O'Neal Rallies For Return To Victory Lane in "Winternationals" Final

Series Report

TAMPA, FL (February 6) – Taking the lead on lap 40 when race leader Scott Bloomquist jumped the cushion in turn one, Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Indiana led the remaining 35 circuits to win the final night of the 34th Annual DART Winternationals for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at East Bay Raceway Park. He earned $12,000 for the win.

Behind O'Neal, Dan Schlieper of Sullivan, Wis. finished second, followed by Bloomquist, and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., who tallied the most DART Winternationals Championship Points for the week to earn a $5,000 bonus from DART Machinery.

Red Buck Cigar Fast Qualifier and new track record holder, Chris Wall earned the pole

O'Neal - Schlieper - Bloomquist

Don O'Neal, Dan Schlieper, and Bloomquist run in tight formation to finish in that order on the final night of racing at East Bay. (Mike Ruefer) 

starting position. Alongside Wall was the Zero machine of Scott Bloomquist, who was coming off a win in the afternoon event that preceded the night’s finale. Bloomquist stormed to the point from the drop of the green over Wall, O’Neal and Schlieper. By the seventh lap Bloomquist had opened up a straightaway lead over the field and he began approaching the tail end. Bloomquist moved into traffic by lap nine.

O’Neal was hounding Wall for second as the two went side-by-side for a lap until O’Neal made the pass on Wall for second on the tenth circuit. Justin Rattliff remained in the thick of things, holding the fourth spot followed by tenth place starter, Mike Marlar; who was on the move as a caution came out for debris on the track with 14 laps complete.

O’Neal got sideways coming out of turn two on lap 20 as well as Wall, who spun to avoid running into O’Neal. Wall lost five spots in the running order.

Mark Andersen slowed on the frontstretch with 21 laps complete to bring out caution number three. Bloomquist remained in front, followed by O’Neal, Schlieper, Erb and Jimmy Mars. The top five remained the same until Erb got by Schlieper for third on lap 28. Erb then slip out of the groove, allowing both top five newcomer Ray Cook and Mars to get by him with 30 laps down.

O’Neal was dancing a treacherous top line around the track and on lap 31, he lost three spots, falling from second to fifth in one lap. Up front, Bloomquist was almost a straightaway ahead of Schlieper, who was now second with Cook running in third followed by Mars and O’Neal.

O'Neal - Wall

 On the final night of racing at East Bay, A near spin by leader Don O'Neal caused #71 Chris Wall to take evasive action while running second. Wall was unable to recover his lost ground, while O'Neal went on to win the event. (Mike Ruefer)

A red flag came out with 39 laps complete for a multi-car pileup on the frontstretch. The incident eliminated the cars of Brady Smith and Ricky Weiss. On the fateful lap 40 restart, Bloomquist headed into turn one and jumped the cushion. O’Neal pounded the gas with Schlieper in tow to take over the top two spots.

Another caution waved, this time for Justin Rattliff, who pulled out of the race. As O’Neal jumped at the chance to lead the race on the restat, Bloomquist and Schlieper went at it for second until Bloomquist moved back into the runnerup slot on lap 44.

O’Neal stretched his lead to ten car lengths over Bloomquist and Schlieper, while Steve Francis was now in the hunt for the first time in the race. He finally climbed from his 19th starting spot to run fourth by lap 46. Cook then rebounded; passed Francis for fourth.

O’Neal was looking solid and was comfortably in front of Bloomquist when the caution came out for Francis on lap 57. The top five stayed in that running order as O’Neal looked to be on cruise control. Following O’Neal was a terrific battle for second between the cars of Bloomquist, Schlieper and Erb.

Bloomquist jumped the cushion in turns one and two again. Schlieper slipped by him on lap 64, then slowly closed the gap with five laps to go. O’Neal sped on to pick the big check for not only his 13th career win at East Bay, but his 13th career win on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series tour.

In the Lucas Oil Victory Lane the 45-year-old racer who has twice finished runner-up in the Lucas Oil Series; was happy to be there. He thought he had thrown the chance away when he jumped the cushion back on lap 31.

“I thought I had really messed up there, we had a really good car from the start and I thought I had lost my chance to win. 75 laps is a lot of laps here, things can happen so quick here; people come and go to the front so often that you lose and gain track position all the time. When I saw Scott jump the cushion up there on that restart, I thought this was

 

Don O'Neal takes the checkered flag on Feb. 6th, the final night of racing in the 34th annual DART "Winternationals” at East Bay Raceway Park. (Neil Eric Miller - photofinishes)

my chance to redeem myself,” said O’Neal. “That cushion was tough, but after we got out in front I tried to avoid as many of the rough spots as possible and keep the car straight so we wouldn’t lose a tire out there. Man it feels good to get back to victory lane here at East Bay. We've always run well here and I have to thank my crew, Tader, Doug, Mark and Tim for all their help. It’s a good win for MasterSbilt and Jay Dickens.”

By virtue of his fourth place finish, Erb captured the 2010 34th Annual DART Winternationals Championship. Erb took home a $5,000 check for his efforts during the week as won by a 55-point margin over O’Neal.

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Race Summary Saturday Night, February 6th, 2010 “34th Annual DART Winternationals” East Bay Raceway Park – Tampa, Fla.

 Red Buck Cigars Fast Time: Chris Wall / 14.022 seconds ***New Track Record***

Wiles Driveshaft’s First Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Chris Wall, Ray Cook, Dennis Erb, Jr., Tim McCreadie, Jimmy Owens, Matt Miller, Shannon Babb, Austin Hubbard, Dale McDowell, Kyle Berck, Robert Geiger, Earl Pearson, Jr., Shan Smith

AFCO Racing Products Second Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advances): Don O’Neal, John Blankenship, Rick Eckert, Jason Feger, Steve Francis, Dillan White, Eric Jacobsen, Billy Moyer, Steve Casebolt, Travis Varnadore, Tim Dohm,

Lee Thomason Allstar Performance Third Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Scott Bloomquist, Dan Schlieper, Mike Marlar, Ricky Weiss, Jason McBride, Brad Neat, Tim Fuller, Tim Isenberg, Bub McCool, Jordan Bland, Mike Collins, Leon Henderson

Wrisco Aluminum Fourth Heat (10 Laps-Top 4 Advance): Justin Rattliff, Brady Smith, Jimmy Mars, Mark Andersen, Eric Wells, Daniel Stone, Russ King, Tyler Reddick, Danny Mitchell, Michael Walker, James O’Hara, Tommy Kerr

Hawk Brake First B-Main (12 Laps- Top 3 Transfers): Matt Miller, Steve Francis, Shannon Babb, Dillan White, Eric Jacobsen, Billy Moyer, Austin Hubbard, Tim Dohm, Dale McDowell, Travis Varnadore, Steve Casebolt, Robert Geiger, Earl Pearson, Jr., DNS Kyle Berck, Shan Smith

Performance Rod and Custom (PRC) Second B-Main (12 Laps- Top 3 Transfers): Daniel Stone, Eric Wells, Tim Fuller, Bub McCool, Michael Walker, Leon Henderson, Mike Collins, Russ King, Tim Isenberg, Jason McBride, Danny Mitchell, James O’Hara, Lee Thomason, Brad Neat, Tyler Reddick, DNS Jordan Bland, Tommy Kerr

PRC Strawberry Dash (Track Provisional Winner Transfers):, Steve Casebolt, Tim Dohm, Tim Isenberg, Travis Varnadore, DNS Jason McBride, Eric Jacobsen, Dale McDowell, Billy Moyer

Feature Finish (75 Laps): (1) Don O’Neal, (2) Dan Schlieper, (3) Scott Bloomquist, (4) Dennis Erb, Jr., (5) Jimmy Mars, (6) Jason Feger, (7) Steve Francis, (8) Rick Eckert, (9) Ray Cook, (10) Earl Pearson, Jr. (prov.), (11) Chris Wall, (12) John Blankenship, (13) Tim Fuller, (14) Eric Wells, (15) Eric Jacobsen (prov.), (16) Tim McCreadie, (17) Justin Rattliff, (18) Brady Smith, (19) Matt Miller, (20) Ricky Weiss, (21) Daniel Stone, (22) Shannon Babb, (23) Mark Andersen, (24) Mike Marlar, (25) Steve Casebolt, (26) Jimmy Owens (prov.), (27) Dillan White (prov.),

Entrants: 49

Lap Leaders: 1-39 Scott Bloomquist, 40-75 Don O’Neal

Caution Flags: (Lap 18) Mike Marlar; (Lap 28) Debris; (Lap 29) Daniel Stone; 
(Lap 38) Eric Wells; (Lap 39) Brady Smith, Ricky Weiss, Earl Pearson, Jr.; (Lap 43) Justin Rattliff; (Lap 57) Steve Francis; (Lap 63) Jason Feger

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals: Jimmy Owens, Earl Pearson, Jr.

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Emergency Provisional: Eric Jacobsen

DART Fast Pass Provisional: Dillan White

PBM/Erson Cams Hard Charger of the Race: Earl Pearson, Jr. (Started 24th; Finished 10th) Ohlin’s Shocks Performer of the Race: Dan Schlieper

K&N Filters Clean Pass of the Race: Don O’Neal

Comp Cams Engine Builder of the Race: Jay Dickens Racing Engines

Dominator Race Products Hard Luck Award: Dale McDowell

DirtonDirt.com Crew Chief of the Race: Tader Masters (Don O’Neal)

E3 Spark Plugs TV Challenge All stars: Don O’Neal, Dan Schlieper, Scott Bloomquist

Time of Race: 52 minutes, 43 seconds

34th Annual DART Winternationals Final Championship Point Standings: 1. 28e Dennis Erb, Jr. 1205 2. 71 Don O’Neal 1155 3. 53 Ray Cook 1045 4. 7 Matt Miller 1035 5. 0 Scott Bloomquist 1010 5. 5 Eric Jacobsen 1010 5. 18 Shannon Babb 1010 8. s9 Dan Schlieper 1005 9. 21 Billy Moyer 1000 10. 71w Chris Wall

 

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