A week ago, a World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series crown jewel slipped away from Bobby Pierce. And when the next opportunity came Saturday at Cedar Lake Speedway, he wouldn’t waste it. 

With $50,000 on the line, he survived a last-lap slide job by Hudson O’Neal, beating him to the checkered flag by 0.073 seconds to earn his first USA Nationals win. 

O’Neal, the outside pole sitter, grabbed the lead on Lap 1 of the 100-lap battle, storming past Ricky Thornton Jr. on the outside of Turn 2. And as the Martinsville, IN driver controlled the race’s first quarter, Pierce ascended toward the front.

The Oakwood, IL driver, who started fifth, drove around Brandon Sheppard and Thornton on the outside to move into second on Lap 22. That’s when he set his sights on O’Neal.

Pierce made his first attempt at the lead 10 laps later, but O’Neal slid in front of him in Turn 4 to stay ahead. That wouldn’t stop the “Smooth Operator,” though. As the two reached Turns 1 and 2, Pierce dove underneath O’Neal, sliding in front of him to take the lead.

Bobby Pierce and Hudson O'Neal
Bobby Pierce passes Hudson O’Neal for the lead on Lap 35/Jacy Norgaard photo

From there, Pierce cruised through the next 60 laps. But with five laps to go, traffic became heavier, allowing O’Neal another chance at the win.

As Pierce took the white flag, Kyle Bronson, a lap car, was right in front of him in the outside lane. That allowed O’Neal to get a burst of speed in Turn 2, closing rapidly on Pierce’s spoiler. O’Neal dove under Pierce in Turn 3, and as they reached the apex of the corner, slid his Rocket Chassis across the nose of the #32.

When O’Neal’s spoiler shot across his nose, Pierce switched lanes as they entered Turn 4, diving to the bottom with one last gasp. It was a gasp that paid off, as he beat O’Neal to the checkered flag by 0.073 seconds to win the $50,000 prize.

“I knew [O’Neal] was getting pretty close,” Pierce said. “I barely saw the flagman throw the white, and I was like, ok, last corner here. My last couple of laps weren’t that great, and I caught (Kyle) Bronson. He pushed really bad, and I was kind of at the mercy of him. And I couldn’t quite get to the point where I could slide him.

“I saw Hudson’s blue flopper there last second, and then I backed it into the wall and tried to shoot down the corner as fast as I could. He hit it really good, too. I did not expect him to get off the corner that well. We came to the line pretty close, but I figured I had him when I nosed ahead of him and pinched him a little bit.”

The victory is Pierce’s eighth Series victory of 2023, and the 12th of his career. He also extended his points lead to 108 over Chris Madden, who finished eighth.

This win stands out for Pierce because it brings him redemption. He said he’s been hungry to win the Wisconsin crown jewel after finishing second to Jimmy Owens in 2014.

“I’ve always wanted to lead laps in this race towards the end,” Pierce said. “We were always getting there too late. I’ve finished with a lot of top fives and top 10’s in this race. It was a long time coming here, and if I had the experience I had back in 2014, I probably could’ve beaten Jimmy (Owens). I kind of gave that race away to him. I never knew if I’d ever get that opportunity again. And here it was.”

O’Neal’s second-place finish was his sixth consecutive World of Outlaws top five after narrowly missing out on his second career Series victory.

He said he gave it everything he had in the last few laps to give his Rocket Chassis a chance to steal the win.

“It was a last-ditch effort with everything I had,” O’Neal said. “I tried to get a run on him. I felt like I did a good job of getting through [Turns] 1 and 2 and making sure I got close enough to him to try and do that.”

“I’ve ran second a lot here the last couple of months. And it’s aggravating, but it’s rewarding. It’s good, and we’re proud to have a good race car and to be competing for these races. For some reason, we just can’t quite put the nail in the coffin.”

Tanner English crossed the line third—his fourth podium this season in races 60 laps or more. The Benton, KY, driver said he struggled through traffic while racing in the middle lane.

Brandon Sheppard and Tanner English
Tanner English and Brandon Sheppard battle for 3rd/Jacy Norgaard photo

“We kind of caught lap traffic at a weird time,” English said. “It just kind of messed us up a little bit. I messed up there about halfway through the race, too. I hit the kill switch twice going down the front stretch, trying to turn on four-wheel brakes. It’s a little bit my fault, but I wish we had a caution there to catch back up about halfway to see what happened.”

Defending Series champion Dennis Erb Jr. finished fourth, and Sheppard rounded out the top five. The four-time Series champion is now third in points, 144 points behind Pierce.

Despite losing out on the Prairie Dirt Classic, Bobby Pierce bounced back to earn his first World of Outlaws crown jewel win a week later. He can now leave the USA Nationals checked off on his resume for the rest of his career.

“Anyone that’s asked me before knows this race is right up there with the Prairie Dirt Classic,” Pierce said. “It’s one I’ve wanted to win for a long time.”

UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws CASE Late Models travel to Davenport Speedway in Davenport, IA, for the My Place Hotels Quad Cities 150 Aug. 24-26, along with the Xtreme Outlaws Midget Series presented by Toyota. FOR TICKETS: CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model race live on DIRTVision.

CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series Feature (100 Laps): 1. 32-Bobby Pierce[5]; 2. 1-Hudson O’Neal[2]; 3. 96V-Tanner English[3]; 4. 28-Dennis Erb Jr[8]; 5. B5-Brandon Sheppard[4]; 6. 49-Jonathan Davenport[12]; 7. B1-Brent Larson[26]; 8. 44-Chris Madden[9]; 9. 25-Shane Clanton[15]; 10. 7W-Ricky Weiss[27]; 11. 40B-Kyle Bronson[18]; 12. 97-Cade Dillard[10]; 13. 19R-Ryan Gustin[17]; 14. 11-Gordy Gundaker[25]; 15. 3S-Brian Shirley[6]; 16. 28S-Dustin Sorensen[24]; 17. 1ST-Johnny Scott[13]; 18. 9-Nick Hoffman[16]; 19. 31-Kye Blight[22]; 20. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr[1]; 21. 49T-Jake Timm[23]; 22. 12-Ashton Winger[20]; 23. 8-Kyle Strickler[19]; 24. 1T-Tyler Erb[14]; 25. 18D-Daulton Wilson[11]; 26. 18-Shannon Babb[7]; 27. 30-Todd Cooney[28]; 28. 14W-Dustin Walker[29]; 29. 14G-Trevor Gundaker[21] FOX FACTORY HARD CHARGER: Brent Larson [+19]