TAMPA, FL (February 16, 2012) – Steve Francis passed Austin Hubbard coming off of turn four on the final lap of tonight’s 35-lap DART Winternationals feature. Francis took home $7,000 for his win. In a thrilling finish, Hubbard finished second, followed by Dennis Erb Jr., Don O’Neal, and Jared Landers. With the win, Francis notched his ninth career victory at East Bay Raceway Park and his sixth career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series triumph.
The main events have been packed with excitement all week. Tonight fans saw another “barn-burner” of a main event. Hubbard was poised to win his first-ever win at East Bay and his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory when he took the lead on lap 13 from Erb.
The young driver led the field for most of the race until a caution came out on lap 33. This set up a two-lap showdown between Hubbard and Francis. Hubbard dashed out in front of Francis on the restart and led until the final turn. Francis took to the outside groove of the track and powered out of turn four. The crowd jumped to their feet and roared with excitement as the pair came across the finish line with Francis barely ahead of Hubbard.
“I have to thank my Crew Chief Lance Wright, under that last caution he signaled for me to go to the top of the track. It looked like there was enough moisture in the track tonight, even at the end, so I knew Lance was right. I was able to get into three and four really well. He (Hubbard) left a small opening on the outside, I took it and was just fortunate enough to get by him,” said the 44-year old.
“I want to thank Barry Wright and everybody at the race shop, Clements Race Engines, Valvoline, Nichols Plumbing, JRi Shocks, Mathis Farms, and AES Racing for all of their support. The deal for me to drive for Barry didn’t come together until mid-December, and I am really glad that it did.”
Francis will be following the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series full-time again this year. His 2012 season is off to an excellent start with this win. “It’s good to finally be back in victory lane here at East Bay, it’s been a few years. One thing’s for certain, we aren’t going winless this year,” said a smiling Francis. “The track has been in excellent shape all week thanks to Al, Todd, and the entire crew here at East Bay. They have finished in a timely fashion and had some great racing.”
Completing the top ten were Wednesday Night’s winner Ray Cook, Terry Casey, Donnie Moran, John Blankenship, and Shannon Babb.
In preliminary action Shannon Babb was the Red Buck Cigar’s Fast Qualifier amongst the 44 entrants. Heat races were won by Donnie Moran, Steve Francis, Dennis Erb Jr., and Austin Hubbard. Bobby Pierce and Eric Jacobsen recorded B-main wins. Earl Pearson Jr. captured the PRC Strawberry Dash.
Up next at the DART Winternationals will be a $10,000 to win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned event on Friday night, February 17th at the famed “Clay by the Bay”. Hot laps will begin at 6:00PM followed by Red Buck Cigar Time Trials. Heat race action is slated to get underway at 7 PM, followed by B-Mains, and the 50-lap main event. For more information, check out www.eastbayracewaypark.com.
For the latest breaking news on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, log onto www.lucasdirt.com or call the series’ office at (951) 532-2503.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Race Summary Thursday Night, February 16, 2012 36th Annual DART Winternationals East Bay Raceway Park – Tampa, FL
Red Buck Cigars Fast Time: Ray Cook / 14.615 seconds (Group A) Shannon Babb / 14.561 seconds (Group B and Overall)
Wiles Driveshafts First Heat (8 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Ray Cook, Donnie Moran, Randy Korte, John Blankenship, Jonathan Davenport, Josh McGuire, Chad Hollenbeck, Earl Pearson, Jr., Shane Cottle, Todd Frank, Doug Blashe
U. S. Steel Second Heat (8 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Steve Francis, Don O'Neal, Jared Landers, Bobby Pierce, Dillan White, Mark Andersen, Scott Creel, Victor Lee, Leon Henderson, Pat Ehlert, Terry Naugle-DNS
Simpson Performance Products Third Heat (8 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Dennis Erb Jr., Shannon Babb, Terry Casey, Scott James , Eric Jacobsen, Scott Bloomquist, Duke Whiseant, Chris Brown, Travis Varnadore, James O'Hara, Jackie Nosbisch
HAWK Brakes Fourth Heat (8 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Austin Hubbard, Shelby Miles, Eric Wells, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Cole, Morgan Bagley, Jason Riggs, Danny Mitchell, Justin Rattliff, Chad Stapleton-DNS, Jimmy Owens-DNS
JRi Shocks First B-Main (10 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Bobby Pierce, Josh McGuire, Victor Lee, Chad Hollenbeck, Mark Andersen, Jonathan Davenport, Todd Frank, Doug Blashe, Earl Pearson, Jr., Scott Creel, Shane Cottle, Leon Henderson, Terry Naugle
PAC Racing Springs Second B-Main (10 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Eric Jacobsen, Scott Bloomquist, Jason Riggs, Duke Whiseant, Morgan Bagley, Chris Brown, Travis Varnadore, MPat Ehlert, James O'Hara, Jimmy Owens, Kevin Cole, Danny Mitchell, Justin Rattliff, Jackie Nosbisch-DNS, Chad Stapleton-DNS
PRC Strawberry Dash Presented by DirtonDirt.com (3 Laps- Winner Advances): Earl Pearson Jr., Jimmy Owens, Chris Brown
Feature Finish – 35 Laps:
|FINISH||START||CAR #||DRIVER NAME||HOMETOWN|
|1||3||15||Steve Francis||Ashland, KY|
|2||4||11h||Austin Hubbard||Seaford, DE|
|3||2||28e||Dennis Erb, Jr.||Carpentersville, IL|
|4||7||71||Don O'Neal||Martinsville, IN|
|5||11||5||Jared Landers||Batesville, AR|
|6||5||53||Ray Cook||Brasstown, NC|
|7||10||42c||Terry Casey||New London, WI|
|8||1||99||Donnie Moran||Dresden, OH|
|9||9||23||John Blankenship||Williamson, WV|
|10||6||18||Shannon Babb||Mowequa, IL|
|11||8||76||Shelby Miles||Bloomington, IN|
|12||16||11T||Tyler Reddick||Corning, CA|
|13||12||18e||Eric Wells||Hazard, KY|
|14||13||81x||Randy Korte||Highland, IL|
|15||26||44||Earl Pearson, Jr.||Jacksonville, FL|
|16||15||54W||Dillan White||Crofton, KY|
|17||18||5J||Eric Jacobsen||Watsonville, CA|
|18||19||41||Josh McGuire||Grayson, KY|
|19||20||0||Scott Bloomquist||Mooresburg, TN|
|20||25||15d||Jonathan Davenport||Blairsville, GA|
|21||21||4L||Victor Lee||Danville, KY|
|22||23||4-Ds||Chad Hollenbeck||Montrose, PA|
|23||24||A1||Duke Whiseant||Texarkana, AR|
|24||14||81||Scott James||Lawrenceburg, IN|
|25||17||32||Bobby Pierce||Oakwood, IL|
|26||22||81JR||Jason Riggs||Harrisburg, IL|
Race Statistics Entrants: 43 Lap Leaders: Dennis Erb Jr. (Laps 1 – 12); Austin Hubbard (Laps 13 – 34); Steve Francis (Lap 35) Caution Flags: Scott James (Lap 29); Duke Whiseant (Lap 33) Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals: n/a DirtonDirt.com Fast Time Provisional: Johnanthan Davenport Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Emergency Provisional: n/a Performance Bodies First Non-Qualifier: Jimmy Owens Optima Batteries Hard Charger of the Race: Earl Pearson Jr. (Started 26th; Finished 15th; Advanced 11 positions) Allstar Performer of the Race: Jared Landers Sunoco Race for Gas Highest Finisher: Austin Hubbard ASi Racewear Challenge Finisher: Steve Francis Quarter Master Rookie of the Race: n/a COMP Cams Engine Builder of the Race: Clements Racing Engines Ohlins Shocks Chassis Builder of the Race: Barry Wright Race Cars Sweet Mfg Crew Chief of the Race: Lance Wright (Steve Francis) Time of Race: 17 minutes 42 seconds
DART Winternationals Point Standings:
|3||28e||Dennis Erb, Jr.||810|