The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series took its extremely tight championship points battle to Rome Speedway on Sunday night. Josh Richards, Scott Bloomquist and Tim McCreadie entered the event separated by just 20 points. When all was said and done at the Georgia track, Darrell Lanigan came away with the $10,000 first prize.
Donald McIntosh began the night by setting fast time in Group A qualifying with a lap of 14.428 seconds around the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” to beat out Tim McCreadie, T.J. Reaid and Jimmy Owens.
Lanigan proved to be the fastest in Group B time-trials and overall with a lap of 14.299 seconds besting Don O’Neal, Brandon Overton and Josh Richards.
McIntosh earned the pole position on the starting grid for the feature when he won the first heat race of the night over Reaid, Dale McDowell and Will Roland while Owens took the second preliminary race ahead of McCreadie, Shane Clanton and Austin Smith.
Lanigan gained the outside front row starting position when he won the third heat by beating out Overton, Chris Madden and Scott Bloomquist while O’Neal took the honors in the fourth and final heat race over Devin Gilpin, Richards and Michael Page.
Jason Croft and Earl Pearson, Jr. won the two B-main preliminaries used to set the remainder of the starting grid for the main event.
Lanigan took the early lead when the green flag waved over the field to start the 50-lap feature with Overton, McIntosh, O’Neal and Owens trailing. Owens wasted little time in making a move toward the front when he passed by O’Neal on the second circuit. He then continued his march forward by moving around McIntosh for third just one lap later.
Among the points leaders, McCreadie moved into fifth on lap 6 when he passed by O’Neal. Bloomquist was up to ninth by lap 4 from his 14th starting spot and commenced a battle with McDowell for eighth on the fifth circuit. Richards was mired back in the pack as he fought for positions near the back of the top-15.
As the top-2 of Lanigan and Overton caught the tail of the field at lap 8, Overton appeared poised to challenge for the lead. In the meantime, Owens began to make up ground on the lead duo as slower traffic continued to play a role.
A pivotal moment in the race occurred on lap 20 when the second running car of Overton slowed to bring out a caution. At that time, McCreadie was elevated to the fourth spot in the running order while Bloomquist rose to eighth and Richards continued to run outside the top-10 in the 12th position.
On the ensuing restart, McIntosh bolted all the way up to second with Owens getting shuffled back to fourth as O’Neal also passed by the No. 20 machine. However, on another restart just three laps later it would be McIntosh who would fall back as he saw O’Neal and Owens roar around his car.
McCreadie improved his standing on lap 26 when he too sailed by McIntosh. Just behind that battle, Bloomquist and Pearson fought over the sixth position while Richards continued to languish outside the top-10.
Owens brought out a caution on lap 38 when he experienced a flat tire. That allowed Madden to make a run at McIntosh just after the restart for fourth.
The championship battle took a dramatic turn on lap 44 when Richards slowed with a flat right rear. McCreadie used the opportunity to work on O’Neal for the runner-up spot but O’Neal held the position.
Lanigan drove on to take the checkered flag and lead a 1-2 sweep for the Clint Bowyer Racing team.
Feature Finish: 1. Darrell Lanigan, 2. Don O’Neal, 3. Tim McCreadie, 4. Chris Madden, 5. Earl Pearson, Jr., 6. Scott Bloomquist, 7. Dale McDowell, 8. Donald McIntosh, 9. Devin Gilpin, 10. Michael Page, 11. Gregg Satterlee, 12. Brandon Overton, 13. Austin Smith, 14. Hudson O’Neal, 15. TJ Reaid, 16. Steve Francis, 17. Jason Croft, 18. Josh Richards, 19. Will Roland, 20. Dennis Erb, Jr., 21. Jimmy Owens, 22. Tyler Bruening, 23. Shane Clanton, 24. Chris Ferguson, 25. Boom Briggs