UMP: O'Neal Overtakes Mars On Final Lap
For Volusia DIRTcar Nationals Victory
|Don O'Neal after his 11th-hour win at Volusia Speedway
Park. (Brian McLeod)
BARBERVILLE, Fla. - Feb. 15. Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., turned back the clock with a
vintage performance at Volusia Speedway Park.
Flashing the form that made him a perennial star of the DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio
from 2002-2004, O'Neal passed Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., on the final circuit to win Tuesday's 30-lap DIRTcar
UMP Late Model A-Main.
The $7,000 triumph was the eighth of O'Neal's career in DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH action - tops among all
drivers since 1998, but it was his first win at the sweeping half-mile oval since the 2004 edition of the
mid-winter racing classic.
Mars (#28) led 29 laps of Tuesday's 30-lap feature, but a lap 27 caution gave #1 Don O'Neal a shot at the leader,
and he took it on the final circuit for his first win at VSP in seven
"I don't know if I can ever recapture that again,"”O'Neal said of the Volusia magic that carried him to two wins
in 2002, three in 2003 and two in 2004. "That was just one of them deals where you can do nothing wrong. But we
have won two already this year (in Florida after also capturing Sunday's UMP-sanctioned event at Ocala Speedway),
so maybe we can get another one this week and leave here feeling like we did back then.”
O'Neal, 46, returned to Volusia's spotlight in dramatic fashion. He appeared headed to a third-place finish
until a lap-27 caution flag for the stopped car driven by John Blankenship.– This allowed him to vault past Brady
Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., and Mars with a memorable outside charge behind the wheel of Larry Moring's
Mars, who started second and led laps 1-29, fell to O'Neal's top-side assault rounding turns three and four for
the last time. O’Neal surged ahead off the fourth corner to beat Mars by 0.381 of a second.
Smith, who won the World of Outlaws Late Model Series event that closed last year's DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH,
moved forward from the sixth starting spot to place third. Two-time defending WoO LMS champion Josh Richards,
who started 14th, picked up two spots following the race’s final restart to finish fourth and
opening-night DIRTcar UMP winner Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., settled for a quiet fifth-place finish after
O'Neal, who started fifth, climbed up to second by lap 12 before ceding the position to Smith nine circuits
later. He was resigned to finishing third until the race’s second and final caution flag was needed on lap 27.
After immediately shooting to the outside of turns one and two on the restart to overtake Smith for second,
O'Neal drew close to Mars. Mars slid up to repel O'Neal's initial challenge off turn two on lap 28, but O'Neal made
the outside work the next lap.
"That yellow flag sort of gave me a new life," said O'Neal, who did not enter the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH for
the last two years. "I had never been on that top there (of turns one and two) the whole race, but I thought, `Man,
I got nothing to lose running third here,’so I hauled her off in there and that top was pretty good down in one and
late caution gave Don O'Neal a shot at leader Jimmy Mars, and he took it on the final circuit for his first
win at VSP in seven years. (Gary Shrey
Mars, who turns 39 on Feb. 28, fell short of reaching Victory Lane at Volusia for the first time since the 2000
DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH.
"A late-race caution kind of sucks, but it is what it is,"”said Mars, who is competing in the DIRTcar Nationals
by UNOH this season after a three-year absence. "Don did a helluva' job out there. I came off the corner and I
heard him out there, so I did all I could do to get to the top but it just wasn't there. I just had to let him
Polesitter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., slipped backward throughout the distance and finished sixth. Dale
McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., placed seventh, followed by 17th starter Dan Schlieper of Sullivan, Wis., Jonathan
Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who started third and was fifth for the lap 27 restart, and Scott Bloomquist of
With group qualifying utilized to set the starting lineups for the evening's six heat races, Chris Madden of
Gray Court, S.C., turned the overall fastest lap at 16.117 seconds. But his night ended there because terminal
engine problems forced him to scratch from his pole starting spot in the sixth heat.
Other group fast-timers were Davenport (17.916), O’Neal (17.470), Owens (17.240), Mars (16.798) and Brady Smith
Feb. 15 - Volusia Speedway Park DirtCar
1) Don O’Neal, 2) Jimmy Mars,
3) Brady Smith, 4) Josh Richards, 5) Billy Moyer, 6) Jimmy Owens, 7) Dale McDowell, 8) Dan
Schlieper, 9) Jonathan Davenport, 10) Scott Bloomquist, 11) Tyler Reddick, 12) Pat Doar, 13)
Kent Robinson, 14) Jack Sullivan, 15) John Mason, 16) Jason Feger, 17) Dennis Erb, Jr.
(prov.), 18) Tommy Kerr, 19) John Blankenship, 20) Earl Pearson, Jr., 21) Chub Frank, 22) Tim
McCreadie, 23) Casey Roberts, 24) Rick Eckert, 25) Tim Fuller
Fast Time: Chris
Madden 16.117 seconds; Heat winners: Davenport, O'Neal, Owens, Mars, Brady Smith, Robinson;
B-Main winners: Reddick, Feger, Sullivan; Dash winner: Robinson
| Brian McLeod