and his crew it's got to be special for them. Unless he messed up and got out of the groove it wasn't going to happen (to pass him back).
Eckert finished third in his Raye Vest/Raye Vest Excavating/MasterSbilt Ford Fusion with Mars in his own Deppe Enterprises/Pro Power Engines/MasterSbilt from Mars Monte Carlo SS finishing fourth just ahead of Birkhofer in his J&J Steel/Pro Power Engines/Rocket Chevrolet.
Completing the top ten were Billy Moyer, Darren Miller, Earl Pearson, Jr., Scott James and Steve Shaver.
In preliminary events Don O'Neal was the LifeLong Locks Fast Qualifier for the 39 entrants on hand with a lap of 12.773 seconds. The Hawk Brake and Quarter Master Heat Race winners were Don O'Neal, Justin Rattliff, Rick Eckert and Billy Moyer. The first place finishers in the Mason Racin' Rebel Shock Dyno and Penske Shocks presented B-Mains were Eddie Carrier, Jr. and Damon Eller. The K&N Filters "Clean Pass of the Race" went to a deserving Justin Rattliff for his pass for the lead on lap 28.
The next Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event is in two weeks on Saturday, June 2 at the King Family promoted Florence Speedway in Union, KY as the 21 st Annual "Ralph Latham Memorial" will take place offering a purse of $10,000 to win. The cameras of SPEED Channel will be on hand to tape the event. For more information you can go to www.florencespeedway.com and www.lucasdirt.com,
Race Summary Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series La Salle Speedway-La Salle, IL Saturday, May 19, 2007
LifeLong Locks Fast Qualifier: Don O'Neal 12.773 seconds
Hawk Brake First Heat: (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Don O'Neal, Brian Birkhofer, Brady Smith, Terry English, Ryan Dauber, Kerry Hansen, Kevin Weaver, Scott Schmitt, Dennis Erb, Jr.
Hawk Brake Second Heat: (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Justin Rattliff, Jimmy Mars, Scott James, Dan Schlieper, Eddie Carrier, Jr., Donnie Moran, Freddy Smith, Brad Neat, Mike Provenzano, George Scheffler
Quarter Master Third Heat: (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Rick Eckert, Steve Shaver, Shannon Babb, Brian Shirley, Damon Eller, Steve Casebolt, Ray Cook, Tony Izzo, Jr., Billy Drake
Quarter Master Fourth Heat: (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Billy Moyer, Darren Miller, Earl Pearson, Jr., Jeep VanWormer, Mike Mataragas, Andrew McKay, Rich Bell
Mason Racin' Rebel Shock Dyno First B-Main: (12 Laps-Top 3 Advance): Eddie Carrier, Jr., Donnie Moran, Kerry Hansen, Kevin Weaver, Brad Neat, Freddy Smith, Dennis Erb, Jr., Scott Schmitt, Mike Provenzano, George Scheffler, John Clemmons
Penske Shocks Second B-Main: (12 Laps-Top 3 Advance): Damon Eller, Steve Casebolt, Ray Cook, Billy Drake, Andrew McKay, Mike Mataragas, Tony Izzo, Jr., Rich Bell
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series "Spring Shootout" Feature Finish (50 Laps): Justin Rattliff, Don O'Neal, Rick Eckert, Jimmy Mars, Brian Birkhofer, Billy Moyer, Darren Miller, Earl Pearson, Jr., Scott James, Steve Shaver, Brady Smith, Jeep VanWormer, Dan Schlieper, Brian Shirley, Brad Neat, Billy Drake, Terry English, Kerry Hansen, Eddie Carrier, Jr., Ray Cook, Damon Eller, Shannon Babb, Donnie Moran, Steve Casebolt
Entries: 39 Caution Flags: 1 Lap Leaders: Don O'Neal 1-27, Justin Rattliff 28-50 Edelbrock Hard Charger Award: Brad Neat (Started 24th and Finished 15th-Advanced 9 Positions) Allstar Performer of the Race: Don O'Neal K&N Filters Clean Pass Award: Justin Rattliff COMP Cams Rookie of the Race: Justin Rattliff Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals: Billy Drake and Brad Neat
Current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship Points Standings (After 5/19/07)
1) Billy Moyer (Batesville, AR) 1440 2) Don O'Neal (Martinsville, IN) 1305 3) Earl Pearson, Jr. (Jacksonville, FL) 1300 4) Terry English (Benton, KY) 1270 5) Steve Casebolt (Richmond, IN) 1245 6) Scott James (Lawrenceburg, IN) 1240 7) Steve Shaver (Vienna, WV) 11858) Dan Schlieper (Sullivan, WI) 1115 9) Donnie Moran (Dresden, OH) 1100 10) Brian Birkhofer (Muscatine, IA) 1075
Current COMP Cams Rookie of the Year Points Standings (After 5/19/07)
1) Justin Rattliff (Campbellsville, KY) 1015 2) Damon Eller (Crumpler, NC) 935 3) Brad Neat (Dunnville, KY) 785 4) Mike Mataragas (De Kalb, IL) 355 5) Garrett Durrett (Simsboro, LA) 280 6) Ricky Arms (Moss, TN) 180
Upcoming Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Events
June 2- Florence Speedway-Union, KY ($10,000 to Win) www.florencespeedway.com