latemodelamerica.com - Feb.4 - Winternationals - East Bay Raceway Park
LateModelAmerica.com by Sam Holbrooks

 
 

Pearson - Bloomquist - East Bay

Earl Pearson, Jr. (#44) battled his way past Scott Bloomquist to lead just the final lap of Thursday's Lucas Oil Series main event at East Bay Raceway Park. (Mike Ruefer)

 

Last Lap Pass Yields Pearson Win Over Bloomquist at East Bay

Series Report

TAMPA, Fla. - Feb. 4 Taking the lead as he headed to the white flag, Earl Pearson Jr. passed race-long leader Scott Bloomquist.The duo battled side-by side, but it was Pearson who went to win a heart-pounding 40 lap main event. The event marked night four of the 34th Annual DART Winternationals at 

 East Bay - Pearson

 

East Bay Raceway Park.  The four-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Champion earned $10,000 for the win for car owner Bobby Labonte.  Bloomquist finished second followed by Pearson's teammate, Brad Neat of Dunnville, KY; Don O'Neal of Martinsville, IN; and Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, IL.C

O'Neal and Bloomquist started on the front row the main event. The event was also taped before the cameras of the VERSUS Network.  Bloomquist took an eight length  

advantage early on over O'Neal and Dennis Erb Jr. The race was going along smoothly until a multi-car accident in turn four on lap three slowed the field. On the restart, Bloomquist continued his assault on the field, as Tuesday Night's winner was looking for his fourth ever win at the third-mile oval. Bloomquist started to enter lap-traffic by the tenth lap. Second running O'Neal could not gain any ground on the race leader, Bloomquist, who made a swift move in traffic; splitting three cars; and opened up a straightaway lead over O'Neal by lap 15.

 Bloomquist - McDowell - Isenberg

Dale McDowell (#17m) and Steve Isenberg (#9T) go a lap down to leader Scott Bloomquist, who paced 39 laps of the 40-lap event. (Rick Schwallie)

With a tight three-way battle for third between Schlieper, Erb, and Jimmy Mars, the top five remained the same in the running order until Pearson climbed into the top five for the first time on lap 20. With Bloomquist comfortably in control of the race at the halfway mark of the race, O'Neal continued to run in second as a three-car battle between Schlieper, Erb and Pearson ensued. Erb and Pearson went side-by-side for two laps until Pearson cleared him for fourth on lap 278. Two laps later, Pearson overtook Schlieper for third.

Pearson then had O'Neal in his sights making a pass on lap 30 to grab second. Pearson was looking unstoppable at this point of the race, with ten laps to go, but he had a lot of work to do as Bloomquist was still well out in front. Pearson caught a break on lap 31 when Dillan White slowed in turn two bringing out the final caution of the race.  The incident allowed Pearson to restart right on the bumper of Bloomquist. The two Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champions had only nine laps to decide the outcome of the race.

 With the restart, Pearson caught Bloomquist and the two set up a heart-pounding ending, going side-by-side for most of the final seven laps. Heading to the white flag lap Pearson went underneath of Bloomquist and took over the lead as the crowd rose to its feet. Pearson took over the lead in a smooth move around Bloomquist on the inside. Pearson led Bloomquist out of turn two down the back stretch as he kept his low line on the track. Bloomquist made a last-ditch attempt on the outside as the two came to the checkers. Pearson held off Bloomquist by a mere car length for the win.

After his 18th series win, Pearson said "Man the car was outstanding tonight, it's great to win here in front of my homestate fans in Florida. I hoped they enjoyed that race."

"I have to thank Bobby (Labonte) he has put a great team around me and Brad (Neat) and it paid off tonight, he got third and we got the win", Pearson added. Thanks to Jason Fitzgerald he's back onboard this year as the team manager and Matt and Devine for their help it was total team effort."

Wall - fast time

Holden, Louisiana's Chris Wall earned his second fast time award of the week at East Bay, which paid off with an entry into the show, thanks to the newly installed fast time provisional for this year's events.(Rick Schwallie)

34th Annual DART Winternationals Thursday Night Feature Finish (40 Laps): 1. Earl Pearson Jr., 2. Scott Bloomquist, 3. Brad Neat, 4. Don O'Neal, 5. Dan Schlieper, 6. Shannon Babb, 7. Ray Cook, 8. Dennis Erb Jr., 9. Matt Miller, 10. Jimmy Mars, 11. Kyle Berck, 12. Tim Dohm, 13. Steve Casebolt, 14. Billy Moyer, 15. Chris Wall, 16. Austin Hubbard, 17. Dale McDowell, 18. Eric Wells, 19. Ricky Weiss, 20. Mike Marlar, 21. Tim Isenberg, 22. Dillan White, 23. Jimmy Owens, 24. Steve Francis, 25. Jordan Bland, 26. Eric Jacobsen

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