BARBERVILLE , FL – Feb. 12, 2007 – There was no doubt about Earl Pearson Jr.’s superiority in Monday night’s UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model action at Volusia Speedway Park .
With his new car owner Bobby Labonte looking on, the Jacksonville, Fla., star ran roughshod on the field, easily winning the 25-lap feature that opened the Late Model portion of the 36th annual DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Mopar Speedshop.
Pearson, who turned 35 on Jan. 29, fought off an early challenge from Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., and raced away to beat the reigning 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion by nearly a half-lap margin.
Shannon Babb of Moweaqua , Ill. , finished third, followed by 10th-starter Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Steve Shaver of Vienna , W.Va.
“To get a win in front of my home fans is pretty exciting,” said Pearson, who won a 360 OTC WoO LMS event during last year’s DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia. “And Bobby Labonte is here watching tonight, so that makes it even more special.”
Pearson has quickly become acquainted with Labonte, the NASCAR Nextel Cup veteran who during the off-season purchased the assets of the Carlton Lamm-owned Dunn-Benson Motorsports team that Pearson starred with in recent years. He’s won twice in less than three weeks of competition behind the wheel of Labonte’s Lifelong Locks-sponsored No. 44.
Of course, it’s not like Pearson has had to make any significant adjustments since joining forces with Labonte.
“I tell everybody that I just changed colors, numbers and owners,” said Pearson, the defending champion of the prestigious UMP DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned World 100 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg , Ohio . “We’re still using the same truck, trailer and cars that I used last year, and we kept the same crew. They all do their jobs and are good at them.”
Pearson started from the pole position in Monday’s main, but after leading laps 1-2 he was overtaken by the rim-riding McCreadie. On lap six, however, Pearson hugged the inside of the half-mile oval to move back in front for good.
With the race running caution-free from start to finish, Pearson pulled away from McCreadie with virtual ease. He lapped all but the top-eight finishers in the event.
“I was worried about McCreadie because he’s always good here on the top,” said Pearson, who drove a MasterSbilt car powered by a Larry Wallace-built engine. “But when you get that many guys running up there the cushion moves so far out, and that makes the inside the place to be if you can run down there.
“Fortunately I could stay right in the moisture (on the inside), but we set the car up to do that. That’s my power point.”
McCreadie, who started second in Carl Myers’s Sweeteners Plus Rocket No. 39, was no match for the fleet Pearson.
“I was too tight (handling) everywhere,” said McCreadie, who recorded the overall fastest time (16.395 seconds) of the night’s eight “group” qualifying sessions. “But Earl was just so good tonight. He was definitely tough to beat.
“If we can get a little bit better, though, we’ll have some fun out there with him the rest of the week.”
With 92 cars on hand, heat winners were Pearson, McCreadie, Babb, Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., Steve Francis of Ashland , Ky. , Shaver, Patrick Sheltra of Indiantown , Fla. , and Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill. The B-Mains were captured by Scott James of Bright, Ind., Darrell Lanigan of Union , Ky. , Eddie Carrier Jr. of Salt Rock, W.Va., and Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark.
Tim Fuller of Watertown , N.Y. , crossed the finish line first in the second B-Main, but he was disqualified after his Gypsum Express No. 19 weighed in light post-race.
NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series standout Clint Bowyer was on hand driving the Richard Childress Racing Late Model normally steered by Dale McDowell, who is now heading up the in-house RCR Driver Development Program. Bowyer started fifth in his fifth, but failed to qualify for the feature.
UMP Late Model action continues at Volusia on Feb. 13, 14 and 16. The 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Series takes center stage on Feb. 15 and 17.
UMP DIRTcar Racing Late Model Feature Finish (30 laps):
1. Earl Pearson Jr.
2. Tim McCreadie
3. Shannon Babb
4. Chub Frank
5. Steve Shaver
6. Scott James
7. Josh Richards
8. Steve Francis
9. Rick Eckert
10. Justin Ratliff
11. Don O’Neal
12. Clint Smith
13. Michael England
14. Patrick Sheltra
15. Eddie Carrier Jr.
16. Mike Balzano
17. Darrell Lanigan
18. Dennis Erb Jr.
19. Jeep VanWormer
20. Wayne Chinn
21. Ricky Arms
22. Billy Moyer
23. Shane Clanton
24. Ronny Lee Hollingsworth
DNQ: Garrett Durrett, Terry English, Vic Coffey, Mark Anderson, Dan Stone, C.J. Rayburn, Jason McBride, Homer Leonard, Jimmy Mars, Chris Wall, Billy Decker, Chris Hackett, John Tindall, Jeff Alsip, Tory Erickson, Darren Miller, Tim Fuller, Clint Bowyer, Matt Miller, Brian Claudnic, Larry Perry Jr., James Echols, Joe Denby, Jonathan Davenport, John Blankenship, Mike Marler, Duke Whiseant, Johnny Johnson, Christian Rayburn, Roy Mitchell, Stacy Boles, Ivedent Lloyd, Bub McCool, Greg Johnson, Austin Dillon, Chuck Julien, Mike Hammerle, Terry Casey, Damon Eller, Ricky Elliott, Jackie Boggs, Adam Hensel, J.O. Nobles, Rodney Kiker, Don Mihelich, Brandon Kinzer, Steve Sheppard Jr., Freddy Smith, Jake Redetzke, Mike Mataragas, Tim Manville, Jerry Rice, Sherry Heckenast, Mike Amell, Kenny Pettyjohn, Wendell Wallace, Jordan Bland, Greg Oliver, Josh McGuire, Mike Williams, Jeff Smith, Kenny Adams