Visiting 34 Raceway for the first time since he won there in 2004, Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, FL came home with the $10,000 victory in the first ever Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series visit to the southeast Iowa track. Pearson, who started fifth and made quick work of lap one leader, Don O'Neal as he took the lead two laps into the 50 lap main event. Pearson then led the rest of the way to score his second series win of 2010. Ray Cook of Brasstown, NC finished second followed by 12th starting Will Vaught of Crane, MO, 17th starting Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, GA and 11th starting Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, WI. All 25 starters in the main event managed to finish the 50 Lap feature.
O'Neal and Cook made up the front row as O'Neal grabbed the point at the start. Pearson started on the inside of row number three and quickly charged to the lead, using his patented inside line around the track as he moved into the top spot just two laps into the race. O'Neal fell to second behind Pearson with Cook, Jimmy Owens, and Mark Burgtorf in the top five with five laps in the books. Cook then passed O'Neal for second on lap seven to take over the runnerup position as Pearson was pulling away from the pack of cars behind him.
The first caution of the race would fly on lap six for Jason Utter, who had a flat tire. On the restart Pearson held the point with Cook and O'Neal lined up double-file behind him. The race went green for two laps until Mike Marlar developed a flat, bringing out the second caution of the race. The restart again had Pearson on the point with Cook and O'Neal on his rear deck lid. Dennis Erb, Jr. began to make some noise as he moved up to third after the restart. Mars then started to challenge O'Neal for fourth as the two ran side-by-side for two circuits with Mars edging ahead on lap 14.
With 15 laps in the books Pearson was comfortably out in front with Cook, Erb, Mars and O'Neal trying to stay within shouting distance of the leader. The top stayed in the same order until Will Vaught flexed some muscle, as the 12th starting Missouri youngster was coming on strong, moving into the top five by lap 17. Pearson began to encounter traffic by lap 20 as Mars made a move on Erb to take over the third position. Mars then started to track down Cook, who was still running second and has the cars took the crossed flags Mars was all over Cook in the race for second.
Chris Wall spun out right in front of him on lap 26 as Pearson was barely able to miss the spinning Wall. The restart saw Vaught jump from fifth to third as he was trying to get a good finish to break a streak of misfortune the last two series events. Vaught then brought fellow Warrior Race Car driver Dale McDowell with him as McDowell charged from his 17th starting spot to fourth by lap 29.
With 20 laps to go Pearson was in complete control of the race as Cook and Vaught battled for second place. Pearson began to pick up traffic again, this time heavier than before and with ten laps remaining. Cook and Vaught began to chop into his lead, but Pearson outmaneuvered the duo through some heavy lapped traffic.
With five to go Pearson still had to work his way past cars as the top five settled in for the finish. Pearson went on to score the win, his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win of the season, and his first since East Bay in February, as he remains in the third place in the championship points standings behind Bloomquist and Owens.
In Sunoco Race Fuels Road to Wheatland Victory Lane for the 19th time in series competition the 38-year-old racer thanked his crew, family, sponsors, and Bobbly Labonte . "We made the right tire choice tonight, I believe there were three other guys on the same compounds as we had and the track took off just tremendously well," said Pearson. "The track was real good tonight, just like I remember it six years ago when we came here and won, it feels good to come back here and win again, this is a really nice facility and the track crew did a great job considering how much rain they had," said Pearson speaking of the nearly ten inches of the rain that fell in the area during the week leading up to the race.
"We are really running good here lately, we got second last night at La Salle and were going to make this a good race for the points title here soon if we keep this up, I am sure Bobby (Labonte) is going to proud of the team, it's always good to keep the boss happy and we look forward to going to Wheatland next weekend for the Show-Me 100 and we will try to get that one," said Pearson.
"We had some close moments there in traffic, but everyone gave each other plenty of racing room out there, it was close when Wall spun in front me, it looked like he just got out the brown and lost it, it was just one of those things and I just missed him, the crew did a great job tonight and thanks to the fans who came out this weekend to see us all race."
Pearson who drives for 2000 NASCAR Cup Champion, Bobby Labonte drives a MasterSbilt Dodge Charger powered by a Larry Wallace Racing Engine and sponsored by Lucas Oil Products/Red Buck Cigars/PRC/Sunoco Race Fuels/Hoosier Racing Tires and ASi Racewear.
Cook, who finished second moved into sixth in the championship point's standings was in the D&R Racing/Hicks and Ingle Co. General Contracting/MasterSbilt Monte Carlo SS. with Vaught driving the Paul McKenna owned/Mark Martin Chevrolet/Warrior Corvette came home third followed by McDowell in the Clint Bowyer Racing/Cheerios/Warrior Impala SS and Mars in the Deppe Enterprises/Pro Power Racing Engines/MB Customs Malibu.
Completing the top ten were Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, TN who retook the points lead by ten over Owens, who finished eighth. Brian Birkhofer of Muscatine, IA finished in between the two top series point men. Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, IL was ninth and pole sitter Don O'Neal of Martinsville, IN came home tenth after pitting for new tires on the last caution of the race.
For the latest breaking news on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, log on to www.lucasdirt.com or call the series office at (951) 532-2503.