- Feb.6 (reg race) - Winternationals - East Bay Raceway Park Part 1 by Sam Holbrooks

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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.

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