WHEATLAND, Mo. — John Blankenship dazzled the impressive crowd on-hand at Lucas Oil Speedway Saturday in the seventh annual CMH Diamond Nationals co-sanctioned by the Lucas Oil MLRA.
Blankenship took the point lead from Jimmy Owens Friday and came into the event atop the standings for the first time in his career. He and Owens had a fierce battle for the lead, until lap 28, when Blankenship finally put some distance between himself and the “Newport Nightmare.”
Blankenship went unchallenged the rest of the way in the race that had no cautions.
Blankenship’s third LOLMDS victory of the season also marked his first at the track. He took home $10,000 for the win and put an end to Owens’ reign over the facility. Owens entered the event having won six out of the last seven LOLMDS races at Lucas Oil Speedway, including three Show-Me 100s.
Trailing Blankenship and Owens to the finish line were Tony Jackson, Jr., Earl Pearson Jr. and Steve Francis.
“I don’t know what to say,” Blankenship said. “To beat Jimmy here is just unbelievable. He has been so strong here; I didn’t think anyone was ever going to beat him here. Our car tonight, once we got going really was fast, to catch Jimmy and then to pass him says a lot about our team and this Rocket chassis. We have come so close to winning here before, and to finally do it tonight in front of this big crowd, is just tremendous.”
Blankenship forged ahead of Owens for the lead the first time on lap 23. But Owens came back and led the next three circuits, until Blankenship shot by him for good on lap 28 and was never able to seriously challenge the 32-year-old racer for the remainder of the race.
“Congrats to John on the win! I am just as excited for him as he is,” said Owens. “We have been struggling over the last month, and with last night’s parts failure, we didn’t even get to turn a lap in the feature, but his team works hard. John has gotten so much better as a driver over the last few years, it’s scary for the rest of the competition what he could become.”
Jackson had his best career LOLMDS finish with a third-place finish.
“I wish we had as good of a car early in the race as we had later on,” Jackson said. “To have a podium finish against these guys lets us know how far our race team has come in the last year.”
In preliminary action, Ryan Gustin set the overall time (Group A) among the 38 entrants.
John Blankenship, Jimmy Owens, Tony Jackson Jr., Earl Pearson Jr., Steve Francis, Dennis Erb Jr., Wendell Wallace, Don O’Neal, Jesse Stovall, Terry Phillips, Will Vaught, John Anderson, Tyler Reddick, Eric Turner, Eddie Carrier Jr., Jack Sullivan, Mark Dotson, Billy Moyer Jr., Jared Landers, Travis Dickes, Craig Vosbergen, Jerry Lierly, Ryan Gustin, Jason Feger, Brad Looney, Billy Moyer.