HAGERSTOWN — After two consecutive second-place finishes earlier in the week, John Blankenship scored his first career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory at Hagerstown Speedway in impressive style.
Blankenship overcame his 17th-starting position by passing every driver in his way, taking the lead from fast-timer Jared Landers on the 29th lap and running away with the $10,000 Conococheague 50-lap top prize on Saturday night.
“It all came together tonight,” Blankenship said. “The race track was great. I’ve got to thank the American Racer tire guys for helping me pick the right rubber, and I’m just glad to be up here. I’ve been trying to win one of these for three years now.”
While navigating heavy lapped traffic after assuming the lead, the 30-year-old Williamson, W.Va., driver won by about four seconds as he pulled away from Landers and eventual runner-up Jimmy Owens.
However, it didn’t start out so well for the 2009 Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year.
A faulty rear shock kept Blankenship from turning a qualifying lap during time trials, which caused him to start at the rear of his heat race. He rebounded by winning his B-Main to make the feature.
“Tonight, I figured we’d have trouble making the feature after qualifying last,” said Blankenship. “But we’ve had a great car the last four races.”
Blankenship ran second fiddle to series frontrunner Owens at Fonda Speedway in New York on July 27 and couldn’t break through at Utica Rome Speedway either the next night, posting another runner-up finish.
With his second-place finish, Owens made up serious ground on points leader Scott Bloomquist, who had tire trouble that forced him pit side on Lap 19. Bloomquist tried to speed through the pits and rejoin the field after the drop of the green flag, but he was denied at the end of the pit lane in accordance with Lucas Oil series rules. He did not return to the track and was credited with a 23rd-place finish.
Blankenship’s win, the first of his career at Hagerstown, marks the sixth different driver to win a Lucas Oil Late Model race in six series events at the speedway.
Austin Hubbard, Earl Pearson Jr. and Jamie Lathroum made up the top five, followed by Steve Francis, Steve Shaver, Josh Richards, Ray Cook and Rick Eckert in the top 10.
Landers, who turned a quick lap of 18.469 during qualifying, faded to the rear to finish 20th.
Heat race winners were Landers, Owens, Don O’Neal and Bloomquist. B-Mains went to Blankenship and Jeremy Miller.
In the 15-lap Pure Stock feature, Tony Catlett led every lap to get the win, but was later disqualified after his motor failed a post-race inspection. Runner-up Eddie McClellan, who lost by just a nose at the start-finish line, was credited with the win.
Kevin Koontz was second, followed by Wayne Hawbaker, Kenny Dillon and Drew Fitzsimmons in the top five.