ROSSBURG, Ohio — Late-race leaders weren’t safe in Friday’s 25-lappers on a wild night at Eldora Speedway.
In a pair of preliminary features during the 46th annual World 100, Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., led the final five laps while Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., won a two-lap dash to the checkers to earn $10,000 apiece at the historic half-mile oval.
Pierce and Pearson staked their claims among favorites for Saturday’s $49,000-to-win World 100, the sport’s most prestigious event. They joined Thursday’s winners Matt Miller of Whitehouse, Ohio, and Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., in two nights of split-field preliminaries where drivers accrued points that will set up Saturday’s six heat race lineups.
Pierce gets last laugh
Driving his Joker-themed No. 32, Bobby Pierce got the last laugh in the opening preliminary feature.
Winning a wild four-car duel in the final laps, Pierce went from fourth to first between laps 19-21, diving under Devin Moran to take command in turn one and pull away for a $10,000 victory.
Pierce, whose broken fan blade in a Thursday heat race gave him a bad start to the weekend, enjoyed a much better result Friday in outdueling Moran, Jimmy Mars and Don O’Neal in a dramatic late-race showdown.
Pierce had to rally from outside the fifth row, but he was in perfect position to come out on top in the race’s waning moments.
“I didn’t know about the invert (that required him to start 10th) until after the heat race,” Pierce said. “I was like ‘Man, that sucks. But after last night, we need all the points we can get for tomorrow.’
“I’ve just got to give a big hand to my crew and my dad and everyone that works on the car. I think they kind of won the race for me with the choices they made for the feature. Me and Devin racing for the lead like that is always fun. We had an amazing race for the lead with all four of those cars out there.”
Pierce, last year’s World 100 runner-up, hopes to carry some momentum into Saturday’s 100-lapper at the historic half-mile oval owned by Tony Stewart.
“After tonight, I feel a lot better than we did yesterday,” Pierce said. “Hopefully we can be in victory lane again tomorrow.”
Moran, who started alongside Pierce on the fifth row, led only the 20th lap after Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., got into the turn-four wall after leading laps 2-19. His time out front was brief as Pierce carried more momentum into turn one and quickly dropped Moran back to second.
Moran credited Pierce, his second-generation racing buddy, with a solid performance.
“When no one else can get up there on the wall, (Pierce) gets up there and gets it done, so congrats to him, Moran said. “But man, can I not just get my first win here?!
“The car, it was really good, but I know some stuff that we’ve got to do to it to make it that much better. … We’ve got a couple of adjustments that we’ve got to do to get it a little better for tomorrow. But we’ve got to get into the (100-lap feature) first, so that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Moran was glad to get in the mix despite starting mid-pack.
“I just got going and got up through there,” he said. “Great racing with Jimmy and Don and Bobby. Just clean racing … it was a lot of fun.”
Mars ran a softer right-rear tire than his fellow competitors, and it was starting to fade late in the race, he said.
“We had a little bit too soft of a right-rear on, but we didn’t know what to expect here,” Mars said. “Starting on the outside poll, I didn’t want to be the one gambling on that.”
The lone caution appeared on the ninth lap when Scott James pulled up lame at the end of the backstretch.
Drivers points accrued in Thursday and Friday’s prelims will be added and used to set six heat race lineups in Saturday’s program. Saturday’s 100-lapper pays $49,000-to-win.
Pearson edges Clanton
After Eldora’s unforgiving concrete doomed two drivers and a last-lap caution gave Earl Pearson Jr. new life as he won a two-lap shootout over Shane Clanton to end a 16-month winless streak.
Pearson’s $10,000 victory came 10 years after his victory in Dirt Late Model racing’s most prestigious event.
After starting ninth, Pearson worked his way up to third with seven laps remaining, moved up to second after fellow Floridian Kyle Bronson hit the wall for the umpteenth time, then took advantage of an inside-lane starting spot when the white flag was replaced with a caution flag with Clanton out front.
“I’m very surprised Clanton took the top on that restart, because of that moisture down the front straightaway,” said Pearson, whose previous victory came in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series action May 15, 2015 in Oshkosh, Wis. “But it definitely worked out for me. My car was pretty good right through the middle. We made a couple changes right there. We’ve been getting better and better these last couple weeks. Ten years ago, we were standing right here on this stage, so maybe we can do that again tomorrow night.”
Clanton, another former World 100 winner from Zebulon, Ga., finished 0.729 seconds behind Pearson at the finish while eighth-starting Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., was third ahead of 17th-starting Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville, Ill., and Steve Francis of Bowling Green, Ky.
The race’s wall-banging drivers fell from contention. Third-starting Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., last season’s World 100 winner, led the first 15 laps but faded after banging the concrete wall at the top of the backstretch. And Bronson led laps 16-21 while pushing his car to the limit, frequently scraping, slapping and sparking the concrete before falling from the lead and dropped out on lap 24.
Pearson was glad things fell his way for his first Eldora victory since July 25, 2008, on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series.
“Davenport checked out, but I guess he knocked the deck out,” Pearson said. “And (Bronson) he was running really good there. I don’t like to run that top much. Our car was good and neutral right there. These are the tires that we’ve got to run tomorrow night, so all in all, good tonight.”
Clanton officially led three laps, but he was disappointed in the race’s extension when a yellow flag appeared as the pole-starting Bronson rolled to stop after knocking the driveshaft out of his car.
“I don’t know why we throw a caution when half the field takes the white flag. It’s pretty obvious we should have won the race,” Clanton said. “We spun the tires on the start and Earl got a good run there. It was over from there.
“Our car’s been good all weekend, so hopefully we can just make the right adjustments. We know what tire we’re going to be on, so we’ll be on equal playing field.”
The quick-starting Davenport dove under the front-row starters Bronson and Tyler Erb in turn one at the outset and dominated the first five laps before Bronson reeled him in. Bronson made a few challenges, but Davenport edged away to get a cushion of two lapped cars before halfway. But Davenport crunched the right-rear corner of his corner when he hit the wall on lap 15, and Bronson took advantage to go ahead a lap later.
Bronson stayed in control but proceeded to hit the wall in virtually every corner of the track over a five-lap stretch, allowing Clanton, Pearson, Lanigan and other pursuers to catch him.
Clanton edged ahead on lap 22 to lead Bronson and Pearson, and Pearson was up to second when Bronson’s demise set up the two-lap dash to the checkers.
The 46th Annual World 100 concludes Saturday with a full state of racing, including the $49,000-to-win World 100 main event, Dirt Late Model racing’s most prestigious event.
Tickets to the electric atmosphere of Saturday’s World 100 start at $40. Reserved seating is $4 more. Children (12 and younger) are admitted free to General Admission seating for all World 100 Weekend action. Order online at www.EldoraSpeedway.com or by calling the Speedway Box Office at (937) 338-3815.
-Eldora Speedway Press Release. Photo credit: