Late race pass sends EPJ to Lucas Oil victory lane at Florence

Earl Pearson Jr. took the lead on lap 48

The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series made what was a previously unscheduled stop to the Florence Speedway on Friday night. Earl Pearson Jr. took the win in the national touring series event after a late pass of local favorite Josh Rice in the first race of what is scheduled to be a two-race weekend at the Union, KY Speedway. The Jacksonville, FL native earned $12,000 for his efforts in a race broadcast live by Lucas Oil Racing TV.

Jonathan Davenport was fastest in Group A qualifying after he sailed around the half-mile clay oval in 15.364 seconds to beat out Devin Moran, Tyler Erb, Josh Richards and Tyler Bruening.

The leader of Group B time-trials was Earl Pearson Jr. as he turned a lap of 15.431 seconds to better the efforts of Jimmy Owens, Kyle Strickler, Tim McCreadie and Nick Hoffman.

Jonathan Davenport took the first heat race of the night by outrunning Tyler Bruening, Josh Rice and Tyler Erb while it was Josh Richards who scored the win in the second preliminary over Devin Moran, Zack Dohm and Hudson O’Neal.

Earl Pearson Jr. was the victor in the third heat ahead of Kyle Bronson, Kyle Strickler and Tanner English just before Jimmy Owens won the fourth and final heat race by topping Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer Jr. and Mike Marlar.

Jared Hawkins and Shane Clanton 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 was Davenport who bolted to the early lead ahead of Pearson, Owens, Bronson and Richards. On lap 3 Owens challenged Pearson as the top-5 ran in tight formation around the speedway.

Owens took second away from Pearson on lap 10 with Bronson also passing Pearson for position one lap later. Meanwhile, Rice began his move up through the field as he grabbed the fifth spot by getting around Richards.

On lap 15 Owens closed on Davenport as the top-2 drivers in the LOLMDs standings prepared to do battle for the race lead. And on lap 18, the No. 20 drove around the No. 49 to gain the top spot on the leader board while Rice continued to rise by taking fourth from Pearson.

Rice then seized third by passing Bronson and lap 22.

As the race approached the halfway point, the top-4 of Owens, Davenport, Rice and Bronson circulated around the historic track in tight formation. On lap 25, Owens, Davenport and Rice found themselves in three-wide formation coming off of turn four. Owens held on to the lead as the cars passed by the flag stand. With Rice on the outside of Davenport, the two cars had contact with each sending Davenport headlong into the outside wall causing significant damage to the No. 49 machine.

At that point it appeared as if Owens might be poised further lengthen his lead in the series standings as his closest pursuer sat stalled on the front straightaway.

But on the following restart, the Owens car sailed into turn and appeared to suffer steering or suspension damage. Without even turn, the leaded slammed into the outside wall.

At that point, Rice inherited the race lead with Pearson now back up the second position.

When racing resumed, Rice bolted out to a seemingly comfortable margin while Pearson, Bronson and Dohm engaged in a fight for second that would go on for multiple laps before Pearson would emerge with the spot.

With five laps remaining, Pearson began to noticeably cut into Rice’s lead as the top runners began to encounter slower traffic. The driver known as ‘The Hurricane’ then blew by Rice in turn 2 on lap 48.

Rice would make valiant attempt to challenge that pulled the two into a side-by-side battle coming to the checkered flag with Pearson just holding on for the win.

Feature Finish: 1. Earl Pearson Jr., 2. Josh Rice, 3. Zack Dohm, 4. Kyle Bronson, 5. Trevor Landrum, 6. Tim McCreadie, 7. Mike Marlar, 8. Tyler Bruening, 9. Tanner English, 10. Kyle Strickler, 11. Josh Richards, 12. Billy Moyer Jr., 13. Shanon Buckingham, 14. Jared Hawkins,  15. Hudson O’Neal, 16. Shane Clanton, 17. Nick Hoffman, 18. Stormy Scott, 19. Devin Moran, 20. Tyler Erb, 21. Jonathan Davenport, 22. Jimmy Owens, 23. Scott James, 24. Mason Zeigler

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