Column By: ROBERT SYMONDS / RACE PRO WEEKLY – Tampa, FL – And then there was one.. Night 6 of the 43rd Annual Winternationals did not disappoint and was just as energetic as the week had started. For some, this was a last chance to grab a win.. For others, it was a last chance to grab any points to salvage a decent week at East Bay Raceway Park for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
The track started out fast with cars turning 14 second lap times in qualifying. Earl Pearson Jr ended up getting the the Fast Time Award in his XR1 Rocket Chassis. In the qualifying heats, where the top 4 made the feature event, the winners were Tanner English, Jonathan Davenport, Earl Pearson Jr, and Tyler Erb. In the BMain events, Terry Casey and Shanon Buckingham grabbed the wins leaving Vic Hill with the Strawberry Dash win to get a spot in the 50 Lap AMain.
At the start of the green, it was Tanner English who would grab the race lead and pull away from the field leaving Tyler Erb and Earl Pearson Jr to duel it out for the runner up position during the first 17 laps. Just as the battle was heating up for the lead with Pearson and Erb on the back bumper of English in lap traffic, the caution flag waves.
It took the field a couple times to get the race restarted. When they went back to green, English pulled away again leaving Erb and Pearson to battle side by side for the runner up spot. However the caution flag did come back out on lap 19 for Tim McCreadie and Jason Jameson in turn 2. McCreadie entered the hot pit with his whole decking and spoiler detached from the main part of the body. It would take a few hot pit visits during the course of the race to get this somewhat stable for the Sweetners Plus driver.
Back to Green on lap 19, Pearson was able to get a good run on Erb and seal off the second position momentarily, putting Erb in the clutches of Davenport. The top-bottom battle would only last a few laps as Erb would put the Best Performance Motorsports Rocket back down on the bottom.
As the racing went on, Don O’Neal and Josh Richards quickly made their way up to the better half of the top ten, eventually making a bid for 5th and 6th. This was temporary as the tires began to lose grip running the top groove of the track. The race would slow next on lap 32 for Chad Stapleton. This gave opportunity to McCreadie, Satterlee, and Terry Casey to make adjustments and repairs.
The next restart would be crucial. Tanner English would lead the field but not for long. Jonathan Davenport took his car and the tires he had been saving to the top side and forfeit his bottom groove for the mean time. Coming from 5th on the restart to the lead on lap 34. As soon as he got the lead, Davenport dived back to the bottom to protect the lead. However English was faster on the bottom and gained on Davenport.
English regained the lead on lap 36 but was locked in a side by side battle with Davenport. As the battle raged on, Davenport gained the upper hand on lap 45 while English tried to get past the bottom laned lap traffic.
The final caution of the night came on lap 47 for Earl Pearson Jr, who was running 3rd place at the time, with a left rear tire flat. Also heading to the pits with a left rear down was Don O’Neal who was running 5th at the time of the caution. On the ensuing restart, Davenport pulled away from English. English quickly lost 2 more positions with his tires fading to end up 4th, but at the end it was all Davenport who would get the win over Tyler Erb and Devin Moran.
“This was a heck of a race track tonight,” Davenport said in victory lane. “I was being patient and saving tires until I decided to go to the top.”
Davenport scored his third win on the year while Tyler Erb still maintains a podium finish, having only to finish outside of the top 3 once so far this season!
Though this was the last race for the Winternationals it is not the last for the Florida-Georgia Speedweeks. Tomorrow the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series heads to Ocala Florida specifically Bubba Raceway Park for their only tour race of the season at that facility.
Lucas Oil Late Model Series – Winternationals Night 6 Finale – February 9, 2019
Heat Races – 10 Laps – Top 4 Transfer
Heat 1 – Tanner English, Jimmy Owens, Billy Moyer Jr, Josh Richards, Terry Casey, Devin Moran, Gregg Satterlee, Tim Dohm, Dan Stone, Colton Horner, Jonathan Rowan
Heat 2 – Jonathan Davenport, Scott Bloomquist, Jason Jameson, Justin Williams, Austin Rettig, Vic Hill, Devin Dixon, Devin Gilpin, Joel Callahan, Joey Moriarty
Heat 3 – Earl Pearson Jr, Ryan King, Matt Cosner, Chad Stapleton, Shanon Buckingham, Colton Flinner, Allen Murray, Jeff Mathews, Hudson O’Neal, Rusty Schlenk
Heat 4 – Tyler Erb, Don O’Neal, Mike Benedum, Tim McCreadie, Austin Hubbard, Kyle Bronson, Johnny Pursley, Stormy Scott, Blair Nothdurft, Geoff Carey
BMain Races – 12 Laps – Top 3 Transfer
BMain 1 – Terry Casey, Devin Moran, Austin Rettig, Gregg Satterlee, Vic Hill, Tim Dohm, Devin Dixon, Jonathan Rowan, Colton Horner, Dan Stone, Joel Callahan, Devin Gilpin
BMain 2 – Shanon Buckingham, Austin Hubbard, Kyle Bronson, Johnny Pursley, Stormy Scott, Allen Murray, Rusty Schlenk, Jeff Mathews, Blair Nothdurft, Geoff Carey, Hudson O’Neal, Colton Flinner
DirtOnDirt Strawberry Dash (8 Laps, Winner Transfers): Vic Hill, Tim Dohm, Stormy Scott, Allen Murray, Dan Stone, Rusty Schlenk, Johnny Pursley
43rd Annual Winternationals Finale AMain (50 Laps): Jonathan Davenport, Tyler Erb, Devin Moran, Tanner English, Justin Williams, Jimmy Owens, Josh Richards, Shanon Buckingham, Billy Moyer Jr, Kyle Bronson, Scott Bloomquist, Austin Rettig, Earl Pearson Jr, Tim McCreadie, Hudson O’Neal, Vic Hill, Don O’Neal, Gregg Satterlee, Jason Jameson, Chad Stapleton, Ryan King, Matt Cosner, Austin Hubbard, Terry Casey, Mike Benedum, Colton Flinner