Four-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Champion, Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, FL took home his 22nd career series win in grabbing the $10,000 to win Independence 50 on Sunday Night at Portsmouth Raceway Park before a gigantic crowd. Pearson took the lead from Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, WV on lap three. He went on to his fifth series win of the year. Series point's leader, Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, TN was second followed by Ray Cook of Brasstown, NC; Steve Shaver of Vienna, WV; and John Blankenship of Williamson, WV.
Pearson and Carrier made up the front row for the main event. The two second generation pilots went toe-to-toe for the first two laps of the race, crossing the start-finish line dead even. Pearson was able to forge ahead of Carrier on lap three as Bloomquist was in the third slot followed by Jason Covert and Josh McGuire. The 2009 Quarter Master Rookie of the Year for the LOLMDS, John Blankenship, then moved into the top five by lap after starting eighth. Up front, Pearson was starting to pull away from both Carrier and Bloomquist. He opened up a good-sized lead in the early stages of the race.
Carrier and Bloomquist were able to gain some time on Pearson as he was starting to pick-up the tail end of the field by the 12th circuit. Carrier and Bloomquist closed on him just as the first caution of the race came out for Steve Casebolt on lap 15. The restart saw Pearson work on extending his lead back out again as Carrier and Bloomquist were fighting hard for second. With 21 laps in the books, the second caution of the race flew for a slowing Eric Wells.
The restart saw Pearson take off from Carrier and Bloomquist as Ray Cook was now in the hunt. He had moved from the tenth starting spot to fourth, just ahead of Blankenship. On the restart Carrier got shuffled back in the field and Bloomquist moved to second and brought Cook with him. At the halfway mark, Pearson was still showing the way as Bloomquist and Cook were dicing it out for second. The battle for second continued for several more laps as Pearson had extended his race-lead to eight car lengths over the duo.
Pearson then had his lead shrink in a hurry as lapped traffic began slowing his momentum. Both Bloomquist and Cook cut into in his lead in a matter of a few laps. What was a good-sized lead was now down to two car lengths with ten laps to go as the top three were close together with no lapped cars between them.
The third caution of the race for defending track champion, Kenny Christy. This halted the action on lap 42. With eight laps to go, it looked like it was going to be a three-car shootout to the finish. Pearson was strong on the restarts and that allowed him to again build a comfortable margin over Bloomquist and Cook in the waning stages of the race.
A caution for a 360 spin by Donnie Moran was due to contact from another car on lap 46. Shortly after the final restart Carrier pulled off and headed to the pits. Pearson led the field to the checkers and it was his all-time series tying 22nd career victory. The feat matched Scott Bloomquist atop the all-time list. Pearson's win also allowed him to keep pace with Bloomquist and Jimmy Owens of Newport, TN; who finished sixth as all three now have five series wins in 2010.
In Lucas Oil Victory Lane, Pearson completed the sweep of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Fourth of July Weekend in the state of Ohio. He won the night before at Muskingum County Speedway in Zanesville, OH. A tired, but elated Pearson emerged from his car and with a few words of encouragement from his son, Trey waved to the huge throng of fans on hand for the race. "First off I want to dedicate this win to my teammate, Brad Neat, he flipped qualifying and took a pretty good ride, he's ok, but he had to go to a back-up car, what a way to celebrate the Fourth of July with this win and last night at Zanesville," said Pearson.
"We started up there with Eddie Carrier Jr. and I knew when they watered the top of the track he was going to be tough, but we had a real good race for the lead there early on, the car worked extremely well, the track was in good shape, I saw that zero car (Bloomquist) up there on the scoreboard and Ray Cook there in third, so I knew I was in a for a tough race there, but the cautions helped us a few times when it cleared some lapped traffic that was in front of us, the car restarted well and we were able to hold them guys off," said Pearson who remains in third in the series championship points standings.
Pearson who drives for 2000 NASCAR Cup Champion, Bobby Labonte drives a MasterSbilt Dodge Charger with a Larry Wallace Racing Engine and sponsored by Lucas Oil Products, Red Buck Cigars, PRC, Sunoco Race Fuels, Hoosier Racing Tires, Asi Racewear and Ohlins Shocks.
Bloomquist maintains his series points lead heading to the next series race in Columbus, MS next weekend took second for another good point's night in his Miller Brothers Construction/Roush-Yates Racing Engines/Bloomquist Race Cars Monte Carlo SS. Third went to Cook in the D&R Racing/A+ Moving and Storage/MasterSbilt Monte Carlo SS with fourth going to Shaver in the K&L Rumley/Styers Curbing/Rocket Chassis with Blankenship notching a top five in the Coal America's Energy/Custom Race Engines/Rocket Chassis entry.
Completing the top ten were 12th starting Jimmy Owens, Jackie Boggs of Grayson, KY; Jason Covert of York Haven, PA; Don O'Neal of Martinsville, IN; and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, GA.