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Earl Pearson Jr. exorcised a demon on Tuesday night at Volusia Speedway Park .
Fifty-one weeks after suffering a concussion in a spectacular series of flips at the half-mile oval, Pearson romped to a dominating victory in the 30-lap UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model A-Main during the 38th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH.
“A lot of people have come by and talked to me about it, but I don’t really remember the wreck,” said Pearson, who was transported to the hospital after crashing during a World of Outlaws Late Model Series heat race on Feb. 16, 2008, at Volusia. “That’s a plus. I know I had a bad wreck last year, but I just try to forget it and let it go.
“To be able to come back here and win after all that, though, definitely makes you feel better.”
Pearson, 37, of Jacksonville , Fla. , overtook Brady Smith of Solon Springs , Wis. , for the lead on lap 12 and never looked back. He drove away to triumph by 2.667 seconds over Jimmy Owens of Newport , Tenn. , who slipped by Locust Grove, Ga.’s Shane Clanton for second on lap 24 but ran out of time to catch Pearson.
Clanton settled for third place after starting from the outside pole. Smith, a 2009 WoO LMS Rookie of the Year applicant who roared off the pole to lead laps 1-11, slipped to fourth at the finish and ninth-starter Rick Eckert of York , Pa. , placed fifth.
Pearson mastered the inside groove while steering his Bobby Labonte Motorsports Rocket car forward from the seventh starting spot. After spending eight laps dueling for second with Clanton following a lap-three caution flag, Pearson slid by Smith for the lead and dominated the remainder of the distance.
“I went a little softer on tire and it definitely made us better down around the bottom,” said Pearson, whose triumph made him the second Super Late Model driver eligible for the $10,000 Alltel All-Star voting contest at www.alltelallstar.com. “We couldn’t get up in the black and do anything.”
The $7,000 victory was the fifth of Pearson’s career at VSP. He previously captured UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned events during the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH in 2003 and 2006.
Owens, who turned 37 on Feb. 3, charged forward from the 11th starting spot to finish second in his Bloomquist Chassis mount.
“I thought I had the lead when I passed Clanton,” said Owens, who was nearly five seconds behind Pearson when he reached the runner-up spot. “Then I looked up at the scoreboard and the 44 (Pearson) was in the lead, and I was like, ‘Shoot, shoot!
“I would’ve liked to see a caution come out, but it didn’t happen.”
The 33-year-old Clanton, meanwhile, gave Pearson his toughest battle but couldn’t stop the Sunshine State star.
“It’s hard to run the bottom here,” said Clanton, “but Earl’s one of the best at running the bottom everywhere we go and he showed it tonight. He had a good race car running way down there.”
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga , Ga. , slipped by Josh Richards of Shinnston , W.Va. , on the final lap to finish sixth. Richards fell to seventh after starting third, with Billy Moyer of Batesville , Ark. , 18th-starter Steve Francis of Ashland , Ky. , and 23rd-starter Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg , Tenn. , completing the top 10.
The race’s only caution flag flew on lap three for Eric Jacobsen of Sea Cliff Beach, Calif., who slowed on the homestretch with a flat right-rear tire.
Richards turned the fastest overall lap during the 70-car group time-trial session, blistering the sweeping oval in 15.932 seconds. The only driver to break into the 15-second bracket, Richards’s lap was unofficially deemed a new Super Late Model track record.
Fast-timers in the other groups included John Blankenship of Williamson , W.Va. (16.281), Darren Miller of Milledgeville , Ill. (16.088), Dan Schlieper of Sullivan , Wis. (16.307), Shannon Babb of Moweaqua , Ill. (16.316) and Francis (16.161).
Billy Decker of Unadilla , N.Y. , actually registered the fastest lap of the fourth qualifying group, but his run was wiped out because his Gypsum Wholesalers No. 91 weighed in light. He was banished to the rear of the field for the start of his heat race and never recovered, failing to qualify for the A-Main.
Heat winners were Richards, Clanton, John Anderson of Omaha , Neb. , Tyler Ivey of Tallahassee , Fla. , Brady Smith and Kelly Boen of Henderson , Colo. The B-Mains were captured by Tommy Weder of Woodward , Okla. , Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., and Tim Fuller of Watertown , N.Y.
The 38th annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH continue on Wednesday (Feb. 10) with a doubleheader featuring the UMP DIRTcar Super Late Models and the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for big-block Modifieds. Race time is 7:30 p.m.
For more information visit www.dirtcar.com, www.volusiaspeedwaypark.com or www.dirtcarnationals.com.
UMP DIRTcar Super Late Model A-Main Finish (30 laps):
1. Earl Pearson Jr.
2. Jimmy Owens
3. Shane Clanton
4. Brady Smith
5. Rick Eckert
6. Dale McDowell
7. Josh Richards
8. Billy Moyer
9. Steve Francis
10. Scott Bloomquist
11. Dan Schlieper
12. Darrell Lanigan
13. Tim Fuller
14. Dan Stone
15. John Anderson
16. Greg Johnson
17. Tommy Weder
18. John Blankenship
19. Ivedent Lloyd
20. Jordan Bland
21. Tyler Ivey
22. Chub Frank
23. Kelly Boen
24. Eric Jacobsen
Heat No. 1 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Josh Richards, 2. Earl Pearson Jr., 3. Ivedent Lloyd, 4. Tommy Weder, 5. Frank Heckenast Jr., 6. Davey Johnson, 7. Brandon Kinzer, 8. Jayme Zidar, 9. Jon Henry, 10. Adam Ferri, 11. Peter Mantha, 12. Jill George
Heat No. 2 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Shane Clanton, 2. Jordan Bland, 3. John Blankenship, 4. Eddie Carrier Jr., 5. Greg Johnson, 6. Vic Hill, 7. Jason McBride, 8. Rick Briggs, 9. Russell King, 10. Jeff Beyers, 11. Wendell Wallace (DNS) Joe Isabell
Heat No. 3 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. John Anderson, 2. Rick Eckert, 3. Dan Stone, 4. Dennis Erb Jr., 5. Scott Bloomquist, 6. Darren Miller, 7. Tommy Kerr, 8. Vic Coffey, 9. Tyler Reddick, 10. Tim Isenberg, 11. Rusty Schlenk, 12. Michael Walker
Heat No. 4 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Tyler Ivey, 2. Dan Schlieper, 3. Eric Jacobsen, 4. Chub Frank, 5. Mark Pettyjohn, 6. Billy Decker, 7. Austin Hubbard, 8. Chris Shannon, 9. Chad Mahder, 10. Brad Eitiniear, 11. Gregg Hill, 12. J.R. Hotovy
Heat No. 5 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Brady Smith, 2. Jimmy Owens, 3. Dale McDowell, 4. Shannon Babb, 5. Duke Whiseant, 6. Clint Smith, 7. Clint Bowyer, 8. Mike Collins, 9. Brent Robinson, 10. Ronnie Rihn, 11. Mike Hammerle
Heat No. 6 (10 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Kelly Boen, 2. Billy Moyer, 3. Steve Francis, 4. Tim Fuller, 5. Darrell Lanigan, 6. Scott James, 7. Justin Rattliff, 8. David Breazeale, 9. Jesse Stovall, 10. Jason Fitzgerald, 11. Dustin Hapka, 12. Russ Adams
B-Main No. 1 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Weder, G. Johnson, D. Johnson, McBride, V. Hill, Kinzer, Briggs, Zidar, Ferri, Beyers, King, Mantha, George, Henry, Heckenast, Wallace (DNS) Carrier, Isabell
B-Main No. 2 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Frank, Bloomquist, Erb, D. Miller, Decker, Pettyjohn, Kerr, Coffey, Shannon , Hubbard, Mahder, Reddick, G. Hill, Hotovy (DNS) Isenberg, Eitiniear, Schlenk, Walker
B-Main No. 3 (12 laps – Top 2 Transfer): Fuller, Lanigan, Babb, James, Breazeale, Bowyer, Fitzgerald, Collins, Robinson, Hapka, Whiseant, Rihn, Hammerle, Adams, C. Smith, Rattliff (DNS) Stovall