Veteran racecar driver Earl “Hurricane” Pearson, Jr. got the 2013 race season off to a good start last month by winning the $10,000 DART Winternationals race at the Lucas Oil Model Dirt Series in Tampa, Fla., thus increasing the bond that central North Carolina has with the racing world.
That’s because Pearson drives for Bobby Labonte Racing (BLR), which, along with Longhorn Chassis, is headquartered in Trinity, N.C. Both companies are owned by 2000 NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte and his brother the two-time (1984 & 1996) NASCAR Champion Terry Labonte. And both companies are good customers of CV Products — which has its own headquarters just down the road in Thomasville, N.C.
Pearson won his fifth straight Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Championship in 2008 and his recent victory at East Bay Raceway Park is his first in two years. The Labonte team operates a dirt late-model program with Pearson competing fulltime in the Lucas Oil Dirt Series. And they operate with one goal in mind — building and running a fast, winning racecar.
Following a number of impressive race seasons with late-model dirt vehicles, Bobby Labonte started building his team’s own racecars at his shop in Trinity. One of the first chassis to come out of his new Longhorn shop went to Pearson, who promptly finished an impressive second place at the North/South 100 in Florence, Kentucky. He followed that up with a first-place victory at the 2010 Dirt Track World Championships in West Virginia.
Pearson’s association with racing began in 1989, and four years later he was racing dirt late models and winning big. In fact, he won exactly half of the 22 feature events in 1993 — his first year of late-model competition. He followed that string of wins with his first national touring series victory at the Hav-A-Tampa race in Georgia, winning rookie-of-the-year honors and ranking 10th in the final point standings the following year.
Competing in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in 2004, Pearson racked up another 11 wins, resulting in his first national championship. He followed that win with another Lucas Oil championship the following year. In 2006, Pearson’s third national championship in a row also included a win in the World 100 at the Eldora Speedway in Ohio and the Hillbilly 100 in West Virginia.
It was at about this time that Bobby Labonte formed his dirt late model team, hiring Pearson to drive the family’s No. 44 entry. Pearson went on to win the East Bay Winternationals as well as a World of Outlaws Series victory at Eldora Speedway that same year. Then he topped 2007 by picking up yet another Lucas Oil championship win — his fourth consecutive title. That became a historic fifth consecutive win in 2008, along with another World of Outlaws Series wins.
The year 2009 found Pearson picking up victories at the Indiana Icebreaker and World of Outlaws Colossal 100 events and placing third in the Lucas Oil championship standings. That year also saw Bobby Labonte Racing open its Longhorn Chassis shop, with equipment that led them to five wins that season, including Pearson’s checker flag win in the Dirt Track World Championships in West Virginia.
Pearson remained near the top the following two years, and last month’s victory at the East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa shows him to be a huge factor behind the wheel of the No. 44 Lucas Oil Chevrolet — despite engine troubles during a heat three nights before race day.
With a Lucas Oil win under BLR’s belt this early in the year and Pearson currently sitting in second place in the Championship Standings, there’s no telling what this North Carolina racing enterprise will have to celebrate come the end of the 2013 race season.