O’Neal Hits Magnolia Jackpot

Don O'Neal (71) battles Brian Shirley Friday an event at Tri-City Speedway in Illinois earlire this year. (Don Figler photo)
Don O'Neal (71) battles Brian Shirley during an event at Tri-City Speedway in Illinois earlier this year. (Don Figler photo)

COLUMBUS, Miss. – Don O’Neal dominated the Columbus Convention Center and Visitors Bureau Clash at the Mag Saturday night at Magnolia Motor Speedway.

O’Neal started ninth and took the lead from Wendell Wallace on lap 20 and then outran Scott Bloomquist the rest of the way to capture the $20,000 to win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event.

Bloomquist finished second followed by Scott Dedwylder, who was the highest finishing home state driver. Earl Pearson Jr. came from 19th to finish fourth. He was the last car on the lead lap. Mike Marlar rounded out the top five finishers.

Wallace jumped to lead at the start, passing both Bloomquist and Billy Moyer on the opening circuit. O’Neal got things going early on as he sped from the inside of the fifth row to second place by lap five. O’Neal then patiently waited behind Wallace and jumped on the opportunity to take the lead on lap 20.

Bloomquist, who had dropped back to sixth at one point in the race after starting from the pole, rebounded nicely and marched back towards the front, taking the second spot just one lap after O’Neal had taken the lead.

O’Neal and Bloomquist then raced in heavy traffic for a long period during the race as both drivers were lapping cars at a staggering rate.

Bloomquist closed in on O’Neal several times in the last half of the race, but O’Neal had the answer each time. Once Bloomquist got close, he would open up his lead over the two-time series champion. O’Neal then went on to score his ninth series win of 2012 and move into a tie with Bloomquist for second place in the championship points standings.

“The car was terrific, to get the win here in Jay Dickens’ home area is special, he does such a great job with our engine program, thanks to all my crew. I don’t what to say! We struggled a little bit in qualifying and in the heat race, we worked all night long and we went out to hot lap tonight, I knew we going to have a good car,” said O’Neal, who turns 48 on July 10th.

“Wendell was good early, but he got out of the groove there one lap and I was able to get by him. I decided I was going to run the bottom, I tried the top there a lap or two and that wasn’t a good choice, so I got right back there on the bottom, when you lap people like Owens and Moyer, it doesn’t happen very often, it’s just a tribute to the team, Tader Masters, Cody Mahoney, and tonight we had Mike Price with us, they make my job easy.”

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