BARBERVILLE, FL – Feb. 15, 2011 – Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., turned back the clock with a vintage performance at Volusia Speedway Park.
Flashing the form that made him a perennial star of the DIRTcar Nationals by University of Northwestern Ohio from 2002-2004, O’Neal passed Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., on the final circuit to win Tuesday night’s 30-lap DIRTcar UMP Late Model A-Main.
The $7,000 triumph was the eighth of O’Neal’s career in DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH action – tops among all drivers since 1998. But it was his first win at the sweeping half-mile oval since the 2004 edition of the mid-winter racing classic.
“I don’t know if I can ever recapture that again,” O’Neal said of the Volusia magic that carried him to two wins in 2002, three in 2003 and two in 2004. “That was just one of them deals where you can do nothing wrong. But we have won two already this year (in Florida after also capturing Sunday night’s UMP-sanctioned event at Ocala Speedway), so maybe we can get another one this week and leave here feeling like we did back then.”
O’Neal, 46, returned to Volusia’s spotlight in dramatic fashion. He appeared headed to a third-place finish until a lap-27 caution flag – for the stopped car driven by John Blankenship of Williamson, W.Va. – allowed him to vault past Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis., and Mars with a memorable outside charge behind the wheel of Larry Moring’s MasterSbilt machine.
Mars, who started second and led laps 1-29, fell to O’Neal’s top-side assault rounding turns three and four for the last time. O’Neal surged ahead off the fourth corner to beat Mars by 0.381 of a second.
Smith, who won the World of Outlaws Late Model Series event that closed last year’s DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, moved forward from the sixth starting spot to place third. Two-time defending WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., who started 14th, picked up two spots following the race’s final restart to finish fourth and opening-night DIRTcar UMP winner Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., settled for a quiet fifth-place finish after starting 10th.
O’Neal, who started fifth, climbed up to second by lap 12 before ceding the position to Smith nine circuits later. He was resigned to finishing third until the race’s second and final caution flag was needed on lap 27.
After immediately shooting to the outside of turns one and two on the restart to overtake Smith for second, O’Neal drew close to Mars. Mars slid up to repel O’Neal’s initial challenge off turn two on lap 28, but O’Neal made the outside work the next lap.
“That yellow flag sort of gave me a new life,” said O’Neal, who did not enter the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH for the last two years. “I had never been on that top there (of turns one and two) the whole race, but I thought, ‘Man, I got nothing to lose running third here,’ so I hauled her off in there and that top was pretty good down there in one and two.”
Mars, who turns 39 on Feb. 28, fell short of reaching Victory Lane at Volusia for the first time since the 2000 DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH.
“A late-race caution kind of sucks, but it is what it is,” said Mars, who is competing in the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH this season after a three-year absence. “Don did a helluva job out there. I came off the corner and I heard him out there, so I did all I could do to get to the top but it just wasn’t there. I just had to let him go.”
Polesitter Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., slipped backward throughout the distance and finished sixth. Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., placed seventh, followed by 17th-starter Dan Schlieper of Sullivan, Wis., Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., who started third and was fifth for the lap-27 restart, and Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn.
With group qualifying utilized to set the starting lineups for the evening’s six heat races, Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., turned the overall fastest lap at 16.117 seconds. But his night ended there because terminal engine problems forced him to scratch from his pole starting spot in the sixth heat.
Other group fast-timers were Davenport (17.916), O’Neal (17.470), Owens (17.240), Mars (16.798) and Brady Smith (16.562).
Heat winners were Davenport, O’Neal, Owens, Mars, Brady Smith and Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind. The B-Mains were captured by 15-year-old Tyler Reddick of Corning, Calif., defending DIRTcar Summer Nationals champion Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., and Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark.
Brent Robinson of Smithfield, Va., closed Tuesday night’s card with a victory in the 12-lap ‘Bulrush Dash.’ He earned $300 for topping the short sprint reserved for drivers who haven’t qualified for a DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH A-Main.
The DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH continues on Wednesday night (Feb. 16) with a doubleheader featuring 30-lap features for the UMP Late Models and the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds, which begin a four consecutive nights of action at Volusia.
Gates open at 5 p.m. and race time is 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
For more information on the DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH, log on to www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
DIRTcar UMP Late Model 30-Lap A-Main Finish (Finish Pos./Start Pos./Driver):
1. (5) Don O’Neal
2. (2) Jimmy Mars
3. (6) Brady Smith
4. (14) Josh Richards
5. (10) Billy Moyer
6. (1) Jimmy Owens
7. (8) Dale McDowell
8. (17) Dan Schlieper
9. (3) Jonathan Davenport
10. (11) Scott Bloomquist
11. (19) Tyler Reddick
12. (7) Pat Doar
13. (4) Kent Robinson
14. (21) Jack Sullivan
15. (12) John Mason
16. (20) Jason Feger
17. (25) Dennis Erb Jr.
18. (22) Tommy Kerr
19. (15) John Blankenship
20. (23) Earl Pearson Jr.
21. (9) Chub Frank
22. (16) Tim McCreadie
23. (18) Casey Roberts
24. (13) Rick Eckert
25. (24) Tim Fuller
Heat No. 1 (8 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Jonathan Davenport, 2. Pat Doar, 3. Rick Eckert, 4. Ron Davies, 5. Tommy Kerr, 6. Shane Clanton, 7. Eddie Carrier Jr., 8. Steve Francis, 9. Stacy Boles, 10. Jason McBride, 11. Jerry Perine (DNS) Russell King, Billy Ogle Jr.
Heat No. 2 (8 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Don O’Neal, 2. Dale McDowell, 3. Josh Richards, 4. Brad Neat, 5. Tyler Reddick, 6. Jon Henry, 7. Dennis Erb Jr., 8. Aaron Ridley, 9. Brent Robinson, 10. Tyler Bruening, 11. Chuck Julien, 12. Freddie Carpenter (DNS) Wendell Wallace
Heat No. 3 (8 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Jimmy Owens, 2. Chub Frank, 3. John Blankenship, 4. Earl Pearson Jr., 5. Eric Jacobsen, 6. Lee DeVasier, 7. Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs, 8. Jeff Beyers, 9. Chad Hollenbeck, 10. Donald Beyers, 11. Mike Hammerle, 12. Vic Coffey
Heat No. 4 (8 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Jimmy Mars, 2. Billy Moyer, 3. Tim McCreadie, 4. Jason Feger, 5. Tyler Ivey, 6. Dan Stone, 7. Brandon Thirlby, 8. John Garvin Jr., 9. Billy Moyer Jr., 10. Frankie Heckenast Jr., 11. Brian Reese, 12. Dillan White
Heat No. 5 (8 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Brady Smith, 2. Scott Bloomquist, 3. Dan Schlieper, 4. Jack Sullivan, 5. Will Vaught, 6. Tim Fuller, 7. Larry Wight, 8. Clint Smith, 9. Roger Brickler, 10. John Lobb, 11. Danny Mitchell, 12. Jared Landers
Heat No. 6 (8 laps – Top 3 Transfer): 1. Kent Robinson, 2. John Mason, 3. Casey Roberts, 4. Ryan Unzicker, 5. Joel Callahan, 6. Mason Zeigler, 7. Ricky Weiss, 8. Jill George, 9. Lee Thomason, 10. Brandon Sheppard (DNS) Chris Madden, Austin Hubbard
B-Main No. 1 (10 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Tyler Reddick, 2. Tommy Kerr, 3. Steve Francis, 4. Brent Robinson, 5. Aaron Ridley, 6. Stacy Boles, 7. Jason McBride, 8. Freddie Carpenter, 9. Tyler Bruening, 10. Jerry Perine, 11. Shane Clanton, 12. Eddie Carrier Jr., 13. Ron Davies, 14. Dennis Erb Jr., 15. Jon Henry, 16. Russell King, 17. Wendell Wallace (DNS) Brad Neat, Chuck Julien, Billy Ogle Jr.
B-Main No. 2 (10 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Jason Feger, 2. Earl Pearson Jr., 3. Dan Stone, 4. Tyler Ivey, 5. Brandon Thirlby, 6. Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs, 7. Eric Jacobsen, 8. Lee DeVasier, 9. John Garvin, 10. Dillan White, 11. Chad Hollenbeck, 12. Donald Beyers, 13. Brian Reese, 14. Mike Hammerle, 15. Jeff Beyers, 16. Billy Moyer Jr., 17. Frankie Heckenast Jr. (DNS) Vic Coffey
B-Main No. 3 (10 laps – Top 2 Transfer): 1. Jack Sullivan, 2. Tim Fuller, 3. Will Vaught, 4. Larry Wight, 5. Brandon Sheppard, 6. Roger Brickler, 7. Ricky Weiss, 8. Mason Zeigler, 9. Joel Callahan, 10. Jared Landers, 11. Clint Smith, 12. Lee Thomason, 13. Ryan Unzicker, 14. Jill George, 15. John Lobb, 16. Danny Mitchell (DNS) Chris Madden, Austin Hubbard
‘Bulrush Dash’ Finish (12 laps): 1. Brent Robinson, 2. Brandon Sheppard, 3. Tyler Ivey, 4. Ricky Weiss, 5. Roger Brickler, 6. Larry Wight, 7. Brandon Thirlby, 8. Jason McBride, 9. Stacy Boles, 10. Rick ‘Boom’ Briggs, 11. Mason Zeigler, 12. Freddie Carpenter (DNS) Aaron Ridley, Eric Jacobsen, Lee DeVasier