Making his first career start at Beckley Motorsports Park, Ray Cook of Brasstown, NC fought off Jimmy Owens of Newport, TN in the final ten laps to win the first ever Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at BMP on Thursday Night. Cook's third series win of 2010 moved him into fourth place in the series points' standings. Owens finished a close second, followed by fast qualifier, Josh Richards of Shinnston, WV; series points leader, Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, TN; and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, GA.
Richards and Cook started on the front row of the 50 lap main event. Cook quickly grabbed the early lead over Richards, Bloomquist, Owens and Eric Wells. The first movement inside the top five was on lap six when McDowell moved past Wells for fifth. Cook held a healthy lead over Richards with ten laps scored as the two drivers started to enter heavy traffic. Richards, Bloomquist, and Owens all gained ground on Cook in traffic as Cook narrowly avoided disaster on lap 13. On that lap the cars of Tim Isenberg and John Blankenship got hooked together in turn two, bringing out the first caution of the race. Cook was able to maneuver his car to the inside of the track around the wreckage and kept moving.
Cook looked strong as he pulled away from a two-car battle for second between Richards and Owens. At the halfway mark, Cook was in control followed by Richards, Owens, Bloomquist, and Tim Dohm. As Cook approached traffic again, Richards and Owens steadily gained more ground on the race leader. Lap after lap Owens tried the low line to get around Richards; the two went at it tooth-and-nail as Owens eventually crept in front of Richards as the duo headed down the back chute. A caution came out for two pieces of debris on the racetrack with 38 laps scored. The race restarted and went green for four laps until a caution came out for Earl Pearson Jr. in turn one. The caution set up an eight lap dash to the finish as five more laps went green with Owens all over Cook for the lead until the final caution of the race came out on lap 47 for Tim Dohm.
The three-lap chase to the checkers was exciting as Owens tried repeatedly to get around Cook. Cook managed to hold the slightest advantage at the start-finish line as he and Owens raced side-by-side off of turn for to the checkers. Cook held off Owens to take the win, his ninth career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory and his eighth in the last two years.
In Lucas Oil Victory Lane, Cook thanked the fans for coming out to support the series at Beckley and his crew for the job they did in preparing his car. "First off, I have to thank the Good Lord for what he has done and my crew for preparing such a great race car. This is my first time here and I didn't know what to expect but the MasterSbilt Chassis, the Race Engine Design motor and the American Racer Tires all worked exceptionally well tonight, the race with me and Jimmy, that just shows you how good that guy is to race with. We were within inches of each other at those high speeds and never touched one another, that tells you something," said the 38-year old driver.
"I was glad for a few of those cautions there that cleared out lapped traffic, our car could handle real well where we were running and I saw no reason to change my line, when Jimmy got up there I knew if I kept my line, it was going to be tough to beat him, but what a race, I hoped the fans enjoyed that, I really like coming here to West Virginia, we won the Hillbilly at Tyler for my biggest win and we come here tonight and win, it's like a second home for me."
Cook's #53 is owned by Danny Dishman and Ronald Ivey and sponsored by Hicks and Ingle Company General Contracting, A+ Moving and Storage, PRC, Wyatt Builders, Integra Racing Shocks, Star Grafix, PPM, VP, K&N Filters, Real Racing Wheels, B&M Concrete and Fairway Ford.
Owens finished second, and is now 115 points behind points' leader, Scott Bloomquist. Owens drives the Reece Monument Company/Cornett Racing Engines/Bloomquist Ford Fusion. Third place went to Richards in the Ernie D's Salvage/Roush-Yates Racing Engines/Rocket Mustang. Bloomquist was fourth in his Miller Brothers Construction/Roush-Yates Engines/Bloomquist Race Cars entry followed by McDowell in the Clint Bowyer Racing/Cheerios/Warrior Impala SS.
Completing the top ten were Eric Wells of Hazard, KY; Kennie Compton Jr, of Bland, VA; Hard Charger of the Race, Brad Neat of Dunnville, KY; Eddie Carrier Jr of Salt Rock, WV; and Chris Wall of Holden, LA.