GAFFNEY, SC (June 22, 2012) – Steve Francis of Ashland, KY held off a late-race charge from Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, GA to win the 14th Annual Grassy Smith Memorial on Friday Night at Cherokee Speedway. Francis earned his third Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned win of 2012 while piloting the Valvoline, Barry Wright House Car. He is taking home $10,000 for the victory. It is also Francis’ first ever win at the track.
Steve Shaver of Vienna, WV, got around Davenport near the end, to finish second. Davenport had passed Francis for the lead heading down the backstretch with five laps remaining, but a caution flag sent him back to the second spot, taking away the potential winning pass. Davenport got out of the groove in turn two on the ensuing restart which allowed Shaver to get by. Mike Marlar of Winfield, TN finished fourth, followed by 2-time series champion, Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, TN.
Don O’Neal of Martinsville, IN led the first 18 laps of the race. Francis passed him in heavy traffic on lap 19. O’Neal then suffered driveline failure on the restart, forcing his car to slow dramatically on the frontstretch. Jimmy Owens of Newport, TN, the current series point’s leader, suffered a flat tire and pitted, giving up fifth position in the race. Owens had run as high as second until his tire started to go flat.
Francis went on to lead the rest of the event and took the victory at his car owner and chassis builder, Barry Wright’s home turf. “To win for Barry and Lance Wright here at their home track is just terrific! I couldn’t wait until this race was over, because I wasn’t sure how much right rear tire we had left. We held on, and I had to get up on the wheel at the end when Jonathan pressured me on the outside,” said the 44-year-old racer.
“We have been coming here a long-time and to finally win here is something we can be proud of, the Clements Engine ran great and the car was just superb, I was saving my tires. I got a little too conservative there, we caught a break on that yellow when he (Davenport) got by me.”
Completing the top ten were Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, GA; Jeff Smith of Gastonia, NC; Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, SC; Jimmy Owens of Newport, TN; and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, FL.
In preliminary action, Mike Marlar set the Red Buck Cigars Fast Time amongst the 28 entrants with a lap of 15.541 seconds. Heat races were taken by: Jimmy Owens, Steve Shaver, Don O’Neal, and Steve Francis. Johnny Pursley and Ross Bailes won their respective B-Mains.
The series heads to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia tomorrow, Saturday June 23rd, for the Inaugural “Blue Ridge 50” at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, VA. The event will include Red Buck Cigars Time Trials, Heat Races, B-Mains, and the 50-lap main event. For more information, log onto www.wytheraceway.com.
For the latest breaking news on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, log onto www.lucasdirt.com and be sure to follow the series at www.facebook.com/lucasdirt and www.twitter.com/#!/lucasdirt.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
Friday Night, June 22nd, 2012
14th Annual Grassy Smith Memorial
Cherokee Speedway – Gaffney, SC
Red Buck Cigars Fast Time:
Jonathan Davenport / 15.652 seconds (Group A and Overall)
Mike Marlar / 15.541 seconds (Group B)
Wiles Driveshafts First Heat (10 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Jimmy Owens, Jonathan Davenport, John Blankenship, Eric Wells, Johnny Pursley, Freddy Smith, John Pursley
U. S. Steel Second Heat (10 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Steve Shaver, Casey Roberts, Tyler Reddick, Austin Hubbard, Jeff Smith, Ty Dillon, Chris Madden-DNS
Simpson Performance Products Third Heat (10 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Don O’Neal, Jared Landers, Mike Marlar, Dale McDowell, Ross Bailes, Tim Rivers, Dennis Franklin
HAWK Brakes Fourth Heat (10 Laps- Top 4 Advance): Steve Francis, Scott Bloomquist, Chris Ferguson, Earl Pearson, Jr., Mike Gault, Donald Bradsher, Brent Dixon
JRi Shocks First B-Main (12 Laps – Top 3 Advance): Johnny Pursley, Jeff Smith, Ty Dillon, John Pursley, Freddy Smith-DNS, Chris Madden-DNS
PAC Racing Springs Second B-Main (12 Laps – Top 3 Advance): Ross Bailes, Mike Gault, Donald Bradsher, Dennis Franklin, Tim Rivers, Brent Dixon
Feature Finish – 50 Laps
Earl Pearson, Jr.
Mount Holly, NC
Lap Leaders: Don O’Neal (Laps 1 -18); Steve Francis (Laps 19 – 50)
Caution Flags: Ross Bailes (Lap 19); Earl Pearson Jr., Ross Bailes, John Blankenship (Lap 19); Eric Wells (Lap 27); Ty Dillon (Lap 44); Austin Hubbard (Lap 45); Tyler Reddick (Lap 49)
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Provisionals: none
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Emergency Provisional: none
Red Buck Cigars Fast Time Provisionals: Brent Dixon, Dennis Franklin
Cherokee Speedway Track Provisional: Freddy Smith
Optima Batteries Hard Charger of the Race: Dennis Franklin (Started 24th; Finished 8th; Advanced 16 positions)
Allstar Performer of the Race: Steve Francis
Sunoco Race for Gas Highest Finisher: Steve Shaver
ASi Racewear Challenge Finisher: Steve Francis
Quarter Master Rookie of the Race: Jonathan Davenport
COMP Cams Engine Builder of the Race: Roush-Yates Racing Engines
Ohlins Shocks Chassis Builder of the Race: Barry Wright Race Cars
Sweet Mfg Crew Chief of the Race: Lance Wright (Steve Francis)
Time of Race: 40 minutes 59 seconds