Thanks to all the work behind the scenes at East Bay Raceway Park, the Lucas Oil Late Model Series double header sped to conclusion before ten o’clock Friday. The challenge of making up a rained-out program was handled by beginning an hour earlier, qualifying the cars the previous day and leaving only the racing. Instead of running the Strawberry Dash, a drawing chose the person to transfer to the night’s features. Friday’s events began the Lucas Oil point season, so there would be provisional starters from the previous year’s point standings and only three would transfer from the B mains.
Pennsylvania’s Dan Stone had posted the quickest time the previous day, but was beat by Scott Bloomquist in the first heat. Earl Pearson Jr., Jared Landers, and Devin Moran won the other heats. Billy Moyer Jr. and Tim Dohm led the last six transferees from the B mains. Provisional starters were California’s Jason Papich, Vic Hill of Tennessee, Pennsylvania’s Davey Johnson and Texan Chris Brown. The 26-car field was set for fifty laps, the winner netting $10,000. All bets began as Bloomquist and Landers shared the front row, followed by Pearson, Moran, Stone, Eddie Carrier Jr., Jimmy Owens and Billy Moyer.
Jaws were agape on the first lap when Pearson got the lead and Bloomquist slid into the wall and retired with Hill and Johnson. Pearson was ready at the restart, but jostling for position behind him resulted in a spun car forcing the second yellow flag in five laps. Another spin realigned the field after a dozen circuits and Allen Murray retired. It was Pearson’s race to lose, which is what happened after two dozen laps. While trying to lap Doug Blashe, Pearson lost time while recovering from contact and Moran took advantage of the opening. Blashe stayed in the lower race groove while others were thwarted as well. Carrier found his chance and took the point with nineteen laps remaining, Moran zoomed back to the front a lap later, and Carrier forged ahead for good six laps before the checkered flag.
With lapped cars separating the frontrunners, Carrier was followed by Moran, Owens, Landers, Jonathan Davenport from tenth place, and Brandon Sheppard from a fourteenth-place start. Carrier told the crowd, “I love racing races like that. It was a use-your-patience-not-your-foot night.” Asked about the problematic lapped car, Carrier replied, “He (Moran) got behind that lapped car there and I thought I missed my chance. It’s kind of funny. Last year I won and Devin (Moran) finished second, tonight I won and he finished second. He’s still got a lot of time to do it. We’ve been struggling a little bit with track conditions. They’re trying and we’re trying. You’ve got to give them an A for effort.”
Moran began, “First of all, congrats to Eddie. Dang, I was close.” As for the lapped traffic, Moran answered, “I was trying to be as patient as possible. I could have bumped him, but that’s not my style.” Owens stated, “I had a great car and it was good to finish third. We’ve been struggling the last couple weeks.” Owens brought laughs saying, “Congrats to Eddie. I’m sure he cheated to get there, but he ran a good race.” It was all over well before 8:00, and the Friday audience left to be replaced by the Monday crowd. With the chill of the night settling in, we discovered less than half the audience returned.
Monday’s fast qualifier was Dennis Erb Jr., hanging on for the final transfer position in his heat, which was won by Billy Moyer. Moyer’s son won the second heat, Sheppard and Gregg Satterlee the other heat winners. With many not answering the call, five cars transferred from the heats and Davey Johnson led the four transferees from the B main. James O’Hara was the name drawn from the Strawberry Dash field and Wendell Wallace made the feature in Gavin Landers’ car by time. In no time the feature field of 26 cars was set to begin for 25 laps and a $5,000 winner’s purse. Moyer and Sheppard were ahead of Moyer Jr., Satterlee, Moran, West Virginian Freddie Carpenter, Canadian Ricky Weiss and Pennsylvania’s Dan Stone.
Moyer would not swap the lead with anyone else this time, surviving two restarts for spun mounts in the first nine orbits. Moyer began lapping the back of the field with ten laps remaining, and the action was behind the master who began racing in 1977. The top five finished in the order they began, Moyer posted his 25th Winternationals win here, followed by Sheppard, Moyer Jr., Satterlee and Moran. New Mexico’s Stormy Scott, Davenport, Landers, Tim Dohm and Mason Ziegler completed the top ten.
Moyer now has a career win total of 792 features, and was asked how much money he got for his first win. “I have no idea, probably $500”, replied Moyer, adding “We missed it in the big race big time. You change a little bit and miss out big.” Moyer thanked a long list of supporters, including his father and uncles, speaking for every racer, “A lot of us wouldn’t be standing here without guys like them.” Sheppard began, “Congrats to Billy. He’s Billy Moyer, what can I say? We’ll just keep working on it. We’ve had a really good car every night in the feature.” Having top five finishes most nights, Sheppard said, “To be off one night isn’t too bad.” Moyer Jr. claimed, “I was trying. Me and Brandon (Sheppard) are pretty good friends. We’re both young, we have plenty of time. Good job by my Dad, Mr. East Bay, I guess you could say. We missed last night.” Moyer Jr. added, “It’s a point night tomorrow night. We’ll try to get a top five. Maybe you can interview me tomorrow night.”
Well before ten o’clock the diehard fans flocked to the warmth of their vehicles, happy with the history they had seen at East Bay tonight. It was Friday the 13th and barely anyone noticed. Temperatures would plummet to near freezing around Florida, but we were able to escape while it was still in the forties. Meanwhile, some teams were leaving early due to winter storms in their home states. Thus ends another day in racing paradise. One more day at East Bay closes the late model portion of their month of racing.
– Story & Photo: Fay Hendricks