- June 5 - Florence Speedway Ralph Latham Memorial by Sam Holbrooks

Earl Pearson, Jr. after his Lucas Oil Series sanctioned "Ralph Latham Memorial" win at Florence Speedway. (Rick Schwallie)











Pearson Earns First Florence Win in "Ralph Latham Memorial"

Lucas Oil Series PR

UNION, Ky. – June 4. Fighting off both Scott Bloomquist and Jimmy Mars in the closing laps, Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Florida captured the Lucas Oil Late model Dirt Series sanctioned 24th annual "Ralph Latham Memorial" Saturday at Florence Speedway.  Pearson’s third series win of the year was worth $10,000 as he recorded his first ever win at the half-mile track. 


Cook - Pearson - Lanigan

Ray Cook's early performances were good enough to earn a front row start, but thehis time at the front was brief, as he gave way to #44 Earl Pearson, Jr., #29 Darrell Lanigan, and almost half the field. (Jeff Eissing)










2009 "North/South 100" winner Jimmy Mars races #71 Don O'Neal before moving up and posing his own threat to winner Earl Pearson, Jr. and runner up Scott Bloomquist. (Rick Schwallie)








 Bloomquist fell one length short to Pearson at finish, with Mars a close third.

Ray Cook and Pearson made up the front row, with Pearson gaining the early advantage over Cook and Darrell Lanigan from the start.  Pearson stretched out a big lead and by lap nine, had already picked up the tail end of the field as Cook, Lanigan, Bloomquist and McWilliams made up the top five.

By lap 13 Pearson’s lead was up to an astounding 15-car length lead over Cook, who had settled into second, just in front of a great battle between Lanigan and Bloomquist for third.  

Darrell Lanigan challenges #0 Scott Bloomquist, who fell just a length shy of raining on Pearson's parade. (Rick Schwallie)








The first caution came out for sixth running Scott James on lap 18 as the veteran driver came to a halt in turn two, and on the restart Cook drastically fell off the pace in the running order; falling from second to fifth within a lap as Lanigan, Bloomquist, and Audie McWilliams all went past him. The race stayed green for eight circuits until Matt Miller slowed on lap 25, the halfway mark of the race.  Pearson was still in the lead, with 14th starting Jimmy Mars having reached fifth.

On the restart, Bloomquist and the Mars would subplant Lanigan from second as he dropped to fourth on lap 26.  Pearson then opened up some breathing room for himself as Bloomquist and Mars found themselves dicing it out for second. With no caution flags in sight, Pearson started to pick up the back end of the pack again, allowing both Bloomquist and Mars to close the gap.

With five to go, Bloomquist was only a length behind as Pearson dove to the inside of a lapped car, just as Bloomquist put his car up against the retaining wall in turn three in an effort to pass the leader coming off of turn four, to no avail. With Bloomquist and Mars right behind Pearson, the trio of drivers took the white flag. Bloomquist tried the high-side again into turn four and hoped his momentum would carry him past Pearson heading to the checkers, but Pearson was able to get off turn four good enough to beat Bloomquist to the finish line by a length to grab the win.  

While early front runner Scott James brought out an early caution and fell from contention, Georgia veteran Dale McDowell (#17) took an eighth place finish. (Rick Schwallie)








 In Lucas Oil Victory Lane for the 20th time in his career, four-time series Champion was elated to win for the first time at Florence.  “The track crew did a great job with this track as they always do, we didn’t know how it would turn out with the rain chances for the day, but it turned out to be superb and the fans saw a helluva' show,” said the second generation racer, who is third in the series points standings behind Bloomquist and Jimmy Owens.

“I have to thank my crew Jason, Matt and Eric. It's great to get this win for Bobby (Labonte) he’s going to be real happy... we got two wins for him this weekend,” said Pearson who was referring to his win at Florence and teammate Brad Neat’s win on Friday Night at Tazewell Speedway. 

Runner up Bloomquist congratulated Pearson afterwards for a great race.  “That was fun out there, Earl drove a really good race, I was hoping he would get caught behind that slower car there and I would be able to pass him. The track was great during the feature, we love coming up to race and can’t wait to get back here in August,” said Bloomquist who maintains the series points lead over Owens and Pearson by 150 points.

Mars, the defending Sunoco Race Fuels "North/South 100" winner last August at Florence, was happy with his performance. “That was a good race out there between Earl and Scott. I thought we had something for them there at the end, but we just ran out laps. We'll be back in August ready to go,’ said the driver of the Deppe Enterprises/Pro Power Racing Engines/MB Customs Malibu. 

Florence Speedway "Ralph Latham Memorial"  - June 4th
1) Earl Pearson, Jr.,
2) Scott Bloomquist, 3) Jimmy Mars, 4) Darrell Lanigan, 5) Audie McWilliams, 6) Don O'Neal, 7) Jason Jameson, 8) Dale McDowell, 9) Jimmy Owens, 10) Randy Weaver, 11) Eddie Carrier, Jr., 12) Eric Wells, 13) Eric Jacobsen, 14) Steve Casebolt (prov.), 15) Brian Birkhofer, 16) John Blankenship, 17) Josh Williams, 18) Kent Robinson, 19) Dan Schlieper (prov.) 20) Chris Wall (prov.), 21) Ray Cook, 22) Matt Miller, 23) Scott James, 24) Mike Marlar, 25) Dustin Neat, 26) Jesse Lay (prov.)

Fast Time (45 entries): Ray Cook / 16.686 seconds;Heat Winners: Cook, James, Pearson, Lanigan; B-Main: Weaver.

Mike Ruefer

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Updated 11/17/10

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