- June 4 - Florence Speedway by Sam Holbrooks

Don ONeal at Florence Speedway Ralph Lathem Memorial
Indiana's Don O'Neal navigates Florence Speedway prior to his winning run in the "Ralph Lathem Memorial". (George Missita)
Lucas Oil Series: O'Neal Keeps Owens in Check for Latham Memorial Win at Florence 
James Essex 
UNION, Ky. – June 4. Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind. outran Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn. to win the 25th annual "Ralph Latham Memorial" Saturday at Florence Speedway. O’Neal earned his first Lucas Oil Late Model Series win of the season with the $10,000 victory. Scott James finished third followed by Darrell Lanigan and provisional starter Earl Pearson, Jr.

“We’ve been close several times this year, but it sure feels good to get one here at Florence. This is one of my favorite tracks, the track was in great shape tonight, you could run anywhere on it. I knew Jimmy was going to give me a run for it, we raced each other clean, I know I shut the door on him a few times, but after last week when he passed me late in the race with traffic, I wasn’t going to let this one slip away,” said O’Neal. 

Scott Bloomquist at Florence Speedway

Scott Bloomquist faded back and was then eliminated when several cars piled up late in the race. (George Missita)

Scott Bloomquist led the first four laps until O’Neal took over the point. O’Neal then battled with polesitter Scott James for several laps before putting some distance between the two. The red flag came out on lap 17 when both Greg Johnson and Steve Casebolt flipped in turn one. Johnson’s car was destroyed and Casebolt, who did a complete flip, was remarkably able to restart on the tail after pitting. 

When the race resumed O’Neal still held the point followed by James, Bub McCool, Bloomquist and Owens, who was up to fifth after starting 11th.  Owens the overhauled Bloomquist for fourth on lap 21 and three laps later he had passed both McCool and James to take over second. 

Bub McCool - Scott Bloomquist - Ralph Lathem memorial

Bub McCool and Scott Bloomquist in action at Florence Speedway. (George Missita)

Owens began to track down O’Neal as the two went nose-to-tail with 20 laps remaining. Owens pulled even off of turn two on several occasion, but each time O’Neal slammed the door. With 19 laps to go, a major accident took place after a restart when several cars piled up in turns one and two. The cars of Bloomquist and Dale McDowell, who were running fourth and fifth at the time, were among those eliminated in the melee'. 

On the restart O’Neal again maintained his lead over Owens and with five laps to go, Owens was right on the left rear quarter panel of O’Neal. The final caution came out for a flat tire on Tyler Reddick’s car. That set up a four-lap dash with O’Neal beating Owens to the finish line to become the ninth different series winner of 2011.

"Ralph Latham Memorial" - Florence Speedway
1) Don O'Neal, 2) Jimmy Owens, 3) Scott James, 4) Darrell Lanigan, 5) Earl Pearson, Jr. (prov.), 6) Steve Francis, 7) Jared Landers (prov.), 8) Jerry Rice, 9) Jason Montgomery, 10) Steve Casebolt, 11) Eric Wells (prov.), 12) Bub McCool, 13) Chris Wall, 14) Tyler Reddick (prov.), 15) Scott Bloomquist, 16) Dale McDowell, 17) Brad Neat, 18) Eddie Carrier, Jr., 19) Frank Heckenast, Jr., 20) John Blankenship, 21) Robby Hensley (prov.), 22) Ray Cook, 23) Dustin Neat, 24) Kent Robinson, 25) Greg Johnson, 26) Josh McGuire

Fast Time (45 entries): Scott James (17.039); Heat winners were James, O’Neal, Bloomquist, Lanigan; B-Mains: Montgomery, Carrier

Drew England photo


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