O’Neal Claims North/South 100

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Don O'Neal is the defending Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals winner. (Dave Dalesandro photo)

UNION, Ky. – Don O’Neal passed race leader, Jimmy Owens on lap 85 and then went on to capture his first career Sunoco Race Fuels North/South 100 Saturday night at Florence Speedway.

With a record-setting crowd on hand, O’Neal captured the $50,000-to-win event in his 14th attempt.

O’Neal and Owens started on the front row of the Bluegrass State’s richest dirt race with Owens grabbing the lead at the start. Owens set a blazing pace around the half-mile track leading O’Neal, Mike Jewel, Rick Eckert, and the eighth-starting Steve Casebolt for the first 15 laps.

Eckert got around Jewell for third on lap 17 and then a circuit later, Casebolt made the same move, dropping Jewell to fifth. The race went green for the first 43 laps of the race until the first caution appeared. Owens held the lead, followed by O’Neal, Casebolt, Eckert and Steve Francis.

O’Neal finally made a move and dove to the inside of Owens heading into turn three on lap 85, wrestling the lead away from Owens. O’Neal then had to wait through two caution flags in the final 10 laps as he pulled away for the victory.

“It’s about time,” said O’Neal, who claimed his 11th Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory of the season. “I saw an opening there and decided I was going to go for it. I don’t know if we touched or not, but we race hard every week against each other.

“To finally win this race after trying so many times, and coming close a few years ago, it’s a relief to finally get this one. This place is close to home, and we have won about everything else here in the past and to get this one is quite an accomplishment,” said O’Neal.

Owens maintains the LOLMDS points lead after his second place finish in the Reece Monument Company, Bloomquist Race Cars Ford. Owens was trying to become the first driver to win the event three years in a row and fourth overall.

Casebolt was a close third, followed by Eckert and Francis.