UNION, Ky. – Earl Pearson Jr. picked up his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win since February of 2019 on Friday, winning in a photo finish over Josh Rice at Florence Speedway.
Pearson’s 39th Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory came by a scant .002 seconds, the closest finish in series history. Pearson took the lead on the white flag as he held off Rice and Zack Dohm, who nearly made it a three-wide finish.
Kyle Bronson finished fourth followed by Trevor Landrum.
Jonathan Davenport grabbed the lead at the start of the 50-lap feature and held the point until series point leader Jimmy Owens passed him for the top spot on lap 18. Owens was holding off Davenport, Rice, and Bronson until lap 27.
Davenport and Rice made contact on the front stretch battling for second and Davenport got into the front stretch wall forcing the first caution flag of the race. The ensuing restart saw Owens go hard into the turn one wall, ending his night.
Rice took over the point and stretched his lead over the field by over two and half seconds. Rice was primed for his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory, but in the last five laps both Pearson and Dohm cut into Rice’s lead. Pearson made the winning pass with two laps to go. Rice gave it everything he had and dive-bombed Pearson at the finish line but came up short.
In Lucas Oil Victory Lane for the first time since early 2019, Pearson became the 13th different winner of the season.
“He [Rice] was up there on the cushion and when you are out there in the lead you don’t know where to go,” Pearson said. “We found a line through the middle of the racetrack. He [Rice] did a heck of a job and drove the wheels off that car tonight. He’s a good kid, I love racing with him. He drives everybody clean and I respect the heck out of him.
“The track was pretty well racy,” Pearson continued. “I don’t know what happened to Davenport and Jimmy up there, but when it is your turn, it’s your turn. It’s been a long-time since we won here at Florence, 10 years to be exact. We will take the win tonight and hopefully we can keep on going tomorrow.”
The 21-year-old Rice recorded his career-best finish with his second-place run.
“I tried backing off the cushion in the last five or so laps,” Rice said. “I know it was close finish. We had a hot rod tonight; we will be ready for tomorrow night. If we hadn’t got the front knocked off, I don’t think they would have had anything for us.”
Earl Pearson Jr., Josh Rice, Zack Dohm, Kyle Bronson, Trevor Landrum, Tim McCreadie, Mike Marlar, Tyler Bruening, Tanner English, Kyle Strickler, Josh Richards, Billy Moyer Jr., Shanon Buckingham, Jared Hawkins, Hudson O’Neal, Shane Clanton, Nick Hoffman, Stormy Scott, Devin Moran, Tyler Erb, Jonathan Davenport, Jimmy Owens, Scott James, Mason Zeigler.