TUSCUMBIA, AL (July 11, 2008) – In one of the most stirring wins in the history of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Hall of Famer Freddy Smith of Seymour, TN won his first ever LOLMDS event on Friday Night at North Alabama Speedway by winning the “Heart of Dixie 40” Presented by Long-Lewis Ford. The 61-year-old driver earned the 784th win of his illustrious career, as he withstood a last lap challenge from both Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, FL and Bart Hartman of Zanesville, OH, becoming the 17th different winner in series competition in 2008. Trailing Smith, Pearson and Hartman battled their way to the finish line followed by Terry Casey of New London, WI and defending race winner Billy Drake of Bloomington, IL.
The race would get off to a ominous start for Smith, who started from the pole for the 40 lapper as he got sideways in turn two and was turned around by another car which forced him to spin in front of the field as he and another car stopped in turn two. Both drivers resumed their starting spots in the line-up on the restart, with Pearson taking the lead on the second restart of the race.
The yellow would come back out not long thereafter, as new track record holder Dan Schlieper pushed into the front stretch wall and winding up with suspension damage ending his race. On the restart, the race would go two green flag laps until the caution came out for a two-car incident in turn number two.
After a slow start, the race would pick-up momentum as Pearson continued to show the way with Smith running in second followed closely by Jimmy Owens. Terry Casey, who making his first start at North Alabama stayed in the fourth spot followed by Steve Casebolt with five laps complete.
Pearson was setting a torrid pace as he built what was once just a two-car length advantage over Smith into a six-car length lead with ten laps in the record books. The top five stayed the same until the lap 25 mark when Hartman surged past Casebolt to take over fifth.
Pearson had extended his commanding lead to ten lengths and at this point it looked like he was going to be unbeatable. But to show there is never a sure thing in dirt track racing, Pearson’s huge lead would be chopped down ever so slowly as he was having to contend with lapped traffic. While encountering traffic on lap 29, Pearson slipped over the turn two embankment and what would happen next would change the complexion of the race.
When Pearson got all four wheels back on the racing surface he would run up on the right rear of Justin Rattliff’s car as the two would then get hooked together as the caution came out when both drivers had to stop in the middle of turn number four. Pearson would have to restart in front of several lapped cars, and appeared that his hopes for a win had gone by the wayside.
On the lap 30 restart, Owens became the new leader after he had taken over the second spot from Smith just five laps before Pearson’s incident. Owens would quickly open up a good lead over Smith and Hartman, who was now up to third after misfortune had struck Pearson.
Now with Owens seemingly on his way to his second LOLMDS win of ’08, it looked like the race for second would not be determined until the very last lap. As Owens completed lap 36 the right rear wheel sheared off and he broke a hub coming out of turn two, leaving Owens helpless on the backstretch, ending his night with just four laps until the finish.
Smith took the lead and with four laps to go, but for him to hang onto it, he was going to have to hold off Hartman and Pearson, who had used the outside groove on the track to get himself back in the picture as he would line up third on the restart.
When the green waved for the final time, Pearson looked like a man on a mission. Pearson cleared Hartman with ease and now had his sights set on Smith. Pearson looked as if he was not going to be denied, but Smith did what he had to do and was able to hold off Pearson and Hartman as the trio raced to the finish line in front of an entire cheering crowd that would see Smith score his first ever Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win in thrilling fashion.
In victory lane Smith was joined by several well-wishers including his wife, Naomi. “I thought I was done-for early when I got spun around and got into that tire on the inside of the track, I really enjoy coming here to race and I don’t know what to say, I’ve tried so hard every time to win a Lucas race, we just don’t have the funds that some of the other guys have, but we’re thankful for this win,” said the driver who is the only 5-time winner of the Dirt Track World Championship. “I couldn’t do this without my wife and of course Jack and Paula, they drive down from Illinois every time we race and they help me out and do a great job,” said the legendary driver who is in his 42nd year of racing.
The famous 00 Warrior Monte Carlo SS is powered by a Dale Meers Racing Engine and sponsored by White Oaks Motorsports/Cliburn Tank Lines/Bradley’s Wrecker Service/King of the Road Customs Coaches and Haulers/Goddard Performance Parts/Hoosier Tires/Ohlins by Gary Wenger and Big Daddy’s Mobile Wraps.
Pearson was disappointed he couldn’t seal the win, but contributed that it was just a racing deal that kept him out of victory lane. “It wasn’t Justin’s fault,” said Pearson. “I just ran in there and got into him, we’ll just come out tomorrow night at Columbus and give it another shot, said the driver of the Bobby Labonte Racing/LifeLong Locks/MasterSbilt Dodge Charger. Hartman took another top five by placing third in his Imler’s Poultry/Cornett Engines/Rocket Monte Carlo SS. Casey continues his resurgence with his fourth place finish in the Arnie Ranta Motorsports/Pro Power Engines/C.J. Rayburn Monte Carlo SS with Billy Drake coming home fifth in the Executive Homes/Mullvain Motorsports/MasterSbilt GTO.
Completing the top ten were Steve Casebolt, Eddie Rickman, Justin Rattliff, Chris Ragan and John Mason.
In preliminary results Dan Schlieper set a new track record in PRC Time Trials with a lap of 12.420 seconds. Heat race winners were Scott James, Terry Casey and Freddy Smith. Anthony Burroughs took the B-Main.
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will be back in action on Saturday Night, July 12th at Columbus Speedway in Columbus, MS for the 10th Annual James Nickoles Memorial Presented by Premier Ford, Lincoln Mercury and the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau. For more information you can visit www.columbusspeedway.net.
To find out more about the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, log on to www.lucasdirt.com or call the series office at (951) 532-2503.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Friday Night, July 11, 2008
North Alabama Speedway – Tuscumbia, AL
PRC Fast Time: Dan Schlieper/12.42 seconds (NTR)
Hawk Brake First Heat (10 Laps-Top 6 Advance): Scott James, Earl Pearson Jr., Scott Bloomquist, Eddie Rickman, Justin Rattliff, Mark Tice, Anthony Burroughs, Jerry Jackson, Dan Schlieper, Chris Wall
Hawk Brake Second Heat (10 Laps-Top 6 Advance): Terry Casey, Jimmy Owens, Jason Fitzgerald, Wayne Chinn, Billy Drake, Chris Ragan, Heath Johnson, Ronald Dunn, Jerry Owens, Dean Carpenter
AFCO Racing Products Third Heat (10 Laps-Top 6 Advance): Freddy Smith, Steve Casebolt, Barth Hartman, Bub McCool, Michael Walker, Josh Putnam, John Mason, Jamie Elam, David Breazeale, Billy Moyer
Mason Racin’ Rebel Shock Dyno B-Main (12 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Anthony Burroughs, Jamie Elam, Jerry Jackson, John Mason, Jerry Owens, Chris Wall, Dean Carpenter, Ronald Dunn, Billy Moyer, Heath Johnson – DNS, Dan Schlieper – DNS, David Breazeale – DNS
3rd Annual “Heart of Dixie 40” Feature Finish (40 Laps): Freddy Smith, Earl Pearson Jr., Bart Hartman, Terry Casey, Billy Drake, Steve Casebolt, Eddie Rickman, Justin Rattliff, Chris Ragan, John Mason, Anthony Burroughs, Jimmy Owens, Bub McCool, Billy Moyer, Michael Walker, Mark Tice, Josh Putnam, Jerry Jackson, Jason Fitzgerald, Scott Bloomquist, Wayne Chinn, Dan Schlieper, Jamie Elam, Scott James
Caution Flags: 9
Lap Leaders: Earl Pearson Jr. 1-29, Jimmy Owens 30-26, Freddy Smith 37-40
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals: Dan Schlieper, Bily Moyer
PBM/Erson Cams Hard Charger of the Race: John Mason (Started 22nd and finished 10th – advanced 12 positions)
Allstar Performance Performer of the Race: Freddy Smith
K&N Filters Clean Pass of the Race: Billy Drake
Quarter Master Rookie of the Race: Terry Casey
ASI Racewear Lucky 7 Award: Eddie Rickman
Integra Shocks Crew Chief of the Race: Jack Huppert (Freddy Smith)
Comp Cams Engine Builder of the Race: Dale Mears Racing Engines
Time of the Race: 48 minutes
Current Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Championship Points
1) Earl Pearson Jr. (Jacksonville, FL) 4110
2) Steve Casebolt (Richmond, IN) 3840
3) Bart Hartman (Zanesville, OH) 3755
4) Dan Schlieper (Sullivan, WI) 3535
5) Justin Rattliff (Campbellsville, KY) 3485
6) Billy Drake (Bloomington, IL) 3460
7) Terry Casey (New London, WI) 3280
8) Scott James (Lawrenceburg, IN) 3270
9) Freddy Smith (Seymour, TN) 3005
10) Wayne Chinn (Bradford, OH) 2710
Quarter Master Rookie of the Year Points Standings
1) Terry Casey (New London, WI) 3280
2) Wayne Chinn (Bradford, OH) 2710
3) John Blankenship (Williamson, WV) 745
4) Tony Knowles (Tyrone, GA) 425
5) Eric Jacobsen (Seacliffe Beach, CA) 245