BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Veteran dirt late model racer Don O’Neal earned his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series victory in Saturday’s DIRTcar Nationals finale at Volusia Speedway Park.
The victory came in the former Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion’s 53rd WoO LMS start.
Heading into the 40-lap fFeature, the buzz was about what tire compound the teams would choose. It was ultimately Don O’Neal who chose the right combination.
“We’ve had a good car,” said O’Neal. “The Peak Anti-Freeze team with Crawford Outdoor, Cometic Gasket, and Penske Shocks car has been good all Speedweeks, there just wasn’t anything going our way. Tonight, it did.”
O’Neal was a man on a mission all night. Locking up the final transfer spot from his heat put him 13th on the grid. O’Neal made quick work of the cars in front of him and used a lap 15 restart to take the lead from polesitter Dennis Erb Jr., who had led every lap to that point.
“We had a harder tire on then most of those guys,” said Erb, who finished seventh. “A lot of those guys gambled with that soft tire. We took the green early and everyone stayed in that line around the bottom. My car was working really good there. Everything was going good until that yellow came out. Then everybody got chasing the brown, [tacky dirt] around the top and those soft tire were able to pull away from me. We definitely got beat on tires tonight.”
Tim McCreadie jumped to the second position the same lap as O’Neal took over the point and steadily gained ground on the leader. On lap 38 in the midst of heavy lapped traffic, O’Neal nearly got into the turn-two wall. The slip up by O’Neal allowed McCreadie an attempt for a last-lap pass bringing the crowd to its feet.
“I was warming my tires up on the outside and I thought ‘this feels so much better than the bottom did on that first 14-lap run” said McCreadie. “Don, he’s a professional and he found the traction before I did. I moved up and thought we could run with him, but at the end I think he had the best car. He made one little mistake at the end there and it gave us a chance. We hadn’t run this car yet and we ran it for three nights. We got a second and a third out of it.”
O’Neal claimed a desired Gator trophy and $10,000, but it was Shane Clanton who took home the king of them all, the Big Gator as DIRTcar Nationals Late Model champion.
“We missed it a little bit tonight, but it’s a testament to how hard we worked all week,” said Clanton “To run top five three nights and just miss it a little bit tonight and run where we did (13th), we had a shot.”
Don O’Neal, Tim McCreadie, Billy Moyer Jr., Bronson, Chris Madden, Devin Moran, Dennis Erb Jr., Eric Wells, Rick Eckert, Donny Schatz, Brian Shirley, Darrell Lanigan, Shane Clanton, Brandon Sheppard, Tyler Erb, Dale McDowell, Chub Frank, Chase Jungans, Jason Fitzgerald, Nick Hoffman, Frank Heckenast Jr., Morgan Bagley, Joey Coulter, Boom Briggs, Brandon Overton, Steve Francis.