GIBSONTON, Fla. — Davey Johnson returned to East Bay Raceway Park’s victory lane Saturday for the first time since the 2001.
The veteran driver took the lead on lap 12 and held off hard-charging Earl Pearson Jr. in the closing laps for his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win. Trailing Johnson and Pearson to the finish during the 38th Winternationals finale was Don O’Neal, Eddie Carrier Jr. and Jimmy Owens.
“We had to work on the car most of the night to get it ready for today,” Johnson said. “I want to thank Austin Hargrove, we brought him in during the off-season and he has made a big difference in our race team. Our business slowed down a little last year, and we were able to travel more and run some bigger shows. I think we are ready for a really good season.”
Owens led the first eleven laps of the race until Johnson took over the point. Johnson held a steady pace as Scott Bloomquist started to apply some pressure. Johnson and Bloomquist ran one-two until a caution on lap 49.
On the restart, Pearson soared past Bloomquist on the outside to take over second. In the final 11 laps Pearson tried hard to run-down Johnson, but Johnson was able to withstand Pearson’s challenges and take his car to Lucas Oil Victory Lane.
“That was a heck of a race,” said Pearson. “I don’t know if that caution hurt or helped us. We got around Scott, and I then thought I had enough laps to catch Davey, but we didn’t. This Bobby Labonte Racing Team and everyone at Longhorn Chassis should be proud of what we have done so far this season.”
Pearson retains the point lead heading into the series next event at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway March 22.
O’Neal started 10th and made a late-race charge to claim third.
“I saw Earl get up against the cushion, so I decided I was going to try it as well. The bottom was working well for us, but the top got faster, we were in the right spot at the right time,” O’Neal said. “It was another good point night for the Clint Bowyer, Peak Oil Team and we will be ready for Brownstown next month.”
Billy Moyer set the overall Miller Welders Fast Time among the ¬40 entrants, with a lap of 14.362 seconds of the third-mile oval.
Davey Johnson, Earl Pearson Jr., Don O’Neal, Eddie Carrier Jr., Jimmy Owens, Steve Francis, Gregg Satterlee, Bobby Pierce, Scott Bloomquist, Ray Cook, John Blankenship, Jared Landers, Dan Stone, Randy Weaver, Brian Shirley, Jason Riggs, Mike Benedum, Dennis Erb Jr., Booper Bare, Devin Moran, Chad Hollenbeck, Dennis Franklin, John Mollick, Jason Hughes, Kevin Weaver, Jason Papich.