Longtime Lucas Oil veteran Earl Pearson Jr. snapped a two-year losing streak by winning the Rumble by the River at Port Royal.
How it Happened
2022 Rumble by the River (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series)
Where: Port Royal Speedway – Port Royal, Pa. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Winner’s Purse: $50,000 (Saturday)
Earl Pearson Jr. is a four-time LOLMDS champion, but Saturday night (Aug. 27) the driver nicknamed “The Hurricane” ended up scoring his first win in 114 races. Pearson persevered by weathering no less than three banzai charges from last year’s Rookie of the Year, Ricky Thornton Jr.
🏁 They needed every inch of The Speed Palace to decide it!
— FloRacing (@FloRacing) August 28, 2022
Thornton, who led the opening eight laps of the feature after starting on the outside pole, ran down Thornton with nine laps to go as Pearson struggled to lap Tyler Erb. The two exchanged moves, with Pearson holding the lead until the only caution of the feature flew on lap 46 when Erb slowed in turn 4.
The caution set up a five-lap shootout that saw Thornton throw several sliders at Pearson that didn’t stick, leaving Pearson to score the race win. As Thornton explained in post-race, the yellow did not help his car’s handling in trying to make a race-winning pass.
The points race in LOLMDS remained largely stagnant, with Sheppard making up a little bit of ground on leader Tim McCreadie, finishing ninth to McCreadie’s 11th Saturday night. Friday’s prelim features did not count for series points.
One more note on Pearson Jr. Port Royal was a fitting place for him to end his losing streak, as he was contending for the win the last time the LOLMDS was at the Palace of Speed in April, only to fall victim in an incident with Kyle Larson.
— MAVTV (@MAVTV) April 10, 2022
Clements, Md.’s Dale Hollidge stole the first heat race Saturday from Sheppard on the last lap with a stellar low-side pass that earned him a surprising pole position start for the Rumble by the River feature.
It wasn’t a duplicate of the win Gregg Satterlee scored with the LOLMDS tour in April, but nonetheless, a third-place finish for the driver nicknamed “the Truth” was a stout showing for a driver that’s proven to be one of the strongest regional ringers in super late model racing this season.
Current Port Royal Speedway points leader Colton Flinner had to rely on a promoter’s provisional to start the Rumble by the River feature. But he made the most of it, winning hard charger honors by improving from 25th to 15th over the 50 laps.
— Port Royal Speedway #SpeedPalace (@PortRoyalSpdway) August 28, 2022
Vexed, Villains & Victims
Spencer Hughes ended up having to scratch from preliminary action Friday night after folding up the nose of his car during hot laps, then suffering a mechanical failure in his backup car during qualifying. The resulting workload kept his crew at the track until 4 a.m. Saturday, where they were able to repair their car but still forced to take a LOLMDS provisional to start the Rumble by the River feature. Hughes finished off the lead lap in 19th.
Current LOLMDS ROTY candidate Ross Robinson also had to rely on a series provisional to start the Rumble by the River feature after starting both his heat race and B-main in a transfer spot, only to miss the transfer in both races by one position.
It may seem harsh to include Sheppard in this section, but despite a Friday night preliminary feature win, fading to ninth in the running order Saturday minimized the ground that Sheppard made up on McCreadie in the battle for the series points crown. McCreadie’s No. 39 team was surprisingly off the mark this weekend, making Sheppard’s result a missed opportunity.
Pennsylvania youngster Drake Troutman broke only a handful of laps into Saturday’s modified feature while running third.
Former Cup Series regular David Stremme won his heat races in the Mid-Atlantic Modified Series support class both Friday and Saturday night, including a win over the nation’s top modified driver in Nick Hoffman Friday. He led laps in the feature en route to finishing third, but had to be disappointed after getting slid hard coming to the checkers.
🏁 Check out the incredible modified Feature finish at @PortRoyalSpdway!
It’s @MAVTV on FloRacing!
— FloRacing (@FloRacing) August 28, 2022
Fanning the Flames
Seeing Thornton Jr. pass Davenport under green during Saturday’s second heat race was as happy watching late models as I can remember being. Not because I’m pro-Thornton or anti-Davenport, but because that demonstration should hopefully put any notions of hideous topless late models being necessary for competition to be put to bed.
Consider: taking the tops off gave us arguably the closest we've had to a lead change in a crown jewel in a few races so it might do something
— 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️Adria Fitzy🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈 (@hwf0712) August 21, 2022
It was a good weekend to be associated with the Clements family. 24 hours after former dirt late model driver Jeremy Clements scored an unlikely NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Daytona, an engine his father built powered Pearson Jr. to victory Saturday night.
Social media was awful quiet during the Rumble by the River, and there really wasn’t a lot of controversy to note on the weekend. That’s largely a credit both to Flo Racing for ridding LOLMDS viewers of the constant technical difficulties of the previous MAVTV Plus platform, as well as Port Royal Speedway itself. Every weekend, they’re reminding dirt racing why their track is now in the conversation with Knoxville and Eldora Raceway as tops in the country.
If there was one item to get upset about, it was the one caution that interrupted the late model feature Saturday night when Erb slowed, drew the yellow, then immediately got back up to speed in driving to the work area for what appeared to be an adjustment (all four tires were up on his car).
Did Tyler Erb really being out a caution while running a lap down with 5 laps left to make an adjustment to the car??? @lucasdirt wtf?
— 🏁🏁🏁 or Wreckers (@SnakeBite3030) August 28, 2022
Erb, who finished 17th in the feature Saturday, was already off the lead lap when he drew the yellow flag. I’m not faulting the LOLMDS officials here, because dirt cars have only one-way radios, meaning a slow car on the track really does necessitate the caution flag flying. But it does seem there needs to be a heavier consequence for drawing a yellow, especially if the racecar isn’t actually incapacitated. At least one race fan picked up on this fact.
Hey James time to ditch the antiquated points system. Race has no business being stopped for a guy that's a lap down. How about champ points for only the top 5 or top 10. These guys need to get off the track with 10 to go
— Scott Malotke (@MalotkeScott) August 28, 2022
That said, I cannot support a points revision that stops awarding points going back through the field. It may sound great on paper for lapped cars to be off the track in the closing laps so they don’t draw cautions, but that also means there’s no incentive for the mid-pack to stay on track. No lapped traffic to make race leaders work harder and to facilitate passing would be a big mistake. I’m more inclined to suggest that if a car suffers a problem big enough to draw a yellow, they need to lose a lap.
Since most everyone of student age is imminently returning to school (if not already back in class), let the great announcer James Essex be a lesson to you… flash cards are a surefire route to success.
How ‘bout those index cards! pic.twitter.com/uXvbvPZQFE
— Bob Dillner (@bobdillner) August 26, 2022
Super late models entered for the Rumble by the River weekend.
Consecutive laps led streak of feature racing Davenport saw snapped in Friday night’s second prelim feature.
Pay to start Saturday’s Rumble by the River feature.
Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans, with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give the Rumble by the River four Yuenglings. The closing-laps battle between Thornton and Pearson was really good stuff, but the middle of the feature lagged and the underdog stories in the field disappeared quickly. The night went from three and a half to four cans after the insane finish to the modified feature.
Up Next: Over the course of three nights, the Skagit Nationals will be paying out $45,000-to-win for the World of Outlaws sprint cars, so Thinkin’ Dirty will be heading to the Pacific Northwest for Labor Day weekend. Coverage can be found on DirtVision.
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