Thursday night was a heck of a show on the Tampa, Florida dirt track
Thursday night was a wild night at East Bay Raceway Park with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in town. The race saw a lot of cautions, right up to the end. The end result was a photo finish for a crowd on their feet.
Those cautions kept the field bunched up which created more chaos. Tyler Erb and Earl Pearson Jr were glued to the bottom lane of the race track as the race came to a close.
With just a handful of laps to go, Jonathan Davenport was making speed around the top of the track. Heading into turn three, Tyler Erb jumped to the top for the first time all race.
The move caught Jonathan Davenport by surprise as he drove it several feet deeper on the top. Davenport locked up the brakes and went into a four wheel slide.
The #49 got into the back bumper of Erb and then caught the wall. He looped it and brought out the caution. He went from racing for the lead, to the tail of the field.
As they went back green, Hudson O’Neal was the new driver with speed around the top. He moved into 3rd in no time. A few laps earlier, he pitted for new tires. The cautions allowed him to pick a few off on every restart.
Tyler Erb was running high in 3-4 and low in 1-2. He came off turn four with a bunch of momentum but cooked the bottom, slid up the track and left the lane open on the inside for Earl Pearson Jr. At the same time, Hudson O’Neal moved around him on the top.
Hudson O’Neal and Earl Pearson Jr ran side by side for the final two laps. The race was won by Hudson O’Neal with less than a nose in differential.
Towards the end of that race how much of you was trying to decide which line to run?
“I was just watching Randall. He told me to go to the top at the very end.”
“I guess JD just kind of punted me. I never saw him and didn’t know where he was at.”
“When I was told to go to the top, I moved to the top. Obviously, he got collected there.”
“After that, I was kinda a sitting duck. Earl was going to run the bottom, I knew that. Whoever was in 3rd had nothing to lose by running the top.”
“I got to running the top in 3-4 really good. I just carried too much speed into 1-2 and missed the bottom. That’s about all it was.”
Oh that’s what happened? I thought you made a late decision on which line to run in turn one. Like you were stuck on which line to go with and the late decision caused you to miss the bottom.
“No. I was trying to run the bottom. And this thing didn’t turn at all. Once you start trying to cross lanes when the track’s like that. You can’t make it happen.”
“It’s my mistake. That was two to go, I think if I could hit the bottom there then maybe run the top again in 3-4. I mean, you don’t know. I was just kind of a sitting duck and hated to see all those cautions.”
“That’s part of it and we’ll try to get more.”
Edwards is the crew chief for the #1 machine. He’s also the guy guiding his driver with signal sticks. When you’re the leader, it’s hard to know which line to run. Drivers depend on their crew members telling them where they need to be.
Were you watching Randall every time you went by?
“Every time, yeah. Like, my lead never got really big I felt like. So, I was trying to see where I could gain a little bit of ground. But, I could just tell that we were so slow on the bottom that we needed to do something.”
“It was just a crazy race. All them cautions. I think Hudson was in 14th with 8 laps to go or something crazy. He pitted and got a tire. That really helped him.”
“I just needed it to be 38 laps and not 40.”
Tyler Erb is on a hot streak. He’s won 3 of the 6 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event thus far.