Indiana's Don O'Neal after
his fourth career "Spring 50" win at Florence Speedway. (Jeff
O'Neal Claims Fourth Career "Spring 50" at
"Spring 50 Notes"
UNION, Ky. - March 20. Don O’Neal of
Martinsville, Indiana captured the 34th annual "Spring 50" for Late
Models Saturday at Florence Speedway, taking over the top spot on lap 42 after race leader Jason Feger had a left
front tire go flat. O’Neal then pulled away in the final eight laps to
take the $5,000 win.
Greg Johnson of Mitchell, Indiana, who started
right behind O’Neal in 11th place, came on late in the race to finish second, followed by Dan Schlieper
In his first ever visit to Florence (Ky.) Speedway, Jason
Feger's track attack yielded a lead and a near win in the annual "Spring 50" until a flat tire clipped his
Sullivan, Wis., 15th starting Rod Conley of Wheelersburg, Oh., and defending race winner, Jeep
VanWormer of Pinconning, Mich.
From the outside front row, Schlieper
grabbed the early lead in the 50-lap affair as he and polesitter Eric Wells started to put some distance between
themselves and Scott James, driving for Scotty Earl.
Wayne Chinn stayed in the top five for one lap before falling back as VanWormer
and O’Neal, who started ninth on the grid, moved around him by the completion of the second lap. O’Neal then
powered around VanWormer on lap four to take fourth, but by then those two competitors were more than half a
straightaway behind the frontrunners.
Don O'Neal (#71) had three "Spring 50" wins to his credit going
Speedway's annual event on Saturday, but this time
he needed a bit of luck after
high flying Jason Feger was
sidelinedby a slow leak with nine
to go. (Erik
By lap ten, Schlieper had pulled away from Wells
with a six length advantage over his the Kentucky
youngster until the first caution appeared on lap 12 for debris on the track. During the caution, fast qualifier Josh McGuire took his mount pitside
for the night.
On the restart, Schlieper led one circuit before
Wells made a nifty move on him entering turn three, passing him on the inside to take the lead for the first time.
Falling to second, Schlieper had James, O’Neal and first-time Florence visitor, Jason Feger, breathing down
The dueling 11 cars of Eric Wells and
Tyler Reddick at Florence Speedway. (Jeff Eissing)
With 21 laps complete, Wells was looking solid as
he was trying to get the biggest win of his racing career, but the engine let go in his Rocket Chassis ride, ending
a terrific run for the Hazard, Ky. driver and putting Schlieper back on the point after some track
James and O’Neal lined up side-by-side on the
Delaware double-file restart. But when the green came back out, the caution would soon follow as problems for Mike
Marlar’s car on the front stretch ended the Tennessee driver's night with a broken rear-end gear.
With race going green again, O’Neal got by
Schlieper to take over the lead for the first time, leaving Schlieper to contend with a fast-moving Greg Johnson,
James, and Feger in the battle for second place. O’Neal stretched his lead out to three-lengths before the next
caution as Wayne Chinn slowed on lap 26.
With O’Neal leading back to green, and a good
race for second between Schlieper and Johnson, Feger went around James to grab fourth on lap 27. He then advanced
to third on lap 30, and then a lap later the high side worked again for Feger as he sped by Schlieper to take over
Feger was not done yet as he set his sights on
the race leader, O’Neal. The defending UMP Late Model Champion, who scored 23 wins in 2009, made quick work of
O’Neal passing him on lap 32 to take over the top spot.
Feger’s wall riding run continued as he put some
distance between himself and O’Neal, but then a caution came out for D.J. Wells on lap 34 which would only
momentarily slow the high-flying antics of Feger. After the restart, both Feger and O'Neal went to running the same high line around the
high-banked half-mile track. With ten laps to go Feger was looking good for his first ever win at Florence, but a
caution with 41 laps complete for Justin Rattliff would lead to Feger’s undoing.
Several laps prior to the final caution of the
race, Feger and another competitor had made contact and a slow-leaking cut left front tire went flat under the
caution with nine laps to go. The restart to begin lap 42 saw Feger slide up the track in turn one, letting O'Neal
and several other cars go by him. Johnson also slipped
by Schlieper for second, then pulled away in the waning laps to finish second as O’Neal picked up his fourth
"Spring 50" trophy.
In victory lane the 45-year-old O’Neal, who is
currently second the Lucas Oil Series points standings, told announcer Brad Greer that “things fell our way
tonight, but we will take wins like that. It was heck of a good race out there.
Feger and I got up top there and I don’t think we
ever could have passed him if he didn’t have that flat. I have to thank my crew, Tader Masters, and everybody at
MasterSbilt, it’s been a real good start to the year and hopefully we can come back here in August for the
North/South and win it this time,” said O’Neal, who took previous wins in the Spring 50 in 1999, 2002 and
Ohio's Rod Conley joins the fray during some intense
racing in the annual "Spring 50" at Florence Speedway. (Erik Grigsby)