It’s Hudson O’Neal In East Bay Winternationals Opener

Hudson O'Neal (71) won Monday's Winternationals opener at East Bay Raceway Park. (Jim Denhamer Photo)
Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series officials have announced 2022 dates for events in Georgia and Florida. (Jim Denhamer Photo)

GIBSONTON, Fla. – Hudson O’Neal held off Brandon Sheppard to win the opening night of the Wrisco Industries 45th Annual Winternationals – Presented by Lucas Oil at East Bay Raceway Park on Monday evening.

O’Neal grabbed the lead for good on lap 20 and held it to the checkered flag. The win marked his eighth career Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory and second at East Bay.

Sheppard finished .359 seconds behind O’Neal at the checkers. Brandon Overton came home ithird. Devin Moran, who started 22nd, finished fourth. Earl Pearson Jr. came from 24th to take fifth.

Kyle Bronson grabbed the lead at the start of the 30-lap race and led for five laps until O’Neal took over the top spot for lap six. O’Neal would only hold the point for one circuit until Bronson got back around him. Tyler Erb powered to the lead on lap eight and then held the lead until the 19th lap when he was involved in a caution that relegated him to the tail.

Several cautions dotted a competitive battle for the lead that existed throughout the race.

O’Neal inherited the lead due to Erb’s misfortune, and began inching away from the field when the caution flag waved with two laps remaining. On the final restart of the race O’Neal held off Sheppard on the last lap for the victory, his first since last Labor Day Weekend in Portsmouth, Ohio, on his 20th birthday last year.

“We went with a little different tire choice than everybody else,” O’Neal said. “I was a little worried at the beginning rolling down the front stretch and I saw everybody had on different tires. I was hopeful that the track would get slow enough where that our gamble would pay off. This Rocket Chassis has been awesome. We didn’t have anything to show how good we were at All-Tech, and I am happy to redeem myself here.”

Sheppard, who has been strong at East Bay the last few years with six victories, came home in second.

“It definitely felt like a long race out there,” Sheppard said. “Congrats to Hudson, he did a great job. It was definitely a technical racetrack tonight.”

Overton, who won 26 features a year ago, settled for third.

“I kind of messed us up at All-Tech the other night,” Overton said. “On the first lap there I hit the wall, so this is our first really good run of the year. This is a good way to start off the week at East Bay. It was a like a sheet of ice out there. The steering wheel doesn’t work like it does at most other places, it’s hard to turn and you are basically just hanging on.”

The finish:

Hudson O’Neal, Brandon Sheppard, Brandon Overton, Devin Moran, Earl Pearson Jr., Tony Jackson Jr., Tyler Erb, Tanner English, Mike Marlar, Jeff Mathews, Zack Dohm, Frank Heckenast Jr., Shane Clanton, Wil Herrington, Dennis Erb Jr., John Baker, Josh Richards, Chase Junghans, Gregg Satterlee, Jonathan Davenport, Blair Nothdurft, Mark Whitener, Jimmy Owens, Spencer Hughes, Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer Jr., Kyle Bronson, Mason Zeigler, Tyler Bruening, Brian Shirley.