The Golden Isles Speedway is located just a few miles north of Earl Pearson, Jr’s Jacksonville, Florida home which gives the veteran driver a bit of a home court advantage when the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series makes its annual trek to the Brunswick, GA facility to open its season. And ‘The Hurricane’ took full advantage of the familiar surroundings on Saturday night as he captured the second race of the season for the series and earned $12,000 in the process.
Pearson served notice right away that he would be a serious contender for the top prize when he set fast time in Group A qualifying and overall with a lap of 14.914 seconds. That mark beat out the efforts of Josh Richards, Brandon Sheppard and Ryan King in that group.
Jonathan Davenport was fastest in Group B time-trials when he turned a lap in 15.059 seconds to top Tyler Erb, Jimmy Owens and Chase Junghans.
Scott Bloomquist would start the feature from the pole due to his win in the night’s first heat race over Pearson, Sheppard and Kyle Bronson. Josh Richards took the win in the second preliminary of the night ahead of Ryan King, Dennis Erb, Jr., and Devin Moran.
Owens earned a front row starting position by winning the third heat over Davenport, Don O’Neal and Morgan Bagley just before Tyler Erb took the fourth and final heat ahead of Chase Junghans, Jeff Matthews and Gregg Satterlee.
Hudson O’Neal and Tim McCreadie won the two B-main races used to set the remainder of the starting lineup for the main event.
At the start of the 50-lap feature it would be Owens who took the early lead with Bloomquist, Richards, Tyler Erb and Pearson trailing. Richards immediately began to contest the runner-up spot as he challenged Bloomquist and lap 2.
Overton, King and Bronson were among several cars involved in a mid-pack crash on lap 2 which brought out the first caution flag of the evening. And on the ensuing restart Richards swept into second as he moved around Bloomquist and began to challenge Owens for the race lead.
Hudson O’Neal brought out a caution on lap 5 when his car suffered a flat tire. That restart led to a battle between Bloomquist and Davenport for third. On lap 6 Pearson began to assert himself as he went side-by-side with Davenport for fourth.
Owens, Richards, and Bloomquist fund themselves running three-wide for the race lead on lap 7 with Owens maintaining the top spot while Bloomquist got around Richards to assume second. At the same time, Pearson finally completed the pass on Davenport to wrest the fourth position away from the reigning series champion.
The race’s defining moment occurred on lap 10 when Bloomquist attempted a slide job pass on Owens in turn one for the lead. The two cars made contact and Owens went spinning. Finding himself with no place to go, Richards ran into, and literally under, the prone No. 20 machine. Both Owens and Richards returned to the track after visits to the hot pit area but had to restart at the rear of the field.
As the race entered its middle stages Bloomquist separated himself from the pack as Pearson, Davenport, Don O’Neal and Tyler Erb wrestled for position just behind the front runner.
At the halfway mark, Pearson began to close significantly on Bloomquist as the two veteran drivers contender with slower traffic. Finally on lap 32, Pearson edged close enough to render a challenge. Taking the high groove while Bloomquist fought with traffic on the bottom, Pearson swept into the led.
From the point, the No. 1 machine pulled out to a relatively comfortable margin ahead of Bloomquist, Davenport and Erb who were left to contest top-5 positions. Davenport too second away from Bloomquist late in the going and closed on Pearson but it was too little, too late as Pearson drove under the checkered flag to get the win.
Feature Finish: 1. Earl Pearson, Jr., 2. Jonathan Davenport, 3. Scott Bloomquist, 4. Tyler Erb, 5. Brandon Sheppard, 6. Don O’Neal, 7. Dennis Erb, Jr., 8. Gregg Satterlee, 9. Chase Junghans, 10. Jason Jameson, 11. Shanon Buckingham, 12. Brandon Overton, 13. Devin Moran, 14. Josh Richards, 15. Tim McCreadie, 16. Steven Roberts, 17. Hudson O’Neal, 18. Jeff Matthews, 19. Ryan King, 20. Morgan Bagley, 21. Jimmy Owens, 22. Ivedent Lloyd, Jr., 23. Kyle Bronson, 24. Matt Cosner
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