From Jeremy Shields | Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
UNION, Ky. (August 10, 2023) – Bobby Pierce and Mike Marlar each won a 25-lap Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature on Thursday night at Florence Speedway to kickoff to the 41st Annual Sunoco North/South 100 - Presented by Lucas Oil.
Pierce took the lead from Michael Chilton on the 13th circuit and pulled away for the win in the first 25-lap main event of the night. Ryan Gustin in his first-ever appearance at Florence came home in second followed by Josh Rice, Matt Cosner, and Cory Hedgecock.
Marlar came from the 10th starting spot to take the lead on lap 16 from Ricky Thornton Jr. as he powered away for the win over Kyle Bronson, Brandon Overton, Jonathan Davenport, and Spencer Hughes.
Chilton, who set overall fast time of the 61 entrants for the night was looking for his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory. Chilton withstood a lap one slider from Pierce to hold the lead for the first 12 laps of the 25-lap affair. Pierce, who started second then took over the top spot-on lap 13 and was pulling away from the field until a caution with one lap to go set up a shootout to the finish.
Pierce was able to gain enough of an advantage on the final lap to win for the third time this year with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
Pierce’s 15th career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win was by a 0.859 second margin. “I wasn’t too worried on that last lap. I didn’t know how good he [Gustin] was. I believe he started sixth, so he had to have come through the field a little bit there. The track got very smooth, and I got a consistent line that I liked. With it just being a green and white together and one lap left it’s not as nerve-racking as a green-white-checkered finish. It was just one lap and I just had to hit my marks. Chilton gave me a run for my money there early in the race. He drove a heck of a race there. I eventually got that bottom to stick, and the car was really good.”
Gustin fared well in his debut at Florence, coming home in second to Pierce. “He [Pierce] took off a little earlier than I was anticipating. I wasn’t quite at the right angle, and I shoved and had to check up. I thought I was pretty good there. I mean those guys go out there and beat the deck out of it. You want to be there on the bottom at the end of 100 laps here. I have watched a lot of videos here and it looks like you can race either way up top or way on the bottom, but I think we are pretty good on the bottom here right now.”
The winner’s Longhorn Chassis is powered by a Vic Hill Racing Engine and sponsored by Hoker Trucking, Cajun Pools, Fast 1 Speed Shop, Mesilla Valley Transportation, Bloomington-Normal Truck Performance, Leka Tree Service, Rio Grande Waste Services, PureMax Racing Oil, Toyota of Danville, VP Fuels, Budda Bert Transmissions, Extreme Electric, Ted Brown’s Quality Paint and Body, and A-Plus Vacuum,
Completing the top ten finishers in the Group A - A-Main were Chris Ferguson, Tyler Erb, Jimmy Owens, Michael Chilton, and Max Blair.
In a wild and wooly second 25-lapper Hudson O’Neal led the first 12 laps until he slowed under caution for a flat left-rear tire. O’Neal dived into the Heartbeat Hot Sauce Hot Pit to change the tire and rejoined the field on the tail. Ricky Thornton Jr. then picked up the lead and he was out in front until he contacted the turn three wall allowing Marlar to dive underneath him to take over the lead. Thornton then headed to the Hot Pit as well for a flat tire with 16 laps complete.
Marlar withstood a pair of caution flags before going on to his second Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series win of the season in the State of Kentucky. A tremendous battle for second place came down to the wire with Bronson getting by Overton coming off turn four.
Marlar’s 20th career win with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series was well-earned as he came from the outside of row number five to get the victory worth $5,000. “I wish I knew I had the car to beat, but with this kind of competition you just don’t know, sometimes it goes and sometimes it don’t but today it did. I qualified good but we were a little off in the heat race. We stayed pretty close to the game plan there and it came back alive for the feature. It’s cool to win here, it’s a tough field. Everybody’s here and it’s awesome to win these races. I attribute a lot of the good racing to the new tire rule we got there were a lot of comers and goers. My set-up was probably a little unique to some of them.”
Bronson had to battle from his sixth starting spot to gain the runner-up position behind Marlar. “It just feels good to run good. We have been struggling the last couple of weeks, but we have been working really hard. The car was pretty good tonight, me and Brandon [Overton] had a little fun out there racing. We made a couple of adjustments that I feel like hurt us on the cushion there, we were bottoming out pretty good there, but overall, we had a pretty good race car, and we’ll take it and learn from it.”
Overton rounded of the Big River Steel Podium with his third-place finish. “I was hoping nobody seen that there,” said Overton referring to his wall-riding moment. “It was a good race there; Mikey was checked out on us there and I thought I could hold Bronson off. I was trying to bang off the wall, but I hit the gas too hard and jumped the cushion a little bit.”
The winner’s Ronnie Delk-owned, Longhorn Chassis is powered by a Clements Racing Engine and sponsored by Delk Equipment, Mesilla Valley Transportation, Petroff Towing, Can-Am Salvage Auto salvage, Bilstein Shocks, Midwest Sheet Metal, VP Fuels, Paulson Stussy Construction, Capital Race Decals, Rick Havenridge Financial Advisor, and Delk-Marlar Racing Development.
Completing the top ten finishers in the second feature were Tyler Breuning, Tim McCreadie, Earl Pearson Jr., Dale McDowell, and Hudson O’Neal.
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
41st Annual Sunoco North/South 100 - Presented by Lucas Oil - Prelim Night 1
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Florence Speedway – Union, KY
41st Annual Sunoco North/South 100 Prelim Night 1 Group A Feature Finish (25 Laps):
41st Annual Sunoco North/South 100 Prelim Night 1 Group B Feature Finish (25 Laps):
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Photo's: Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series