TAMPA, Fla. – Tim McCreadie came away with another early-season Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory Wednesday night at East Bay Raceway Park.
McCreadie inherited the lead with five laps to go after misfortune befell race leader Jonathan Davenport, then led the remaining distance in the 40-lapper for his second win in four races to open the season.
Davenport appeared to be on his way to victory, but hooked a rut in turn four, folding his nosepiece under and causing his car to come to a halt on the front stretch.
Kyle Bronson was an unfortunate victim of circumstance in the incident, as he didn’t have time to slow his car down. Bronson made heavy contact with the back of Davenport’s car, eliminating both from competition.
McCreadie was second at the time of the race-changing incident, then picked up the lead and held off Brandon Overton and Brandon Sheppard for his 17th career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win and his fourth at East Bay Raceway Park.
The Wells Motorsports Longhorn driven by Brandon Overton raced to its third runner-up finish in the first four series events of the year with a second-place result, while Tuesday night feature winner Brandon Sheppard finished a close third to Overton.
Tyler Erb came from 22nd starting spot to place fourth, while Brian Shirley closed the top five and earned his first top-five series finish of the year.
McCreadie and Davenport made up the front row for the 40-lap main event. Davenport led the first three laps of the race in a tight battle with McCreadie. McCreadie gained the lead briefly on lap four, but a lap later Davenport forged his way back to the point.
Dennis Erb Jr. stepped up to battle with McCreadie for second as they both trailed Davenport. Erb grabbed the second spot for two laps, but McCreadie fought back as the two had a spirited race for second.
At the halfway mark, Davenport was still in front, but by this time Overton had overtaken McCreadie for second after starting in fifth.
A caution on lap 23 bunched the field up as McCreadie charged back to second, this time around Overton. A caution on lap 28 again set up a restart, this time with 12 circuits left.
On the ensuing green, Davenport started to stretch his lead back out as a torrid race for second went on between McCreadie and Overton.
With five laps go Davenport entered turn four, hopped in the air and when he came down, the right front of his nose piece folded under his car.
At that point, he couldn’t steer the car and was forced into the frontstretch wall. Both McCreadie and Overton dived underneath the disabled car of Davenport, but fourth-running Bronson did not have time to react and smashed into the back of Davenport’s car.
From there, it was all about McCreadie’s No. 39 to the checkered flag.
“It’s exciting. I love winning, but you want to get it by passing the best. Tonight, we had some luck, and we’ll take it and go on to tomorrow,” said McCreadie. “It’s such a pleasure to race with JD (Davenport). We became real close last year and I was fully prepared to shake his hand here, because it looked like he had us just covered enough. It looks like there’s just such a bad hole off (turn) four and the bumper drug it or something. I think the worst part about it is that you can’t see (the hole). It’s covered up with fine crumbs, so you don’t really know where it is until you get there.
“I hate what happened to J.D., (because) his team has helped us tremendously,” McCreadie added. “I would also like to thank Gena and Donald, and my team. Gena went home earlier, and our prayers go out to her for her mother.”
Overton, like McCreadie, is driving for a new team owner this year and has remained consistent with his start to the season.
“If we stay up here with these top-three runs, the wins will come. The first one’s the hardest to get,” said Overton. “I probably didn’t have a second-place car tonight, for sure. I couldn’t get through the holes and I’d get to bouncing and the thing was kind of shutting off and blubbering … just lucky to hang on to second.
“I hate that for J.D. and Bronson; that didn’t look too good.”
Sheppard fought and clawed his way to third at the finish.
“It was getting better the longer the race was going. When the track was faster, (the car) was a little bit snug, especially in traffic; we were slicing and dicing,” said Sheppard. “The top was the most dominant and the bottom went away in a hurry, so we got stuck down in the bottom on about every restart, which really hurt us a lot, especially early in the race.
“Hats off to my guys. I put us behind in qualifying a little bit and we managed a second place in the heat race,” he added. “But with six heat races, that still started us 12th, so we’ve gotta try and win the heat race tomorrow and get up there in the top six.”
Tim McCreadie, Brandon Overton, Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb, Brian Shirley, Jimmy Owens, Devin Moran, Shane Clanton, Mike Marlar, Mason Zeigler, Dennis Erb Jr., Hudson O’Neal, Billy Moyer, Chase Junghans, Tyler Bruening, Trever Feathers, Josh Richards, Shanon Buckingham, Stormy Scott, Ken Monahan, Earl Pearson Jr., Logan Roberson, Jonathan Davenport, Kyle Bronson, Tim Dohm, Johnny Scott, Boom Briggs, Jadon Frame, Allen Murray, Billy Moyer Jr.