Earl Pearson Jr. with-stood the challenges of Jimmy Owens to win his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race of 2009. The series 4-time champion earned $10,000 for himself and his car owner, NASCAR’s Bobby Labonte on Saturday Night in the CMH Late Model Showdown at Lucas Oil Speedway.
In the event co-sanctioned with the O’Reilly MLRA Late Models, Jimmy Mars finished third followed by John Anderson and Dale McDowell who earned the PBM Erson Cams Hard Charger of the Race for finishing fifth after starting 17th.
Current Quarter Master Rookie of the Year contender John Blankenship started on the pole alongside Anderson, the defending MLRA Champion. Anderson jumped to a quick lead as he bolted away to immediately put three car lengths between himself the second place running car of Blankenship.
With Anderson building a commanding lead early on, the first caution of the race came out on lap six for debris betweens turns one and two. This wiped out Anderson’s big lead, which had grown to six car lengths. Anderson restarted on the front with the Delaware double –file restarts in order with Blankenship and Wendell Wallace lined up side-by-side for the restart.
On the restart Anderson saw Wallace make the move for the lead passing at the line for the race lead on lap eight. Only one lap later Anderson regained the lead in a spirited race for the point. Wallace’s bid for his first ever Lucas Oil Series win came to a halt on lap nine as he suffered a flat tire and stopped just off of the turn one embankment bringing out the second caution of the race.
The race saw two more green flag laps when Pearson, who had started eighth in the lineup roared to the lead on lap eleven just under the wire for a caution brought out when Brad Neat looped his mount in turn two on lap eleven for caution number three.
The restart had Pearson on the point as Anderson and Mars, who had started eleventh was up to third. Mars then overhauled Anderson on the restart on lap 12 as he made his way around Anderson. Another car on the move was Don O’Neal who started ninth as he grabbed the third slot on lap 15 from Anderson.
The top three of Pearson, Mars and O’Neal remained the same in the running order as Jimmy Owens started to make some noise using the very top groove on the race track as he was coming on strong moving into fourth and around Anderson.
Owens then started to put the heat on O’Neal for third finally passing him after the two raced side-by-side for two laps. At the halfway mark Pearson held a good lead over Mars as the two started to battle through traffic. Pearson put two lapped cars between himself and Mars with 26 laps complete as he held a five car length lead at this point.
With twenty laps to go it was Pearson still showing the way over Mars, Owens, who held steady in third, with O’Neal and Anderson still the top five. The distance between the top remained the same when the fourth caution for a slowing Will Vaught, who suffered a flat tire with 34 laps in the record books.
On the restart Pearson led the field to the green, but two scored laps later on lap 36 the fifth caution of the race would come out for Dan Schlieper in turn four. On the restart there was contact between the cars of Dale McDowell, O’Neal and Bloomquist as O’Neal suffered the worst end of the chain reaction accident as he slid to a stop in turn number one as he had to restart on the tail.
The final restart of the race would still have Pearson on the point, but Owens who got the caution he was hoping for as he lined up side-by-side with Mars, the driver he had just passed before the lap 36 caution to take over second. On the restart with 14 laps to go Pearson and Owens then set up a shootout to the finish. Pearson would maintain his running line on the bottom of the racing surface and Owens would have to build up his momentum on the top groove of the track. It would take Owens a couple of laps before he pulled alongside Pearson for the lead coming off of the corners.
With five laps to Owens would pass Pearson at the flagstand to take a narrow lead, but Pearson fought back to regain the lead a lap later, Pearson then used the car of David Breazeale as a pick as he cleared Breazeale cleanly, but Owens got bogged down behind Breazeale with two laps to go and virtually sealed the deal for Pearson as he went on to pick up his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win of 2009 and his first since winning the Indiana Icebreaker at Brownstown (IN) Speedway back in March.
In Lucas Oil Victory lane for the 16th time in his career, which ties him all-time with Scott Bloomquist, Pearson was among several admiring fans. “The fans they saw a hell of a race, I knew he (Owens) was there all along in the last part of the race, we raced each other clean, I felt like I gave him plenty of him and he likewise, we’ve traveled up and down the road together with the Lucas Oil Series all year long and he’s tough to beat, but we were able to get by Breazeale and got him pinned in there between us and we able to hang on for the win,” said the 37-year old racer.
“I have to thank my crew Matt and Devine for all of their help, the car was just awesome out there, thanks also to Forrest Lucas for this great facility and Gary Hubert who does the track work, the track was raceable all race long and thanks to the fans for coming out here tonight, I am sure they really enjoyed themselves.”
1. (8) #44 Earl Pearson Jr.
2. (10) #20 Jimmy Owens
3. (11) #28M Jimmy Mars
4. (2) #2A John Anderson
5. (17) #17M Dale McDowell
6. (16) #15B Brian Birkhofer
7. (6) #0 Scott Bloomquist
8. (18) #c9 Steve Casebolt
9. (13) #18 Shannon Babb
10. (15) #41N Brad Neat
11. (9) #71 Don O’Neal
12. (23) #5 Eric Jacobsen
13. (21) #53 Ray Cook
14. (1) #23 John Blankenship
15. (14) #66 Bill Frye
16. (7) #1v Wil Vaught
17. (20) #33 Al Purkey
18. (3) #s9 Dan Schlieper
19. (12) #54 David Breazeale
20. (27) #64 Michael Walker
21. (26) #15T David Turner
22. (22) #74 Jeremy Payne
23. (4) #88 Wendell Wallace
24. (24) #6 Alan Vaughn
25. (19) #23H Jason Hughes
26. (5) #57J Bub McCool
27. (25) #00 Freddy Smith