WHEATLAND, Mo. — Jesse Stovall captured the third annual Lucas Oil MLRA Fall Nationals opener in a thriller on Friday night at Lucas Oil Speedway.
The victory — as he held off young phenom Bobby Pierce and Hall of Fame veteran Billy Moyer — all but clinched Stovall’s first MLRA championship heading into Saturday night’s season finale.
“If it is (done), great. We’ll celebrate that at a later date,” Stovall said of the points chase after collecting the $3,000 victory on a chilly evening. “We’re out here to win races. That’s what wins championships.”
Stovall’s win was his second-consecutive on the opening night of the Fall Nationals, his eighth win of the season and fifth with the Lucas Oil MLRA.
He started 19th and was involved in a 13-car wreck in the middle of three and four on the opening lap, but rallied through the field along with Bobby Pierce, as both went to the front while the laps clicked away.
“It was awesome to start that deep in the field and work your way up through there,” said Stovall. “At the end of the day, we’ve got something else were working for here. Hopefully we can calm down a little bit tomorrow and just go out and race.”
Billy Moyer sat on the pole and led until lap 13, when he jumped the cushion and handed the point to Jake O’Neil. O’Neil stayed out front before a caution that unveiled overheating issues in his machine, forcing him pitside.
That gave the lead back to Moyer, who held it until Stovall appeared from the back of the pack. Stovall took the top spot on lap 35, but traded slide jobs with Moyer on back-to-back laps before taking the lead for good coming to three to go.
Stovall survived contact with a slower car and a single-file, green-white-checkered restart in the end, beating Pierce to the checkered flag.
Pierce came up just shy of his 23rd feature win of a breakout season.
“This was a lot of fun,” he said. “The track was very race-able. I like coming here. The dirt is just a little different than what we are used to. I’m glad with the run we had, starting in the back like that. Maybe tomorrow we can just be a little bit better.”
Moyer finished third ahead of Brian Shirley and Terry Phillips.
RESULTS: Lucas Oil MLRA; Lucas Oil Speedway; Oct. 7, 2016
A Feature (40 laps): 1. Jesse Stovall, 2. Bobby Pierce, 3. Billy Moyer, 4. Brian Shirley, 5. Terry Phillips, 6. R.C. Whitwell, 7. Jack Sullivan, 8. Jason Papich, 9. Tony Jackson Jr., 10. Rodney Sanders, 11. Tyler Erb, 12. Tim Manville, 13. Randy Timms, 14. J.C. Wyman, 15. Dave Eckrich, 16. Brantlee Gotschall, 17. Tad Pospisil, 18. Jake O’Neil, 19. Matt Furman, 20. Joseph Gorby, 21. Jeff Floyd, 22. Jacob Magee, 23. Hunter Rasdon, 24. Larry Jones, 25. Chris Simpson, 26. Kyle Beard.
CREDIT: Lucas Oil MLRA / Lucas Oil Speedway