O'Neal rules Hartford for sixth Lucas Oil victory
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
HARTFORD, Mich. (May 11) — Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., led all the way in Friday’s Lane Automotive 48 presented by Allstar Performance for his series-leading sixth Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the season.
Driving the MasterSbilt Race Cars house car, O’Neal grabbed the lead at the outset and went on to his 25th career series victory and first-ever in the state of Michigan. He also set fast time among 37 entrants and dominated his heat race on a night when he vaulted to second from fourth in series points with the $10,000 feature victory. | Slideshow | Video
"The car was perfect all night long," said the 47-year-old O’Neal, who has two victories in the last three series events. "I have to thank (car owner) Tader Masters, (crew chief) Cody Mahoney, and the whole crew. After wrecking at Paducah last week, they worked hard to get the car ready for tonight. They make my job look easy.
“This is a big racetrack, they made us second-guess on tires after they watered the track, but we decided to stay with what we were originally thinking and it paid off.”
O’Neal ran virtually unchallenged the entire distance until 16-year-old Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., closed in on him with two laps to go as the leader negotiated the car of a slower Curt Spalding. Reddick tried to make a move when O’Neal got out of the preferred low line, but Reddick’s contact with Spalding cut down a tire and O’Neal slipped away.
Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., recorded his best career series finish in second while Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., was third. Four-time series champ Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., was fourth and Jared Landers of Batesville, Ark., rounded out the top five.
The 11th-starting Reddick, who closed on O’Neal in traffic late in the race, ended up 15th after drawing the last of three cautions on lap 46.
Other yellow flags appeared for Guy Volk on lap 13 and for debris on lap 34 at the half-mile oval.
Notes: O’Neal’s MasterSbilt Race Car is powered by a Jay Dickens Racing Engine and sponsored by Optima Batteries, Independence Lumber, Tarpy Trucking, Seubert Calf Ranches, Superior Cleaning Services, Jones Core, Budda Bert Transmissions, Dragon Race Fuels and Ohlins Shocks. ... O’Neal has already surpassed his series victory total from 2011 and is just one shy of his career-best of seven victories set in 2005. ... Series points leader Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., had a 15th-to-seventh run to earn the Optima Batteries Hard Charger of the Race honors. ... The feature race lasted about 27 minutes. ... Among drivers failing to make the feature: Brian Ruhlman, Frank Heckenast Jr., Zack Olger along with Josh McGuire and Brady Smith, both who scratched from their heat race starts. ... The Lucas Oil Series wraps up the weekend Saturday at La Salle (Ill) Speedway with the $10,000-to-win Spring Shootout.
Lane Automotive 48: (1) Don O’Neal, (2) Eric Wells, (3) Austin Hubbard, (4) Earl Pearson Jr., (5) Jared Landers, (6) Steve Francis, (7) Jimmy Owens, (8) Jonathan Davenport, (9) Scott Bloomquist, (10) John Blankenship, (11) Jeep Van Wormer, (12) Alan Vochaska, (13) Mike Spatola, (14) Terry Casey, (15) Tyler Reddick, (16) Dennis Erb Jr., (17) Brian Ruhlman, (18) Phil Ausra, (19) Curt Spalding, (20) J.R. Hotovy, (21) Ryan VanderVeen, (22) Shannon Babb, (23) Matt Miller, (24) Guy Volk. Fast qualifier (among 37 cars): O’Neal 18.982 seconds. Heat race winners: O’Neal, Francis, Landers, Hubbard. Consolation winners: Spatola, Spalding. Provisional starters: Erb, Hotovy.