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Don O’Neal Wins Late Model Nationals

Posted: Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 at 5:54 am
Author: KNIA/KRLS Sports-Derek Cardwell

Don O’Neal led 39 of the 100 laps in last night’s championship race of the Eighth Annual Lucas Oil Late Model Nationals at the Knoxville Raceway. But it will be the final four laps that he and all the fans will be talking about. O’Neal dominated the midway portion of the race from laps 25–59, but led the lead slip from his grasp to Jimmy Owens who looked all but assured of a win leading the later stages of the race by nearly a half lap. However, two caution flags in the final ten laps bunched the field and on the 96th circuit, Owens jumped the berm in turn four, nearly spinning out, and thereby handing the lead back to O’Neal who won by just over two seconds. Steve Francis and Brian Birkhofer benefited from Owen’s misfortune to finish second and third respectively. The youngest driver in the field, 15 year-old Tyler Reddick finished fourth. As a 15 year-old Reddick was able to drive according to the age limit in the Lucas Oil Late Model Series. Owens was able to salvage a fifth place finish after leading 35 of the final 40 laps. On a bittersweet note, this was the final racing event that Ralph Capitani presided over at the Knoxville Raceway, he will retire at the end of the year. John McCoy, the current Competition Director will step into the role of Race Director, and as we told you earlier this week, Toby Kruse has been hired as the General Manager and Promoter of the Knoxville Raceway and Marion County Fairgrounds.